Daily Archives: February 6, 2021

February 6 Evening Quotes of The Day

The Miracles of Love and Mercy
Colossians 1:21–22; 1 John 1:9

As a sinner, you are far viler than a toad. Yet Christ was so far from making light of you and your happiness that He came down into the flesh, and lived a life of suffering, and offered Himself a sacrifice to the justice which He has provoked, that your miserable soul might have a remedy. It is no less than miracles of love and mercy that He has showed to us.

RICHARD BAXTER

Ritzema, E., & Vince, E. (Eds.). (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

The King Who Embraces with Love
Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:16; Romans 5:8

I consider myself as the most wretched of men, full of sores and corruptions, and as one who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King; moved with deep sorrow, I confess to Him all my wickedness, I ask His forgiveness, I abandon myself in His hands, that He may do with me what He pleases. This King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me to eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me unceasingly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favorite. It is thus that I consider myself from time to time in His Holy Presence.

BROTHER LAWRENCE

Ritzema, E. (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Reformation. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 6 Evening Verse of the Day

8:18 Paul stated the truth of this verse like this: “Our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2Co 4:17).[1]


8:18 sufferings of the present time Earthly suffering is not an eternal reality. In v. 17, Paul’s reference to suffering together with Christ likely alludes to persecution for confessing faith in Christ. Here, the present sufferings may refer to more than persecution and encompass the full range of human experience: sickness, injury, natural disaster, financial loss, poverty, hunger, and death.

glory The Greek word used here, doxa, points to the transformation of the body through resurrection (see 1 Cor 15:42–44; Col 3:4).[2]


8:18 The ultimate glory that Christians will receive is so stupendous that the sufferings of this present time are insignificant in comparison (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17). They look forward both to the resurrection of the body (1 Thess. 4:13–18) and to the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1–22:5; see Isa. 65:17).[3]


8:18 glory … revealed to us. This looks forward to the resurrection of the body (v. 23) and the subsequent complete Christlikeness which is the believer’s eternal glory. See Php 3:20, 21; Col 3:4; 1Jn 3:2.[4]


8:18 — For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

The Bible never minimizes our difficulties or sufferings; instead, it magnifies the rewards that accompany our faith. It doesn’t say, “you don’t really hurt,” but instead declares, “you’ll feel far better than you ever have.”[5]


8:18 The sufferings of the present are slight when compared with the glory later. Paul calls the sufferings “light affliction” compared to the “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). The divine compensation package is “a hundredfold” (Matt. 19:29).[6]


8:18 The greatest shame we may endure for Christ here on earth will be a mere trifle when He calls us forth and publicly acknowledges us before the hosts of heaven. Even the excruciating pain of the martyrs will seem like pinpricks when the Savior graces their brows with the crown of life. Elsewhere Paul speaks of our present sufferings as light afflictions which are only for a moment, but he describes the glory as an exceeding and eternal weight (2 Cor. 4:17). Whenever he describes the coming glory, his words seem to bend under the weight of the idea. If we could only appreciate the glory that is to be ours, we could count the sufferings along the way as trivia![7]


8:18. In one sense this verse is the conclusion of the preceding paragraph in which believers are assured of being heirs of Christ’s coming glory. However, Paul reminded his readers that sharing in the glory of Christ in the future required sharing “in His sufferings” in this life. But after careful figuring (Logizomai, I consider) Paul concluded that our present sufferings are far outweighed by the glory that will be revealed in (as well as to and through) us. This future glory is so great that present sufferings are insignificant by comparison. Also the glory is forever, whereas the suffering is temporary and light (2 Cor. 4:17). Certainly this truth can help believers endure afflictions. Romans 8:18 also serves as a topic sentence for the following discussion on the relationship between believers and the whole Creation, both in their afflictions and in their future glory.[8]


8:18 “consider” This is literally “add it up.” This is a PRESENT MIDDLE INDICATIVE. Paul continues to consider the implications of Christian suffering. This was an accounting term for arriving at a carefully researched conclusion. This is a recurrent theme in Romans (see note at 2:3). Believers must live in the light of the spiritual truths they understand.

© “the sufferings” We get some idea of the sufferings involved in serving Christ from 1 Cor. 4:9–12; 2 Cor. 4:7–12; 6:4–10; 11:24–27; Heb. 11:35–38.

© “of this present time” The Jews believed that the history of the world was divided into two ages, the current evil age and the age of righteousness to come (cf. Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30). The OT expected the coming Messiah to set up this new age of righteousness. However, the two comings of Christ, one as Savior (incarnation) and the second as Lord (Second Coming), caused the overlapping of these two ages. Believers live in the tension between “already” and “not yet” of the Kingdom of God. See Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come at 12:2.

© “worthy … glory” Both of these terms are related to the OT concept of weight—heavy was valuable. “Worthy” was from a commercial term that meant “to weigh as much as.” The Hebrew term “glory” was also from a root “to be heavy,” in the sense of being valuable, like gold. See full note at 3:23.

The term “glory” in Paul’s writings had an eschatological orientation. It referred to the splendor and power of the returning glorified exalted Christ (cf. Col. 3:4). See Special Topic: Glory at 3:23.

© “that is to be revealed to us” This PASSIVE (deponent) VOICE referred to the agency of God or the Spirit (cf. v. 20). Believers live in this life by faith not sight (cf. v. 24 & 1 Cor. 2:9; 13:12; 2 Cor. 5:7 & Heb. 11:1).[9]


18. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Suffering and Glory

A Comparison

The conjunction “For” indicates that what follows is a further explication and amplification of the glory to which reference was made in the preceding verse.

  • The Two Elements Compared

“I consider (or reckon),” says Paul, making use of an understatement, for what he actually means is, “I am firmly convinced.”

Of what is he firmly convinced? Of the fact that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us. It is clear that the apostle is, as it were, holding in his hand a scale or balance. As always, it has two scalepans. In the one pan he places “the sufferings of this present time”; in the other “the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

The first (sufferings) is a result of sin. Had there been no sin, human beings would not have had to suffer (Gen. 3:16–19). The second (glory) is the result of grace. As far as God’s children are concerned, the first is temporal, the second never-ending.

What kind of sufferings does Paul have in mind? Those experienced as a result of our relation to Christ? Such sufferings are certainly included. Otherwise there would be no connection between verses 17 and 18. Nevertheless, it is not advisable to limit the word “sufferings” as here employed, to such afflictions. As verses 19–23, 28, 38, 39 clearly indicate, other afflictions are also included. The apostle is thinking of sufferings in general; therefore also including pain (physical as well as mental), sickness, disappointment, unemployment, poverty, frustration, etc. This follows too from the fact that he uses the very broad expression “the sufferings of this present time,” that is, “of this present age,” the “time” or “age” which extends to, and ends with, Christ’s second coming.

And what about the glory of which Paul speaks? Is he referring to the blessings of the intermediate state; that is, the beatific joys which the souls of the redeemed begin to experience the very moment they breathe their last? That this intermediate state is real, and that at this very moment the departed dear ones who died “in the Lord” are participating in its activities I have tried to prove in my book The Bible on the Life Hereafter, Grand Rapids, 1959. See especially pp. 53–57. However, that cannot be what Paul has in mind here in Rom. 8:18. Verses 19 and 23 make very clear that he is referring to what will transpire at the time of “the revelation of the sons of God,” and of “the redemption (glorious resurrection) of our bodies”; in other words, at the time of Christ’s Return.

Significant is also the fact that the apostle, in dictating this letter, did not say “the glory that is to be revealed to us,” but “the glory that is to be revealed in us.” In other words, this glory will, as it were, come to us, enter us, and then, having filled us and enveloped us, will be revealed in us. We ourselves will be part of that glory: the redeemed will see it in each other. The angels will behold it in us, and will be filled with thanksgiving and praise to God.

  • The Result of This Comparison

“I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us,” says Paul; that is, the pan in which the glory has been deposited outweighs the other one by so much that the heavier pan drops to the bottom immediately. Our present sufferings, be they ever so many and severe, fade into insignificance when compared with our future glory.

  • The Reason for This Comparison

The very strategically situated church of Rome, surrounded by dangers and enemies (16:3, 4, 17–20), was in need of encouragement. The present passage richly supplies it.

In reflecting on the glory to be revealed in us, as well, of course, as to us, we realize that the reality will by far surpass our fondest expectations. Mrs. Elizabeth Mills was surely correct when she wrote:

We speak of the land of the blest,

A country so bright and so fair,

And oft are its glories confest,

But what must it be to be there?

Especially to be there, in redeemed soul and body, at Christ’s glorious Second Coming and forever afterward![10]


Ver. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory.

A sublime comparison:—Men exaggerate the importance of what is close at hand, and diminish the value of what lies in the far future. Prudence teaches men to free themselves from this tendency. And religion summons men to take into their calculation the distant but not uncertain prospect.

  1. The sufferings of the present may be severe. Every human being has many pains, troubles, anxieties, to bear. And every Christian has his own especial sufferings. Nothing is gained by concealing these facts. Let every reasonable being “count the cost” of following Christ.
  2. The glory of the future is revealed. We need no revelation to make us sensible of the pressure of present pains. But experience and reason fail to make us know the glory which is to be. This is declared to us by inspiration, viz., that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory. That glory consists in the knowledge, favour, and fellowship of the Redeemer.

III. The estimate and calculation is that the glory of the future outweighs the sufferings of the present. 1. This was the personal conviction of the apostle himself. He was a reasonable man, and he reckoned, &c. He acted upon his persuasion, and throughout his life accepted hardships, braved dangers, endured persecution, animated by the blessed hope of victory and of glory. 2. This has been the principle which has underlain the endurances which have always characterised the Christian life. Who would willingly endure the self-denial and the oppression, the insult, the privation and the martyrdom, except for the sake of the approval of the Divine Master, whose victory and whose throne it is promised that all His faithful followers shall share? (Clerical World.)

The present and the future:

  1. The apostle’s estimate. 1. Of this world. A scene of—(1) Vanity. (2) Bondage. (3) Suffering. 2. Of the world to come. (1) Glory. (2) Liberty. (3) Happiness.
  2. The effects of this estimate. 1. Hope. 2. Patience. 3. Earnest desire. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Present suffering and future glory:

  1. God’s suffering sons. Sonship does not exempt from sufferings—sometimes it even causes them—as when we are called to suffer on account of religion, especially in times of persecution. But we need not look for “some great thing” to bring the text into conformity with daily experience. No sufferings are small that have power to affect the mind. The strife of tongues, the petty persecutions of home, the long continuance of some chronic disease, the anxiety connected with our occupation, may be doing for us what greater trials did for the martyrs. We may be sufferers in the intensity of emotion, even when the instruments of suffering may not be the prison and the stake. The gospel, then, does not imply immunity from suffering. And this fact teaches that suffering to the believer is—1. Good and not evil—like medicine, which may be nauseous to the taste but healing in its effects. 2. Best when least deserved. “I could have borne it had I merited it,” is the world’s word. God’s Word says, “If the will of God be so, it is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing.” To do wrong is a greater evil than to suffer wrong. 3. Confined to “this present time.”
  2. The comparison with future glory. “I reckon”—as if it were a calm and deliberate mental process. If we allow our feelings to predominate we shall allow our experience of pain to prevail over the revelations of faith. The glory is yet future—it is not yet felt—whilst the suffering is felt. We need to bring into the comparison, in order to feel alleviation, those vast objects in the presence of which all temporal sorrow dwindles. We might compare, e.g., our own sufferings—1. With the far severer sufferings of many of our fellow-Christians who are as dear to God as we are. 2. With our deserts and our deep sense of the evil of sin. 3. With our mercies and alleviations, and be ashamed to think of our ingratitude in permitting one sorrow to blind us to a thousand joys. 4. With the bitter sufferings which our Lord endured, and think of the double honour which is given us on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him but to suffer for His sake. 5. But the apostle brings before us the glory that shall be revealed in us, as if he would compare the poor accommodation of the roadside inn where the traveller passes the night, with the enduring blessedness of the home. One day in heaven will repay all the sufferings of earth. (P. Strutt.)

Present sufferings and future glory:

  1. Counterbalancing temporal things with eternal, is the way to clear our mistakes, or prevent the delusions of the flesh. The apostle observeth this method here and elsewhere (2 Cor. 4:17, 18). This may be done in four ways. Comparing—1. Temporal good things with eternal good things, that we may draw off our hearts from the one to the other, and so check the delights of sense (Heb. 10:34; Psa. 16:11; John 5:44). 2. Temporal bad things with eternal bad things; so to defeat the terrors of sense. All the sufferings of the world are but the scratch of a pin to that tribulation that abideth for every soul that doth evil (Luke 12:4, 5). 3. Temporal good for eternal evil (Heb. 11:25). 4. Temporal bad things, with eternal good things (2 Cor. 4:17). (1) Our sufferings come from men, but our glory from God; now as the agent is, so is the effect; man afflicts as a finite creature, but God rewards as an infinite being; man showeth himself in his wrath, and God in His love (Isa. 51:12). (2) Our sufferings are earthly, but our glory is heavenly. As the place is, so is the estate; here both the good and evil is partial, but there both are complete. Here we have the earnest, there the whole bargain; here a taste, there a full feast. (3) Our sufferings are but short, but our glory eternal (1 Pet. 1:6; 5:10). (4) As they are short, so they are light (2 Cor. 4:17). (5) The sufferings are in our mortal bodies, but the glory is both in soul and body. (6) Sufferings do mostly deprive us of those things which are without a man; but this is a glory which shall be revealed in us. (7) Our sufferings dishonour us in the sight of the world, but this glory maketh us amiable in the sight of God. (8) The order is to be considered. As to the wicked, God will turn their glory into shame; so as to the godly. He will turn their shame into glory (John 16:20).
  2. The comparison, though it be rightly weighed, will have no efficacy unless we have faith, or a deep sense of the world to come. It is easy to show how much eternal things exceed temporal; but this taketh no hold of the heart, till there be a firm belief of the glory reserved for God’s people (Heb. 11:1; 2 Pet. 1:9).

III. This faith must be often exercised by serious meditations. For the greatest truths work not, if we do not think of them. Faith showeth us a truth, but consideration is the means to improve it (Luke 14:28–30). IV. There is, besides, need of the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Sense is too strong for reason without faith; and faith cannot do its office without the Spirit. (T. Manton, D.D.)

Suffering and glory to be revealed in the good:—First, of the subject or antecedent: “The sufferings of this present time.” By sufferings here we are to understand the sufferings of the servants of God more especially. First, to look upon it in the first reference, of the time in order to suffering; and so, I say, there is this in it, that the present time it is a time of affliction. Where we must first of all explain what is here meant by this present time. First, the state of this world it is expressed by the time or season, ὁ χωρίς. And so, indeed, it is. It is a time of great opportunity, which God does afford unto us. Those that will be saved hereafter, they must be sanctified now. And therefore accordingly does it concern us to mind this time, and to be sure to be good husbands of it; not to strive or squander it away we care not how, but to have a special regard hereunto. That is the first term of emphasis, the time, or season. The second is, that it is called the present time, which is to be taken in an exclusive sense, as that which shall not be hereafter. It is present, and it is present but for a while. It has a disparagement of transitoriness upon it. The second is of suffering in order to the time. And so there is this in it, that affliction it is only for a season. The suffering of this present time, that is, as much as this moment any suffering; this suffering, which is but of short continuance. Thus we shall find the Scripture to express it (2 Cor. 4:17; Heb. 10:37; 1 Pet. 1:6; 5:10). These and the like are the expressions whereby the shortness of affliction is set forth unto us. This it serves, first, to put a difference betwixt the children of God and other men. As for wicked and ungodly persons, their sufferings are not only for time present, but as well for time to come, and for that especially. Therefore, secondly, it should keep up their hearts from fainting and sinking under them. The second is the predicate, or consequent, in these words, “Are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Wherein we have the state of God’s people in the world to come set forth under a threefold notion or description. First, from the nature of it; and secondly, from the order of it; and thirdly, from the degree of it. First, here is a description of the future state of the children of God, from the nature of it; and that is of glory to be revealed in them. First, for the matter of it, it is glory. He does not only say it is rest, as He does in another place (2 Thess. 1:7). Heaven it does not only consist in the removal of former evils, but in the addition of further comforts. And mark here what this comfort is, for the condition and quality of it, while it is expressed by glory; wherein the Spirit of God seems to labour to satisfy us and to uphold us against the scorn and reproach of affliction. If here now it shall be further demanded what this glory we now speak of is, and wherein it consists. First, in the glorious qualifications which both soul and body together shall be endued withal. The body raised up to the excellencies and perfections of a spirit—a spiritual body—and the soul endued with a great measure of knowledge in all particulars. Secondly, in the glorious company and society which we shall there partake of. Thirdly, in the glorious actions and performances which we shall then be employed in: in sitting upon thrones, judging the world, even angels themselves. And finally, in an universal freedom from whatsoever might cause any annoyance. Secondly, we may here take notice of the dispensation, as it is said to be such as shall be revealed in us. While it is said that it shall be revealed, there are two things implied in this expression. First, its present secrecy. It shall be revealed; therefore as yet it is hid, and so it is. That glory which a Christian shall one day partake of in heaven it is for the present concealed (1 John 3:2). The second is the future discovery, or manifestation, which is here expressed. It is the discovery of it only which is future and has yet to come. It is already in being, so far forth as it is prepared for us, as the Scripture assures us. This glory, which for the present is hid, it shall hereafter be revealed both to the children of God and other men. First, it shall be revealed to God’s children for their comfort and greater reward. God will now at last make them amends for all their long expectations and dependencies upon Him. Secondly, to wicked men it shall be revealed also for their shame and confusion. There is one word more which is here considerable of us, and that is the subject of this glory—ourselves. It is not only to us, but in us. Glory may be revealed to a man, which himself has no interest in. But the glory of heaven it is such as shall be revealed in us, that is, we shall partake of this glory. This it holds a proportion to our capacity and reception of grace. Look as the children of God. The second is taken from the order of it, or method in which it is dispensed, and that is, in succession to affliction. God’s children, in regard of that state which happens unto them, have their best still at last. And this it goes before that. Look as it was with Christ Himself, even so it is also with the members of Christ. For Christ Himself—we know how it was with Him—He suffered before He reigned. The harvest is after the seed-time. This is matter of great encouragement and consolation to all true believers in the saddest condition that befalls them. It may be that for the present they may lie under very grievous afflictions. Well, but here is that which may satisfy them: that there is the greater comfort behind, that waits upon them. The third is the measure or degree of it; and that is, glory transcendent to affliction. Present suffering is incomparable to future happiness. First, to show you that it is so. There must needs be an infinite excellency and transcendency of glory above suffering upon this account. First, the reason and argument which God uses and takes from glory to persuade His children to suffering. That can by no means be an argument which is not itself a truth; at least such an argument as the God of truth shall vouchsafe to use. Indeed Satan he many times offers those things for encouragements which have no substance or reality in them. But the Lord He does not do so. He will make good every argument which He presses for the doing of any duty. Secondly, as this may be cleared from God’s own arguments and reasonings, so also from the saints’ apprehensions and improvements of those arguments. Thirdly, this may be also evinced unto us, even from the principles of superstition itself. We may see what future glory is, in regard of present sufferings, from the voluntary sufferings which many people lay upon themselves. Fourthly, the first-fruits of the Spirit, and the beginnings of glory here in this present life, these are an evidence hereof unto us. Now, further, secondly, we are to consider wherein this disparity and eminency and transcendency does mainly consist, which we may take notice of according to these following explications of it. First, in weight; secondly, in number; and thirdly, in duration. Now the second is the apostle’s judgment, or determination about it, in this word, I reckon, or make account. The word in the Greek signifies properly to reason, or cast up accounts. And so it is a metaphor either taken from logic or from arithmetic. If we take it from logic, so it is a drawing of the conclusion from the premises; if we take it from arithmetic, so it is by casting up the account to find out the true total sum. First, take it from logic; I reckon, that is, I conclude; so we find the word used in other places, as in Rom. 3:28: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith,” &c. It is the same word which is here in the text. And so there is this in it, that a good Christian has the best and perfectest reason. And therefore let all proud wits stoop and veil to this. But, secondly, it may be a metaphor taken from arithmetic; I reckon, that is, I make account. That the receipts do exceed the expenses; the present suffering it comes short of the future glory by infinite degrees. That a Christian is the best accountant. Especially he is so in this point of religion, as to the preferring of glory to suffering. St. Paul had a very great advantage of many others in this particular. First, he had skill; he had a wit and understanding for this purpose. Every one has not the art of arithmetic, especially of this spiritual arithmetic. Secondly, he had experience. He had the trial of both estates, and so was best able to judge of both (2 Cor. 11:23; 12:4). Thirdly, he had the advantage also of practice. The expedite casting up of accounts it is a matter of use, and the facility is contracted by custom. Now St. Paul he had this also, he was used hereunto, and he had done it often again and again. As a man that will be sure of an account, he goes over it the second time, and the third, and if it still proves the same, then he determines it and sets it down for certain. (Thomas Horton, D.D.)

Present sufferings and future glory:—In Heb. 11:25, 26, there is a similar course of reasoning. See how he loads the scales. On the world’s side, “pleasures” and “treasures”; on Christ’s side, “reproaches “and “afflictions.” But with the former he throws in “for a season”; with the latter he casts in “with the people of God”; and in a moment the world kicks the beam.

  1. The principle which guided the apostle to his conclusion is to bring eternity into every calculation, and to judge of everything as it affects our eternity. Everything has in it an eternity of consequence. There is not a pain, nor a pleasure, a word, nor a thought, which, either directly or indirectly, does not reach out for ever and ever. Now, to an immortal being, the rule and standard of measurement must be eternity. Ask the man on the eve to “depart, and be with Christ,” what he thinks of the affairs of this present life? and he will answer in the spirit of my text.
  2. The exact point of the comparison as it stood in the apostle’s mind. It would have been quite natural to have spoken of “the glory that should be shown to us,” as of the object which we are all reaching to in heaven; but it was a far higher range of thought when it dwelt on “the glory that should be shown in heaven in us.” For what is that “glory” which is to make heaven? Unquestionably the same to which David looked (Psa. 17:15). Perfect reflection of the brightness of God in our person—of the judgment of God in our intellect—of the love of God in our affections—of the will of God in our motives—of the unity of God in the harmony of our whole being. Everything is “glorious” as it respects or admits Deity. Now every “suffering” here, of body or of mind, has reference to, and affects that reflection of “glory.” We Christians are passing through the processes which are essential to our final condition; the school-time, which is preparatory to maturity, or, the furnace, melting the material, making it capable of receiving the impression of its influence. And, if we once admit that, then we hold a chain of reasoning which justifies, nay, reproves, nay, rejoices in every sorrow; and establishes a proportion between the degree of “the sufferings,” and the degree of “the glory.” The height of the glory depends upon the attainment of the grace; and the attainment of the grace is according to the elevation of the faith; and the degree of the faith is in proportion to its exercise; and the exercise lays among afflictions. And surely the thought of consummation ought to be sufficient to swallow up all the pain of this present world. What, if the body “groans, being burdened,” when it is all “but for a moment,” and eternity will be spent in rapturous ministrations. (J. Vaughan, M.A.)

The important calculation:—I. There can be no comparison between the sufferings of the present time, and the consummated glory of the heavenly world, in respect of nature. Without some resemblance of nature, comparison cannot be instituted at all. We may compare the sun with the moon, or with a star, or even with the flame of a candle; because, however much smaller, these are all luminous objects. But we cannot very well compare the sun to a tree or to a reptile, because of the dissimilarity of nature. So, also, we may institute a comparison, however remote, between the ocean and a lake, or river, or fountain, because water is essential in all; but there cannot well be a comparison between the ocean and a quadruped or a flower. So, as there is no sameness of nature in sufferings and glory, they cannot be compared, unless to point out their dissimilarity be comparison. II. There can be no comparison between present sufferings and future glory, in respect of attendant circumstances. 1. One of the circumstances frequently attendant on the sufferings of this life is solitude. 2. It is another circumstance attendant on suffering, that we cannot always see the good which is designed. 3. It may be mentioned as a further circumstance attendant on suffering, that the causes of grief are seldom single. It has grown into a proverb—Misfortunes come in troops! 4. Let us now reflect, that in the time of that “glory which shall be revealed in us,” this array of sorrow will be for ever passed away! Instead of neglect and solitude, will be the banquet with “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven”; “the innumerable company of angels—the general assembly and church of the first-born—the spirits of just men made perfect”; and more than all, the beatific vision of the immortal God! Instead of the doubt and obscurity of this mortal state, will be the bright result of things; the visible demonstration how these light and momentary afflictions work out “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Instead of the thousand forms of human woe which crowd the span of life with diversified sorrow, there will be consummated happiness; every form of pleasure which holy and exalted souls can take in. III. It is an unworthy comparison between the sufferings of the present life and the glory of the life to come, in reference to degree. It is a fact in the constitution of man’s present being, that he cannot endure suffering of any kind beyond a given limit. If pushed beyond that limit, suffering relieves itself. Swooning, and even death itself comes in, to the relief of those whose burden of woe is too great to be borne! Nor should it be forgotten, that in our present being we can no more bear the excess of joy than that of grief. But in the glory which shall be revealed in us, the powers of man shall be, beyond all our present conception, exalted and enlarged. IV. There can be no comparison between the sufferings of the present life and the consummated glory of the heavenly world, in respect of duration. Time may be compared with time, and one finite thing with another thing which is finite; but time cannot be compared with eternity, a thing which is finite with one that is infinite. The sufferings of this present time will have an end. Were every hour of every day crowded with agony, we know the last hour will soon arrive, and the sorrows of earth be no more! But the glory to be revealed in us has no end! The crown of life never fades: the fountains of pure delight never cease to flow. After this illustration of the apostle’s doctrine, we are justified in using it to the following purposes—1. As a most urgent reason, why we should take care that in all our sorrows we suffer as Christians. 2. The apostle’s doctrine is certainly a lesson of patience and submission, under those afflictions it may please Almighty God to permit to come upon us. 3. It will not be possible to give full credit to the apostle’s doctrine, and to lay it seriously to heart, without feeling it a call to live in a constant reference to other and brighter worlds. (J. Bromley.)

Present sufferings contrasted with future glory:—1. It is a saying as ancient as the oldest book in the Bible that “man is born to trouble.” And Christians, while they are exposed to various afflictions “common to man,” have trials, often pungent and severe, peculiar to themselves. But Christians have, also, consolations peculiar to themselves, and proportioned to their sorrows. 2. In the text the apostle represents himself as having instituted a comparison between “the sufferings of this present time,” and “the glory that shall be revealed,” with his eye on their respective magnitudes; with the result that “the sufferings are not worthy to be regarded, in comparison with the glory.” 3. There are two circumstances which confirm and commend the apostle’s authority on this subject—(1) The large experience he had received of present afflictions (2 Cor. 11). We are accustomed to attach weight to the opinions of those who have had much experience in the things of which they speak. Yet, with his enlarged experience, Paul declares that the present sufferings of Christians are “not worthy to be compared with” their future glory. What are our sufferings in comparison with his? If, then, those greater afflictions, much more our smaller trials, vanish in such a contrast. (2) The apostle has been distinguished, perhaps above all other men, by an anticipated experience of the glory of the future state (2 Cor. 12:1–4). And, looking at both worlds with this connected and enlarged experience, he pronounces the judgment stated in the text. 4. Observe, also, the force of “the glory that shall be revealed.” The same emphatic expression is used by Peter, in apparent allusion to the words before us (1 Pet. 4:1). A small and dim reflection of that glory is all that is at present conveyed by Divine revelation; like the glimmering of those distant suns that irradiate infinite space; an infantine perception proportioned to our infantine faculties. It is a glory that must be revealed; that can be discerned only by its own splendour. In looking at the comparison, therefore, we must take into consideration the disadvantages arising from the one side being matter of experience and clearly discernible, while the other side is matter of faith, and placed beyond the power of human conception. The things that are temporal are seen; the sufferings are present: but the things that are eternal are not seen; the glory is to be revealed. 5. There are, however, certain alleviating circumstances connected with our present sufferings, which render them unworthy to sustain a comparison with that contrasted glory which is free from all deductions.

  1. They seldom proceed from the highest source of suffering, and hence they are never sufferings of the severest nature. The sufferings of a good man cannot arise from the horrors of a guilty conscience that sees nothing in futurity but an angry God and eternal woe! We can measure our strength in the contemplation of temporal calamities, but not in the prospect of eternal ruin. The Christian, whatever his sufferings, may have peace in his conscience, and their edge is effectually taken off in his experience. They are thus rendered very imperfect. But the future glory is of a nature to fill the soul, to satisfy its highest conceptions, its largest capacities of good.
  2. They are subject to interruptions and intervals of repose. The storms of adversity do not prevail through the whole period of the most afflicted life; they are relieved by intervals of calm and sunshine (Psalm. 125). It is because our sufferings are thus interrupted that they become the more conspicuous. Health, for example, is the ordinary state of our being; sickness is an interruption of that state; hence we dwell on a few days or even hours of pain, while we let years of ease and vigour pass unnoticed. But in the heavenly world there is no suspension of good, no intrusion of distress. There will prevail an unbroken continuity of bliss. Who, then, would compare the occasional sufferings of this present time with the enjoyment of undisturbed felicity?

III. They are attended by many alleviating circumstances. None touch us at once in all points and put an end to every enjoyment. God attempers His chastisements to our weakness; and, in general, so mingles goodness with severity, as even, amidst our sorrows, to call forth our thanksgivings. If our health and ease is impaired we are often attended by kind friends, and we have all the assistance which the physician’s art can afford, and, for the support of our hearts, the rich promises of Scripture, and the influences of the Divine Comforter. But in the future state of glory there is no admixture of suffering; it is a state of pure fruition; a scene of unimpaired beatitude. With the perfect nature of that glory, the very imperfect nature of our present sufferings, as modified by many alleviating circumstances, renders them not worthy to be compared.

  1. Even when we may be reduced to the greatest possible distress, still we retain hope, which operates with a resisting force against the assaults of adversity. And what a source of joy does this principle open to the Christian! (ver. 24; Heb. 11:1). But in the happiness of heaven there exists no disturbing fear to correspond with the hope that allays the sufferings of time. Once admitted to that bright world, we shall look back on “the sufferings of this present time,” as on the faint recollection of a vision of the night: they will only serve to enhance our beatitude, to swell our song of praise! V. Present sufferings are proportioned to our present powers of enduring; but the glories of the future world, to another state of faculties, a very different order of capacities. At the resurrection there will take place a great, an inconceivable enlargement of our energies in mind and body, our capacities of action and enjoyment (1 Cor. 15). The body will be “raised in power,” like that of angels who “excel in strength.” The eye will be strengthened to behold those beams of Divine effulgence which, were they to be manifested to us now, would blind us with their blaze. The ear will be fitted to receive, the voice to respond, those eternal hallelujahs! Every cloud will be dispelled from the mind, every imperfection of its powers removed. What are our limited sufferings, proportioned as they are to our present limited powers, placed in comparison with that ineffable glory, to which powers of a different order are adapted? VI. And note the immeasurable disparity between the duration of temporal afflictions and the duration of celestial glory. If they extended through the whole period of life, and that period were protracted to antediluvian longevity, still they would be lost in less than a moment, in comparison with eternal glories: weighed against that “exceeding weight,” these light afflictions would appear as the almost invisible motes of the sunbeam. Conclusion: 1. Let Christians derive support and encouragement under their various afflictions. When we are ready to be cast down by some pressing burden, let us balance it against an “eternal weight of glory.” 2. Let others, who may not as yet have turned their attention to eternal realities, be prevailed upon no longer to neglect the great salvation. Who would hesitate between a few years of doubtful enjoyment, invaded by sufferings “common to man,” and inconceivable happiness prolonged and progressive through infinite duration? (Robert Hall, M.A.)

Present suffering and future glory in contrast:—1. “Present time” may mean the sufferings of any one at any time, or of any one during his whole life, or of all persons during their life; or, still again, of all persons consolidated in their experience of one person. 2. “Glory” is splendour, magnificence. Then, as according to the text, suffering is not to be compared with the glory. They must be placed in contrast, as to their—

  1. Origin—the one from sin, the other from God.
  2. Nature. All suffering is mixed; glory is unmixed.

III. Realisation. Suffering comprehensible; glory incomprehensible.

  1. Duration. Suffering ends; glory never—it is everlasting. To be like Christ; to be with Christ; to be equal heirs with Christ—this is glory. And yet we cannot travel to the end of such infinite glory. Is there not enough in this view of our text to inspire the Christian with zeal and devotion, and to send the sinner weeping to the Cross? (D. Thomas, D.D.) Present sufferings not to be compared with future glory:
  2. What are the sufferings here intended. 1. Those of “this present time” in the present disordered and fallen state of things. While man was a stranger to sin, he was also a stranger to suffering. But when sin found an entrance it made an opening for suffering. How various are the kinds and degrees of suffering, and how many are the quarters from whence it arises! What faculty of mind, what sense or member of body, what possession, connection, or enjoyment in life, may not become a source of sorrow? We may suffer through fires, inundations, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, inclement seasons. And what is more dreadful than any of them, we may see fields of battle covered with the dead, and resounding with the groans of the dying. Behold the widow, orphan, prisoner, slave. We may “return and consider all the oppressions done under the sun” (Eccles. 4:1, 2), all introduced by sin, that pregnant womb. 2. Now, even in these general sufferings the people of God have more or less their share. But, besides these, they have sufferings peculiar to themselves. They mourn in Zion, sorrow for sins, their own or those of others: they “deny themselves,” and “take up their cross,” “crucify the flesh,” are “reproached for the name of Christ,” and, in various ways, are made partakers of Christ’s sufferings. 3. But the apostle spoke more particularly of the Church in that age, when the sufferings of its members were peculiarly aggravated (2 Cor. 4:8; 1 Cor. 4:9–13; 2 Cor. 6:4, 5; Rom. 8:35; Heb. 10:32–34; 11:36–38).
  3. What is the glory to be revealed. This cannot be at present fully comprehended (1 John 3:2). It implies, however—1. A perfect state of soul, gloriously enlightened (1 Cor. 13:12), glorious in holiness (1 John 3:2; Rev. 22:4), in happiness (Rev. 21:3–6; 22:1–5), in authority, power, and dominion (Luke 22:28–30; James 1:12; Rev. 1:6; 3:21). 2. A perfect and glorious state of body (Phil. 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:20, 43, 49, 51; Eph. 1:19, 20; Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2). This is justly termed “the manifestation of the sons of God” (ver. 19), and “the adoption” (vers. 23, 29). 3. The being placed in a world of glory, which will far exceed this world. 4. The being admitted into glorious society, even that of patriarchs and prophets, evangelists and apostles, saints and angels. 5. The having free, constant, uninterrupted communion with the Father of glory through the Lord of glory, and by the glorious Spirit. III. How it appears that the sufferings are not to be compared to the glory. Compare—1. The subjects of the suffering and of the glory. Our powers of body and mind are limited. Any great weight of affliction soon crushes the frail body, and causes it to seek repose in death. The narrow capacity of the mind, likewise, cannot admit at once a very large measure of trouble of any kind; one sorrow is wont to displace another. 2. But the glory to be revealed in us will be the glory of an angel. Our vessels will then be wonderfully enlarged, and rendered capable of containing a large measure of felicity and glory. 3. Their nature and design. (1) The sufferings are not designed to be a proper punishment of sin. God only corrects that He may reform and amend. (2) The glory, however, will be a reward proper for an infinite Being to bestow on those whom He acknowledges to be His children (chap. 9:23; Heb. 11:16). 4. The degree of the one and the other. The sufferings of the present time, however great, are not without any mixture of consolation. But the glory to be revealed will be pure glory and felicity, unmixed with the least alloy of sorrow. 5. The constancy of the one and the other. The sufferings of the present life are seldom, if ever, incessant, but the glory will be incessant, without change, unless for the better. 6. Their duration. The sufferings of the present time are the sufferings of a creature of a day (1 Cor. 7:29–31). But the glory is that of an immortal being; a being that can die no more either in soul or body.
  4. In whom this glory will be revealed; or who have a right to expect it? 1. Not in mankind in general, though all be redeemed with the blood of Christ. For a man may “frustrate the grace of God” (Gal. 2:21). 2. Not in all that profess Christianity. For a man may “profess to know God, and by works deny Him.” 3. Not in all that are outwardly unblameable. For a man may “have a name to live and be dead.” 4. But in all that so believe the gospel as to find it “the power of God unto salvation.” (J. Benson.)

The higher heroism—suffering and glory:—There was an ancient sect who held that the highest virtue was to triumph over pain. The Stoics aimed high; but the road they took was paved with crushed desires, with petrified affections, and strewn with the ashes of distinguished loves. But Christianity does not save us by rendering us incapable of sorrow, but through sorrow, it leads us into the joy of God. Note—

  1. The reckoning. 1. It is a reckoning, not a full realisation. The apostle does not say, “I know,” for he had not drained the cup of earthly sorrow, and had but tasted the cup of heavenly joy. But neither does he say, “I think or conjecture,” for although he knew not the whole, he knew a good deal of both. What he does say lies between the two. “I reckon” is the language of faith, which accepts its present as the sure ground of a larger experience. 2. It is a reckoning about “present” suffering. It was then a time of persecution; but the truth of our text is not to be confined to such a time. Are we not apt to exaggerate the sufferings of a time of open persecution, as compared with calmer times? Do we not pass people every day who are suffering more for the sake of principle than ever martyr did? Their death is no less a martyrdom because it is a slow death. The Christian suffers both as a man and a Christian. He does not escape through faith the common lot. And besides, the spiritual nature has sufferings peculiar to itself. It begins in suffering. We have to pass Sinai, and see the terrors of the Lord. There is the struggle of conscience, with sin and unbelief, and the pangs of the new birth. Sanctification is but the deepening and broadening of our conversion, and it is carried on through suffering. The higher a nature rises, it increases in tenderness and sympathy, and while it has to maintain a conflict with evil, the heart must be the home of many great griefs. 3. It is a reckoning about present suffering in connection with future glory. The mere mention of the two cannot but suggest that the former is unworthy of comparison with the latter. The magnanimity of Paul prevents him from dragging his afflictions into comparison with the glory of God. The memory of past hardships is all but swallowed up in the enthusiasm of hope; and in this he follows his Master, “who, for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame.”
  2. The ground of the reckoning. 1. The grace of God in the heart, since it so reveals God to the soul, so brings down heaven to earth, that the possessor of it can say that his sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in him. 2. This grace is the root both of the sufferings and the glory. If the two things were really opposed, then some comparison might be made; but this is not the case. Suffering is the first-fruit of grace, glory the last. The one is the fruit of grace in time, the other its fruit in eternity. To have the grace of God in the heart is to have a principle of life there that must come into bitterest conflict with evil. Jesus Christ must needs suffer to enter into His glory. As He was, so are we in this world. We have to “fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ.” Dwelling in the believer Christ has still to meet the temptations of the devil and the contradictions of sinners. 3. The suffering leads to the glory. Suffering is in no sense the purchase of the glory. The sufferings of Christ have both paid the penalty of all sin, and purchased all blessing; and it would not accord with justice that we should have to pay the same penalty over again in our suffering. Certainly, if present suffering could purchase future glory, it would be a great bargain. Willingly might we undertake a pilgrimage to any shrine—gladly might we give our bosom to the knife, if the gates of Paradise would thereby open to us. But, although our suffering is in no sense the foundation or price of the glory, the one, nevertheless, leads to the other—is a condition of, or contribution to the other, as is stated in the preceding verse. The suffering, then, is not to be compared with the glory, as if the one were a deduction from the other; for the one enhances the other. As the light of the precious stone is brought out by cutting; as the veins of the marble are revealed by polishing; as the storms that fight with the young tree rock it into sturdier strength; so the Christian life is strengthened and beautified by suffering. Conclusion: Should any one standing on the threshold of the Christian life hesitate in view of its sufferings; or having put his hand to the plough, be disposed to look back; let him know that he is not fit for the kingdom of heaven. Those difficulties before which he pauses as great obstacles to his setting out on the way to glory are the very way itself. Who can show us a way to glory of any kind that is not paved with suffering? Is the glory the soldier seeks to be had with ease? Is the prize of fortune the merchant seeks to be had with folded arms? Are the ends on which the student is bent achieved by laying his head on a soft pillow and dreaming of them? One is apt to say there is no royal road to the glory of God; but that would be a great mistake. Suffering is the royal road, for by it the King passed into His glory. (F. Ferguson.)

Future glory an encouragement under present sufferings:—When the sailor encounters heavy weather, one thought cheers him—the ship may roll and pitch in the angry sea, the cold spray may drench him, his work may be hard and perilous, but he can look towards the shore; far away over the vessel’s bow, far away across the tumbling waves is the shore, the haven where he would be, and for the sake of this, by remembering this, he can bear his present troubles, though the waves of the sea rage horribly. It was this feeling of hope which carried the great heroes and discoverers of old through all their trials. When Columbus set forth to discover the new world he could bear the hardships and dangers in his way because he looked towards the shore; and at last, when he beheld the broken sea-weed floating past his ship, and the birds wheeling round him, he knew that his purpose was gained, and that the land which he sought to win lay before him. So I bid you to do; when the waves of affliction swell and roll towards you, when strong under-currents of temptation catch you and sweep you along, when you are weary and faint with buffeting the tide of sin, and sorrow, and frailty, look to the shore, look past the sins and the sorrow, past the noise of the whirlpool of life, past the high tide of accumulated trial, and the low water-mark of despondency and despair—look to the shore, there is peace there, there are flowers there, there is rest there remaining for the people of God. (H. J. W. Buxton, M.A.)

How the apostle lifts himself above the sufferings of time:—1. Little souls, superficial minds, reckon it as wisdom to argue away the mass of sufferings, or at least to belittle them, to conceal the dark shadows with rosy veils, and to place opposite a longer account of pleasures. But the truth is found in the plaints which are known by all, and which Job expressed (Job 7:1–3). Our apostle likewise gives full expression to the truth. In the phrases, “earnest expectation” (ver. 19), and “from the bondage of corruption” (ver. 21), he expresses the magnitude of the afflictions, and in the oft-repeated “creature,” “whole creation” (ver. 22), is expressed its extent, its generality, which knows of no exception. 2. Neither does he treat the origin superficially. It was not so from the beginning, neither was there necessity that it should be so, “not willingly” (ver. 20). The creature was made subject to vanity. It is not a blind, puzzling game of chance concerning which it would be best not to investigate; but the apostle knows and speaks boldly that this woe has a reasonable, just, and Divine cause, “by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope,” i.e., on account of human sin, because the holy God desired to mark sin with the unmistakable mark of misery and enmity to God. 3. But the apostle likewise knows that from the beginning—i.e., in the will of God—this is no unchangeable and eternal relation or condition (“in hope,” ver. 20). Glory, which excludes every woe, is the certain destiny of the Christian, so that the sorrowful condition of the present world appears to him as a prophecy of this destiny. (Compare the “for” in ver. 19). Adoption (ver. 23), has undoubtedly and completely taken place (ver. 19, “manifestation of the sons of God”). Enjoyment of that which is promised in the testament, afterward the revealed and distributed inheritance (ver. 17). Separation from every temporal fetter, also of the mortal body; hence glorious freedom (ver. 21, and “redemption of the body,” ver. 23), is the destiny of those who belong to Christ (“in us,” ver. 18, is explained by ver. 14); in which destiny all creation shall share (ver. 22). This clear aim in view, guaranteed by the “possession of the first fruits of the Spirit” (ver. 23), causes the present sufferings to be only of momentary consequence (ver. 18); the Christian longs for heaven (ver. 23), and this homesickness is termed the blessedness of hope (ver. 24). (Prof. Cosack.)

The prospect of future glory:—1. This was the reckoning of one who could not mistake—for the text is not merely the opinion of the apostle, but as the declaration of God Himself, for the eternal comfort of His Church. 2. And this leads us to remember how very little is said in Scripture of the glories of the world to come. It seems solemnly determined by our Master that His Church shall walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 12:4). Those who die come not back again. Doubtless they sometimes wish it (Luke 16:27–30), but it is a vain wish. He tells us, instead, much about the sufferings and trials which await us in this life. There is a great deal said about a cross: much tribulation, the need of purity of heart, and self-denial. These are not the things by which the world induces us to love and serve it. The world keeps pain in the background, and talks of pleasure. Christ keeps pleasure in the background, and talks of pain. And it is not hard to guess why. It is because the world has so little pleasure to offer as a bribe, that it had need to talk much about it; whereas the Lord of glory has so huge an amount of blessedness in store for those who love Him that if He were to reveal the greatness thereof faith would be swallowed up in present certainty and hope in present enjoyment. 3. And yet the solemn silence of Scripture concerning heaven is now and then all but broken. The lips are sometimes opened, as it were, to speak; and, though closed again immediately, enough has escaped to fill the soul with wonder and to make the spirit attentive. The apostle in the text does not describe heaven; but he tells us that something wonderful might be told. Something of the same kind is found in 2 Cor. 4:17, 18, and 1 Cor. 2:9. We may think as we will, and what we will; and we shall still be far, far behind! To see patriarchs, prophets, apostles, the early Churches, will be much, to be sure; yet will it be as nothing compared to what shall be! So again (and oh, the unspeakably higher privilege!)—so again, the beholding of the face of the Son of Man. Or again, to be shown the providences which watched over our lives; to recognise the hand of Love in every blow which overtook us, every disappointment which afflicted us; yea, to be restored, and that eternally, to everything we had ever loved and lost—these things and more, told over ten thousand times, convey but a feeble picture, a faint image of the blessedness of Heaven! To conclude. The use of these declarations is clearly this—to reconcile good men to present sorrow. There is a bright prospect beyond. (Dean Burgon.)

Confident expectation of a perfect kingdom of God:—I know the obstacles, but I know as well the power behind! I do not see success as yet, but I know that it is coming. So I do not see the cathedral as yet, when I go into the confused quarry-yard and see there the half-wrought stones, the clumsy blocks that are by and by to be decorated capitals. But when at last they are finished in form and brought together, the mighty building rises in the air, an ever-during psalm in rock. I do not see the picture yet, when I look upon the palette with its blotches and stains and lumps of colour. By and by, when the skilful brush of the painter has distributed those colours, I see the radiant beauty of the Madonna, the pathos of the Magdalene; I see the beauty of the landscape spread out upon the canvas, with meadow and hill and winding stream, and the splendours of the sunset crowning the whole. I do not see yet the perfect kingdom of God upon earth, but I see the colours which are to blend in it. I see the already half-chiselled rock out of which it shall be wrought; and I am not going to despond now, when so much already has been accomplished. (R. S. Storrs.)[11]


18. The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Perhaps the idea of its being revealed ‘in us’ (eis hēmās) is also present. Cf. Luke 6:22–23, ‘Blessed are you when men hate you … Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.’[12]


18. I indeed judge, &c. Though they take not altogether an unsuitable view who understand this as a kind of modification; yet I prefer to regard it in the light of an encouragement, for the purpose of anticipating an objection, according to this import,—“It ought not indeed to be grievous to us, if we must pass through various afflictions into celestial glory, since these, when compared with the greatness of that glory, are of the least moment.” He has mentioned future for eternal glory, intimating that the afflictions of the world are such as pass away quickly.

It is hence evident how ill understood has this passage been by the Schoolmen; for they have drawn from it their frivolous distinction between congruity and condignity. The Apostle indeed compares not the worthiness of the one with that of the other, but only lightens the heaviness of the cross by a comparison with the greatness of glory, in order to confirm the minds of the faithful in patience.[13]


8:18 present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Verse 18 continues the theme of suffering leading to glory from 8:17. Three comments can be made about this theme. First, as noted earlier, suffering for righteousness’ sake in this age leading to the glory of the age to come is apocalyptic in orientation. Second, it is also rooted in the new covenant. Paul makes this clear in 2 Corinthians 3:1–5:21, where he talks about the glory of the new covenant over the old covenant (3:1–4:6) but says that such a new covenant is rooted in suffering (4:7–5:21). Third, in participating in the suffering/glory paradigm, the Christian participates in Christ’s suffering and glory (compare Rom. 8:17–18 with 2 Cor. 3:1–5:21; Phil. 3:10, 21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14; Heb. 2:7–10).[14]


8:18 / The section begins with a pronouncement: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Consider (logizesthai) implies not a mere opinion but a statement of gravity, an authoritative judgment. The sufferings of the present seem slight when compared to the glory that will be revealed. Sufferings are not illusory or mere surface scratches, however. Some religions, like Hinduism, maintain that matter, including evil and suffering, is only an illusion, and that relief from the illusion can be achieved by proper mental control. The Bible’s testimony is vastly different. No one reading the story of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32ff.) or Golgotha (Mark 15) can doubt the reality of suffering. We may wish our present sufferings were bad dreams, but that is only a bad wish. Not answering the telephone does not make the call from the emergency room go away. Paul concedes that suffering is numbingly, painfully real, but in comparison with glory it looks different than when viewed alone, for it is dwarfed by the grandeur of glory awaiting believers. Moreover, it is only “for a season.” The Greek word for present, kairos, means a momentary, limited duration of time. Suffering is limited to this life and pales in comparison to God’s coming glory. The apostle is not minimizing suffering but maximizing glory.[15]


18 The “for” introduces this verse and, indeed, the entire paragraph that follows, as an elaboration of the sequence of suffering and glory attributed to believers in v. 17b. Viewed from a perspective that holds this world to be a “closed system,” suffering is a harsh and final reality that can never be explained nor transcended. “All is trouble, adversity, and suffering!” cries Sue Fawley, summarizing Thomas Hardy’s own judgment in his most pessimistic novel, Jude the Obscure. But a Christian views the suffering of this life in a larger, world-transcending context that, while not alleviating its present intensity, transcends it with the confident expectation that suffering is not the final word. “The present and visible can be understood only in the light of the future and invisible.” Thus, Paul can “consider1062 that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed to us.” We must, Paul suggests, weigh suffering in the balance with the glory that is the final state of every believer; and so “weighty,” so transcendently wonderful, is this glory that suffering flies in the air as if it had no weight at all. “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

These “sufferings of the present time” are not only those trials that are endured directly because of confession of Christ—for instance, persecution—but encompass the whole gamut of suffering, including things such as illness, bereavement, hunger, financial reverses, and death itself. To be sure, Paul has spoken of our suffering in v. 17 as “suffering with Christ.” But there is a sense in which all the suffering of Christians is “with Christ,” inasmuch as Christ was himself subject, by virtue of his coming “in the form of sinful flesh,” to the manifold sufferings of this world in rebellion against God. The word Paul uses here refers to “sufferings” in any form; and certainly the “travail” of creation, with which the sufferings of Christians are compared (vv. 19–22), cannot be restricted to sufferings “on behalf of Christ.” And the qualification “of the present time” links these sufferings with the old age of salvation history, conquered in Christ but remaining as the arena in which the Christian must live out his or her new life.

Paul was certainly not the only ancient author to contrast present sufferings and future glory; see, for example, 2 Bar. 15:8: “For this world is to them [the righteous] a struggle and an effort and much trouble. And that accordingly which will come, a crown with great glory.” But, since the Christian’s glory is a partaking of Christ’s own glory (“glorified with him”), Paul puts more stress than does Judaism on the righteous person’s participation in this glory. In light of this focus on certainty, and since Paul conceives the Christian’s glory to be something that has, in some sense, already been determined (8:30), we are probably justified in seeing in “to be revealed” the nuance of a manifestation of that which already exists. “Glory,” like salvation in 1 Pet. 1:4–5, can be conceived as a state that is “reserved for us,” a state that Christ, our forerunner, has already entered. There is a sense, then, in which the believer even now proleptically experiences some of that glory, but it will be only in the last day, when the believer is brought into the scope of the glory of God, that the decision already made on our behalf will be manifest.1069[16]


18 This verse is an appeal to the great disproportion between the sufferings endured in this life and the weight of glory reserved for the children of God—the present sufferings fade into insignificance when compared with the glory to be revealed in the future. The apostle appeals to this consideration as an inducement to patient endurance of the sufferings. When he says “I reckon” (cf. 3:28; Phil. 3:13), he is giving by way of understatement his judgment respecting a truth of which there is no gainsaying (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17). The “present time” is stated to be the period within which these sufferings fall. This is a technical expression and is not to be equated with our common phrase, “the time being”. The present time is “this age” or “present age” in contrast with “the age to come” (cf. Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 16:8; 20:34, 35; Rom. 12:2; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:21). The age to come is the age of the resurrection and of the glory to be revealed. The contrast is not between the sufferings endured by a believer in this life prior to death and the bliss upon which he enters at death (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). The glory contemplated is that of the resurrection and of the age to come. It is said to be “the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward”. The expression bespeaks the certainty of the revelation in the future. It would be inviting to stress the concealment presupposed in the word “reveal” to the extent of supposing that the glory to be revealed is conceived of as already existing in concealment and needing only to be made manifest. The glory would then be the glory that belongs to Christ now and which will be bestowed upon believers in the future. The term “reveal”, however, does not necessarily have this implication (cf. Gal. 3:23). And the glory to be revealed is so bound up with the resurrection (vs. 23) that we cannot conceive of it as existing now except in the design and purpose of God. This glory is to be revealed “unto us”, that is to say, it is to reach unto us, is to be bestowed upon us, so that we become the actual partakers; it is not a glory of which we are to be mere spectators.[17]


The Incomparable Glory

Romans 8:18

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

There are times in every preacher’s work when, if he takes the task of teaching the Bible seriously, he comes to themes that he knows are beyond him. In one sense everything in the Bible is beyond us. The Bible contains God’s thoughts, and none of us is ever fully able to encompass the mind of the Infinite. Nevertheless, there are teachings that we do basically understand—because God has revealed them to us. Not so with every idea in the Bible. From time to time, we come to thoughts that we know we shall never fully understand, at least not until we get to heaven.

Glory is one of them. I call it “incomparable,” not only because it resists comparison with anything we know in this life, particularly suffering, which is the contrast found in our text, but because glory is truly beyond our comprehension. At best we have only an intimation of it.

Glory is the word best used to describe God’s magnificence and therefore also the dazzling magnificence of heaven and our share in it. But when we look for descriptions of heaven in the Bible, in most cases the descriptions have a negative cast only. They tell us what heaven will not contain. The best description of heaven in the Bible is probably that of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. But think how the New Jerusalem is portrayed by the “loud voice from the throne”—“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:3–4). That God will dwell with us is positive. But the strength of the description is in the words: no tears, no pain, no death, no mourning! These are all negative ideas, no doubt because we cannot fully comprehend the positive things but can understand the removal of that which troubles our lives now.

And yet, the greatest word for what is in store for God’s people is glory. Our text says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

What is Glory?

What is this “glory”? I find definitions of glory in the various commentaries, since incomprehensibility has never kept true scholars from defining anything. But the definitions seem inadequate to me. I want to suggest that in the case of the word glory we will make far better progress with the thinking of someone whose forte is literature, particularly poetry, rather than biblical scholarship. For that reason, I suggest an essay on glory by C. S. Lewis.

In the summer of 1941, Lewis was asked to give an evening sermon at the Oxford University Church of Saint Mary, and he responded by preparing the piece to which I refer. It was called “The Weight of Glory.” Lewis, one of the greatest Christian apologists of the twentieth century, began by referring to a longing all human beings have for something that can hardly be expressed. He called it “a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy,” and he found it in our wish to be approved by God. He argued that the biblical word for expressing this wish is glory.

At first, the idea of seeking divine approval seems to be unworthy, as it also did to Lewis when he began his study. But he said that he came to see that it is not unworthy at all but, on the contrary, expresses a natural and desirable order of things. A child wants approval from his parents and is right to want it. Creatures should want approval from their Creator. We are God’s creatures, and we do. But the problem is that we behave in a way that destroys the possibility of that approval, unless God intervenes to save and transform us, which he does in Jesus Christ. One day we will appear before God for judgment. What will happen to us on that day? Lewis asked his listeners. He answered, “We can be left utterly and absolutely outside—repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other hand, we can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged. We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities.”

But there is more to glory even than this. Glory denotes not only “worth,” “acceptance,” or “approval.” It also denotes “brightness,” “splendor,” and “luminosity,” perhaps even “beauty.” And we long for all that, too! In fact, we long not only to see what is beautiful. We want to participate in it, to be on the inside of this divine, heavenly beauty, rather than on the outside. In my judgment, it is here that Lewis, the poet, is at his best:

We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already; you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings, if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.…

That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.

Do we understand the meaning of glory now? No, I do not think we do, at least not fully. But we have a framework with which we can address the biblical teaching and uncover the specific contribution of our text.

Ichabod

The first thing the Bible adds to our understanding is that we long for glory because we once enjoyed it. I do not mean that individually we did. We did not exist prior to our births. I mean that we enjoyed glory once as a race—in Adam. Adam was made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:26–27), which means, as D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “that man at the beginning had a kind of glory.” He was like God, and he may even have been clothed with the splendor of God like a garment, as one commentator has suggested.

Yet what is man’s condition today? Man is a disgrace compared to what he once was. He is a fallen being. Over him should be written the tragic Old Testament name “Ichabod,” meaning “the glory has departed.” It has departed from his body, from his soul, and from his spirit.

Man was once a beautiful physical specimen. The man Adam and the woman Eve were the glory of creation. They excelled the rest of the created order in every respect. But when they sinned, physical decay, sickness, suffering, and eventually physical death came upon them. God said, “Dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19b). They were not originally destined to die, but die they did. Man was also beautiful in soul, the most beautiful of all the creatures. He had a nobility that transcends our ability to fathom. But once Adam and Eve sinned, that beautiful soul was tarnished. Now they began to lie and cheat and shift the blame from their own failings to those of others. Most significant was the ruination of their spirits. The spirit was that part of Adam and Eve that had communion with God. They had walked and talked with God in the garden. But once they fell, they no longer sought God out. They hid from him, and the encounter that eventually came was a judgment.

We enjoyed glory once, which is why we long for it so much. But it is gone, gone with the wind. What a marvelous thing it is then, when we turn to the Bible, to find that the end of our salvation in Christ is not merely deliverance from sin and evil and their consequences, but glorification. God is restoring to us all that our first parents lost.

More Than Adam Lost

This is what Paul is beginning to deal with here in Romans, which brings us to our text. But as soon as we turn to that text and try to place it in its context, we notice that something greater even than the restoration of Adam and Eve’s lost glory is involved. As we read on in Romans 8 we find that we are to have an enjoyment of God and a participation in God that surpasses Adam’s.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says,

Adam was perfect man, but his perfection fell short of glorification. There was room for development, and it is clear that glorification was the ultimate that was intended for man. As man he was perfect; there was no blemish in him, there was no sin in him; there was no fault in him. He was in a state of innocence, but innocence falls short of glorification. But what is held before us and offered to us in Christ, and promised us in him, is nothing less than glorification. The thing to which man, if he had continued to keep God’s commandments, would have arrived, and which would have been given to him as a reward for his obedience, is the thing that is now freely given us in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Weighed in the Balance

All this brings me directly to the text. For in Romans 8:18 Paul is comparing the future glory to be enjoyed by God’s people to their present sufferings, but saying that the glory far outstrips their suffering. That is obvious, isn’t it? For if the glory we are to enjoy is to exceed even that minimal glory enjoyed by Adam, it is certain that it will exceed the trials we are enduring now.

Paul introduces an interesting though somewhat hidden image at this point in the verbal adjective translated “not worth comparing.” It is the Greek word axiōs, from the verb agō, which means “to drive,” “lead,” or “cause to move.” Figuratively used, it refers to something that is heavy enough to promote motion in a balance or, as we would say, to tip the scales. When we remember that the word glory itself denotes something that is weighty or has substance, it is clear what Paul is suggesting. He is saying that the future glory laid up for us is so weighty that our present sufferings are as feathers compared to it and that they cannot even begin to move the scales.

Paul provides a parallel to our text in 2 Corinthians 4:16–17, following a poignant mention of the many persecutions and sufferings he had endured for the sake of Christ. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (emphasis added).

These two passages suggest several areas of comparison between our present sufferings and the glory that is to come.

  1. Their intensity. The first area of comparison is between the intensity of the suffering and the intensity of the glory or, as we have been saying, between the “weight” of the two. Suffering is heavy. It hurts. It can hurt so intensely that we scream with terror or cry out with pain. But, says Paul, the intensity of our sufferings is not worth comparing with the glory. And he should know. Paul suffered as much as any man has suffered, judging from his descriptions in 1 Corinthians 4:9–13; 2 Corinthians 4:8–12; 6:4–10; and 11:16–33. But he also had a vision of heaven’s glory, having been “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2). In his opinion the intensity of the former is not to be compared to the grandeur of the latter.
  2. Their location. The second area of comparison is between the location of our sufferings and the location of our glory. That is an awkward way of putting it, of course, but it is hard to think of something better. In Romans 8:18 Paul says that the glory of God is to be revealed “in us,” using a word that literally means “internally” or “in our very being.” This should be contrasted with the words “though outwardly we are wasting away,” which he uses in the parallel text in 2 Corinthians.

The idea seems to be this: Suffering, though felt deeply, nevertheless only affects our outward persons, our bodies. It does not affect the real “us,” those redeemed beings that, says Paul, are “being renewed day by day.” It is that “real me,” the inner me, that is going to participate in the glory. In other words, it is as C. S. Lewis said. We are not just going to observe the beauty; we are going to share in it: “God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun.… Some day, God willing, we shall get in.” The endurance of outward suffering is not to be compared to our participation in this glory.

  1. Their duration. The final point of contrast between suffering and glory concerns their duration. In Romans Paul distinguishes between “present sufferings,” which means those belonging to this present age, and the glory “that will be revealed,” meaning the unchanging and eternal glory of the age to come. In 2 Corinthians he calls the sufferings “momentary” and glory “eternal.” You and I do not think much about eternity. But if we can make ourselves think this way, it is evident that there is no comparison between the glory of the eternal state and the sufferings of this passing earthly time, however painful our sufferings may be while we are going through them.

Breaking the Spell

I want to say finally that if we can appreciate what Paul is saying in this text and get it fixed in our minds, we will find it able to change the way we look at life and the way we live—more than anything else we can imagine. It will provide two things at least.

  1. Vision. Focusing on the promise of glory will give us a vision of life in its eternal context, which means that we will begin to see life here as it really is. We have two problems at this point. First, we are limited by our concept of time. We think in terms of the “threescore years and ten” allotted to us, or at best the few years that have led up to our earthly existence or the few years after it. We do not have a long view. Second, we are limited by our materialism. Our reference point is what we perceive through our senses, so we have the greatest possible difficulty thinking of “the spirit” and other intangibles. We need to be delivered from this bondage and awakened from our spiritual blindness.

In “The Weight of Glory” Lewis addressed the objection of those who might consider his talk about glory as only fantasy, the weaving of a spell. He replied by admitting that perhaps that is what he was trying to do. But he reminded his listeners that spells in fairy tales are of two kinds. Some induce enchantments. Others break them. “You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.” That is not the way I would say it. I would speak of truth as opposed to this world’s falsehood. But it is probably the same thing. Both mean that we need to emerge from our darkness into God’s light.

  1. Endurance. “Breaking the spell” will give us strength to endure whatever hardships, temptations, persecutions, or physical suffering it pleases God to send us. Suppose there were no glory. Suppose this life really were all there is. If that were the case, I for one would not endure anything, at least nothing I could avoid. And I would probably break down under the tribulations I could not avoid. But knowing that there is an eternal weight of glory waiting, I will try to do what pleases God and hang on in spite of anything.

Here is the way hymnwriter Henry F. Lyte expressed it:

Jesus, I my cross have taken,

All to leave and follow thee;

Destitute, despised, forsaken,

Thou from hence my all shalt be.

Perish every fond ambition,

All I’ve sought or hoped or known;

Yet how rich is my condition,

God and heaven are still my own.

Man may trouble and distress me,

’Twill but drive me to thy breast;

Life with trials hard may press me,

Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.

O ’tis not in grief to harm me

While my love is left to me;

O ’twere not in joy to charm me,

Were that joy unmixed with thee.

Haste then on from grace to glory,

Armed by faith and winged by prayer;

Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee,

God’s own hand shall guide thee there.

Soon shall close thine earthly mission;

Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;

Hope soon change to glad fruition,

Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

There is one more word in Romans 8:18 that we need to examine. It is the word consider (or “reckon” in kjv). We have seen it fifteen times in this epistle, noting that it has to do with reason. It is the process by which we figure something out. I stress it because, although I referred to the idea of “breaking a spell,” I do not want you to suppose that there is anything magical about this. Magic is for fairy tales. But we are dealing with God’s real world, and we are instructed to think this out clearly.

Paul writes, “I consider that …” meaning that he has thought it through and concluded that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (kjv). By using this word he invites us to think it through also.

If you are a Christian, I ask, “Isn’t what the apostle says in this verse true? Isn’t the glory to come worth anything you might be asked to face here, however painful or distressing?” D. Martin Lloyd-Jones challenged his congregation with these words: “The great reality is the glory that is coming.… Hold on to this idea, that we do not really belong to this present age, that ‘our citizenship is in heaven.’ This present world is passing, transient, temporary. ‘The world to come’ is the real, the permanent world. That is the one that has substance and which will endure forever.”

If you know that you are part of heaven’s citizenry, you will endure—and say with the hymnwriter, “yet how rich is my condition.”[18]


The Comparison of Glory

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (8:18)

Logizomai (to consider) refers literally to numerical calculation. Figuratively, as it is used here, it refers to reaching a settled conclusion by careful study and reasoning. Paul does not merely suggest, but strongly affirms, that any suffering for Christ’s sake is a small price to pay for the gracious benefits received because of that suffering. The sufferings of this present time, that is, our time on earth, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

In the New Testament, pathēma (sufferings) is used both of Christ’s sufferings and of believers’ suffering for His sake. Resist Satan, Peter admonishes, “firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Pet. 5:9). Paul assured the Corinthian Christians, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort” (2 Cor. 1:6–7).

Jesus Christ is the supreme and perfect example of suffering for righteousness’ sake. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). Just as suffering was essential to Christ’s obedience to His Father, so it is essential to our obedience to Christ.

Those who do not know Christ have no hope when they suffer. Whatever the reason for their affliction, it does not come upon them for Christ’s sake, or righteousness’s sake, and therefore cannot produce for them any spiritual blessing or glory. Those who live only for this life cannot look forward to any resolution of wrongs or to any comfort for their souls. Their pain, loneliness, and afflictions serve no divine purpose and bring no divine reward.

Christians, on the other hand, have great hope, not only that their afflictions eventually will end but that those afflictions actually will add to their eternal glory. Long before the incarnation of Christ, the prophet Daniel spoke of believers’ glory as “the brightness of the expanse of heaven,” and as being “like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

As followers of Christ, our suffering comes from men, whereas our glory comes from God. Our suffering is earthly, whereas our glory is heavenly. Our suffering is short, whereas our glory is forever. Our suffering is trivial, whereas our glory is limitless. Our suffering is in our mortal and corrupted bodies, whereas our glory will be in our perfected and imperishable bodies.[19]


[1] Patterson, P. (2017). Salvation in the Old Testament. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1794). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ro 8:18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2171). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ro 8:18). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ro 8:18). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1440). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1711). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 471). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[9] Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 8:18). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[10] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 264–266). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[11] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 66–76). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[12] Bruce, F. F. (1985). Romans: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 6, p. 173). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[13] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 302–303). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[14] Pate, C. M. (2013). Romans. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 174). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[15] Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans (p. 212). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[16] Moo, D. J. (2018). The Letter to the Romans. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Second Edition, pp. 533–535). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[17] Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 300–301). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[18] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 861–868). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[19] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 449–450). Chicago: Moody Press.

February 6 Afternoon Quotes of The Day

Many Doctrinal Differences Must Be Tolerated
Mark 3:25; Romans 16:17; Hebrews 12:14

He that is not a son of peace, is not a son of God. All other sins destroy the church consequentially, but division and separation demolish it directly. Building the church is but an orderly joining of the materials; and what then is disjoining, but pulling down? Many doctrinal differences must be tolerated in a church. And why, but for unity and peace? Therefore, disunion and separation is utterly intolerable.

RICHARD BAXTER

Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Three Things Required for a Holy Life
Leviticus 20:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Peter 3:11

In the excellence of a holy life, these three things are required: That it be constant in itself, that it contemplate God, that it illuminate its neighbor.

ANTHONY OF PADUA

Ritzema, E., & Brant, R. (Eds.). (2013). 300 quotations for preachers from the Medieval church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 6 Afternoon Verse of the Day

12:2 Do not be conformed … be transformed by the renewal of your mind. The Christian’s mind-set is to be determined and reshaped by knowledge of the gospel, by the power of the Spirit, and by the concerns of the age to come (8:5–9; 13:11–14), rather than by the passing fashion of this age (2 Cor. 4:18; 1 John 2:17). Only by such sanctifying renewal is the Christian made sufficiently sensitive to “discern” the behavior that is God’s will in each situation.[1]


12:2 this age Refers to the present evil age (see note on Gal 1:4), the time prior to Christ’s return.

renewal of your mind Refers to mental conformity to the truth of God. This renewal results in a transformation in the life of the believer.

perfect will of God Describes the purpose of renewal and transformation. Israel had failed to recognize God’s will and purposes—that He was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ (2 Cor 5:19). Paul provides this instruction so that the Roman believers will not do the same.[2]


12:2 The present evil age still threatens those who belong to Christ, so they must resist its pressure. Their lives are changed as their minds are made new (contrast 1:28), so that they are able to “discern” God’s will. By testing you may discern translates Greek dokimazō, which often has the sense of finding out the worth of something by putting it to use or testing it in actual practice (cf. Luke 14:19; 1 Cor. 3:13; 2 Cor. 8:22; 1 Tim. 3:10).[3]


12:2 do not be conformed. “Conformed” refers to assuming an outward expression that does not reflect what is really inside, a kind of masquerade or act. The word’s form implies that Paul’s readers were already allowing this to happen and must stop. this world. Better translated, “age,” which refers to the system of beliefs, values—or the spirit of the age—at any time current in the world. This sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan (cf. 2Co 4:4). transformed. The Gr. word, from which the Eng. word “metamorphosis” comes, connotes a change in outward appearance. Matthew uses the same word to describe the Transfiguration (Mt 17:2). Just as Christ briefly and in a limited way displayed outwardly His inner, divine nature and glory at the Transfiguration, Christians should outwardly manifest their inner, redeemed natures, not once, however, but daily (cf. 2Co 3:18; Eph 5:18). renewing of your mind. That kind of transformation can occur only as the Holy Spirit changes our thinking through consistent study and meditation of Scripture (Ps 119:11; cf. Col 1:28; 3:10, 16; Php 4:8). The renewed mind is one saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. good … acceptable … perfect. Holy living of which God approves. These words borrow from OT sacrificial language and describe a life that is morally and spiritually spotless, just as the sacrificial animals were to be (cf. Lv 22:19–25).[4]


12:2 — And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

God does not want us to try hard to sin less, but to depend upon His Spirit to be transformed into people who love to please God through willing obedience. That transformation begins with the mind.[5]


12:2 Conformed means “to form” or “mold.” World is the normal word for “age” or “era.” Instead of being molded by the values of this world, the believer should be transformed, that is, changed by the renewing of the mind. Spiritual transformation starts in the mind and heart. A mind dedicated to the world and its concerns will produce a life tossed back and forth by the currents of culture. But a mind dedicated to God’s truth will produce a life that can stand the test of time. We can resist the temptations of our culture by meditating on God’s truth and letting the Holy Spirit guide and shape our thoughts and behaviors.[6]


V 2, while grammatically parallel to v 1, really explains in more detail how this giving of ourselves as sacrifices is to be carried out. What is required is nothing less than a total transformation in world-view. No longer are we to look at life in terms of this world, the realm of sin and death from which we have been transferred by God’s power (see 5:12–21), but in terms of the new realm to which we belong, the realm ruled by righteousness, life and the Spirit. Living in the world, we are nevertheless no longer ‘of the world’ (Jn. 17:15–16). The essence of successful Christian living is the renewing of our minds so that we might be able to approve what God’s will is—that is, to recognize and put into practice God’s will for every situation we face. God has not given to Christians a set of detailed commandments to guide us. He has given us his Spirit, who is working to change our hearts and minds from within, so that our obedience to God might be natural and spontaneous (see 7:6; 8:5–9; Je. 31:31–34; 2 Cor. 3:6–7; Eph. 4:22–24). [7]


12:2 “do not be conformed” This is a PRESENT PASSIVE IMPERATIVE (or PERFECT MIDDLE) with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which usually means to stop an act already in process. There is a contrast to v. 2 similar to the one in Phil. 2:6–8, between the outward changing form (schema, 2:8) and the inner unchanging essence (morphe, 2:6–7). Believers are exhorted not to continue to be like the changing, fallen world system (the old age of rebellion) of which they are still physically a part, but to be radically changed into Christlikeness (the new age of the Spirit).

© “to this world” This is literally the term “age.” The Jews saw two ages (cf. Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 20:34–35), the current evil age (cf. Gal. 1:4; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2) and the age to come (cf. Matt. 28:20; Heb. 1:3; 1 John 2:15–17). Believers live in the tension-filled time in which these ages have surprisingly been overlapped. Because of the two comings of Christ, believers live in the “already and not yet” tension of the Kingdom of God as both present and yet future.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME

The OT prophets viewed the future by an extension of the present. For them the future will be a restoration of geographical Israel. However, even they saw a new day (cf. Isa. 65:17; 66:22). With the continued willful rejection of YHWH by the descendants of Abraham (even after the exile) a new paradigm developed in Jewish intertestamental apocalyptic literature (i.e. 1 Enoch, IV Ezra, II Baruch). These writings begin to distinguish between two ages: a current evil age dominated by Satan, and a coming age of righteousness dominated by the Spirit, and inaugurated by the Messiah (often as a dynamic warrior).

In this area of theology (eschatology) there is an obvious development. Theologians call this “progressive revelation.” The NT affirms this new cosmic reality of two ages (i.e. a temporal dualism):

 

 

 

Jesus

 

Paul

 

Hebrews

 

 

 

Matthew 12:32

 

Romans 12:2

 

1:2

 

 

 

Matthew 13:22 & 29

 

1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18

 

6:5

 

 

 

 

 

2 Cor. 4:4

 

11:3

 

 

 

 

 

Galatians 1:4

 

 

 

 

 

Mark 10:30

 

Eph. 1:21; 2:1, 7; 6:12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Timothy 6:17

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 16:8

 

2 Timothy 4:10

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 18:30

 

Titus 2:12

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 20:34–35

 

 

 

 

 

In NT theology these two Jewish ages have been overlapped because of the unexpected and overlooked predictions of the two comings of the Messiah. The incarnation of Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies of the inauguration of the new age. However, the OT also saw His coming as Judge and Conqueror, yet He came at first as the Suffering Servant (cf. Isa. 53), humble and meek (cf. Zech. 9:9). He will return in power just as the OT predicted (cf. Rev. 19). This two-stage fulfillment caused the Kingdom to be present (inaugurated), but future (not fully consummated). This is the NT tension of the already, but not yet!

 

© “be transformed” The grammatical form of this term can be PRESENT MIDDLE IMPERATIVE, “continue to transform yourselves” or PRESENT PASSIVE IMPERATIVE, “continue to be transformed.” This is also true of “conform” in v. 2a. For a similar contrast compare Ezek. 18:31 (human commitment and action) with Ezek 36:26–27 (divine gift). Both are needed!

A form of this same word for “formed” is used of Jesus at the Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:2), where His true essence was revealed. This true divine essence (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3–4) is to be formed in every believer (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:13).

© “by the renewing of your mind” This is from the Greek root for new in quality (kainos), not new in time (chronos). For the Jews the senses of sight and hearing were the windows of the soul. What one thinks about, one becomes. After salvation, because of the indwelling Spirit, believers have a new perspective (cf. Eph. 4:13, 23; Titus 3:5). This new biblical worldview, along with the indwelling Spirit, is what transforms the mind and lifestyle of new believers. Believers look at reality in a totally different way because their minds have been energized by the Spirit. A new redeemed, Spirit-led mind results in a new lifestyle!

© “that you may prove what the will of God is” This is a PRESENT INFINITIVE. The word (dokimazō) is used with the connotation of “to test with a view toward approval.” See Special Topic at 2:18.

The will of God is that we be saved through Christ (cf. John 6:39–40), and then live like Christ (cf. Rom. 8:28–29; Gal. 4:19, Eph. 1:4; 4:13, 15; 5:17–18). Christian assurance is based on (1) the promises of a trustworthy God; (2) the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:14–16); and (3) the believer’s changed and changing life (cf. James & I John); “no fruit, no root” (cf. Matt. 13:1–9, 19–23).

© “what the will of God is” Special Topic: The Will of God

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE WILL (thelēma) OF GOD

JOHN’S GOSPEL

•     Jesus came to do the Father’s will (cf. 4:34; 5:30; 6:38)

•     to raise up on the last day all whom the Father gave the Son (cf. 6:39)

•     that all believe in the Son (cf. 6:29, 40)

•     answered prayer related to doing God’s will (cf. 9:31 and 1 John 5:14)

THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS

•     doing God’s will is crucial (cf. 7:21)

•     doing God’s will makes one brother and sister with Jesus (cf. Matt. 12:5; Mark 3:35)

•     it is not God’s will for any to perish (cf. Matt. 18:14; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9)

•     Calvary was the Father’s will for Jesus (cf. Matt. 26:42; Luke 22:42)

PAUL’S LETTERS

•     the maturity and service of all believers (cf. Rom. 12:1–2)

•     believers delivered from this evil age (cf. Gal. 1:4)

•     God’s will was His redemptive plan (cf. Eph. 1:5, 9, 11)

•     believers experiencing and living the Spirit-filled life (cf. Eph. 5:17)

•     believers filled with the knowledge of God (cf. Col. 1:9)

•     believers made perfect and complete (cf. Col. 4:12)

•     believers sanctified (cf. 1 Thess. 4:3)

•     believers giving thanks in all things (cf. 1 Thess. 5:18)

PETER’S LETTERS

•     believers doing right (i.e. submitting to civil authorities) and thereby silencing foolish men (cf. 1 Pet. 2:15)

•     believers suffering (cf. 1 Pet. 3:17; 4:19)

•     believers not living self-centered lives (cf. 1 Pet. 4:2)

JOHN’S LETTERS

•     believers abiding forever (cf. 1 John 2:17)

•     believers key to answered prayer (cf. 1 John 5:14)

 

© “that which is good and acceptable and perfect” These represent God’s will for believers after salvation (cf. Phil. 4:4–9). God’s goal for every believer is Christlike maturity now (cf. Matt. 5:48).

© “perfect” This term means “mature, fully equipped to accomplish an assigned task, ripe, complete.” It does not mean “sinless.” It was used of (1) arms and legs that had been broken but were healed and restored to usefulness; (2) fishing nets that had torn but were mended and useful for catching fish again; (3) baby chickens now old enough to go to market as fryers; and (4) ships rigged for sailing.[8]


Ver. 2. And be not conformed to this world.

Conformation and transformation:—1. “World” has various meanings. (1) Time. (2) An age—the Messianio, e.g., as contrasted with the Jewish, or the past as opposed to the present or coming age. (3) A state, as the present in distinction from the future in antagonism with the good. (4) “Worldliness,” a spirit or principle of evil pervading the world. It is this to which we must not be conformed. 2. It is well to define the term in order to avoid two extremes. (1) That which regards the world as a mere abstraction, something incidental to those early Christian ages, but of which nobody is in danger now. (2) That exaggeration which confounds it with almost every transaction of our lives. 3. We must be vigilant against this spirit precisely where it is the most subtle and concealed, e.g., (1) We may say that delight in the visible world is legitimate. “Surely this is not the world against which the apostle warns us.” No; but suppose that nature becomes to us all in all, and cheats us into the belief that there is nothing higher than that which serves our senses. (2) We say indisputably that we ought to love our fellow-men; but what if with this there blends an influence that moves us to defer to their customs, and live merely upon the level of their ideals! (3) Even our religion may be worldly in its spirit. The objects of our faith in another state of existence may be sensuous, and the grounds of our obedience to God mercenary. 4. “The world,” then, is a spirit, that is everywhere around us and within, and the injunction is most needed precisely where this spirit is most likely to be confounded with something that is good and true. Proceeding upon this assumption, let us examine the forms and achievements of our modern civilisation.

  1. Much of our modern civilisation is a process of conformation. Man is not the master of nature. He learns to control its forces by submitting to its laws. His triumphs of art and mechanism are simply a conformity to nature, not a mastery over it. He mitigates pain and conquers disease by conforming to the laws of health. He has no wand of miracle to supersede law. Civilisation is simply the adjustment of man to the conditions in which he is placed. Now, precisely here we may detect an evil tendency. There is danger lest this habit of conformity fasten us down to a mere worldly level, and saturate all our desires with worldly estimates. On the other hand, the great peculiarity of the Christian method is transformation—not simply obedience to external conditions, but a renewing of the mind. It is a great achievement for man to control new forces without; it is a greater achievement when in the inmost recesses of his being there unfolds a law which forbids all sin, even under the mask of the most splendid gain; when there is awakened a vitality of conscience which inspires him to make only a beneficent application of mighty instruments; when there settles in his soul a sublime patience by which if he cannot conquer pain he can bear it; and when in the midst of all physical terrors he enjoys a spiritual vision which pierces through calamity and looks beyond death.
  2. Consider some points where the contrasts between the Christian method and the methods of this world are more especially displayed. 1. Observe how largely men are influenced by excitement. There is a vast difference between the noble steamship that holds its way, trambling the waves and challenging the gale, because it has an inward force, and the poor vessel whose iron heart stands still, and that wallows the sport and victim of the relentless sea. But there may be a difference as great between the man who determines his action by reason and conscience and the man who is perpetually driven by the excitements of time and place. How many people depend upon excitements as the aliment of their very being! They are always whirling in the commotion of something new. And thus people lose true independence of thought and life. Opinions and habits go with the tide. These men and women live as others live, think as others think, do as others do. Nay, even religion may become too closely identified with mere excitement. The method of Christianity is not excitement, but incitement. That man is best qualified for the perils, yet not disqualified for the blessings of the world around him who is moved, not by pressure from without, but by principle from within, who in the midst of these changing tendencies holds a purpose, and whose personality does not dissolve in the social atmosphere around him, but who preserves a rocky identity of faith and conviction, a moral loyalty to his own ideal. 2. The power of our modern civilisation is the power of that which is visible and tangible. Present good, immediate success, are its conspicuous results. What vast sovereignty, what subtle temptation, in this possession of the present, in that visible dollar which I make by my compliance compared with the inward blessing which follows my sacrifice; in the concrete fact which I can grasp in my hand compared with the abstraction that only flits in transient vision before my inward eye! Cancel space, outstrip time, bridge oceans with steam, twitch nations together with electric arteries. Now no instructed Christian undervalues concrete facts and interests. The man who starts from great principles is not one who is most apt to overlook the real interests of the world. But he also regards a higher good. He believes that for the real purposes of this life we need something besides steam and telegraph, and currency and ballot-boxes. We need that which delivers man from sensual illusion and the lust of immediate attainment by fixing his eyes upon the glory of spiritual rectitude, the victory of postponement, and the gain of sacrifice. 3. Civilisation produces its most marked effect without. The best thing accomplished by it is adjustment to the world. Its tests and fruits are better outward conditions, a better social state, better houses, lands, and means of communication. Nevertheless, man’s real life is not in outward things. It cannot be changed merely by external agents. In its wants and capacities it is the same as it was six thousand years ago. Strip the man of the nineteenth century of these externals, and how much is he like the man of ages since! With the telescope we see farther, but do we really see more than Abraham at the door of his tent, or Job gazing upon the Pleiades? If we do, whatever of larger vision or substantial good has come to us has come within—in more comprehensive truth, in more consecrated love, in more perfect assurance of final good. And wherever these results are wrought within us we can dispense with much that is merely outward and palpable. The time comes when the world to us will be as nothing. But while it crumbles we shall not fail. We shall perish with no perishing thing, being “not conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of the mind.” (E. H. Chapin, D.D.)

Conformed and transformed:—I. The man who is in conformity with this world is not the man who understands it best, or who admires its beauties most; nor can he adapt himself best to all its circumstances. He is too much a slave of the things he sees to look into the meaning of them; too much shut up in the habits of the society into which he is thrown, to have any power of entering into what lies beyond. The word “conformed” implies that he takes his form from the things about him, that they are the mould into which his mind is cast. Now this St. Paul will not for an instant admit to be the form which any man is created to bear. Man is created in the image of God; and the form of his mind is to be derived from Him and not from the things which are put in subjection under Him. The heathen was resisting the conscience which told him that he was God’s offspring, and the very things he saw which testified to the invisible power of God in worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator. But we who have been redeemed out of this worship are striving far more directly and consciously against this spirit; we are choosing a false way when we admit the world to govern and fashion our minds according to its pleasure, when we submit to receive its image and superscription. That image and superscription will vary in each new age, in each new locality; it is the very nature of the world to be continually changing. That is the reason why it is so ignominious a thing for a man to be conformed to it; he must become merely a creature of to-day; he must be fluctuating, capricious, insincere—a leaf carried about by every gale, floating down every current. How is it possible that such a one can know anything of the will of God, which is fixed and eternal? What signifies it that you give to such a one the Bible and persuade him it is a Divine book? You may persuade him of that as easily as of anything else; if it is the current opinion of course he receives it until the fashion alters, and then he will scoff at it. But while he embraces it what does he gather from it? Just what his worldly spirit wishes to gather and no more.

  1. The deliverance from all this is transformation, and such transformation, instead of unfitting a man for the world, is that which alone can enable him to live in it, to appreciate the worth of it, to exercise an influence over it. It was this which enabled the prophet to see the trees and the floods breaking forth into singing; which enabled St. Paul to become all things to all men; which enabled St. John to see the kingdom of God and of His Christ emerging out of the kingdoms of this world. For they beheld all things in God’s light, not in the false lights of this world. They saw the world as He had made it, not as men had made it by rebelling against Him. They had received the true form of men, they could therefore use the forms of the world, accommodating themselves readily to Jewish, Greek, Roman customs—never being brought into bondage by any. They were in communion with the eternal, so they could contemplate the great drama of history, not as a succession of shifting scenes, but as a series of events tending to the fulfilment of that will which is seeking good and good only.

III. The process of this transformation is the renewing of the mind. Such a phrase at once suggests the change which takes place when the foliage of spring covers the bare boughs of winter. The substance is not altered, but it is quickened. The alteration is the most wonderful that can be conceived of, but it all passes within. The power once given works secretly, probably amidst many obstructions from sharp winds and keen frosts. Still that beginning contains in it the sure prophecy of final accomplishment. The man will be renewed according to the image of his Creator and Father, because the Spirit of his Creator and Father is working in him. (F. D. Maurice, M.A.)

Conformed and transformed:—If we pour into a mould a quantity of heated metal, that metal as it becomes cool takes the shape of that mould. If we soften a lump of wax, and then press a signet upon it, on its surface is left the impression of the seal. Just so our nature, susceptible at present of being moulded to one character or another, is now undergoing this process. According to the tastes we cultivate, the acts we do, the society we keep, the subjects that engross our interest, we are becoming conformed to the world or to Christ; we are being made into “vessels unto dishonour,” or into “vessels meet for the Master’s use.” The process may be very gradual; but it is not on that account the less fatal and the less sure. Like that insidious disease consumption, the first beginnings of it are hardly perceptible; but though it only destroys life as it were by inches, the raging fever is not in the end more deadly. How many are there who, because they are not raging in the fever-fits of open sin, never dream that they are dying of worldly conformity, and who consider, though the Bible and their consciences sometimes speak to the contrary, that there can be no great harm in living to the world a little, provided that they keep within bounds! But the Word of God says plainly, “Be not conformed to this world.” And if we would fall in with this requirement we must strive to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind.” We all know what a complete change is signified by the word “metamorphosis,” which is the one here used. In describing this process we must go back one step further in the metaphors than in the case to which we before alluded. We must suppose the metal to have been cast into some faulty shape first, and then to have been melted down and re-cast. Just so our hearts, our wills, our tastes, in short our whole “mind” must be first of all softened by God’s Spirit; then we must be transformed into a “vessel made to honour,” and finally “sealed unto the day of redemption.” In vain shall we seek to transform ourselves; we may give up this or that worldly pleasure or worldly pursuit; but unless we really, earnestly, perseveringly seek by prayer the power of God’s Spirit we never shall be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (W. H. Etchers, M.A.)

Conformity to the world:

  1. What is the world? The mass of unrenewed men as distinguished from the people of God. It is Satan’s kingdom. It has laws and maxims. Its manners and customs are determined by its reigning spirit. It has its consummation, which is perdition.
  2. What is it to be conformed to the world? 1. To be inwardly like men of the world in the governing principle of our lives, i.e., to have a worldly spirit, a spirit occupied with worldly things, mercenary, earthly. 2. To be so ruled by the world’s maxims that the question is not what is right or wrong, but what is the custom of society. What is the public sentiment? 3. To be indistinguishable from men of the world in our—(1) Objects. (2) Amusements. (3) General conduct.

III. The consequences of this conformity. 1. The destruction of all spirituality. It is impossible to live near to God and yet to be conformed to the world. The Spirit is grieved and quenched. 2. The obliteration of the distinction between the Church and the world, and the consequent enervation of the former. What becomes of Christian profession when Christians are as sordid, gay, and unscrupulous as other men? 3. Identity of doom. They who choose the world will perish with it.

  1. By what rule are we to determine what is and what is not sinful conformity. This is more a theoretical than a practical difficulty, and will not trouble a man who is filled with the Spirit of Christ and devoted to His service. 1. We must avoid sinful things. 2. With regard to things indifferent. (1) One man should not judge another, but determine for himself what is and is not injurious to his spiritual interests. (2) We should avoid things which are injurious to others though harmless to ourselves. (3) We should shun things innocent in themselves, but which are connected in fact, or in the minds of men with evil, as cards, dancing, the theatre, &c. (4) The same rule as to dress and modes of living does not apply to all persons and places. It depends on usage, rank, &c. There is great danger of becoming pharisaical, and making religion consist in externals. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

Conformity to the world:

  1. Be not conformed—1. To its selfishness. 2. To its presumption. 3. To its superstition. 4. To its carnal policy. 5. To its earthly-mindedness.
  2. This Divine requirement is presented here—1. Negatively “Be not conformed,” &c., in—(1) Affection. (2) Principles or maxims. (3) Conduct. 2. Positively—“But be ye transformed,” &c. True religion does not consist in simply abstaining, avoiding, disliking, &c.; but also in being, doing, delighting, &c. We cannot be unconformed to the world, unless we are in spirit conformed to God. Therefore the only way to be unworldly is to become converted and spiritual (Gal. 5:16, &c.). The Christian is not simply to be unlike the world; he is to be like Christ. (Homilist.)

Conformity to the world:

  1. Its nature. 1. By “this world” is meant everything in it which is antagonistic to the truth or to the life of God in the soul of man. You can form a correct estimate of a man’s character by his ruling principles. So you can the spirit of “this world.” Here are some of its maxims—(1) “Everyman for himself”; there is the selfishness that draws in everything to itself, and keeps firm grip of all it has, though the needy be perishing around! (2) “Quietness is best”: there is the cowardice, the selfish prudence of the world which will not stand forth and speak a word for God or man, lest trouble should come upon it! (3) “Honesty is the best policy.” The man who is honest just because it is the best policy would for the same reason have been dishonest! 2. Conformity to this world means the adoption of principles such as these, and practices founded upon them, although there are great differences among men in respect of it.
  2. Its causes. Apart from its first and great cause, there are secondary causes, e.g.,—1. The proclivity to do as other people do. A child may act thus, but may a man? If so, where is his independence? In the dust. 2. The fear of giving offence. There are people who are so dependent upon the good opinion of others, that to gain it they will forfeit their own respect by doing things which otherwise they would have left undone. They have interests of their own, but they are laughed or frowned out of them; they have opinions of their own, but they modify and explain them away! Many a man may date his destruction from the day he began to be afraid of losing the good opinion of bad men! 3. The inability to stand alone. When any public question is debated, the question is, “What side are the respectable people on?” When a side must be taken, “Which is likely to win?” The “expediency” men are many; the “principle” men are few.
  3. Its cure. 1. The realising of our own personality and responsibility, refusing to live in the crowd, resolving that by God’s grace we shall live the life He calls upon us to live. 2. The withdrawing of ourselves from under the power of that tendency within us which prevails with us to disobey this command. Sometimes it is of very little use to fight, the only thing is to get away. A young man is beginning to acquire a taste for low pursuits and company: how will you help him to get above them? Not surely by leaving him to fight it out with them, but by creating within him a taste for higher pleasures, and the society of the good. If we would not be conformed to the world, we must rise above it. 3. Transformation by the renewing of the mind. Thus transformed, you will not be conformed: another model will be realised by you in your lives: the world will lose its hold and Christ will be all in all. (P. Rutherford.)

Conformity to the world:

  1. In what it consists. In cultivating—1. Its spirit and temper. 2. Its maxims and principles. 3. Its company and conduct.
  2. How it must be avoided. 1. By the renewing of our minds. 2. By the adoption of other—other—(1) Principles. (2) Rules. (3) Ends.

III. Why it should be avoided. Because this is—1. Good in itself. 2. Acceptable to God. 3. Beneficial to man. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Conformity to the world: its folly:—A member of his congregation was in the habit of going to the theatre. Mr. Hill went to him and said, “This will never do—a member of my Church in the habit of going to the theatre!” Mr. So-and-so replied that it surely must be a mistake, as he was not in the habit of going there, although it was true he did go now and then for a treat. “Oh!” said Rowland Hill, “then you are a worse hypocrite than ever, sir. Suppose any one spread the report that I ate carrion, and I answered, ‘Well, there is no wrong in that; I don’t eat carrion every day in the week, but I have a dish now and then for a treat!’ Why, you would say, ‘What a nasty, foul, and filthy appetite Rowland Hill has, to have to go to carrion for a treat!’ Religion is the Christian’s truest treat, Christ is his enjoyment.”

Nonconformity to the world:—1. There is no command in Scripture about which there is more debate than this. Are we required to separate ourselves from all who are not Christians, and avoid all employments except those of devotion? This is manifestly impossible. Are we then to abstain from those practices which are common among irreligious persons? Then the question arises, What practices? Where shall we draw the line? Many draw for themselves a line within which they keep; but unfortunately each person draws it differently. To some, this world means profligacy and sin; to others, great luxury; to others, certain fashionable amusements, or dress; to others, the use of secular music, or the reading of light literature. Each believes himself in the right, and blames his neighbours for going beyond or not coming up to the line he has drawn for himself. Each is alternately accuser and accused; while the ungodly consequently declare that it is quite impossible to say what is and what is not worldly. 2. Now all this arises from overlooking the fact that the precepts of the gospel are addressed to our new and inner nature; that they supply principles and motives on which we are to act always, not laws applying to any particular act or set of acts. “Be not conformed to the world” is defined by “Be ye transformed,” &c. It is clear, then, that that conformity is forbidden which interferes with our being transformed. Now that into which we are transformed is the image of God (2 Cor. 3:18). 3. Now, the rule of the renewed man is simple, always applicable—“The one thing I am to seek is conformity to God’s image, and in order to that, constant communion with God; whatever, then, I find to interfere with this, however good it may seem, is the world to me.” Now the application of this rule is matter of personal experience, and it is impossible to draw a line; for what is the world to one person is not the world to another; and the question is not so much where you are as what you are. To lay down a rule for all lives is as difficult as to prescribe a diet for all constitutions. If you ask us whether certain food will agree with you, we answer—That depends upon your constitution; we can only give you the broad rule—eat nothing that you find to disagree with you. So we lay down the broad rule—whatever disagrees with your soul’s health you must avoid. 4. This is a rule which we would plead with worldly people. Christians are often perplexed when asked—Why do you not join in this or that amusement? (1) If they answer—Because they are sinful, they say what they cannot prove. Sin is the transgression of a law, and they can cite no law which expressly forbids such things. And then if we call them sins, we may induce others to consider sins as not much worse than amusements. (2) If they say, we object to these things because they are worldly, then they will be asked, What is the essential difference between the amusement in question, and some other which they hold lawful? (3) Now if in all such cases the Christian would be content to say—I refrain because I find I cannot enjoy it and afterwards have communion with God, he would give an answer which, if not understood, could certainly not be gainsaid. To ask for a law when this reason is given would be as unmeaning as to ask for a law of the land forbidding all imprudence in our diet, or exposure to the weather, or to the risk of infection. We cannot prove these acts to be crimes, but they are dangerous, and all come under the general principle which makes it wrong for a man to injure himself. 5. In this way we should deal with all cavillers on this subject. Worldly men set down the objections of ministers to prejudice or envy. “Of course, clergymen abuse theatres, &c., but where is the harm? Where are they forbidden in Scripture?” We answer this question by another: “What is the state of your soul? Are you the possessor of a spiritual life? If not, then you cannot possibly understand our objection; for we object to these things as injurious to that which you tell us you have not got, namely—life in the soul. To understand a spiritual precept you must be spiritual yourself. 6. But there are those in whom this spiritual life is as the tender blade, or as the just kindling fire, who ask, anxiously, What is the danger? To show this, we will take—(1) The theatre. If we are asked, Is there any sin in a theatrical representation? We answer—There is no more sin in a person presenting to your eyes a certain character than there is in writing a description or painting a picture of it. But what we have to consider is, not the abstract idea of a theatre, but what it practically is. Now not to enlarge upon the evils connected with the stage, to which you give your countenance and aid by attendance and payment for admission: we will admit that these are not essential to the stage, though somehow they are always found connected with it. We are willing to allow all that can be said for it, and will not ask whether, in the course of the play, vice is not often made attractive, and whether the recollection of the pleasure of sin does not outlast the impressions made by the moral at the end, when the vicious characters meet with that punishment which we so rarely see them visited with in real life. We will suppose every play to have its moral, and the audience to be duly impressed with it. Yet we must ask, What character would you be conformed to if you followed out the lessons there taught? Would it be to the image of God? Is the good man of the stage the good man of Scripture? Who would venture to produce upon the stage one in whom was the mind of Christ? Would such a character crowd houses? Men would throng to the playhouse to hear sentiments which they do not care to study in their Bibles, or to witness a display of qualities which, in real life, they hold in contempt. Our objection to the stage, then, is this: it sets up a false and worldly standard of morality; and he who desires to be transformed to the image of God will find here another image set before him. (2) The card table. Is there any sin in moving about pieces of painted pasteboard? Certainly not. And yet it becomes a cause of sin; because, however small the stake, it excites, in however slight a degree, that desire of gain which is of this world. In proof of this note the greater zest with which men enjoy the game when some small stake is played for, “just to give an interest to the game.” And by indulging in this we hinder that renewing of our mind which we should cultivate so carefully. (3) The ball-room. Is there any harm in the act of dancing? No more than in any marching to the sound of music. But is there not temptation there for the indulgence of vanity, frivolity, envy, and evil speaking? We ask whether one renewed in the image of God would find himself a welcome guest there?—whether his spiritual life would be strengthened, and his conformity to Christ increased, by constant attendance?—and whether the guest as he returns is in that frame of mind which best fits him for communion with God? In short, in all these matters we ask you simply to use your own judgment. Try honestly the effect of these amusements upon your own spiritual life; and if you be really renewed in the spirit of your mind, you will find that their atmosphere is injurious to the new life, which you desire to cherish. 7. But we must not forget that the principle may be applied in an opposite direction. There are others who need to be told that what is forbidden is worldliness of heart; viz., those who are sure they do not conform to the world, because they never enter a theatre, &c. Their idea of unworldliness is the abstaining from these things, and a few others, e.g., display in entertainments and equipage. Add to this, becoming members of religious associations, frequenting religious society, and attending a gospel ministry, and their definition of unworldliness is complete. Now it is possible to do all this, and more, and yet still be conformed to the world. Worldliness can no more be excluded by a fence of conventional rules and habits than a fog or a miasma by a high wall: it is in the atmosphere. They avoid the theatre, and eschew fiction: to what purpose, if they are daily acting out the characters they will not see represented, or read depicted? They will not gamble. Are they the better for this, if they indulge the covetous spirit elsewhere? They will not frequent the ball-room. Are they any gainers, if they indulge the same spirit of display, &c., in a quiet party, or in a religious meeting? They will not wear fashionable dresses; to what purpose, if they are secretly as proud of their plain dress? Conclusion: To attack at once the worldliness of the religious and the irreligion of the world, is to risk the displeasure of both. But the world and the fashions of it are passing fast away; a few short years, and we shall all be where the applause or censure of men shall be alike indifferent to us—upon our dying beds. Then the question to be decided shall be, not how far may I go in my enjoyment of the world, or where must I fix a limit to my pleasures, for the world can be enjoyed no longer, and death is fixing the last limits to its pleasures, and there remains but one act more of conformity to the world—that last act in which all flesh conforms itself to the law of dissolution; but this shall be the great question:—Am I fitted for that world which I am about to enter? Am I, or am I not, “transformed in the renewing of my mind”? Ask yourselves this question now, as you must ask it then. (Abp. Magee.) Nonconformity to the world may be seen—

  1. In the transformation of the worldly virtues. There are graces which are sometimes seen more in the world than in the Church, and here we cannot go wrong in conforming to the world. Yet it is possible for an unworldly spirit to transfigure them. And unless occasionally so transfigured they would be corrupted and lost. One high heroic instance of truth, justice, or courage is worth a hundred lesser cases—the world is startled by it. But remember in proportion to the dignity given by an unworldly spirit to a worldly virtue is the mischief wrought by the absence of worldly virtues in those who call themselves unworldly. They are salt which has lost its savour. There is no greater stumbling-block than want of candour, justice, and generosity in those who profess to be “not of the world.” But the soldier who is more brave because of a higher than earthly courage; the judge who is more scrupulously just because he has before him a higher than earthly tribunal, the men of business who “ply their daily task with busier feet, because their souls a holy strain repeat,” are instances of what the apostle means by being “transfigured through the renewal of our minds.”
  2. In the exhibition of qualities which are unworldly in themselves. 1. Humility. In pagan times there was no name for this grace. The very word is a new creation of the gospel. Nor does the thing now exist in worldly minds. You may prove this by telling an average man of his faults and watching the result. 2. Independence of the world’s opinion. “With me it is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment. He that judgeth me is the Lord”—is a true unworldly maxim. It is safe, prudent, to conform to the fashion of the world, to swim with the stream, to desert the sinking vessel, to avoid the stricken deer or howl with the wolves. That is the world’s way; but there is a way which is not the way of the world. The old Christian virtue of chivalry still lingers amongst us—the leaning to the weaker side because it is weaker, the desire to protect the weak and repress the strong, &c., may run to excess, but even Quixotism is refreshing. How invigorating to see men dependent on God, though independent of man, stand up against professional clamour and popular prejudice, to see men resist the tyranny of public opinion which will not hear the other side, and refuse the popular and give the unpopular praise! 3. Purity. 4. Resignation. (Dean Stanley.)

Nonconformity to the world:

  1. What are we to understand by the world (1 John 2:16). 1. The lust of the flesh (Tit. 2:12). 2. The lust of the eye (Eccles. 5:11). 3. The pride of life (chap. 1:30).
  2. What is it not to be conformed to it? 1. Not to approve of it (1 John 2:15). 2. Not to imitate it (1 Pet. 4:4). 3. To use it as if we used it not (1 Cor. 7:30, 31).

III. Why should we not be conformed? 1. We are separated from the world to God (1 Pet. 2:9–12). 2. We have put on Christ. 3. All that is in the world is not of the Father (1 John 2:16), and is contrary to the love of Him (1 John 2:15). 4. The fashion of this world passeth away (1 Cor. 7:31). Conclusion: Conform not to this world. 1. You have higher things to mind (Col. 3:1–3; Phil. 3:20). 2. This world cannot satisfy you (Eccles. 1:8). 3. You must give an account of what you do here. (Bp. Beveridge.)

Nonconformity to the world:

  1. Its nature. 1. Not ceremonial. 2. Not civil. 3. But moral. Be not conformed—(1) To the spirit of the world. (2) In your rules of life. (3) In your company. (4) In your practices.
  2. Some reasons for its prohibition. 1. Duty. 2. Profession. 3. Self-love. 4. Love of your neighbour. 5. The commands of Scripture.

III. How it may be prevented. By—1. The renovation of your natures. 2. The exercise of daily prayer. 3. Guarding against temptation. 4. A constant dependence upon God. (Biblical Museum.)

Nonconformity to the world:—There will arise in the Christian’s course, from time to time, occasions on which he will be in doubt as to some points of his duty in relation to social intercourse and amusements. Well, in such cases he turns to his chart—on that chart (his Bible) though he find not every rock and shoal and quicksand, marked down by name—he finds it laid down plainly and decisively that the whole coast is dangerous, i.e., he finds a general principle, “Be not conformed to this world”—“The friendship of the world is enmity with God.” By whom is the amusement patronised? Are they those who are the votaries of other and less dubious pleasures? Are they those who wear the world’s badge and have its mark stamped on their foreheads? Then let the Christian pause—let him fear to find himself surrounded by crowds of worldlings, drinking with them of the same cup. It must be at best but a suspicious cup that meets tastes which should be opposite—it must be at best a suspicious path in which, even for a moment, the Christian walks hand in hand with the man of this world. Be quite sure the world would not be drinking of that cup, if it were not in some way spiced to their taste. Alas! it is far, far more likely that the Christian should have stepped out of his narrow path, than that the worldling should have forsaken his, to walk, even for a moment, with the Christian. And remember that in such cases there is great need that you watch against self-deception. The remark of Jeremy Taylor is but too true: “Most men choose the sin, if it be once disputed whether it be a sin or no.” Although grace teaches and inclines you to distaste the world, yet corruption remains, and to that corruption sin and the world are but too palatable. See to it, then, that while you are professing to inquire into the lawfulness or unlawfulness of such an action, your mind is not biased beforehand, and you have not a secret desire to find the Word of God on your side—a secret determination to make it out, if possible to be so. Beware, too, of that religion which is anxious to take up its lodging next door to the world. If you are determined to go as far as you can you are not safe—you will very soon be on the other side of the line. And if, after all, a given case seemed doubtful, remember, religion, not the world, is to have the benefit of the doubt. It is better to abstain from mistaken scrupulosity from a hundred lawful things than to run the risk of one unlawful act of conformity to the world, or of throwing one stumbling-block in the way of another. (Canon Miller.)

Nonconformity to the world:—There are two words for world, αἰών and κόσμος. The former regards time, the latter space. Once they are combined (Eph. 2:2), “in accordance with the time-state of this matter-world.” … The direction, therefore, is, “Be not like the men of this world, whose all is the present. Wear not the garb of time: live for eternity.” (Dean Vaughan.)

Nonconformity to the world—inward:—As the mother of pearl fish lives in the sea without receiving a drop of salt water, and as towards the Chelidonian Islands springs of fresh water may be found in the midst of the sea, and as the fire-fly passes through the flames without burning its wings, so a vigorous and resolute soul may live in the world without being infected with any of its humours, may discover sweet springs of piety amidst its salt waters, and fly among the flames of earthly concupiscence without burning the wings of the holy desires of a devout life. (Francis de Sales.)

Nonconformity to the world—outward:—The bird of paradise, which has such a dower of exquisitely beautiful feathers, cannot fly with the wind; if it attempts to do so, the current being much swifter than its flight, so ruffles its plumage as to impede its progress, and finally to terminate it: it is, therefore, compelled to fly against the wind, which keeps its feathers in their place, and thus it gains the place where it would be. So the Christian must not attempt to go with the current of a sinful world: if he does, it will not only hinder, but end his religious progress; but he must go against it, and then every effort of his soul will be upward, heavenward, Godward. (M. Davies, D.D.) The world is fallen human nature acting itself out in the human family; moulding and fashioning the framework of human society in accordance with its own tendencies. It is fallen human nature making the ongoings of human thought, feeling, and action its own. It is the reign or kingdom of the carnal mind, which is enmity against God. Wherever that mind prevails, there is the world. (R. S. Candlish, D.D.)

The world an atmosphere:—It is like the dense atmosphere which on a November day hangs over your vast metropolis, the product of its countless homes and the proof of its vast industrial efforts; and yet the veil which shuts out from it the light of heaven, destroys the colour on its works of art—the dark unwholesome vapour which clogs vitality and undermines health, and from which a Londoner escapes at intervals with a light heart, that he may see the sun, and the trees, and the face of nature as God made them, and feel for a few months what it is to live. Even thus the world hangs like a deadly atmosphere over every single human soul, brooding over it, flapping its wings like the monstrous evil bird in the fable, or penetrating and entering into it like a subtle poison, to sap the springs and sources of its vigour and its life. (Canon Liddon.)

The world, danger of:—As you love your souls, beware of the world: it has slain its thousands and ten thousands. What ruined Lot’s wife?—the world. What ruined Achan?—the world. What ruined Haman?—the world. What ruined Judas?—the world. What ruined Simon Magus?—the world. What ruined Demas?—the world. And “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

The world: difficult to define:—The world cannot be clearly marked out as if it were a kingdom on a map, and every year makes it more difficult to draw any line of demarcation or to lay down any hard and fast lines upon the subject, because society is being leavened by Christian principles, the moral conscience of the nation quickened, and a public opinion, on the whole of a healthy character, making itself powerfully felt. And, further, what is the world to one person is not the world to another. The fact that the world cannot be defined as to locality is an advantage, not a disadvantage: for it calls forth from us a constant spirit of inquiry and watchfulness before we enter upon our pursuits, form our connections, or enter into society. The believer should at all times test every relationship into which he is brought, to see whether beneath its possibly plausible and pleasant surface there may not lurk the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The Christian, too, should examine not only what is without, to see whether the place he is entering is the world, but also what is within himself, and whether he is not converting even what is the kingdom of God into the world by the worldly spirit which he brings with him. We may infect as well as be infected. (C. Neil, M.A.)

The world: spirit of:—The spirit of the world is for ever altering, impalpable; for ever eluding, in fresh forms, your attempts to seize it. In the days of Noah the spirit of the world was violence. In Elijah’s day it was idolatry. In the day of Christ it was power, concentrated and condensed in the government of Rome. In ours, perhaps, it is the love of money. It enters in different proportions into different bosoms; it is found in a different form in contiguous towns, in the fashionable watering-places, and in the commercial city; it is this thing at Athens, and another in Corinth. This is the spirit of the world, a thing in my heart and yours to be struggled against, not so much in the case of others as in the silent battle done within our own souls. (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

Worldliness: its spirit permanent, its forms changeful:—The world in our days is not a heathen world, as it was in the days of the apostle; but it is not a whit less “the world that lieth in wickedness.” The outward developments are different, but the inward character, principles, and spirit are the very same: changing a few of the mere external circumstances, the apostle’s description of the “world” of his own day is equally applicable to the “world” of ours. There are now, indeed, no idolatrous banquets, no savage gladiatorial conflicts in the blood-stained arena of the amphitheatre, no midnight orgies to some disgraceful deity. The world, perhaps, now, at least the world of the upper classes of society, is not quite so rough, but more polished in its sinfulness; but its scenes of amusement, its theatres, its luxurious tastes and habits, its nightly revels, and too lavish entertainments, partake as essentially of the elements of worldliness as the less advanced indulgences of a ruder age. In its thirst after wealth, in its restless strivings after fame and glory, in its grasping selfishness, in its love of splendour and show, we question whether the world, as it presents itself to the Christian of the nineteenth century wears any materially different aspect from that of the world of the apostle’s days. But, when we speak of worldliness, either as it is developed in business or pleasure, let it not be for a moment supposed that worldliness exists only in these developments: these are only indices or marks of an inward and rooted principle, innate in every man born into this world, and dominant in every man, without exception, who has not been “born again of water and of the Spirit.” (W. H. Etchers, M.A.)

But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Transformation:—This word is used to denote the Lord’s transfiguration, when His body was seen invested with the glory in which He is to appear at His second coming. You will then see Him thus transfigured, and the result will be your own transfiguration (Phil. 3:21). For He is to “change your vile bodies,” &c. But there is a transfiguration in the life that now is (2 Cor. 3:18) also into the image of the Lord; and therefore it is a transformation into glory, but not into the glory that was seen on the Mount, but what was seen in the manger, in the wilderness, in Gethsemane, and on the Cross. Note:—

  1. The manner of it. Christ was transformed by becoming man; you are to be transformed by becoming new men in Him. The renewing of your mind is your being brought to have the same mind which Christ had. “I come to do Thy will, O God,” is the language of the Son in the very act of taking the new nature; the renewing of your mind is your making that language your own. Note the closeness of the analogy. 1. The agency is the same—the Holy Ghost. It is He alone who can make the Son partaker of your human nature, without making Him to be as fallen man; it is He alone who can make you partakers of the Son’s Divine nature, without making you to be as God. 2. These two operations fit into one another: the one effecting that supernatural birth by which the Son becomes a servant, the other that supernatural birth by which the servants become sons. The one transformation is the cause of the other: not only as being that without which the other could not have been, but also as being the means of the other. It is through your believing and appropriating His transformation, that you are yourselves transformed. For the transformation in either case is a union. His being transformed is His being united by a new creation with you; your being transformed is your being united by a new creation to Him. 3. To the Son Himself His being born of the Spirit brought a new mind. It was a new thing for Him to have the mind of a servant, and to say, “I come to do Thy will, O God.” And it is a new mind in you when, as sons, you say the same. Naturally, self-will is the ruling principle of your mind. Insubordination to God is that “fashion of the world” to which you are not to be conformed. 4. The transformation effected in the case of Christ, when He humbled Himself to do the will of God, was voluntary on His part; otherwise His humiliation and obedience unto death could have had no efficacy. Equally voluntary must be the change on your part: “Be ye.” You must say, with renewed minds, entering into His mind, “I come to do Thy will, O my God.” It is true, that in order to your thus acting, you must be acted upon by the Holy Spirit. But you are not acted upon as inert matter may be acted upon. 5. Note two practical applications. (1) If the transformation in you is thus like the transformation in Him—see to it that it be very complete. It was so in the case of Christ; it must be in yours. He emptied Himself. Do you also empty yourselves. He laid aside His natural position of equality with God. Do you also lay aside your usurped position of seeking to be equal with God. (2) That you may be thus transformed into the image of your Lord—appropriate as available for you your Lord’s transformation into your image. Behold Him transformed for you; and be you, after a corresponding manner, transformed in Him. He becomes a servant, continuing still to be the Son; you become sons in Him, feeling yourselves now, for the first time really, to be servants. He, being the Son, comes to do the will of God as a servant; you, being servants, come to do the will of God as sons.
  2. The end of this transformation. “That you may prove,” &c. The will of God needs to be proved. It can be known only by trial. Essentially, the will of God is and must be the expression of His nature. But the nature of God far transcends the comprehension of finite minds; and therefore His will may well be expected to be incomprehensible too. But in that formal aspect of it as the assertion of the authority of God, let His will be put to the test of actual trial, and then will its real character as the expression of His nature come out; for while neither God Himself nor His will can be grasped in the speculative understanding, both He and it can be grasped in the obedient and loving heart. But apart from any inquiry into the reason of it, the fact is pregnant with important consequences. For one thing, it partly explains the economy of probation, and tends to show how trial must be both summary and decisive summary, that it may be ascertained once for all whether the authority of God is to be acknowledged or disowned; and decisive, for if His will is acknowledged, the way is opened for proving it as the expression of His nature to be “good and acceptable,” &c.; whereas, if disowned, all opportunity of knowing its real character is hopelessly lost. 1. The probation of man turns upon the willingness of man to put the will of God to the proof. The will of God, as it was announced in paradise, was not such as to command either approbation or consent on the part of our first parents. The command not to eat of the fruit did not obviously commend itself as “good,” &c. Doubtless, if they had kept it, they would have found by experience—(1) That it was in itself “good” as the seal of God’s covenant of life, and as the preparation for the unfolding of His higher providence. (2) Acceptable. Suited to their case and circumstances, deserving of their acceptance, sure to become more and more well-pleasing as they entered more and more into its spirit. (3) Perfect. That thus only could God’s perfection be vindicated—the perfection of His sovereign right to rule; that thus only could the perfection of the creature be wrought out in an onward and upward path of loyalty and love. All this our first parents would have learned concerning the will of God, if only they had consented to prove it; but this they would not do; they passed judgment upon it unproved; they refused to give it a fair trial; they chose rather to make the opposite experiment, and they have left this experiment as their sad legacy to their descendants, so many of whom are now occupied in proving, trying, how they may be best conformed to the world so as to make the most of it; proving, in short, what is the will of this world and this world’s prince. 2. The probation of Christ proceeds upon the very same principle. He is tried as the first Adam was tried, and upon the same issue, namely, His willingness to prove the will of God; and in His case also the will of God may be so presented to His human soul as to appear neither reasonable nor desirable. In such a light, accordingly, Satan tries to put it before Him. The pain, shame, weariness, and blood awaiting Him, the tempter ingeniously contrasts with the shorter road to glory which he would have Him to take. The Second Adam will not, like the first, accept Satan’s representation; He will prove it for Himself; and so He “learns obedience by the things which He suffers.” But He proved it, and in the proving of it He found it to be “good and acceptable and perfect.” He tasted the delight of obedience, as He learned it. 3. It is into this image of Jesus, thus “proving that will of God,” that you are now to be “transformed,” &c. You are to prove God’s will—(1) In what must be the first act of your obedience—namely, your believing on Him whom He has sent. What this will of God is as an expression of His nature you cannot know until you prove it. You must “taste and see” how good the Lord is, &c. You would fain have all made quite clear to you before you surrender yourselves to the gospel call. Nay, you stand aloof, and start objections and difficulties. You do not see how this aspect of the gospel call can be incompatible with that. Nay, try this dipping in the Jordan. It may seem to you an unlikely mode of cure; but at any rate try it. In the embrace of Christ, not while you are standing out in the attitude of rebellion, all difficulties vanish. (2) Then ever after, following on the path of your new obedience, you are to be proving “what is that good,” &c. At every step it will be a trial to you. It may be very hard sometimes to believe that the will of God concerning you is “good, and acceptable,” &c. But give it a full and fair trial; and you will soon find that in the very “keeping of God’s commandments there is great reward.” Conclusion: Mark—1. How opposite are the two habits, namely, being “conformed to this world,” and being “transformed,” &c. There are here two types, of one or other of which you must take the fashion. To be conformed to the world is to take things as they are and make the best of them. The opposite habit is to try things as they should be. 2. How complete the transformation must be if, instead of being conformed to this world, you are to “prove,” &c. You must make full proof of God’s will. But that you cannot do if you yield a forced submission. A son yielding obedience to his father’s will reluctantly, never can be acquainted with its true character and blessedness; but let him throw himself heart and soul into the doing of it, then will he prove it of what sort it is. To have the mind to do so implies a great change, a new creation, a new heart. 3. Now, so long as the fashion of this world lasts, so long as that second transformation which awaits you is postponed, this proving of the will of God must throughout be more or less an effort. But take courage, O child of God! “The fashion of this world passeth away.” You “look for new heavens and a new earth.” The fashion of that new world and the will of God will not be opposed to one another. The proving of the will of God, then, with your whole nature changed into the image of the heavenly, what a joyous exercise of liberty and love will it be! 4. In the meantime, a signal encouragement as motive. The more you prove the fashion of this world, the less you feel it to be “good,” &c. It looks fair at the first, but who that has ever lived long but re-echoes the wise man’s complaint—“All is vanity”? The will of God looks worse at the beginning; but on, on, child of God, and you will find a growing light, encouragement, and joy. “The path of the just is as the shining light, &c.; and in the trial of them you find that “wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” (R. S. Candlish, D.D.)

Transformation:

  1. What is it to be transformed? To be new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). 1. In our judgment concerning—(1) God (Matt. 19:17). (2) Christ (Phil. 1:21; 3:8). (3) The world (Eccles. 1:1, 2). 2. Our thoughts (Psa. 1:2). 3. Consciences (Acts 24:16). 4. Wills (Lam. 3:24). 5. Affections (Col. 3:2). (1) Love and hatred (Matt. 22:37). (2) Desire and abhorrence. (3) Joy and grief (Psa. 42:1, 2). (4) Hope and fear (Psa. 27:1). (5) Anger and meekness (Matt. 11:29). 6. Words (Matt. 12:36). 7. Actions (1 Pet. 1:15, 16). Towards God and men (Acts 24:16).
  2. Why are we to be transformed. Till transformed—1. We are altogether sinful (Prov. 15:8). 2. We can enjoy no happiness here nor be capable of happiness hereafter (Heb. 12:14; 1 Cor. 2:14).

III. Examine whether you be transformed or no. Look to your heads (2 Cor. 13:5); your hearts (Prov. 4:23); your lives (Matt. 12:33). Note the reasons for this examination. 1. Many are mistaken about it, and think they are renewed, because turned—(1) From one sin to another. (2) From one sect to another. (3) From debauchery to mere morality. 2. This is the most dangerous of all mistakes. 3. If you never examine yourselves, you have the more cause to fear your condition.

  1. Signs of our being transformed. All our actions proceed—1. From new principles. (1) Obedience to God (1 Sam. 15:22). (2) A desire to please Him (1 Thess. 4:1; Heb. 11:5). 2. After a new manner. (1) Not hypocritically but sincerely (2 Cor. 1:12). (2) Not proudly, but humbly (Luke 17:10). (3) Not interruptedly, but constantly (Luke 1:75). 3. To a new end (1 Cor. 10:31; Matt. 5:16). V. Means. 1. Read the word written (James 1:21). 2. Hear it preached. 3. Meditate upon it. 4. Pray (Psa. 51:10). 5. Receive the sacrament. Conclusion: 1. By renovation you become again as you were created (Gen. 1:26). 2. God Himself will change to you. (1) His anger to love (Isa. 66:2). (2) All His actions to your good (chap. 8:28). 3. If now transformed from the world to God, hereafter you shall be transformed from misery to happiness. (Bp. Beveridge.)

The Christian life a transfiguration:—In the preceding verse the apostle gathers the whole sum of Christian duty into one word. And so in this. As all is to be sacrifice, so all is to be transformation. Mark:—

  1. Where Paul begins—with an inward renewal 1. He goes deep down, because he had learned in His school who said: “Make the tree good and the fruit good.” To tinker at the outside with a host of red-tape restrictions, and prescriptions, is all waste time and effort. You may wrap a man up in the swaddling bands of specific precepts until you can scarcely see him, and he cannot move, and you have not done a bit of good. The inner man must be dealt with first, and then the outward will come right in due time. Many of the plans for the social and moral renovation of the world are as superficial as a doctor’s treatment would be, who would direct all his attention to curing pimples when the patient is dying of consumption. 2. There has to be a radical change in the middle. “Mind” seems to be equivalent to the thinking faculty, but, possibly, includes the whole inner man. The inner man has got a wrong twist somehow; it needs to be moulded over again. It is held in slavery to the material; it is a mass of affections fixed upon the transient; a predominant self-regard characterises it and its actions. 3. This new creation of the inner man is only possible as the result of the communication of a life from without; the life of Jesus, put into your heart, on condition of your opening the door of your heart by faith, and saying, “Come in, Thou blessed of the Lord.” And He comes in, bearing in His hands a germ of life which will mould and shape our “mind” after His own blessed pattern. 4. That new life, when given, needs to be fostered and cherished. It is only a little spark that has to kindle a great heap of green wood, and to turn it into its own ruddy likeness. We have to keep our two hands round it, for fear it should be blown out by the rough gusts of passion and of circumstance. It is only a little seed that is sown in our hearts; we have to cherish and cultivate it, to water it by our prayers, and to watch over it, lest either the fowls of the air with light wings should carry it away, or the heavy wains of the world’s business and pleasures should crush it to death, or the thorns of earthly desires should spring up and choke it.
  2. What he expects from the inward change—a life “transfigured,” the same word as is employed in the account of our Lord’s transfiguration. In that event our Lord’s indwelling divinity came up to the surface and became visible. 1. “A transfigured life” suggests—(1) That the inward life will shape the outward conduct and character. Just as truly as the physical life moulds the infant’s limbs, and as every periwinkle shell on the beach is shaped into the convolutions that will fit the inhabitant, by the power of the life that lies within, so the renewed mind will make a fit dwelling for itself. Did you never see goodness making men and women beautiful? Have not there been other faces besides Moses’ that shone as men came down from the Mount of Communion with God? Certain weeds that lie at the bottom of the sea, when their flowering time comes, elongate their stalks and reach the light and float upon the top, and then, when they have flowered, they sink again into the depths. Our Christian life should come up to the surface and open out its flowers there. Does your Christianity do that? It is no use talking about the inward change unless there is the outward transfiguration. (2) That the essential character of our transfiguration is the moulding of us into the likeness of Christ. Christ’s life is in you if you are in Him. And just as every leaf that you take off some plants and stick into a flower-pot will in time become a little plant exactly like the parent from which it was taken, so the Christ-life that is in you will be growing into a copy of its source and origin. The least speck of musk, invisibly taken from a cake of it, and carried away ever so far, will diffuse the same fragrance as the mass from which it came; and the little slice of Christ’s life that is in you and me, will smell as sweet if not as strong as the great life from which it came. 2. But as with the inward renewal so with the outward transfiguration, the life within will not work up to the surface except upon condition of our own honest endeavour. The fact that God’s Spirit is given to us is not a reason for our indolence, but for our work, because it gives us the power by which we can do the thing we desire. What would you think of a man that said, “It is the steam that drives the spindles, so I need not put the belting on”?

III. The ultimate consequence which the apostle regards as certain, from this inward change; unlikeness to the world around. “Be not conformed,” &c. 1. The more we get like Jesus Christ, the more certainly we get unlike the world. For the two theories of life are clean contrary—the one is all limited by time, the other lays hold on the eternal. The one is all for self, the other is all for God. So that likeness and adherence to the one must needs be dead in the teeth of the other. 2. And that contrariety is as real to-day as ever it was. Paul’s “world” was a grim, heathen, persecuting world; our “world” has got christened, and goes to church and chapel, like a respectable gentleman. But for all that it is the world still, and we have to shake our hands free of it. 3. How is the commandment to be obeyed? (1) Well, of course there are large tracts of life where the saint and the sinner have to do the same things, feel the same anxieties, weep the same tears, and smile the same smiles. And yet “there shall be two women grinding at a mill,” the one shall be a Christian, the other not. They push the handle round, and the push that carries the handle round half the circumference of the millstone may be a bit of religious worship, and the push that carries it round the other half may be a bit of serving the world and the flesh and the devil. Two men shall be sitting at the same desk, two boys at the same bench at school, two servants in the same kitchen, and the one shall be serving God and glorifying His name, and the other shall be serving self and Satan. Not the things done, but the motive, makes the difference. (2) And there are a great many things in which not to be “conformed to the world” means to have nothing to do with certain acts and people. Have nothing to do with things which in themselves are unmistakably wrong; nor with things which have got evil inextricably mixed up with them, like the English stage; nor with things which, as experience shows you, are bad for you. This generation of the Church seems to be trying how near it can go to the world. It is a dangerous game, like children trying how far they can stretch out of the nursery window without tumbling into the street; you will go over some day when you miscalculate a little bit. (3) Rather “be ye transfigured,” and then you will find that when the inner mind is changed, many of the things that attracted tempt no more, and many of the people that wanted to have you do not care to have you, for you are a wet blanket to their enjoyments. The great means of becoming unlike the world is becoming like Him, and the great means of becoming like Him is living near Him and drinking in His life and Spirit. 4. And then, “as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” But we must begin by opening our hearts to the leaven which shall work onward and outwards till it has changed all. The sun when it shines upon a mirror makes the mirror shine like a little sun. “We all with open face, reflecting as a mirror does the glory of the Lord, shall be changed into the same image.” (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Transfiguration:—One master word, for the whole Christian life is sacrifice, self-surrender, and that to God. Paul here brackets, with that great conception of the Christian life, another equally dominant and comprehensive. In one aspect, it is self-surrender; in another, it is growing transformation. The inner man, having been consecrated as a prince, by yielding of himself to God, is called upon to manifest inward consecration by outward sacrifice; an inward “renewing of the mind” is regarded as the necessary antecedent of transformation of outward life.

  1. Note, then, that the foundation of all transformation of character and conduct is laid deep in a renewed mind. Now it is a matter of world-wide experience, verified by each of us in our own cases, if we have ever been honest in the attempt, that the power of self-improvement is limited by very narrow bounds. Any man that has ever tried to cure himself of the most trivial habit which he desires to get rid of, or to alter in the slightest degree the set of some strong taste or current of his being, knows how little he can do, even by the most determined toil. The problem that is set before a man when you tell him to effect self-improvement is something like that which confronted that poor paralytic lying in the porch at the pool: “If you can walk you will be able to get to the pool that will make you able to walk. But you have got to be cured before you can do what you need to do in order to be cured.” Only one Christ presents itself, not as a mere republication of morality, not as merely a new stimulus and motive to do what is right, but as an actual communication to men of a new power to work in them. It is a new gift of a life which will unfold itself after its own nature, as the bud into flower, and the flower into fruit; giving new desires, tastes, directions, and renewing the whole nature. And so, says Paul, the beginning of transformations of character is the renovation in the very centre of the being. Now, I suppose that in my text the word “mind” is not so much employed in the widest sense, including all the affections and will, and the other faculties of our nature, as in the narrower sense of the perceptive power, or that faculty in our nature by which we recognise, and make our own, certain truths. “The renewing of the mind,” then, is only, in such an interpretation, a theological way of putting the simpler English thought, a change of estimates, a new set of views; or, if that word be too shallow, as indeed it is, a new set of convictions. It is profoundly true that “as a man thinketh, so is he.” Our characters are largely made by our estimates of what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable. Why, we all know how often a whole life has been revolutionised by the sudden dawning or rising in its sky of some starry new truth, formerly hidden and undreamed of. If you want to change your characters—and God knows they all need it—change the deep convictions of your mind; and get hold, as living realities, of the great truths of Christ’s gospel. If you and I really believed what we say we believe, that Jesus Christ has died for us, and lives for us, and is ready to pour out upon us the gift of His Divine Spirit, and wills that we should be like Him, and holds out to us the great and wonderful hopes and prospects of an absolutely eternal life of supreme and serene blessedness at His right hand should we be, could we be, the sort of people that most of us are? Truth professed has no transforming power; truth received and fed upon can revolutionise a man’s whole character. Make of your every thought an action; link every action with a thought. Or, to put it more Christian-like, let there be nothing in your creed which is not in your commandments; and let nothing be in your life which is not moulded by these. The beginning of all transformation is the revolutionised conviction of a mind that has accepted the truths of the gospel. II. Well then, secondly, note the transfigured life. The life is to be transfigured. Yet it remains the same, not only in the consciousness of personal identity, but in the main trend and drift of the character. There is nothing in the gospel of Jesus Christ which is meant to obliterate the lines of the strongly marked individuality which each of us receives by nature. Rather the gospel is meant to heighten and deepen these, and to make each man more intensely himself, more thoroughly individual, and unlike anybody else. But whilst the individuality remains, and ought to be heightened by Christian consecration, yet a change should pass over our lives, like the change that passes over the winter landscape when the summer sun draws out the green leaves from the hard black boughs, and flashes a fresh colour over all the brown pastures. Christ in us, if we are true to Him, will make us more ourselves, and yet new creatures in Christ Jesus. And the transformation is to be into His likeness who is the pattern of all perfection. We must be moulded after the same type. There are two types possible for us: this world; Jesus Christ. We have to make our choice. That transformation is no sudden thing, though the revolution which underlies it may be instantaneous. The working out of the new motives, the working in of the new power, is no mere work of a moment. It is a lifelong task till the lump be leavened. And remember, this transformation is no magic change effected whilst men sleep. It is a commandment which we have to brace ourselves to perform. But this positive commandment is only one side of the transfiguration that is to be effected. It is clear enough that if a new likeness is being stamped upon a man, the process may be looked at from the other side; and that in proportion as we become liker Jesus Christ, we shall become more unlike the old type to which we were previously conformed. “This world” here, in my text, is more properly “this age,” which means substantially the same thing as John’s favourite word “world,” viz., the sum total of godless men, and things conceived of as separated from God. Only by this expression the essentially fleeting nature of that type is more distinctly set forth. And although it can only be a word, I want to put in here a very earnest word which the tendencies of this generation do very specially require. It seems to be thought, by a great many people, who call themselves Christians nowadays, that the nearer they can come in life, in ways of looking at things, in estimates of literature, for instance, in customs of society, in politics, in trade, and especially in amusements—the nearer they can come to the unchristian world, the more “broad” and “superior to prejudice” they are. And it seems to be by a great many professing Christians thought to be a great feat to walk as the mules on the Alps do, with one foot over the path and the precipice down below. Keep away from the edge. You are safer there. There is a broad gulf between the man who believes in Jesus Christ and His gospel and the man who does not. And the resulting conducts cannot be the same unless the Christian man is insincere. III. And now, lastly, note the great reward and crown of this transfigured life. The issue of such a life is, to put it into plain English, an increased power of perceiving, instinctively and surely, what it is God’s will that we should do. To know beyond doubt what I ought to do, and knowing, to have no hesitation or reluctance in doing it, seems to me to be heaven upon earth. And the man that has it needs but little more. This, then, is the reward. Each peak we climb opens wider and clearer prospects into the untravelled land before us. (Ibid.)[9]

2. Do not be conformed to this world. This ‘world’ or ‘age’ (aiōn, as in 1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6; 3:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4) is distinguished from the age to come (cf. Eph. 1:21). While it is called ‘the present evil age’ (Gal. 1:4), whose ‘god’ blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4), yet it is possible for people living temporally in this age to conduct themselves as heirs of the age to come, the age of renewal and resurrection. On them ‘the end of the ages has come’ (1 Cor. 10:11); for them, because they are a ‘new creation’ in Christ, ‘the old has passed away, behold, the new has come’ (2 Cor. 5:17). It is by the power of the indwelling Spirit, the pledge of their inheritance in the world to come, that they can resist the tendency to live according to the standards of ‘this world’.

Be transformed. The same verb (metamorphoō) is rendered ‘transfigured’ in the transfiguration narratives of Matthew 17:1–2 and Mark 9:2. The only other place where it occurs in the New Testament is 2 Corinthians 3:18, of believers being ‘changed’ into the likeness of Christ ‘from one degree of glory to another’ by the operation of ‘the Lord who is the Spirit’—a passage which is a helpful commentary on the present one.[10]


2. And conform ye not to this world, &c. The term world has several significations, but here it means the sentiments and the morals of men; to which, not without cause, he forbids us to conform. For since the whole world lies in wickedness, it behoves us to put off whatever we have of the old man, if we would really put on Christ: and to remove all doubt, he explains what he means, by stating what is of a contrary nature; for he bids us to be transformed into a newness of mind. These kinds of contrast are common in Scripture; and thus a subject is more clearly set forth.

Now attend here, and see what kind of renovation is required from us: It is not that of the flesh only, or of the inferior part of the soul, as the Sorbonists explain this word; but of the mind, which is the most excellent part of us, and to which philosophers ascribe the supremacy; for they call it ἡγεμονικὸν, the leading power; and reason is imagined to be a most wise queen. But Paul pulls her down from her throne, and so reduces her to nothing by teaching us that we must be renewed in mind. For how much soever we may flatter ourselves, that declaration of Christ is still true,—that every man must be born again, who would enter into the kingdom of God; for in mind and heart we are altogether alienated from the righteousness of God.

That ye may prove, &c. Here you have the purpose for which we must put on a new mind,—that bidding adieu to our own counsels and desires, and those of all men, we may be attentive to the only will of God, the knowledge of which is true wisdom. But if the renovation of our mind is necessary, in order that we may prove what is the will of God, it is hence evident how opposed it is to God.

The epithets which are added are intended for the purpose of recommending God’s will, that we may seek to know it with greater alacrity: and in order to constrain our perverseness, it is indeed necessary that the true glory of justice and perfection should be ascribed to the will of God. The world persuades itself that those works which it has devised are good; Paul exclaims, that what is good and right must be ascertained from God’s commandments. The world praises itself, and takes delight in its own inventions; but Paul affirms, that nothing pleases God except what he has commanded. The world, in order to find perfection, slides from the word of God into its own devices; Paul, by fixing perfection in the will of God, shows, that if any one passes over that mark he is deluded by a false imagination.[11]


12:2 be transformed by the renewing of your mind … to test and approve what God’s will is. This verse gives the means and result of commitment to Christ. The means for doing so is not to be conformed (syschēmatizō) to this age but rather to be transformed (metamorphoō) to the age to come (implied) by the renewing (anakainōsis) of the mind. The two verbs are imperatives. While older scholarship distinguished these verbs as outward conformity and inward transformation, recent scholarship rightly rejects such a distinction. Rather, both verbs suggest a total commitment. Thus, Christians should continually reject this age in favor of the age to come. “Renewing” (anakainōsis) is similar to kainos (“new”) with reference to the age to come (2 Cor. 3:6; 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:15; 4:24). The renewed mind is, in effect, the renewed heart of obedience envisioned by the new covenant. The result of being a living sacrifice is that the Christian discovers and does the will of God (12:2b). “Test and approve” translates dokimazō, not in the sense that God needs our approval for his will to be good, but rather that we experience in practice that his will is good. The will of God is worth discovering, for it is good, acceptable, and perfect. God’s will, the ethic of the new covenant, steers the right path between legalism and libertinism. In other words, for the Christian, God’s will is no longer dictated by the Torah but is instead found in Spirit-guided discernment.[12]


2 By using the vague conjunction kai (usually translated “and”; see KJV and NASB), Paul leaves open the exact relationship between vv. 1 and 2 (it is appropriately not directly translated in most English versions). The two verses could be coordinate, issuing two parallel but separate exhortations. But v. 2 is probably subordinate to v. 1, giving the means by which we can carry out the sweeping exhortation of v. 1. We can present our bodies to the Lord as genuinely holy and acceptable sacrifices only if we “do not conform to this world” but “are transformed by the renewing of the mind.”58 The salvation-historical framework that is so basic to the development and expression of Paul’s understanding of the Christian life (see particularly Rom. 5–8) comes to the surface very plainly here. “This world,” or “this age,”60 is the sin-dominated, death-producing realm in which all people, included in Adam’s fall, naturally belong. But it is “to deliver us from the present evil age” that Christ gave himself (Gal. 1:4); and those who belong to Christ have been transferred from the old realm of sin and death into the new realm of righteousness and life. This transfer, while decisive and final, does not isolate us from the influence of the old realm. For while belonging to the new realm, we continue to live, as people still in the body,62 in the old realm. Paul’s command that we “not conform to this world,” then, builds on the theology of Rom. 5–8 (and of Rom. 6 especially) and calls on us to resist the pressure to “be squeezed into the mold” of this world and the “pattern” of behavior that typifies it (see 1 Cor. 7:31).

Because the verb “conform” is in the present tense, many scholars think that Paul wants his readers to “stop conforming” to this world. But Paul’s generally positive attitude toward the Romans’ spirituality (see 15:14) makes this doubtful. Also uncertain is the voice of the verb and its significance. It could be passive—“do not be conformed” (most versions)66—or middle, with a reflexive idea—“do not conform yourselves”—but, perhaps most likely, whether middle or passive in form, it has a simple (“intransitive”) active significance—“do not conform” (NIV).67

The second, positive, imperative in the verse, however, has a clearly passive meaning: “be transformed.” The neat verbal paronomasia found in most English translations (conformed/transformed) is not present in Greek, where verbs from two separate roots are used. Most older commentators and many recent ones are sure that this change in root signifies a change in meaning also. They argue that the verb translated “conform” connotes a superficial resemblance, whereas the verb translated “be transformed”69 refers to an inward and genuine resemblance. As Morris puts it, then, “Paul is looking for a transformation at the deepest level that is infinitely more significant than the conformity to the world’s pattern that is distinctive of so many lives.” However, as Barrett notes, “conformity to this age is no superficial matter.” More important, the lexical basis for the distinction is not solid. Therefore the shift in root probably reflects no difference in meaning; and, somewhat ironically, the use of the same root to translate both verbs in English reflects closely enough the meaning of the Greek terms. The tense of the verb is again present; and in this case the fact that the renewing of the mind is a continuing process justifies us in thinking that Paul uses this tense to stress the need for us to work constantly at our transformation.

“The renewing of your mind” is the means by which this transformation takes place. “Mind” translates a word that Paul uses especially to connote a person’s “practical reason,” or “moral consciousness.” Christians are to adjust their way of thinking about everything in accordance with the “newness” of their life in the Spirit (see 7:6). This “reprogramming” of the mind does not take place overnight but is a lifelong process by which our way of thinking is to resemble more and more the way God wants us to think. As N. T. Wright has put it: “If the ekklēsia of God in Jesus the Messiah, in its unity and holiness, is to constitute as it were its own worldview, to be its own central symbol, it needs to think: to be ‘transformed by the renewal of the mind,’ to think as age-to-come people rather than present-age people.” In Rom. 1:28 Paul has pointed out that people’s rejection of God has resulted in God’s giving them over to a “worthless” mind: one that is “unqualified” (adokimos) in assessing the truth about God and the world he has made. Now, Paul asserts, the purpose of our being transformed by the renewing of the mind is that this state might be reversed; that we might be able to “approve” (dokimazō) the will of God. “Approving” the will of God means to understand and agree with what God wants of us with a view to putting it into practice: “discern-and-do the will of God.” That Paul means here by “the will of God” his moral direction is clear from the way Paul describes it: this will is that which is “good,” “acceptable [to God],” and “perfect.”77

Paul’s teaching about the Christian’s source for finding the moral will of God in v. 2 deserves attention. Paul has made clear earlier in the letter that the Christian no longer is to look to the OT law as a complete and authoritative guide for conduct (see Rom. 5:20; 6:14, 15; 7:4). What, Paul’s first readers and we ourselves today might ask, is to be put in its place? Paul answers: the renewed mind of the believer. Paul’s confidence in the mind of the Christian is the result of his understanding of the work of the Spirit, who is actively working to effect the renewal in thinking that Paul here assumes (see Rom. 8:4–9). And it is important to note that Paul’s confidence in our ability to determine right and wrong is not unbounded. He knows that the renewal of the mind is a process and that as long as we are in these bodies we need some revealed, objective standards against which to measure our behavior.79 Hence Paul makes clear that Christians are not without “law,” but are under “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:21). This law has its heart in Jesus’ own teaching about the will of God, expanded and explicated by his appointed representatives, the apostles. But Paul’s vision, to which he calls us, is of Christians whose minds are so thoroughly renewed that we know from within, almost instinctively, what we are to do to please God in any given situation. We need law; but it would be to betray Paul’s call to us in these verses to substitute external commands for the continuing work of mind-renewal that is at the heart of God’s New Covenant work.[13]


2 The dedicated life is also the transformed life. Whereas v. 1 has called for a decisive commitment, v. 2 deals with the maintenance of that commitment. The stress provided by the present tenses in this verse points to the necessity of continual vigilance, lest the original decision be vitiated or weakened. The threat to Christians comes from “this world,” whose ways and thoughts are so prevalent and powerful. Paul here uses aiōn (GK 172), essentially a time word meaning “age,” but it has much common ground with kosmos (GK 3180), the more usual term for “world.” Christians have been delivered from this “present evil age” (Gal 1:4), which has Satan for its god (2 Co 4:4). They live by the powers of the age to come (Heb 6:5), but their heavenly calling includes residence among sinful people in this world, where they are to show forth the praises of him who called them out of darkness into God’s wonderful light (1 Pe 2:9). They are in the world for witness but not for conformity to that which is a passing phenomenon (1 Co 7:31).

The positive call is complementary to the negative call. That is, with the command to avoid conformity to the pattern of this world comes the command to “be transformed.” (The striking verb is metamorphoō [GK 3565], used of the transfiguration of Jesus [Mk 9:2 par.] and applied to the Christian in 2 Co 3:18.) The two processes are viewed as going on all the time, as the present tenses indicate—a continual renunciation and renewal. Our pattern here is Jesus, who refused conformity to Satan’s solicitations in the temptation but was transformed to the doing of the will of God and to acceptance of the path that led to Calvary. As the mission of Jesus can be summarized in the affirmation that he had come to do the Father’s will (Jn 6:38), so too the service of Christians can be reduced to this simple description. They are in the present age to “live a new life” (6:4), to “live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Th 2:12), to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph 4:1). But they must “test” what is in accord with the will of God, refusing the norms of conduct employed by the sinful world and reaffirming for themselves the spiritual norms befitting the redeemed. Only from Christ do the redeemed “finally obtain the criteria for that which in the world can be called good, well-pleasing, and perfect” (Stuhlmacher, 189).

Crucial to the process of being transformed is “the renewing of your mind” (tē anakainōsei tou noos, GK 363, 3808)—which seems to indicate the necessity of setting one’s mind on the theological truths of the faith—to the basis of one’s original commitment, reaffirming its necessity and legitimacy in the light of God’s grace. It is by means of this use of the mind that transformation and renewal take place. In this activity, the working of the Holy Spirit should no doubt be recognized (cf. Tit 3:5, where the Holy Spirit is the agent of renewal). It appears from the context that the believer is not viewed as ignorant of the will of God but as needing to avoid blurring its outline by failure to renew the mind continually (cf. Eph 5:8–10). Dedication leads to discernment, and discernment to delight in God’s will. That there is an intimate connection between certifying the will of God and making oneself a living sacrifice is indicated by the use of “pleasing” in each case (cf. Php 4:18; Heb 13:16). For the Christian, the will of God is “good” (agathon, GK 19), “pleasing” (euareston, GK 2298), and “perfect” (teleion, GK 5455).[14]


The Pattern of This Age

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Some verses in the Bible are enriched when we read them in several translations, and Romans 12:2 is one of them. In the New International Version the first part of Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”

This verse has two key words: world, which in Greek is literally age (aiôn, meaning this present age, in contrast to “the age to come”), and do not conform, which is a compound having at its root the word scheme. So the verse means “Do not let the age in which you live force you into its scheme of thinking and behaving.” This is what some of the translations try to bring out. The New American Catholic Bible says, “Do not conform yourselves to this age.” The Jerusalem Bible says, “Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you.” The Living Bible reads, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” Best known of all is the paraphrase of J. B. Phillips, which states, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”

The idea in each of these renderings is that the world has its ways of thinking and doing things and is exerting pressure on Christians to conform to them. But instead of being conformed, Christians are to be changed from within to be increasingly like Jesus Christ.

What Is Worldliness?

The first phrase of verse 2 is a warning against worldliness. But as soon as we say worldly we have to stop and make clear what real worldliness is. When I was growing up in a rather fundamentalist church I was taught that worldliness was following such “worldly” pursuits as smoking, drinking, dancing, and playing cards. A Christian girl would say:

I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew,

And I don’t go with boys who do.

That is not what Romans 12:2 is about, however. To think of worldliness only in those terms is to trivialize what is a far more serious and far more subtle problem.

The clue to what is in view here is that in the next phrase Paul urges, as an alternative to being “conformed” to this world, being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This means that he is concerned about a way of thinking rather than merely behaving, though right behavior will follow naturally if our thinking is set straight. In other words, the worldliness we are to break away from and repudiate is the world’s “worldview,” what the Germans call Weltanschauung, a systematic way of looking at all things. We are to break out of the world’s way of thinking and instead let our minds be molded by the Word of God.

In our day Christians have not done this very well, and that is the reason why they are so often “worldly” in the other senses too. In fact, it is a sad commentary on our time, verified by surveys, that American Christians in general have mostly the same values and behavior patterns as the world around them.

Secularism: “The Cosmos Is All That Is”

If worldliness is not smoking, drinking, dancing, and playing cards, what is it? If it is a way of thinking, what is a worldly worldview? There is no single word that perfectly describes how the world thinks, but secularism is good for general purposes. It is an umbrella term that covers a number of other “isms,” like humanism, relativism, pragmatism, pluralism, hedonism, and materialism. Secularism, more than any other single word, aptly describes the mental framework and value structure of the people of our time.

The word secular also comes closest to what Paul says when he refers to “the pattern of this world.” Secular is derived from the Latin word saeculum, which means age. And the word found in Paul’s phrase in verse 2 is the exact Greek equivalent. The NIV uses the word world, but the Greek actually says, “Do not be conformed to this age.” In other words, “Do not be ‘secularist’ in your worldview.”

There is a right way to be secular, of course. Christians live in the world and are therefore rightly concerned about the world’s affairs. We have legitimate secular concerns. But secularism (note the “ism”) is more than this. It is a philosophy that does not look beyond this world but instead operates as if this age is all there is.

The best single statement of secularism I know is something Carl Sagan said in the television series Cosmos. He was pictured standing before a spectacular view of the heavens with its many swirling galaxies, saying in a hushed, almost reverential tone of voice, “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” That is bold-faced secularism. It is bound up entirely by the limits of the material universe, by what we can see and touch and weigh and measure. If we think in terms of our existence here, it means operating within the limits of life on earth. If we are thinking of time, it means disregarding the eternal and thinking only of the now.

We have it expressed in popular advertising slogans like “You only go around once” and Pepsi’s “Now Generation.” These slogans dominate our culture and express an outlook that has become increasingly harmful. If now is the only thing that matters, why should we worry about the national debt, for example? That’s not our problem. Let our children worry about it. Or why should we study hard preparing to do meaningful work later on in life, as long as we can have a good time now? Most important, why should I worry about God or righteousness or sin or judgment or salvation, if now is all that really matters?

R. C. Sproul writes, “For secularism, all life, every human value, every human activity must be understood in light of this present time.… What matters is now and only now. All access to the above and the beyond is blocked. There is no exit from the confines of this present world. The secular is all that we have. We must make our decisions, live our lives, make our plans, all within the closed arena of this time—the here and now.”

Each of us should understand that description instantly, because it is the viewpoint we are surrounded with every single day of our lives and in every conceivable place and circumstance.

Yet that is the outlook to which we must refuse to be conformed. Instead of being conformed to this world, as if that is all there is, we are to see all things as relating to God and to eternity. Here is the contrast, as expressed by Harry Blamires: “To think secularly is to think within a frame of reference bounded by the limits of our life on earth; it is to keep one’s calculations rooted in this-worldly criteria. To think Christianly is to accept all things with the mind as related, directly or indirectly, to man’s eternal destiny as the redeemed and chosen child of God.”

Humanism: “You Will Be Like God”

There is a proper kind of humanism, meaning a proper concern for human beings. Humanitarianism is a better word for it. People who care for other people are humanitarians. But there is also a philosophical humanism, which is a way of looking at people, particularly ourselves, apart from God, and this is wrong and harmful. This is a secular way of looking at them, which is why we so often speak not just of humanism but of “secular humanism.”

The best example of secular humanism I know is in the Book of Daniel. One day Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, was on the roof of his palace looking out over his splendid hanging gardens to the prosperous city beyond. He was impressed with his handiwork and said, “Is this not the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). It was a statement that everything he saw was “of” him, “by” him, and “for” the glory of his majesty, which is humanism. Humanism says that everything revolves around man and exists for man’s glory.

God would not tolerate this arrogance. So he judged Nebuchadnezzar with insanity, indicating that this is a crazy philosophy. Nebuchadnezzar was then driven out to live with the beasts and acted like a beast until at last he acknowledged that God alone is the true ruler of the universe and that everything exists for his glory rather than ours.

I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion.…

He does as he pleases

with the powers of heaven

and the peoples of the earth.

Daniel 4:34–35

Humanism is opposed to God and hostile to Christianity. This has always been so, but it is especially evident in the public statements of modern humanism: A Humanist Manifesto (1933), Humanist Manifesto II (1973), and The Secularist Humanist Declaration (1980). The first of these, the 1933 document, said, “Traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-hearing God, assumed to love and care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Salvationism, based on mere affirmation, still appears as harmful, diverting people with false hopes of heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.”

The 1973 Humanist Manifesto II said, “We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural” and “There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body.”5

Humanism leads to a deification of self and, contrary to what it professes, to an utter disregard for other people.

In deifying self, humanism actually deifies nearly everything but God. Several years ago Herbert Schlossberg, one of the project directors for the Fieldstead Institute, wrote a book titled Idols for Destruction, in which he showed how humanism has made a god of history, mammon, nature, power, religion, and, of course, humanity itself. It is brilliantly done.

As far as disregarding other people, well, look at the best-sellers of the 1970s. You will find titles like Winning through Intimidation and Looking Out for Number One. These books say, in a manner utterly consistent with secular humanism, “Forget about other people; look out for yourself; you are what matters.” What emerged in those years is what Thomas Wolfe, the social critic, called the “Me Decade.” And the 1970s gave way to the 1980s, which others have aptly called the “Golden Age of Greed.”

Remember, too, that this is the philosophy (some would say religion) underlying public school education. This is ironic, of course, since humanism is an irrational philosophy. How so? Because it is impossible to establish humanistic or any other values or goals without a transcendent point of reference, and it is precisely that transcendent point that is being repudiated by the humanists. Frighteningly, the irrationalism of humanism is appearing in the chaos of the schools, where students are using guns to kill other students and threaten teachers.

In the fall of 1992 an ABC Prime Time Live television special, featuring Diane Sawyer, reported that in this country one in five students come to school with a handgun somewhat regularly and that there are ten times as many knives in schools as there are guns. This is as true of the suburbs as it is of the inner city. In Wichita, Kansas, which calls itself mid-America, students must pass through metal detectors in order to enter school, and there are still guns and other weapons in the buildings.

For humanism as well as for secularism, the word for Christians is “do not conform any longer.” We remember that the first expression of humanism was not the Humanist Manifesto of 1933 or even the arrogant words of Nebuchadnezzar spoken about six hundred years before Christ, but rather the words of Satan in the Garden of Eden, who told Eve, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

Relativism: “A Moral Morass”

While we are talking about humanism we also have to talk briefly about relativism, because if man is the focal point of everything, then there are no absolutes in any area of life and everything is up for grabs. Some years ago Professor Allan Bloom of the University of Chicago wrote a book called The Closing of the American Mind, in which he said on the very first page, “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.”

What that book set out to prove is that education is impossible in such a climate. People can learn skills, of course. You can learn to drive a truck, work a computer, handle financial transactions, and do scores of other things. But real education, which means learning to sift through error to discover what is true, good, and beautiful, is impossible, because the goals of real education—truth, goodness, and beauty—do not exist. And even if they did exist in some far-off metaphysical never-never-land, it would be impossible to find them, because it requires absolutes even to discover absolutes. It requires such absolutes as the laws of logic, for example.

Is it any wonder that with such an underlying destructive philosophy as relativism, not to mention secularism and humanism, America is experiencing what Time magazine called “a moral morass” and “a values vacuum”?

Materialism: “The Material Girl”

The final “ism” to which Christians are not to be conformed is materialism. This takes us back to secularism, since it is a part of it. If “the cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be,” as Carl Sagan says, then nothing exists but what is material or measurable, and if there is any value to be found in life, it must be in material terms. Be as healthy as you can. Live as long as you can. Get as rich as you can.

When today’s young people are asked to name their heroes or heroines, what comes out rather quickly is that they have no people they actually look up to except possibly the rich and the famous—people like Michael Jordan and Madonna. And speaking of Madonna, isn’t it interesting that she is referred to most often not as a singer or entertainer or even a sex symbol but as “the material girl.” That is, she represents the material things of this world, clothes (or the lack of them), money, fame, and above all, pleasure. And this is what today’s young people want to be like! They want to be rich and famous and have things and enjoy them. They want to be like Madonna.

The poet T. S. Eliot wrote an epitaph for our materialistic generation:

Here were decent godless people:

Their only monument the asphalt road

And a thousand lost golf balls.

How different the Lord Jesus Christ! He was born into a poor family, was laid in a borrowed manger at his birth, never had a home or a bank account or a family of his own.

He said of himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20).

At his trial before Pilate he said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight … My kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

When he died he was laid in a borrowed tomb.

If there was ever an individual who operated on the basis of values above and beyond the world in which we live, it was Jesus Christ. He was the polar opposite of “the material girl.” But at the same time no one has ever affected this world for good as much as Jesus. It is into his image that we are to be transformed rather than being forced into the mold of this world’s sinful and destructive “isms.”

No One But Jesus

In the next few studies we are going to explore another aspect of the problem presented by today’s world and begin to look at the solution proposed in Romans 12:2. But I want to close this study by looking ahead one phrase to what Paul says we are to be: not conformed but transformed by the renewing of our minds. There is a deliberate distinction between those two words. Conformity is something that happens to you outwardly. Transformation happens inwardly. The Greek word translated transformed is metamorphoô, from which we get metamorphosis. It is what happens to the lowly caterpillar when it turns into a beautiful butterfly.

This Greek word is found four times in the New Testament: once here, once in 2 Corinthians 3:18 to describe our being transformed into the glorious likeness of Jesus Christ, and twice in the gospels of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain where he had gone with Peter, James, and John. Those verses say, “There he was transfigured before them” (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2). The same word used by Paul to describe our transformation by the renewing of our minds so that we will not be conformed to this world is used by the gospel writers to describe the transfiguration of Jesus from the form of his earthly humiliation to the radiance that Peter, James, and John were privileged to witness for a time.

And that is why Paul writes as he does in 2 Corinthians, saying, “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

In 2 Corinthians Paul says, “It is happening.” In Romans 12 he says, “Let it happen,” thus putting the responsibility, though not the power to accomplish this necessary transformation, upon us. How does it happen? Through the renewing of our minds; and the way our minds become renewed is by study of the life-giving and renewing Word of God. Without that study we will remain in the world’s mold, unable to think and therefore also unable to act as Christians. With that study, blessed and empowered as it will be by the Holy Spirit, we will begin to take on something of the glorious luster of the Lord Jesus Christ and become increasingly like him.

This Mindless Age

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In the last chapter I referred to Harry Blamires, an Englishman who wrote an important Christian book in 1963 titled The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? Blamires was a student of C. S. Lewis. His book’s main thesis, repeated over and over in chapter 1, is that “There is no longer a Christian mind,” meaning that in our time there is no longer a distinctly Christian way of thinking. There is to some extent a Christian ethic and even a somewhat Christian way of life and piety. But there is no distinctly Christian frame of reference, no uniquely Christian worldview, to guide our thinking in distinction from the thought of the secular world around us.

Unfortunately, the situation has not improved over the past thirty years. In fact, it has grown worse. Today, not only is there little or no genuine Christian thinking, there is very little thinking of any kind. The Western world (and perhaps even the world as a whole) is well on its way to becoming what I have frequently called a “mindless society.”

Since Christians are called to mind renewal—our text says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”—this cultural mindlessness is a major aspect of the “pattern of this world” that we are to recognize, understand, repudiate, and overcome. We are to be many things as Christians, but we are especially to be thinking people. We are to possess a “Christian mind.”

America Has Been “Vannatized”

There are a number of causes for our present mindlessness—Western materialism, the fast pace of modern life, and philosophical skepticism, to name a few—but I believe that the chief cause is television.

I began to study television as a cultural problem several years ago, and the thing that got me started was a 1987 graduation address at Duke University by Ted Koppel of ABC’s Nightline. Following this address Koppel was frequently quoted by Christian communicators because of something he said about the Ten Commandments. He was deploring the declining moral tone of our country and reminded his predominantly secular audience of the abiding validity of this religious standard. He said that they are Ten Commandments, not “ten suggestions,” and that they “are,” not “were” the standard. But to me the most interesting thing about Koppel’s address was his opening sentence, in which he said that America has been “Vannatized.”

Koppel was referring to Vanna White, the beautiful and extraordinarily popular hostess of the television game show Wheel of Fortune. Vanna White is something of a phenomenon on television. Her actual work is simple. She stands on one side of a large game board that holds blocks representing the letters of words the contestants are supposed to guess. As they guess correctly, Vanna walks across the platform and turns the blocks around to reveal the letters. When she gets to the other side she claps her hands. It is simple work, but Vanna seems to like it. No, “like” is too mild a term, as Koppel notes. Vanna “thrills, rejoices, adores everything she sees.” People respond to her so well that books about her have appeared in bookstores, and she is well up on that magical but elusive list of the most admired people in America.

But here is the interesting thing. Until recently Vanna never said a word on Wheel of Fortune, and Koppel asked how a person who says nothing and who is therefore basically unknown to us can be so popular. That is just the point, he answered. Since we do not know what Vanna White is actually like, she is whatever you want her to be. “Is she a feminist or every male chauvinist’s dream? She is whatever you want her to be. Sister, lover, daughter, friend, never cross, non-threatening, and non-judgmental to a fault.” She is popular because we project our own deep feelings, needs, or fantasies onto the television image.

Koppel does not care very much about Wheel of Fortune’s success, of course. He was analyzing our culture. And his point is that Vanna White’s appeal is the very essence of television and that television forms our way of thinking or, to be more accurate, of not thinking. It has been hailed as the great teaching tool, but that is precisely what it does not do, because it seldom presents anything in enough depth for a person actually to think about it. Instead, it presents thirty-second flashes of events and offers images upon which we are invited to project our own vague feelings.

If all we are talking about is game shows and other forms of television entertainment, none of this would matter very much, except for the amount of time our children spend watching these banal, mind-numbing diversions rather than disciplining their minds by serious study. But if television is really conditioning us not to think, as Koppel and I maintain, then television is a serious intellectual, social, and spiritual problem.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

A more academic study of the negative impact of television on culture has been provided by Neil Postman, a professor of communication arts and sciences at New York University, in a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.

Amusing Ourselves to Death was published in 1985, one year after 1984, the year popularized as the title of George Orwell’s futuristic novel, with its dark vision of a society controlled by fear. In Orwell’s novel Big Brother rules everything with a ruthless iron fist. But Postman reminds us that there was another novel written slightly earlier with an equally chilling but quite different vision of the future: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. In Huxley’s novel there is no need for Big Brother, because in this ominous vision of the future people have come to love their oppression as well as the technologies that strip away their capacities to think:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.… As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for diversions.”

Obviously, as Postman suggests, the Western cultures have succumbed to the second of these two oppressions, just as the communist countries fell victim to the first.

The first half of Postman’s book is a study of the difference between what he calls “the age of typography” and our present television age, which he calls “the age of show business.” Typography refers to words in print, and it concerns the communication of ideas by newspapers, pamphlets, and books. It is rational and analytic, because that is the way written words work. He writes:

To engage the written word means to follow a line of thought, which requires considerable powers of classifying, inference-making and reasoning. It means to uncover lies, confusions, and over-generalizations, to detect abuses of logic and common sense. It also means to weigh ideas, to compare and contrast assertions, to connect one generalization to another. To accomplish this, one must achieve a certain distance from the words themselves, which is, in fact, encouraged by the isolated and impersonal text. That is why a good reader does not cheer an apt sentence or pause to applaud even an inspired paragraph. Analytic thought is too busy for that, and too detached.

He illustrates the strength of the age of typography by public attention to the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of the mid-eighteen hundreds, which people were capable of hearing, understanding, and forming opinions about, even though they lasted three to seven hours. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries “America was as dominated by the printed word and an oratory based on the printed word as any society we know of,” Postman says. The country could think.

Unfortunately, television does not operate by rational means of communication but by images, as Ted Koppel pointed out, and as a result we are becoming a mindless culture.

News on Television: “Now … This”

A great deal of what Postman develops in his book is reinforcement for what I have been describing as mindlessness. So let me review three specific areas of bad influence, as he sees it.

A chapter in the book that deals with news on television is entitled “Now … This.” That is because these are the words most used on television to link one brief televised news segment—the average news segment on network news programs is only forty-five seconds long—to the next news segment or commercial. What the phrase means is that what one has just seen has no relevance to what one is about to see or, for that matter, to anything. Rational thought requires such connections. It depends on similarities, contradictions, deductions, and the development of probable consequences. It requires time. It is what books and other serious print media give us. But this is precisely what television does not give. It does not give time for thought, and if it does not give time for thought or promote thought, what it essentially amounts to is “diversion.”

Postman says that television gives us “news without consequences, without value, and therefore without essential seriousness; that is to say, news as pure entertainment.” In other words, it is not only mindless, it is teaching us to be mindless, to the point at which we even suppose that our ignorance is great knowledge.

Reach Out and Elect Someone

A second area of bad influence is politics. Postman calls this chapter “Reach Out and Elect Someone.” Ronald Reagan once said, “Politics is just like show business.” But if this is so, then the object of politics on television is not to pursue excellence, clarity, or honesty, or any other generally recognized virtue, but to appear as if you are pursuing these things.

After the 1968 presidential campaign, in which Richard Nixon finally won the White House, a political writer named Joe McGinniss wrote a book titled The Selling of the President 1968. In it he described the strategy of the Nixon advisors who felt that their candidate had lost the 1960 election to John Kennedy because of Kennedy’s better television image. He reports William Gavin, one of Nixon’s chief aids, as advising, “Break away from linear logic: present a barrage of impressions, of attitudes. Break off in mid-sentence and skip to something half a world away.… Reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making an intellectual demand.… Get the voters to like the guy, and the battle’s two-thirds won.”

How do campaign managers get their candidates elected today? Not by discussing issues, because that is a sure way to get defeated—any position on any issue, unless it is utterly meaningless, is certain to offend somebody. The way to win elections is to present a pleasant television image and to keep the candidate out of trouble for as long as possible.

That is why Ronald Reagan won in 1980 and even more decisively in 1984. It was not his positions, though they were substantially different from those of his predecessors and were, in my opinion, generally right. There really was “a Reagan revolution.” But this was not why he won. He won because he had a long career in movies and was a master of the television medium. He projected an image of a strong decent man we could trust.

The 1988 presidential election, in which George Bush defeated Michael Dukakis, involved issues about which every intelligent voter should have been carefully informed. Television is supposed to be the medium through which this is done. But a discussion of the issues is precisely what the voters did not get. Where did George Bush and Michael Dukakis differ in their politics? In regard to domestic programs such as Social Security, child care, education, taxes, abortion? In international affairs? The military? Relations with Russia, Eastern Europe, China, Japan? It was only specialists in government who knew the true answers to those questions, not the voters, because those were not the issues of the campaign.

What were the issues then? Actually, there was only one issue, and it was this: Is George Bush a “wimp”? That question was raised because he looked like a wimp on television; he is thin, seems to be frail, and held his head slightly to one side in a way that looked deferential. If the Dukakis camp could encourage voters to think of Bush that way, they would vote for Dukakis, because no one wants a wimp for president. On the other hand, Bush’s task was to convince the voters that he would actually be a strong president, and the strategy of his camp was therefore to wage a strong, aggressive—many said unfair and nasty—campaign against Dukakis.

The media complained! Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings were predictably self-righteous and offended. They called it the least substantial, meanest campaign in memory. But how hypocritical! It was mindless, but it was mindless precisely because that is what television demands. It demands images and not thought.

The campaign of 1992 is another example. I said from the beginning that Bill Clinton would win the election, not because he might have a better program for getting this country out of debt or even because the electorate was unhappy with America’s slow rate of economic growth in the previous two years, but because Clinton looks better on television. Clinton is the perfect television candidate, and so he won.

Marshall McLuhan, the television “guru,” was right when he said, “The medium is the message.” The campaign managers have learned that, which is why they organize the kinds of campaigns they do.

I know someone will say, “But Reagan was a decent, strong man.” Or, “George Bush really is a wimp (or ‘is not a wimp’).” Or, “Bill Clinton is the stronger candidate.” But my point is that we do not actually know those things and cannot know them, at least from television, until events perhaps support or fail to support our perceptions. The most serious thing of all perhaps is not that we do not know, but that we think we do know because of television.

Religion as Entertainment

The third area of bad influence is religion. Postman’s chapter on religion is called “Shuffle Off to Bethlehem.” Religion is on television chiefly in an entertainment format. With the possible exception of Billy Graham, who has an international following quite apart from the television medium, and some other teaching pastors such as Charles Stanley and D. James Kennedy, the religious television stars are mostly entertainers. Pat Robertson is a master of ceremonies along the lines of Merv Griffin. Jimmy Swaggart is a piano player and singer as well as having been a vivacious and entertaining speaker. Even televised church services, like those of Jerry Falwell and Robert Schuller, contain their requisite musical numbers and pop testimonies, just like variety shows on secular television. The proper name for them is vaudeville.

Nearly everything that makes religion real is lost in the translation of church to television. The chief loss is a sense of the transcendent. God is missing. Postman says:

Everything that makes religion an historic, profound and sacred human activity is stripped away; there is no ritual, no dogma, no tradition, no theology, and above all, no sense of spiritual transcendence. On these shows, the preacher is tops. God comes out as second banana.…

CBS knows that Walter Cronkite plays better on television than the Milky Way. And Jimmy Swaggart plays better than God. For God exists only in our minds, whereas Swaggart is there, to be seen, admired, adored. Which is why he is the star of the show.… If I am not mistaken, the word for this is blasphemy.

An observer who likes such religious entertainment might object, “Well, what harm is done as long as genuine religion is still to be found in church on Sundays?” I would argue that so pervasive and normalizing is the impact of television that pressures have inevitably come to make church services as irrelevant and entertaining as the tube.

In the vast majority of church services today there are virtually no pastoral prayers, while there is much brainless music, chummy chatter, and abbreviated sermons. Preachers are told to be personable, to relate funny stories, to smile, and above all to stay away from topics that might cause people to become unhappy with the church and leave it. They are to preach to felt needs, not necessarily real needs. This generally means telling people only what they want to hear.

Your Mind Matters

This is the point at which we need to talk about genuine mind renewal for Christians, which is what I will continue with in the next study. But I close here by mentioning a helpful little book by John Stott, the Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London, titled Your Mind Matters. It deals with six spheres of Christian living, and it argues that each one is impossible without a proper and energetic use of our minds: Christian worship, Christian faith, Christian holiness, Christian guidance, Christian evangelism, and Christian ministry. We need to think.

Stott argues that “anti-intellectualism … is … part of the fashion of the world and therefore a form of worldliness. To denigrate the mind is to undermine foundational Christian doctrines.” He asks pointedly, “Has God created us rational beings, and shall we deny our humanity which he has given us? Has God spoken to us, and shall we not listen to his words? Has God renewed our mind through Christ, and shall we not think with it? Is God going to judge us by his Word, and shall we not be wise and build our house upon this rock?”

They are important and helpful questions, if you think about them.

Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age: Part 1

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In each of the last two studies dealing with what it means to think as a Christian rather than in a worldly or secular way, I have mentioned Harry Blamires, an Englishman who has written two good books on this subject: The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? (1963) and Recovering the Christian Mind: Meeting the Challenge of Secularism (1988). In each of these books Blamires encourages us to reject the world’s thinking and begin to think as Christians. This is what Paul is writing about in our text from Romans 12: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 2). This means that our thinking is not to be determined by the culture of the world around us but rather that we are to have a distinctly different and growing Christian worldview.

But what does it actually mean to have an outlook like that? How are we to experience mind renewal in our exceedingly mindless age?

Thinking Christianly and Thinking Secularly

The one thing this does not mean is what most people probably assume it does, and that is to start thinking mainly about Christian things. We do need to think about Christian subjects, of course. In fact, it is from that base of revealed doctrine and its applications to life that we can begin to think Christianly about other matters. I am going to pursue exactly that line of thought in this study. But to think Christianity itself is not a matter of thinking about Christian subjects as opposed to thinking about secular subjects, as we suppose, but rather to think in a Christian way about everything. It means to have a Christian mind.

This is because, by contrast, it is possible to think in a secular way even about religious things. Take the Lord’s Supper, for instance. For most Christians the Lord’s Supper is probably the most spiritual of all spiritual matters, and yet it is possible to think about even it in a worldly manner. For example, a trustee of the church might be thinking that he forgot to include the cost of the communion elements in the next year’s budget. Another person might be looking at the minister and criticizing his way of handling the elements. “He’s so awkward,” this person might be thinking. Still another person might be reflecting on how good it is for people to have spiritual thoughts or to observe religious ceremonies. “This is good for people,” he might be reflecting. Each of these persons is thinking secularly about the most sacred of Christian practices.

On the other hand, it is possible to think Christianly about even the most mundane matters. Blamires suggests how we might do this at a gasoline station while we are waiting for our tank to be filled with gas. We might be reflecting on how a mechanized world with cars and other machines tends to make God seem unnecessary for people, or how a speeded-up world in which we use our cars to race from one appointment to another makes it difficult to think deeply about or even care for other people. Even further, we might be wondering, do material things like cars serve us, or are we enslaved to them? Do they cause us to covet and therefore break the tenth commandment? How do they impact the environment over which God has made us stewards?

Blamires says, “There is nothing in our experience, however trivial, worldly, or even evil, which cannot be thought about Christianly. There is likewise nothing in our experience, however sacred, which cannot be thought about secularly—considered, that is to say, simply in its relationship to the passing existence of bodies and psyches in a time-locked universe.”

The God Who Is There

So I ask again, Where do we start? How do we begin to think and act as Christians? There is a sense in which we could begin at any point, since truth is a whole and truth in any area will inevitably lead to truth in every other area. But if the dominant philosophy of our day is secularism, which means viewing all of life only in terms of the visible world and in terms of the here and now, then the best of all possible starting places is the doctrine of God, for God alone is above and beyond the world and is eternal. Even more, the doctrine of God is a necessary and inevitable starting place if we are to produce a genuinely Christian response to secularism.

What does that mean for our thinking?

Well, if there is a God, that very fact means that there is literally such a thing as the supernatural. Supernatural means over, above, or in addition to nature. In other words, to go back to Carl Sagan’s popular credo, the cosmos is not all there is or was or ever will be. God is. God exists. He is there, whether we acknowledge it or not, and he stands behind the cosmos. In fact, it is only because there is a God that there is a cosmos, since without God nothing else could possibly have come to be.

If anything exists, there must be an inevitable, self-existent, uncaused first cause that stands behind it.

Several years ago at the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology Professor John H. Gerstner was talking about creation and referred to something his high school physics teacher once said: “The most profound question that has ever been asked by anybody is: Why is there something rather than nothing?”

Gerstner said that he was quite impressed with that at the time. But later, as he sharpened his ability to think, he recognized that it was not a profound question at all. In fact, it was not even a true question. It posed an alternative, something rather than nothing. “But what is nothing?” Gerstner asked. “Nothing” eludes definition. It even defies conception. For as soon as you say, “Nothing is …” nothing ceases to be nothing and becomes something. Gerstner referred to Jonathan Edwards, who is not noted for being funny but who was at least a slight bit humorous on one occasion when he said, “Nothing is what the sleeping rocks dream of.”

So, said Gerstner, “Anyone who thinks he knows what nothing is must have those rocks in his head.”

As soon as you ask, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” the alternative vanishes, you are left with something, and the only possible explanation for that something is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), which is what Christianity teaches.

“He is There and He is Not Silent”

The God who exists has revealed himself. This is the doctrine of revelation. Francis Schaeffer titled one of his books He Is There and He Is Not Silent to make this point. God is there, and he has not kept himself hidden from us. He has revealed himself—in nature, in history, and especially in the Scriptures.

In chapter 185 I mentioned four “ism”s that are part of the pattern of this age: secularism, humanism, relativism, and materialism. The doctrine of God is the specific Christian answer to secularism. Revelation is the specific answer to relativism. If God has spoken, then what he has said is truthful and can be trusted absolutely, since God is truthful. This gives us absolutes in an otherwise relative and therefore ultimately chaotic universe.

That God has spoken and that God’s Word to us can be trusted has always been the conviction of the church, at least until relatively modern times. Today the truthfulness of the Bible has been challenged, but with disastrous results. For without a sure word from God all words are equally valid, and Christianity is neither more certain nor more compelling than any other merely human word or philosophy.

But notice this: If God has spoken, there will always be a certain hardness about the Christian faith and Christians. I do not mean that we will be hard on others or insensitive to them. Rather, there will be a certain unyielding quality to our convictions.

For one thing, we will insist upon truth and will not bow to the notion, however strongly it is pressed upon us, that “that’s just your opinion.”

Several years ago when I was flying to Chicago from the West Coast I got into a conversation with the woman seated next to me. We talked about religion, and whenever I made a statement about the gospel she replied, “But that’s just your opinion.” She was out of the relativistic mold.

I hit upon a way of answering her that preserved the hardness of what I was trying to say and yet did it nicely. I said, “You’re right; that is my opinion, but that’s not really what matters. What matters is: Is it true?”

She did not know quite what to say to that. So the conversation went on, and after a while she replied to something else I was saying in the same way: “But that’s just your opinion.”

I said, “You’re right; that is my opinion, but that’s not really what matters. What matters is: Is it true?” This happened about a dozen times, and after a while she began to smile and then laugh as she anticipated my comment coming. When I got home I sent her a copy of Mere Christianity.

Another thing the doctrine of revelation will mean for us is that we will not back down or compromise on moral issues. You know how it is whenever you speak out against some particularly bad act. If people do not say, “But that’s just your opinion,” they are likely to attack you personally, saying things like, “You’d do the same thing if you were in her situation” or “Do you think you’re better than he is?” We must not be put off by such attacks. Our response should be something like this: “Please, I wasn’t talking about what I would do if I were in her shoes. I’m a sinner too. I might have acted much worse. I would probably have failed sooner. I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about what is right, and I think that is what we need to talk about. None of us is ever going to do better than we are doing unless we talk about it and decide what’s right to do.”

“What the secular mind is ill-equipped to grasp is that the Christian faith leaves Christians with no choice at all on many matters of this kind,” writes Blamires. We are people under God’s authority, and that authority is expressed for us in the Bible.

The West’s Spiritual Exhaustion

Now let’s return to some implications of the doctrine of God. First, if there is a God and if he has made us to have eternal fellowship with him, then we are going to look at failure, suffering, pain, and even death differently than non-Christians do. For the Christian these can never be the greatest of all tragedies. They are bad. Death is an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). But they are overbalanced by eternal matters.

Second, success and pleasure will not be the greatest of all goods for us. They are good, but they will never compare with salvation from sin or knowing God. Jesus said it clearly: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Or, from the other side, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but who cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

That leads to a Christian response to materialism. There are two kinds of materialism, a philosophical materialism like that of doctrinaire communism and a practical materialism that is most characteristic of the West. We have been raised with a false kind of syllogism that says that because we are not communists and communists are materialists, therefore we are not materialists. But that is not necessarily true. Most of us embrace a practical materialism that warps our souls, stunts our spiritual growth, and hinders the advance of the gospel in our time.

The best critique of Western materialism that I know was presented by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the well-known Soviet dissident and writer, in an address given to the graduating class of Harvard University in 1978. Up to that point Solzhenitsyn had been somewhat of an American hero. He had suffered in the Soviet Union’s infamous gulag prison system and had later defected. That’s why he was invited to speak at Harvard. But in this address he was so blunt in his criticism of the West that his popularity vanished almost overnight, and he was almost never heard from, though he continued to write voluminously from a retreat in New England.

Solzhenitsyn’s address was no defense of socialism. Quite the contrary. He celebrated its ideological defeat in Eastern Europe, saying, “It is zero and less than zero.” But he declared, “Should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively.… Through intense suffering our own country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive.” He maintained that “after the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music.”

According to Solzhenitsyn, the West has pursued physical well-being and the acquiring of material goods to the exclusion of almost everything spiritual.

“We Do Not Mind That We Die”

In 1989 Westerners were astounded by the political changes in Eastern Europe. Country after country repudiated its seventy-two-year communist heritage and replaced its leaders with democratically elected officials. We rejoiced in these changes, and rightly so. But we need to remember two things.

First, while the former communist lands have moved in a more democratic direction, we have moved in the direction of their materialism, living as if the only thing that matters is how many earthly goods we can acquire now. We marveled at the moving scenes of East Germans passing through the openings in the infamous Berlin Wall. We saw them gazing in amazement at the abundance of goods on West Berlin shelves. But what is the good of their being able to come to the West if all they discover here is a spiritual climate vastly inferior to their own?

And that is the second thing we need to remember. Though the American media with its blindness to things spiritual did not acknowledge it, the changes in the Eastern Bloc came about not by anyone’s will, that of Mikhail Gorbachev or any other, but by the spiritual vitality of the people.

The strength of the Polish Solidarity movement, where the breakthrough first came, is that of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II was a strong supporter of the people’s faith and dreams.

Faith and spiritual strength also lay behind the changes in East Germany. Conventional wisdom in Germany has it that the turning point was on October 9, 1989, when seventy thousand demonstrators marched in Leipzig. The army was placed on full alert, and under normal circumstances it would have attacked the demonstrators violently. But the protesters’ rallying cry was, “Let them shoot, we will still march.” The army did not attack, and after that the protests grew until the government was overthrown.

In Romania, where President Nicolae Ceauşescu just weeks before had declared that apple trees would bear pears before socialism should be endangered in Romania, the end began in the house of a Protestant pastor whose parishioners surrounded him, declaring that they were willing to die rather than let him be arrested by the state police.

Josef Tson, founder and president of the Romanian Missionary Society, was in Romania just after the death of Ceauşescu and reported the details of the story. The pastor was from the city of Timisoara, and his name was Laszlo Tokes. On Saturday, December 16, 1989, just a few days before Christmas, hundreds and then thousands of people joined the courageous parishioners who had surrounded his house trying to defend him. One was a twenty-four-year-old Baptist church worker who decided to distribute candles to the ever-growing multitude. He lit his candle, and then the others lit theirs. This transformed the protective strategy into a contagious demonstration, and it was the beginning of the revolution. The next day, when the secret police opened fire on the people, the young man was shot in the leg, and the doctors had to amputate it. But on his hospital bed this young man told his pastor, “I lost a leg, but I am happy. I lit the first light.”

The people in Romania do not call the events of December 1989 a national revolution. They say rather, “Call it God’s miracle.” The rallying cry of the masses was “God lives!” That from a former fiercely atheistic country! The people shouted, “Freedom! Freedom! We do not mind that we die!”

Willing to die? Ah, that is the only ultimately valid test of whether one is a practical materialist at heart or whether one believes in something greater and more important than things. Do we? No doubt there are Westerners who are willing to die for things intangible. The people who were willing to die for civil rights during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s are examples. But today the masses of individuals in America no longer share this high standard of commitment and sacrifice. In 1978, during President Jimmy Carter’s abortive attempt to reinstate draft registration for the young, newspapers carried a photograph of a Princeton University student defiantly waving a poster marked with the words: “Nothing is worth dying for.”

“But if nothing is worth dying for, is anything worth living for?” asks Charles Colson, who comments on this photograph in Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages. If there is nothing worth living for or dying for, then the chief end of man might as well be cruising the malls, which is the number one activity of today’s teenagers, according to the pollsters.

Solzhenitsyn summarizes our weak thinking at this point when he says of today’s Americans: “Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during [these last] decades.… So who should now renounce all this? Why and for what should one risk one’s precious life in defense of common values?”

Christianity has the answer to that, and Christians in past ages have known it. It is to “gain a better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35), which means to do what is right because what is right pleases God and that is what ultimately matters. But those who do it must be thinking Christians.

Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age: Part 2

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In the last study I introduced the Christian doctrines of God and revelation as the biblical answer to secularism, humanism, relativism, and materialism, but I did not write about humanism in detail. The answer to humanism is the Christian doctrine of man.

Humanism is the philosophy to which human beings inevitably come if they are secularists. Secularism means eliminating God or anything else that may be transcendent from the universe and focusing instead on only what we can see and measure now. When God is eliminated in this process, man himself is left as the pinnacle of creation and becomes the inadequate and unworthy core for everything. In philosophy we usually trace the beginnings of this outlook to the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Protagoras. Protagoras expressed his viewpoint in Greek words that have given us the better known Latin concept homo mensura, which means “Man, the measure” or, as it is often expressed, “Man is the measure of all things.” The idea is that man is the norm by which everything is to be evaluated. He is the ultimate creature and thus the ultimate authority.

This seems to elevate man, but in practice it does exactly the opposite. It deifies man, but this deification always debases man in the end, turning him into an animal or even less than an animal. Moreover, it causes him to manipulate, ignore, disparage, wound, hate, abuse, and even murder other people.

What’s Wrong with Me?

In the last twenty years something terrible has happened to Americans in the way we relate to other people, and it is due to the twisted humanism about which I have been writing. Prior to that time there was still something of a Christian ethos in this country and people used to care about and help other people. It was the natural thing to do. Today we focus on ourselves and deal with others only for what we can get out of them. This approach is materialistic and utilitarian.

In 1981 a sociologist-pollster, Daniel Yankelovich, published a study of the 1970s titled New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down. This book documented a tidal shift in values by which many and eventually most Americans began to seek personal self-fulfillment as the ultimate goal in life rather than operating on the principle that we are here to serve and even sacrifice for others, as Americans for the most part really had done previously. He found that by the late 1970s, 72 percent of Americans spent much time thinking about themselves and their inner lives.2 So pervasive was this change that as early as 1976 Tom Wolfe called the seventies the “Me Decade” and compared it to a third religious awakening.

But isn’t this a good thing? Shouldn’t thinking about ourselves make us happy? If we redirect our energy to fulfilling ourselves and earn as much as we can to indulge even our tiniest desires, shouldn’t we be satisfied with life? No! It doesn’t work that way. It fails on the personal level, and it fails in the area of our relationships with other people also.

In 1978 Margaret Halsey wrote an article for Newsweek magazine titled “What’s Wrong with Me, Me, Me?” Halsey referred to Wolfe’s description of the seventies as the “me” generation, highlighting the belief that “inside every human being, however unprepossessing, there is a glorious, talented and overwhelmingly attractive personality [which] will be revealed in all its splendor if the individual just forgets about courtesy, cooperativeness and consideration for others and proceeds to do exactly what he or she feels like doing.”

The problem, as Halsey pointed out, is not that there are not attractive characteristics in everyone (or at least in most people) but that human nature consists even more basically of “a mess of unruly primitive elements” which spoil the “self-discovery.” These unruly elements need to be overcome, not indulged. And this means that the attractive personalities we seek really are not there to be discovered but rather are natures that need to be developed through choices, hard work, and lasting commitments to others. When we ask “What’s wrong with me?” it is the “me, me, me” that is the problem.

This affects our relationships with other people too, because it makes our world impersonal. Charles Reich in his best-selling book The Greening of America wrote:

Modern living has obliterated place, locality and neighborhood, and given us the anonymous separateness of our existence. The family, the most basic social system, has been ruthlessly stripped to its functional essentials. Friendship has been coated over with a layer of impenetrable artificiality as men strive to live roles designed for them. Protocol, competition, hostility, and fear have replaced the warmth of the circle of affection which might sustain man against a hostile environment.… America [has become] one vast, terrifying anti-community.

The Christian Doctrine of Man

The Christian answer to this is the biblical doctrine of man, which means that if we are to have renewed minds in this area, we need to stop thinking about ourselves and other people as the world does and instead begin operating within a biblical framework.

When we turn to the Bible to see what it has to say about human beings, we find two surprising things. First, we find that man is a uniquely valuable being, far more important than the humanists imagine him to be. But, second, in his fallen condition we also find that he is much worse than the humanists suppose.

Let’s take the fact that human beings are more valuable than humanists imagine first. The Bible teaches this at the very beginning of Genesis when it reports God as saying, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). We are then told, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (v. 27).

In ancient times books were copied by hand with rough letters. There was no typesetting, so it was not possible to emphasize one idea over another by such devices as italics, capital letters, boldface, and centered headings. Instead emphasis was made by repetition. For example, when Jesus wanted to stress something as unusually important, he began with the words “verily, verily” or “truly, truly.” We have the same thing in the first chapter of Genesis with the phrases “in our image,” “in his own image,” and “in the image of God.” That idea is repeated three times, which is a way of saying that man being created in God’s image is important. It is what makes man distinct from the animals. He is to value this distinction greatly.

Just a few chapters later in Genesis, the fact that man is made in God’s image is given as the reason why we are not to murder other people and why murderers should be punished by death, since they devalue another individual’s life, taking it lightly: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen. 9:6).

Bible students have debated the full meaning of what it means to be made in the image of God for centuries. This is not surprising since being made in God’s image means to be like God and God is above and far beyond us, beyond even our full understanding. Nevertheless, we can know a few things:

  1. Personality. To be made in God’s image means to possess the attributes of personality, as God himself does, but animals, plants, and matter do not. This involves knowledge, memory, feelings, and a will. Of course, there is a sense in which animals have what we call personalities, meaning that individuals in a species sometimes behave differently than others in the species. But animals do not create. They do not love or worship. Personality, in the sense I am writing about here, is something that links human beings to God but does not link either God or man to the rest of creation.
  2. Morality. The second characteristic of being made in the image of God is morality, for God is a moral God and those made in his image are made with the capacity to discern between what is right and wrong, between good and evil. This involves the further elements of freedom and responsibility. To be sure, the freedom of human beings is not absolute, as God’s freedom is. We are not free to do all things. We are limited. Nevertheless, our freedom is a true freedom, even when we use it wrongly as Adam and Eve did when they sinned. They lost their original righteousness as a result. But they were still free to sin, and they were free in their sinful state afterward in the sense that they were still able to make right and wrong choices. Moreover, they continued to be responsible for them.
  3. Spirituality. The third feature of being made in the image of God is spirituality, which means that human beings are able to have fellowship with God. Another way of saying this is to say that “God is spirit” (John 4:24) and that we are also spirits meant for eternal fellowship with him. Nothing can be greater than that for human beings, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism states it well when it says in the answer to the first question: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

Perhaps at this point we are beginning to see why secular humanism is so bad and not just a less attractive option than Christianity. Humanism sounds like it is focusing on man and elevating man, but it actually strips away the most valuable parts of human nature. As far as personality goes, it reduces us to mere animal urges, as Sigmund Freud tried to do. Regarding morality, instead of remaining responsible moral agents, which is our glory, we are turned into mere products of our environment or our genetic makeup, as B. F. Skinner asserts. As far as spirituality is concerned, how can we maintain a relationship to God if there is no God and we are made the measure of all things?

To refer again to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in humanism “things higher, warmer, and purer” are drowned out by “today’s mass living habits and TV stupor.” We can make engrossing five-minute TV videos or commercials, but we no longer build cathedrals.

The Doctrine of the Fall

What is the problem, then? If human beings are more important and more valuable than the humanists imagine, why is it that things are so bad? The answer is the Christian doctrine of sin, which tells us that although people are more valuable than secularists imagine, they are in worse trouble than the humanists can admit. We have been made in God’s image, but we have lost that image, which means that we are no longer fully human or as human as God intends us to be. We are fallen creatures.

Here I think of something I wrote about in the first volume of these studies, when I was looking closely at Romans 1. Romans 1 is about human beings falling down a steep slippery slope when they abandon God, and I pointed out that the conceptual framework for this downbound slide is found in Psalm 8. Psalm 8 both begins and ends with the words: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” (vv. 1, 9). In the middle it talks about the created order. So the beginning and ending teach that everything begins and ends with God, rather than with man, and that if we think clearly we will agree with this.

Then it describes men and women particularly:

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands;

you put everything under his feet:

all flocks and herds,

and the beasts of the field.

Psalm 8:3–7

These verses fix man at a very interesting place in the created order: lower than the angels (“the heavenly beings”) but higher than the animals—somewhere in between. This is what Thomas Aquinas saw when he described man as a mediating being. He is like the angels in that he has a soul. He is like the beasts in that he has a body. The angels have souls but not bodies, while the animals have bodies but not souls.

But here is the point. Although man is a mediating being, created to be somewhere between the angels and the animals, in Psalm 8 he is nevertheless described as being somewhat lower than the angels rather than as being somewhat higher than the beasts, which means that he is destined to look not downward to the beasts, but upward to the angels and beyond them to God and so to become increasingly like him. But if we will not look up, if we reject God, as secularism does, then we will inevitably look downward and so become increasingly like the lower creatures and behave like them. We will become beastlike, which is exactly what is happening in our society. People are acting like animals, and even worse.

Over the last few decades I have noticed that our culture is tending to justify bad human behavior on the ground that we are, after all, just animals. I saw an article in a scientific journal about a certain kind of duck. Two scientists had been observing a family of these ducks, and they reported something in this duck family that they called “gang rape.” I am sure they did not want to excuse this crime among humans by the comparison they were making, but they were suggesting that gang rape among humans is at least understandable given our animal ancestry. The inference comes from the evolutionary, naturalistic worldview they espoused.

A story of a similar nature appeared in the September 6, 1982, issue of Newsweek magazine. It was accompanied by a picture of an adult baboon holding a dead infant baboon, and over this there was a headline that read: “Biologists Say Infanticide Is as Normal as the Sex Drive—And That Most Animals, Including Man, Practice It.” The title is as revealing in its way as Carl Sagan’s “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” It identifies man as an animal, and it justifies his behavior on the basis of that identification. The sequence of thought goes like this: (1) Man is an animal, (2) Animals kill their offspring, (3) Therefore, it is all right (or at least understandable) that human beings kill their offspring.

The argument is fallacious, of course. Most animals do not kill their offspring. They protect their young and care for them. But even if in a few instances some animals do kill their offspring, this is still not comparable to the crimes of which human beings are capable. In the United States alone we kill over one and a half million babies each year by abortion—usually just for the convenience of the mother. And the number of outright murders is soaring.

The Doctrine of Redemption

My point in these last two studies has been that renewing our minds begins with understanding and applying the great Christian doctrines, and thus far we have at least touched on four of them: the doctrines of God, revelation, man, and the fall. This is a proper starting place for our thinking if we are serious about what Paul is urging upon us in our text from Romans, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

In the next study I will move on to the final phrase of verse 2 to ponder what it means to “test and approve what God’s will is.” But before I do that I want to mention the doctrine of redemption, without which nothing in either of these last two studies would be complete.

The doctrine of redemption—the fact that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)—infinitely intensifies everything I have been saying about man being both more valuable than the humanists can imagine as well as also being worse than they can possibly suppose.

The doctrine of redemption intensifies man’s value because it teaches that even in his fallen state, a condition in which he hates God and kills his fellow creatures, man is still so valuable to God that God planned for and carried out the death of his own precious Son to save him. At the same time, this doctrine teaches that man’s state is indescribably dreadful, because it took nothing less than the death of the very Son of God to accomplish it.

I want to close this study by referring again to what I regard as the greatest single piece of writing produced by the great Christian scholar and apologist C. S. Lewis. It was preached as a sermon in the summer of 1941, but it is known to us as an essay called “The Weight of Glory.” Lewis begins by probing for the meaning of glory, recognizing that it is something of the very essence of God that we desire. It is something “no natural happiness will satisfy.”8 At the same time it is also something from which we, in our sinful state, have been shut out. We want it. We sense that we are destined for it. But glory is beyond us—apart from what God has done to save us and make us like himself.

At the end of the essay, Lewis applies this to how we should learn to think about other people. We should understand that they are either going to be brought into glory, which is a supreme and indescribable blessing, or else they are going to be shut out from it—forever. Here he says, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

What Lewis is doing in that essay is helping us to develop a Christian mind about other people, and his bottom line is that we will treat others better only if we learn to think of them in these terms.

God’s Good, Pleasing, and Perfect Will

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Some time ago the staff of the Bible Study Hour prepared a brochure that compared the world’s thinking and the Bible’s teaching in six important areas: God, man, the Bible, money, sex, and success. The differences were striking, but what impressed me most as I read over the brochure was how right many of the world’s ideas seemed if not considered critically and biblically. We hear the world’s approach given out so often, so attractively, and so persuasively, especially on television, that it’s imperative that we think critically about it.

Here are some of the world’s statements we printed:

“I matter most, and the world exists to serve me. Whatever satisfies me is what’s important.”

“If I earn enough money, I’ll be happy. I need money to provide security for me and my family. Financial security will protect me from hardship.”

“Anything is acceptable as long as it doesn’t hurt another person.”

“Success is the path to fame, wealth, pleasure, and power. Look out for number one.”

How about the Christian way? From the world’s perspective the Christian way does not look attractive or even right. It says such things as:

“God is in control of all things and has a purpose for everything that happens.”

“Man exists to glorify God.”

“Money cannot shield us against heartbreak, failure, sin, disease, or disaster.”

“Success in God’s kingdom means humility and service to others.”

Because we are so much part of the world and so little like Jesus Christ, even Christians find God’s way unappealing. Nevertheless, we are to press on in that way and prove by our lives that the will of God really is good, pleasing, and perfect in all things.

I find it significant that this is where Paul’s statements about being transformed by the renewing of our minds—rather than being conformed to the patterns of this world—end. They end with proving the way of God to be the best way and the will of God to be perfect. This means that action is needed: God is not producing hothouse or ivory-tower Christians. He is forming people who will prove the value of God’s way by conscious choices and deliberate obedience.

This point was expressed well by Robert Candlish, one of the best Scottish exegetes of the last century. He wrote, “The believer’s transformation by the renewing of his mind is not the ultimate end which the Holy Spirit seeks in his regenerating and renovating work. It is the immediate and primary design of that work, in one sense. We are created anew in Christ Jesus. That new creation is what the Holy Spirit first aims at and effects. But ‘we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ (Eph. 2:10). The essence of a good work is the doing of the will of God. The proving of the will of God, therefore, is a fitting sequel of our ‘being transformed by the renewing of our mind.’ ”

God Has a Will for Each of Us

This last part of Romans 12:1–2 is not difficult to handle because the points are obvious. The first is this: God has a good, pleasing, and perfect will for each of us. Otherwise, how would it be possible for us to test and approve what that will is?

But this requires some explanation. Today when Christians talk about discovering the will of God what they usually have in mind is praying until God somehow discloses a specific direction for their lives—who they should marry, what job they should take, whether they should be missionaries, what house they should buy, and so forth. This is not exactly what proving the will of God means, nor is it what Romans 12:2 is teaching. The will of God is far more important than that.

You may recall that I discussed the matter of knowing the will of God earlier in this series, when I was writing on Romans 8:27, the verse that speaks about the Holy Spirit interceding “for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” I pointed out that Garry Friesen, a professor at Multnomah School of the Bible, and J. Robin Maxson, a pastor from Klamath, Oregon, had written a very good book on that subject entitled Decision Making and the Will of God. They distinguished between three meanings of the word will: first, God’s sovereign will, which is hidden and is not revealed to us except as it unfolds in history; second, God’s moral will, which is revealed in Scripture; and third, God’s specific will for individuals, which is what people are usually thinking about when they speak of searching for or finding God’s will. These authors rightly accepted the first two of these wills, but they disagreed with the idea that God has a specific will for each life and that it is the duty of the individual believer to find that will or “live in the center of it.”

My evaluation of this book was that it is helpful in cutting away many of the hang-ups that have nearly incapacitated some Christians. Its exposure of the weakness of subjective methods of determining guidance is astute. Its stress on the sufficiency of Scripture in all moral matters is essential. My only reservation was that it does not acknowledge that God does indeed have a specific (though usually hidden) will for us or adequately recognize that God does sometimes reveal that will in special situations.

We may not know what that specific will is, and we do not need to be under pressure to “discover” it, fearing that if we miss it, somehow we will be doomed to a life outside the center of God’s will. We are free to make decisions with what light and wisdom we possess.

Nevertheless, we can know that God does have a perfect will for us, that the Holy Spirit is praying for us in accordance with that will, and that this will of God for us will be done—because God has decreed it and because the Holy Spirit is praying for us in this area.

Still, having said all this, I need to add that this is not primarily what Romans 12:2 is talking about when it speaks of God’s will. In this verse will is to be interpreted in its context, and the context indicates that the will of God that we are encouraged to follow is the general will of offering our bodies to God as living sacrifices, refusing to be conformed to the world’s ways, and instead being transformed from within by the renewing of our minds. It is this that we are to pursue and thus find to be good, pleasing, and perfect, though, of course, if we do it, we will also find ourselves working out the details of God’s specific will for our lives.

Good, Pleasing, and Perfect

The second obvious point about the ending of Romans 12:2 is that the will of God is good, pleasing, and perfect. It teaches about the nature of God’s will for us.

  1. The will of God is good. In a general way the will of God for every Christian is revealed in the Bible. Romans 8 contains a broad expression of this plan: that we might be delivered from God’s judgment upon us for our sin and instead be made increasingly like Jesus Christ. The five specifically highlighted steps of this plan, as presented in verses 29–30, include (1) foreknowledge, (2) predestination, (3) effectual calling, (4) justification, and (5) glorification.

But there are also many specifics. The Ten Commandments contain some of these. It is God’s will that we have no other gods before him, that we do not worship even him by the use of images, that we do not misuse his name, that we remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, that we honor our parents, that we do not murder or commit adultery or steal or give false testimony or covet (Exod. 20). The Lord Jesus Christ amplified upon many of these commandments and added others. It is God’s will that we be holy (1 Thess. 4:3). It is God’s will that we should pray (1 Thess. 5:17). Above all Jesus taught that we are to “love each other” (John 15:12).

These things often do not seem good to us, because we are far from God and are still thinking in the world’s way. Nevertheless, they are good, which we will discover if we will obey God in these areas and put his will into practice. As one of the great Romans commentators, Robert Haldane, says, “The will of God is here distinguished as good, because, however much the mind may be opposed to it and how much soever we may think that it curtails our pleasures and mars our enjoyments, obedience to God conduces to our happiness.”

  1. The will of God is pleasing. Pleasing to whom? Not to God, of course. That is obvious. Besides, we do not have to prove that God is pleased by his own will, nor could we. When Paul encourages us to prove that God’s will is a pleasing will, he obviously means pleasing to us. That is, if we determine to walk in God’s way, refusing to be conformed to the world and being transformed instead by the renewing of our minds, we will not have to fear that at the end of our lives we will look back and be dissatisfied or bitter, judging our lives to have been an utter waste. On the contrary, we will look back and conclude that our lives were well lived and be satisfied with them.

I was talking with a Christian man whose mother was dying. The mother was not a Christian, and she had become very bitter, although she had not been a bitter person before. She felt that everyone was turning against her, even her children, who actually were trying to help her. This man said to me, “I am convinced that Christians and non-Christians come to the end of their lives very differently. Those who are not Christians feel that they do not deserve to end their lives with failing health and pain, and they think their lives have been wasted. Christians are satisfied with what God has led them through and has done for them. It is better to die as a Christian.”

I think that is exactly right. It is what Paul is saying.

  1. The will of God is perfect. There are a number of words in the Greek language that are translated by our word perfect. One is akribôs, from which we get our word accurate, meaning correct. Another is katartizô, which means well fitted to a specific end, like a perfect solution to a puzzle. The word in Romans 12:2 is different. It is teleios, which has the thought of something that has attained its full destiny, is complete. It can be used of one who is mature, a mature adult. It is used of Jesus, who became a complete, or perfect, man. It is used of the end of history. In our text it means that those who do the will of God discover that it is not lacking in any respect. There is a satisfying wholeness about it.

To put this in negative form, it means that if we reach the end of our lives and are dissatisfied with them, this will only mean that we have been living in the world’s way and have been conformed to it rather than having been transformed by the renewing of our minds. We will have been living for ourselves rather than for God and others.

We Need to Check It Out

The third obvious point of this verse is that we need to prove by our experience that the will of God is indeed what Paul tells us it is—good, pleasing, and perfect. We need to check it out. It is by checking it out that we will begin to find out what it actually is.

This is the exact opposite of our normal way of thinking. Usually we want God to tell us what his will for us is, and after that we want to be able to decide whether it is good, pleasing, or perfect, and thus whether or not we want to do it. Romans 12:2 tells us that we have to start living in God’s way and that it is only as we do that we will begin to know it in its fullness and learn how good it really is. Robert Candlish says, “The will of God … can be known only by trial.… No one who is partaker of a finite nature and who occupies the position of a subject or servant under the authority of God, under his law, can understand what … the will of God is otherwise than through actual experience. You cannot explain to him beforehand what the will of God is and what are its attributes or characteristics. He must learn this for himself. And he must learn it experimentally. He must prove in his own person and in his own personal history what is … ‘that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ ”

God’s Creatures and Probation

One of the most valuable parts of Candlish’s study is the way he follows up on this idea, noting that the idea of proving the will of God experimentally goes a long way toward explaining the Bible’s teaching about probation. This word is derived from the word prove and refers to a trial or test. According to Candlish, every order of free and intelligent being has been called upon to stand trial in the sense that ultimately it was created to prove that the will of God is good, pleasing, and perfect—or, if the creature should reject that will and fail the test, to prove that the contrary will of the world is disappointing and defective. Candlish reminds us of the following biblical examples.

  1. The angels. We are not told much in the Bible about the trial of the angels, but it is certain that they did stand trial and that some of them failed that trial and so entered into the rebellion led by Satan and passed under the severe judgment of Almighty God.

Candlish speculates that the specific issue of that trial may have been the command to worship the Son of God: “When God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’ ” (Heb. 1:6). But whether or not this was the specific matter the angels of God were to prove good, pleasing, and perfect, it is clear that many did not regard God’s will as such. It is why they rebelled against it. And even those who did adhere to God’s will must have done so not knowing then the full goodness, satisfaction, or perfection of what they were being called upon to do. They have been learning it since by their doing of it; that is, they have been learning it experimentally (cf. Eph. 3:8–11).

  1. Man in his pristine state. The second case of probation is man in his pristine state. We know a great deal more about this than we do about the trial of the angels, since it concerns us most directly and is revealed to us for that reason. Adam and Eve were required to prove the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God in the matter of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, refusing to eat of it because God had forbidden it to them. We know how this turned out. When weighed against what they considered to be more desirable (“you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” Gen. 3:5), our first parents chose the way of sin, ate of the tree, and paid the price of their transgression.

Candlish argues that if Adam and Eve had kept the will of God, though it did not seem desirable at that stage of their lives, “They would have found by experience that what God announced to them as his will was really in itself, as the seal of his previous covenant of life and as the preparation for the unfolding of his higher providence, fair, reasonable [and] good.… They would have learned experimentally that it was suited to their case and circumstances, deserving of their acceptance, sure to become more and more pleasing as they entered more and more into its spirit and became more and more thoroughly reconciled to the quiet simplicity of submission which it fostered.”

But they did not prove it to be such and therefore brought sin, judgment, and death upon the race.

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ. The third example is Jesus Christ, who in his incarnate state took it upon himself to prove that God’s will was indeed good, pleasing, and perfect, even though it involved the pain of the cross, which in itself hardly seemed good, pleasing, or even acceptable.

In the garden Jesus prayed that the cross might be taken from him, adding, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). The author of Hebrews says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb. 5:7–8). In the Book of Philippians Paul speaks of Jesus humbling himself and becoming “obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8).

Writes Candlish, “It must have been, it often was, with him a struggle—an effort—to do the will of God. It was not easy, it was not pleasant. It was self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-crucifixion throughout. It was repulsive to the highest and holiest instincts of his pure humanity. It laid upon him most oppressive burdens; it brought him into most distressing scenes; it involved him in ceaseless, often thankless toil; it exposed him to all sorts of uncongenial encounters with evil men and evil angels. But he proved it. And in the proving of it, and as he was proving it, he found it to be good and acceptable and perfect.”

  1. Christians. And what of ourselves, we who confess Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior? We are on trial now, and the matter of our probation is whether or not we will embrace the will of God for our lives, turning from the world and its ways, and so prove by the very embracing of that will that it is exactly what God declares it to be when he calls it perfect.

Who is to do that? You are, and you are to do it in the precise earthly circumstances into which God has placed you.

How are you to do it? You are to do it experimentally—that is, by actually putting the revealed will of God to the test.

When are you to do it? Right now and tomorrow and the day after that. You are to do it repeatedly and consistently and faithfully all through your life until the day of your death or until Jesus comes again.

Why are you to do it? Because it is the right thing to do, and because the will of God really is good, pleasing, and perfect.

Candlish says this:

Of the fashion of the world, it may be truly said that the more you try it, the less you find it to be satisfying. It looks well; it looks fair, at first. But who that has lived long has not found it to be vanity at last?

It is altogether otherwise with the will of God. That often looks worst at the beginning. It seems hard and dark. But on! On with you in the proving of it! Prove it patiently, perseveringly, with prayer and pains. And you will get growing clearness, light, enlargement, joy. You will more and more find that “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” For “wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned; and in keeping of them there is great reward.”[15]


The Mind Must Be Given to God

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, (12:2a)

The third element of our priestly self-sacrifice is that of offering Him our minds.

It is in the mind that our new nature and our old humanness are intermixed. It is in the mind that we make choices as to whether we will express our new nature in holiness or allow our fleshly humanness to act in unholiness.

Be conformed is from suschēmatizō, which refers to an outward expression that does not reflect what is within. It is used of masquerading, or putting on an act, specifically by following a prescribed pattern or scheme (schēma). It also carries the idea of being transitory, impermanent, and unstable. The negative (not) makes the verb prohibitive. The verb itself is passive and imperative, the passive indicating that conformation is something we allow to be done to us, the imperative indicating a command, not a suggestion.

Paul’s gentle but firm command is that we are not to allow ourselves to be conformed to this world. We are not to masquerade as a worldly person, for whatever the reason. J. B. Phillips translates this phrase as “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.” We must not pattern ourselves or allow ourselves to be patterned after the spirit of the age. We must not become victims of the world. We are to stop allowing ourselves to be fashioned after the present evil age in which we live.

New Testament scholar Kenneth Wuest paraphrased this clause: “Stop assuming an outward expression which is patterned after this world, an expression which does not come from, nor is representative of what you are in your inner being as a regenerated child of God” (Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955], 1:206–7).

World translates aiōn, which is better rendered “age,” referring to the present sinful age, the world system now dominated by Satan, “the god of this world (aiōn)” (2 Cor. 4:4). World here represents the sum of the demonic-human philosophy of life. It corresponds to the German zeitgeist (the spirit of the age) and has been well described as “that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale” (G. C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973], pp. 217–18).

It is not uncommon for unbelievers to mask themselves as Christians. Unfortunately, it also is not uncommon for Christians to wear the world’s masks. They want to enjoy the world’s entertainment, the world’s fashions, the world’s vocabulary, the world’s music, and many of the world’s attitudes—even when those things clearly do not conform to the standards of God’s Word. That sort of living is wholly unacceptable to God.

The world is an instrument of Satan, and his ungodly influence is pandemic. This is seen in the prideful spirit of rebellion, lies, error, and in the rapid spread of false religions—especially those that promote self and come under the broad umbrella of “New Age.” “We know that we are of God,” John wrote nearly two thousand years ago, “and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). It clearly still does.

Instead, Paul goes on to say, you should rather be transformed. The Greek verb (metamorphoō) connotes change in outward appearance and is the term from which we get the English metamorphosis. Matthew used the word in describing Jesus’ transfiguration. When “He was transfigured [metamorphōtheē] before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2), Christ’s inner divine nature and glory were, for a brief time and to a limited degree, manifested outwardly. Our inner redeemed nature also is to be manifested outwardly, but as completely and continually as possible, in our daily living.

Like the preceding verb (be conformed), be transformed is a passive imperative. Positively, we are commanded to allow ourselves to be changed outwardly into conformity to our redeemed inner natures. “We all,” Paul assured the Corinthians believers, “with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Although we are to aspire to this outward change, it can be accomplished only by the Holy Spirit working in us, by our being “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

The Holy Spirit achieves this transformation by the renewing of the mind, an essential and repeated New Testament theme. The outward transformation is effected by an inner change in the mind, and the Spirit’s means of transforming our minds is the Word. David testified, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). God’s own Word is the instrument His own Holy Spirit uses to renew our minds, which, in turn, He uses to transform our living.

Paul repeatedly emphasized that truth in his letter to Colossae. As he proclaimed Christ, he was “admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28). By receiving Christ as Lord and Savior, we “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (3:10). Consequently, we are to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within [us], with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (3:16).

The transformed and renewed mind is the mind saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. It is the mind that spends as little time as possible even with the necessary things of earthly living and as much time as possible with the things of God. It is the mind that is set “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Whether good or bad, when anything happens in our lives, our immediate, almost reflexive response should be biblical. During His incarnation, Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations by hurling Scripture back into His adversary’s face (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). Only the mind that is constantly being renewed by God’s Spirit working through God’s Word is pleasing to God. Only such a mind is able to make our lives “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual service of worship.”

The Will Must Be Given to God

that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (12:2b)

An implied fourth element of presenting ourselves to God as a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice is that of offering Him our wills, of allowing His Spirit through His Word to conform our wills to the will of God.

The Greek construction makes that you may prove a purpose/result phrase. That is to say, when a believer’s mind is transformed, his thinking ability, moral reasoning, and spiritual understanding are able to properly assess everything, and to accept only what conforms to the will of God. Our lives can prove what the will of God is only by doing those things that are good and acceptable and perfect to Him.

In using euarestos (acceptable), Paul again borrows from Old Testament sacrificial language to describe the kind of holy living that God approves, a “living sacrifice” that is morally and spiritually spotless and without blemish.

Perfect carries the idea of being complete, of something’s being everything it should be. Our wills should desire only what God desires and lead us to do only what He wants us to do in the way He wants us to do it—according to His will and by His power. Our imperfect wills must always be subject to His perfect will.

A transformed mind produces a transformed will, by which we become eager and able, with the Spirit’s help, to lay aside our own plans and to trustingly accept God’s, no matter what the cost. This continued yielding involves the strong desire to know God better and to comprehend and follow His purpose for our lives.

The divine transformation of our minds and wills must be constant. Because we are still continuously tempted through our remaining humanness, our minds and wills must be continuously transformed through God’s Word and by God’s Spirit.

The product of a transformed mind is a life that does the things God has declared to be righteous, fitting, and complete. That is the goal of the supreme act of spiritual worship, and sets the stage for what Paul speaks of next—the ministry of our spiritual gifts.[16]


[1] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1634). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ro 12:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 2178–2179). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ro 12:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ro 12:2). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1447). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] Moo, D. J. (1994). Romans. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1150). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 12:2). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[9] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 458–472). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[10] Bruce, F. F. (1985). Romans: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 6, pp. 223–224). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[11] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 453–455). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[12] Pate, C. M. (2013). Romans. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 237). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[13] Moo, D. J. (2018). The Letter to the Romans. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Second Edition, pp. 773–777). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[14] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 183–184). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[15] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The New Humanity (Vol. 4, pp. 1523–1562). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[16] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 149–152). Chicago: Moody Press.

6 Feb 2021 News Briefing

ICC approves investigation into Israel, citing war crimes
The International Criminal Court at the Hague approved an investigation into Israel on Friday evening, citing war crimes. The court recognized the Palestinian Authority as a member of the ICC Rome Statute, which dictates the locations that stand under the court’s jurisdiction. It recognized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza as falling into the category.

What does Biden’s first foreign policy speech mean for Israel, Mideast?
US President Joe Biden delivered his first foreign policy speech on Thursday at the State Department. His remarks focused on some urgent foreign policy issues, such as the situation in Burma and the war in Yemen…the policy towards China and Russia and the US refugee cap. However, Biden did not mention the Iranian nuclear program, the Abraham Accords, Israel, or the Palestinians in his first foreign policy speech…

UN calls for a stop to IDF demolitions on Bedouin villages in West Bank
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reiterated its calls for Israel to stop demolitions on Palestinian Bedouin villages in the West Bank. Israel’s military liaison agency with the Palestinians, COGAT, have been coordinating demolitions with the IDF against what it says are illegal structures.

Russia Developing First Brand-New Short-Range Air-To-Air Missile Since The End Of The Cold War
The leading developer of air-to-air missiles in Russia has revealed that it is working on what seems to be a new short-range air-to-air missile type. This weapon would appear to be related to a previous design that would have provided performance at least equal to that of the American AIM-9X Sidewinder or the European Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or ASRAAM.

750 Christians murdered at church service massacre in Ethiopia
As many as 750 people have been murdered in Ethiopia after an attack at a church where some believe the Ark of the Covenant to be located, Aleteia reports. The massacre reportedly took place in January and was revealed when a Belgian non-profit, European External Program with Africa (EEPA), released a report on the matter. According to EEPA, churchgoers were systematically taken out of the church and executed.

Thousands protest Myanmar coup despite internet ban
Thousands of people took to the streets of Yangon on Saturday to denounce this week’s coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi despite a blockade on the internet by the junta. In an upwelling of anger in the country’s largest city protesters chanted, “Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win” and held banners reading “Against military dictatorship”. Bystanders offered them food and water.

Denmark May Force Churches to Submit Sermons to Gov’t: ‘There Is Much Concern,’ Pastor Says
A proposed Danish law that would require sermons be translated and submitted to the government has sparked concern among Christians throughout the region.

Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Blumenauer aim to require Biden to declare climate emergency 
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on Thursday that would require the president to declare a national emergency on climate change.

At least 10 dead as severe floods and landslides hit Paraguay
At least 10 people have died in central and southern Paraguay after heavy rainfall over the past few days triggered severe floods and landslides. According to the Directorate of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH), several areas in the central region recorded 500 mm (20 inches) more rainfall than the January average.

Somalia declares state of emergency over new locust invasion, infestation persists in Saudi Arabia
Somalia has announced a state of emergency on Wednesday, February 4, 2021, as the nation battles a new generation of desert locust swarms that have already caused major damage to farmlands. Meanwhile, infestations are ongoing in Saudi Arabia, posing risks that any locusts that escape control could form adult groups that would likely move inland.

FAIRLY UNBALANCED: As $71 Billion Dollar Disney Merger Deal Prepares To Finalize, Fox News Is Being Transformed Into A Progressive Liberal Platform
Over the past week, two key events took place that will tell you everything you  need to know about what type of news outlet the new Fox station will be. First, Fox ordered that Conservative opinion show ‘Judge Jeanine‘ be dropped because she told the truth about Muslim congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar. The second thing that happened was the announcement that ultra-Liberal and former Democratic National Committee chief Donna Brazile would be getting her own show. Welcome to the “new” Fox News. Ugh…

Most Americans Are Unaware That the Genocidal Forces of Government Have Been Unleashed Against Them: History Speaks, Will America Listen?
There are reports that are surfacing which indicate the fact that the Pentagon is purging its ranks of right wing conservatives. This development particularly applies to the command officers. In other words, we are back to the days where Obama fired conservative officers and replaced them with Bolsheviks.

Senate Republicans Move to Block Joe Biden Order Allowing Taxpayer Funding of Abortions Abroad
On Thursday Senate Republicans introduced a measure that would ban organizations from the use of taxpayer funds to promote or refer girls and women for abortions abroad.

Mexican drug traders caught smuggling loot of narcotics into US
Two Mexican drug traffickers tried to smuggle more than two tons of methamphetamine and 100,000 fentanyl pills into the U.S., prosecutors alleged Friday.

Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, Once Bragged with Ben Rhodes – “We’re Liars” and “Lying Footsoldiers”
Jake Sullivan by his own admission is a “liar” and “a lying footsoldier”.  This uniquely qualifies him for the position of Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor. He’s just perfect for the job.

RIGGED: Time Magazine Posts Shocking Admission That Biden Election Was Orchestrated By A ‘Well-Funded Secret Cabal’ That ‘Changed Rules And Laws’
Adolf Hitler said that he did what he did to ‘restore Germany’ and to ‘save the Reich’, but what he really did was overt criminal activities designed to transfer all power to himself. It is the same with the stunning admission in Time Magazine today that in order to ‘save the election’, a slithery cabal of Democrats took billions of dollars and rigged it from top to bottom. Thanks for admitting what we already knew.

Brandy Vaughan found dead after exposing Big Pharma
Brandy Vaughan was silenced after exposing Big Pharma and the dangers of vaccines.

Biden Kills U.S. Energy Independence, Opens Borders To Illegal Immigration As America’s New Civil War Heats Up
Well, Joe Biden has now been president for exactly 14 days, and in that incredibly short period of time America has become unrecognizable. US energy independence achieved under Donald Trump has now been reversed with the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, costing over 11,000 American jobs. Illegal immigrants are beginning to surge over our borders in record numbers with Biden vowing record numbers by next year. And 75,000,000 Americans have been declared to be domestic terrorists by the now all-powerful radical Left, can things get any worse? Actually, this is just the appetizer, the ‘main course’ is coming, and you’re really gonna hate every bite.

FLASH: Supreme Court Schedules Election Lawsuits for February Conference
The United States Supreme Court has scheduled the Pennsylvania election case, Sidney Powell’s Michigan election case, and Lin Wood’s Georgia election case for its February 19 conference.

COVID Plans Include Family Separation & Involuntary Quarantine in “Camps”
CDC calls for “isolation camps” as part of a “Shielding Plan”. The plan subjects U.S. Citizens and residents who are deemed “high risk” for Covid-19 to be forcibly removed from their families and homes, and involuntarily isolated in guarded Camps.

Weekend Snapshot · Feb. 6, 2021

Biden Carpet Bombs America With Executive Orders

It’s astounding just how much damage one man can do in with a pen and a few days.


Biden’s War on Women

His executive order boosting “transgendered” individuals comes at the expense of biological females.


Keystone Was More Than a Pipeline

With the stroke of a pen, Biden and his hard-left handlers wrecked the lives of thousands of our fellow Americans.


Biden Immigration Orders Undo Trump’s Progress

Three more executive orders Tuesday were focused on rescinding previous border-security efforts.


The Great Reset — to Global Totalitarianism

Global elites, including the Biden administration, are exploiting coronavirus for massive upheaval.


Demos Are Baiting and Begging for More Violence

The Demo proliferators of hate and division are enticing more anarchist violence that they will attribute to “Trump supporters.”


The Greene Standard for Congressional Standing

Hypocritical Democrats violate their own protocols with regular flare.


Dems Fight GOP Efforts for Ballot Integrity

Obviously, Democrats benefit from voter fraud, so they’ll reject any work to curtail it.


Wall Street Is Part of the Swamp

The GameStop debacle shines a light on systemic corruption.


Why the Continued Guard Presence in DC?

Despite Dem opportunism and paranoia, it’s long past time to thank our National Guardsmen and send them home.


Biden’s Alternate ‘Reality Czar’

The Leftmedia wants Biden to create a “ministry of truth” in an effort to prevent free speech.


The Democrats’ Larded Pandemic Lotto

Democrat leaders demand Republicans agree to their demands or they’ll circumvent them to blow $1.9 trillion.


Religious Liberty for Popular and Sound Ideas

Our freedom isn’t just to protect the fringe, but mainstream people and policies.


Punching Back Against Big Tech

The speech-silencing oligarchs clearly have the upper hand, but that’s because we haven’t yet dropped the gloves.


1776 vs. 1619

The two projects pit an honest look at history against a revisionist race-based narrative.


AOC Doubles Down on Ditzy

Sandy Cortez’s hysterical account of the January 6 riot is just another embarrassing effort to attract attention.


Ronald Reagan’s Birthday

We joyfully mark the anniversary of the Gipper’s birth.



TODAY’S MEME

For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.

TODAY’S CARTOON

For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The real story is that AOC was in her office and then a cop came and told her to evacuate. The end. That was her entire involvement in that day’s events. She managed to turn that into a harrowing tale of narrowly avoiding death at the hands of assassins sent by Ted Cruz.” —Matt Walsh

“The Patriot Post” (https://patriotpost.us)

Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 02/06/2021

Chaplain Under Investigation Over Facebook Comment Objecting to Lifting Ban on ‘Transgenders’ in Military   Feb 01, 2021 01:32 pm

FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army chaplain in Texas is under investigation after he posted a comment on social media opposing Biden’s order to lift the ban on transgenders in the military. “How is rejecting reality (biology) not evidence that a person is mentally unfit (ill), and thus making that person unqualified to serve?” Maj. Andrew Calvert wrote under the…

Continue reading the story 

‘Royal Purple’ Fabric Dating to Time of King David Discovered in Israel   Feb 02, 2021 07:17 pm

JERUSALEM — Remnants of purple-dyed fabric dating to the time of King David have been discovered in the Timna Valley in Israel. According to reports, researchers found “remnants of woven fabric, a tassel and fibers of wool dyed with royal purple,” the first of which, using radiocarbon dating, have been found to be dated to the Iron Age, 1,000 B.C. “Our…

Continue reading the story 

Website Locked Out of Twitter Account for Stating Biden Nominee Is ‘Man Who Believes He Is Woman’   Feb 03, 2021 03:52 pm

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. — A Christian website has been locked out of its Twitter account after it posted a story stating that Biden Assistant Secretary of Health nominee “Rachel” Levine is “a man who believes he is a woman.” The Daily Citizen, an arm of the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, posted the story to Twitter on Jan. 19 with a summarized paragraph from…

Continue reading the story 

Muslim Woman Who Refuted Preacher Online Puts Her Trust in Jesus   Feb 01, 2021 10:09 am

(Christian Aid Mission) — A Muslim woman in the Middle East just wanted to pass some time when she decided to watch a Facebook video about Christianity, but when she heard the speaker say that Jesus is God, she fired off some insulting replies. Rojda* also messaged the teacher, a native missionary, that Jesus of Nazareth was merely a prophet. She requested a New…

Continue reading the story 

US Research Team Grafted Aborted Babies’ Skin Onto Rodents   Feb 02, 2021 12:00 pm

Photo Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay (The Christian Institute) — U.S. researchers have caused outrage after grafting skin removed from aborted babies onto mice and rats in laboratory experiments. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the private animal-testing company Hera Biolabs, used skin taken from the scalps and backs of babies…

Continue reading the story 

Young Woman Who Fled Persecution in Eritrea Says Trials Taught Her to Depend on God   Jan 30, 2021 12:44 pm

(Voice of the Martyrs) — Sesuna was 14 when she first read the Bible. She became a born-again Christian and spent her school senior year in prison. Disowned by her family, she came to depend on God. In 2002, the Eritrean government outlawed every religion except Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism and the Lutheran Church. All other religious groups…

Continue reading the story 

Iowa House Approves Ballot Initiative to Add ‘No Right to Abortion’ to State Constitution   Feb 03, 2021 01:07 pm

Photo Credit: Patricia Prudente/Unsplash DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa House of Representatives has voted to advance a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters, would add language to the state Constitution declaring that there is no “right to an abortion” in the state. Under House Resolution 5, the ballot initiative for the 2024 election would ask voters…

Continue reading the story 

Oregon Measure to Decriminalize Drugs Goes Into Effect, Offering Assessment Instead of Prison   Feb 03, 2021 08:11 am

Photo Credit: Reb Center Moscow SALEM, Ore. (Fox News) — Oregon’s controversial Measure 110 went into effect Monday, decriminalizing possession of hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and oxycodone, according to reports. The measure reclassifies possession of small amounts of hard drugs as a civil violation: Offenders will face a $100 fine,…

Continue reading the story 

BBC Removes ‘100 Genders’ Video After New Complaints   Feb 02, 2021 11:26 am

(The Christian Institute) — The BBC has finally removed a resource for children aged nine to twelve which claimed there are over 100 “gender identities.” “Understanding Sexual and Gender Identities,” a video that forms part of the BBC’s The Big Talk series, was available on the BBC Teach website until last week. It told children that gender is “who you are…

Continue reading the story 

Pastor Forced to Leave Turkey for Preaching Files Case With Human Rights Court   Jan 30, 2021 01:44 pm

Ankara/Strasbourg (ADF International) – David Byle, a pastor living in Turkey, was forced to leave the country he had called home for 19 years, where he had raised his children and had become a close-knit member of the community – simply because he shared his faith. This week, ADF International filed an application on his behalf with Europe’s top human…

Continue reading the story 

Jim Denison on Three Biblical Responses to the Escalating Censorship of Evangelical Christians

Adobe Stock

The Daily Citizen is a publication of Focus on the Family. On January 19, it tweeted that President Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of health, Rachel Levine, is “a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman.” The story included a link to an article about the nomination.

As a result, Twitter locked the magazine out of its account, informing the publication that its tweet violated Twitter’s user rules forbidding “hateful conduct” and violence.

The magazine insisted that it never promoted violence: “As a Christian organization, we would never do so. We simply explained to our readers the appointment and defined what transgender women are—those born male who believe they are a woman, regardless of whether they have had opposite-sex hormones or surgeries. We believe Twitter’s blocking of this tweet and lockdown of our account discriminates against Focus on the Family’s The Daily Citizen on the basis of our religious affiliation.”

The social media platform rejected the appeal and said its ban would not be overturned.

“Rapidly accelerating public censorship”?

In related news, a New Testament professor at Houston Baptist University was suspended from Facebook for voicing disagreement with President Biden’s executive order allowing trans-identifying individuals to serve in the US military. Robert Gagnon (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is a well-known scholar on the subject of human sexuality. He was locked out of his Facebook account for twenty-four hours after he posted a comment defending a friend who posted a satirical comment about the executive order.

In his post, Dr. Gagnon said the executive order will endanger women. He likened transgender ideology to a “religious cult” and said it “is indeed a pseudo-science” in that it forces people to reject basic biology. Facebook notified him that his words violated their “Community Standards on violence and incitement.”

Dr. Gagnon responded, “There was absolutely no incitement to violence on our part. We abhor violence done to any person. This is just a thinly veiled and pathetic excuse for censorship of any critical views toward trans-tyranny over our consciences, religion, and reason.” After his suspension was lifted, Dr. Gagnon posted on his page, “We are in the midst of rapidly accelerating public censorship of our views.”

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Denison Forum, Jim Denison

Source: Jim Denison on Three Biblical Responses to the Escalating Censorship of Evangelical Christians

Over a quarter of white evangelicals say they have been targeted online for faith

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that white evangelicals are the most likely religious group to say that they have experienced harassment online for their religious views.

Source: Over a quarter of white evangelicals say they have been targeted online for faith

WH spox Psaki Rips RT’s “Agenda” Host Responds | RT America

White House press secretary goes after RT, claiming it has an agenda. According to Jen Psaki, American people have to realize that RT and Sputnik “are not the same as AP, ABC — other outlets — BBC — around the world.” Steve Malzberg will respond.

‘Now fire Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson’: Liberals call for BIGGER PURGE at Fox News as canceled Lou Dobbs shares tweets of support | RT – Daily news

‘Now fire Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson’: Liberals call for BIGGER PURGE at Fox News as canceled Lou Dobbs shares tweets of support

Donald Trump and other fans are expressing support for Lou Dobbs after the sudden cancellation of his “number one news program” on Fox News, but liberals are so giddy they want other conservatives like Sean Hannity pulled.

The axing of ‘Lou Dobbs Tonight’ follows a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from SmartMatic, a company behind voting software used in the presidential election, against Fox News and multiple hosts who aired election fraud conspiracy theories, including Dobbs.

A spokesperson for the network, however, did not name the lawsuit or controversies surrounding Dobbs’ election coverage – he aired a fact-checking clip on SmartMatic in December – as being reasons behind the cancellation, calling it part of “planned changes.”

Also on rt.com

Voting software firm Smartmatic files $2.7 billion suit against Fox, Giuliani & Sidney Powell over election-fraud claims

‘Lou Dobbs Tonight’, which was described by the network as the “number one news program on business television,” will be renamed ‘Fox Business Tonight’ and go through rotating guests until a permanent replacement can be found. Dobbs remains under contract with the network.

One of Dobbs’ biggest supporters was former president Donald Trump, who regularly retweeted clips from the show while he was in office. He released a statement expressing support for the 75-year-old pundit.

“Lou Dobbs is and was great. Nobody loves America more than Lou. He had a large and loyal following that will be watching closely for his next move, and that following includes me,” Trump said.

Dobbs has been retweeting other messages of support since his cancellation, including some that are critical of Fox’s decision and chalk the move up to the network attempting to steer itself away from Trump-supporting conservatives.

Liberals have meanwhile flooded social media, celebrating not only Dobbs’ cancellation, but calling for boycotts and the firing of some of Fox’s other biggest hosts and most vocal conservatives, including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson.

“Crazy works… until it doesn’t. If @FoxNews were wise, this should be beginning of house-cleaning. Clearly, there’s a market for conservative TV, but with truth and sanity cemented in its foundation. January 6th changed the equation. If they are to survive, they must change too,” journalist Ron Mott tweeted.

Controversial veteran reporter Dan Rather predicted Dobbs was just the beginning, as did other media pundits, some noting that Dobbs’ high ratings should have been a “shield” and likely signify a major shift for Fox.

Source: ‘Now fire Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson’: Liberals call for BIGGER PURGE at Fox News as canceled Lou Dobbs shares tweets of support

IGNORED BY THE MEDIA ELITES AND FBI: List of 20 Individuals at the Capitol on January 6th – All Appear to be Connected to Antifa or Far Left Groups | The Gateway Pundit

For weeks the FBI, Democrats, and the fake news media have insisted there was no Antifa or far-left activist infiltration of the January 6th protests where activists stormed the US Capitol.

We already know this is false.  The individuals who entered the US Capitol and caused damage on January 6th were not all Trump supporters. 

Known members of Antifa were inside the Capitol and there was even an Antifa event called for that day at 11 AM nearby at the Washington Monument organized by John Sullivan that was closer to the US Capitol than the Ellipse where President Trump spoke to half a million supporters.

We also have presented footage of individuals who appear to be Antifa handing out weapons at the Capitol.

 

Recently The Gateway Pundit put together a list of 20 individuals who were at the Capitol on January 6th.  We are asking law enforcement and internet sleuths to help us identify these individuals who do not appear to be Trump supporters.  Some appear to be Antifa and others are known to be members of Antifa.

We looked at hours of video footage and created a list of some of the most violent individuals at the Capitol and others inciting violence and partaking in activities that Antifa is known for.  Many of these individuals appear to be related to Antifa and some have already been identified:

Persons of Interest Numbers 1 and 2

2 Individuals – 1 Adult Male (John Sullivan) & 1 Adult Female (Jade Sacker)

Approximately 20 Minutes Before Ashli Babbitt’s Murder – Inside Capitol Building

Inciting a Riot / Impersonating MAGA – John Sullivan arranged an Antifa event at the Capitol on January 6th and was there at the Capitol building to film the massive crowd of people. He was wearing a MAGA hat and mingling with the Trump supporters as one of them. He was accompanied by Jade Sacker who has connections to NPR and CNN who was also filming. When they breached the capitol building, John can be heard saying things like “We need to burn this B*&tch down!” and corralling people to go further into the building. When John and Jade were standing in the Rotunda, Jade exclaims “You were right, we did it!”, and John replied “I was trying to tell you… I couldn’t say much. You just have to watch my chat. Is this not going to be the best film you ever made in your life?” Clearly illustrating that they knew of and were part of a plan to breach the Capitol building.

John was also in the direct vicinity of the murder of Ashli Babbitt, and he was actively trying to convince the law enforcement officers to stand down and allow them through the closed doors. This ultimately ended with Ashli Babbitt being shot and killed by Capitol police from the other side of the closed door.  Because Sullivan was behind bringing in Antifa to the event he is likely responsible for the most violence inside the Capitol and a possible accomplice to the death of Ashli Babbitt.

Link to Original Footage by John Sullivan – CLICK HERE

Link to Footage Showing John Sullivan and Jade Sacker in the Rotunda –CLICK HERE

Link to Footage of John Sullivan Detailing the Murder of Ashli Babbitt on Scene – CLICK HERE

Link to Footage of John Sullivan and Inciting the Riot – CLICK HERE

Links to Related Gateway Pundit Stories – CLICK HERE  – AND HERE  –  OR HERE

Persons of Interest Numbers 3 and 4

2 Individuals – 2 Adult Males

At the time of Ashli Babbitt’s Murder – Inside Capitol Building

Inciting a Riot / Destruction of Federal Property – Individual wearing the red MAGA hat and yellow ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag draped around the front of his chest, in possession of a Kevlar helmet. He handed the Kevlar helmet to the individual wearing the fur hat and black t-shirt. Both individuals began aggressively hitting and kicking the glass door as officers stepped aside and watched. The individual wearing the fur hat, removed his hat and began hitting the glass door with the Kevlar helmet. Ashli Babbitt attempted to climb through the door and she was shot and killed.  Then individual number 1 went down the stairs and changed his clothes standing next to the police.

Link to Original Footage – CLICK HERE

Related Gateway Pundit Story – CLICK HERE

Persons of Interest Numbers 5, 6 and 7

3 Individuals – 2 Adult Males & 1 Adult Female

4:15 PM – Near capitol steps, under tree cover

Acting suspicious – Attempting to conceal “MAGA” apparel. In possession of protective vests. Dressed in all black w/ black gear and black backpacks – similar to the attire of known Antifa agitators. The individual filming sneaks up behind them, says “Caught Em!” and then runs away from the three individuals. When the individuals realized they had been filmed, one or more of them chased the person filming demanding that he “Delete that!!”. It also appears as though the three individuals may have been inside the capitol at some point; on the ground near their belongings, there is a floor marker from inside the capitol.

Link to Original Footage – CLICK HERE

Person of Interest Number 8

1 Individual – 1 Adult Male

12:53 PM – Near capitol perimeter fencing

Inciting a Riot – Individual aggressively throws the gate on the ground and breeches the perimeter of the restricted area. He proceeds to walk up and down the fence line yelling at the crowd of individuals on the other side of the gate, encouraging/demanding that they follow him toward the restricted area of the Capitol grounds. Dressed in black w/ combat style gear / protective vest – similar to the attire of known Antifa agitators. He appears to be alone.

Link to Original Footage – CLICK HERE

Persons of Interest Numbers 9, 10 and 11

3 Individuals – 2 Adult Males / 1 Adult Female

Video Timestamp 02:06:00 – Outside of Capitol Building

Suspicious Activity / Inciting a Riot – Two male individuals were dressed in protective gear, carrying back packs. They were inciting the riot and encouraging people to follow them to breach the capitol building. The female appears to be with the two men.

Link to Original Footage – CLICK HERE (Time stamps are on the photos)

Person of Interest Number 12

1 Individual – 1 Adult Male or Female

Video Timestamp 02:26:00 – Outside of Capitol Building

Suspicious Activity – Individual dressed in protective gear with a back pack was pepper sprayed. Their response was “Well at least we get $1,000.00 guys.”. This individual is also seen in the vicinity of Ashli Babbitt’s murder.

Link to Tear Gas Footage – CLICK HERE (02:26:00)

Link to Ashli Babbitt Footage – CLICK HERE (01:13:00)

Person of Interest Number 13

1 Individual – 1 Adult Female

Multiple Times/Locations –Inside and Around Capitol Building

Suspicious Activity and Inciting a Riot / Destruction of Federal Property –Individual appeared to be alone and was inciting people in and around the capitol. She used a bullhorn to speak to people inside the Capitol building to give them directions to where the congress members were located. She also used a large log style object to try to break down a door from the outside of the building.

Link to Original Footage – CLICK HERE

Persons of Interest Numbers 14 and 15

2 Individuals – 2 Adult Males

Video Timestamp 12:20 to 12:45pm

Suspicious Activities related to Inciting a Riot and Setting up Photo Shoots of people attacking the police: Individuals were setting up photo shoots and attacking police.  These two individuals were recognized from previous Portland riots.

Link to Footage HERE

Persons of Interest Numbers 16, 17, 18, 19  and 20

5 Individuals – 5 Adult Males

Video Timestamp towards the end of the riots in the pm

Appear to be removing weapons from the Capitol Building:  As we reported previously these individuals appear to be removing weapons from the Capitol in a coordinated fashion.  Crowding around a small window so difficult to see what was going on. 

Link to Footage HERE

This list of individuals appear to be coordinated.  They were attempting to incite the crowd.  They also were attempting to discredit Trump supporters at the Capital by wearing Trump gear.  Some if not all were involved in violent activities.  They all appear to be connected to Antifa.  Some are known to be connected to Antifa.

This is our initial list of agitators and individuals who appear to be related to Antifa who were at the Capitol on January 6th.  We ask law enforcement to identify and investigate these individuals who appear to be committing crimes and were involved in instigating a riot on that day.

Source: IGNORED BY THE MEDIA ELITES AND FBI: List of 20 Individuals at the Capitol on January 6th – All Appear to be Connected to Antifa or Far Left Groups

A Proper Christian Response to Sexual Sin in Our Culture | Crossway by Carl R. Trueman

February 06, 2021 by: Carl R. Trueman

Be Shocked, Not Surprised

To any Christian who is surprised by the kind of sexual behaviors and sexual identities we’re seeing emerge at the moment, I would give a two-fold answer. I would say you should be shocked, because this is not a trivial thing. There are a lot of sins outlined in Scripture, but sexual sin seems to have a particular cachet. Paul has very, very strong things to say about the man who sleeps with a prostitute, because sexual sin involving union with somebody who isn’t his wife carries a particular horror for Paul.

You only have to look at the history of society to know that sexual desire is often one of the most powerful, powerfully creative, and powerfully catastrophic forces within human history. So I would say to any Christian: you need to remain shocked by this. Do not allow the normalization of pornography, the normalization of wickedness to dull your senses to the outrageous horror of what is being perpetrated.

But I’d also say this: don’t be surprised, because there is a long-standing history of what’s going on today and you can see how this has emerged over time. The speed can be breathtaking. The speed has caught us all by surprise. But, when you actually go and get down into the history of philosophy, the history of technology, and the history of culture over the last two- or three-hundred years, it becomes obvious that what’s happening now is the result of deep-seated and long-standing causes. So it may be slightly odd to put it this way, but be shocked, but not surprised. Human beings are capable of doing all kinds of terrible stuff, and all of the elements are in place for the sexual revolution to have taken place, and indeed, to continue moving forward.

Do not allow . . . the normalization of wickedness to dull your senses.

What will fall next? Will it be the taboo on incest? Will it be the taboo on pedophilia? I hope the taboo on neither falls, but I think we have to accept that the conceptual framework for holding those things in place has long since vanished. So be shocked, but do not be surprised. If you are surprised by this, then you will get overly depressed by it. Do not be surprised. Prepare for it.

Carl R. Trueman is the author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution.


Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College. He is an esteemed church historian and previously served as the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and Public Life at Princeton University. Trueman has authored or edited more than a dozen books, including The Creedal ImperativeLuther on the Christian Life; and Histories and Fallacies. Trueman is a member of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.


Related Articles

Source: A Proper Christian Response to Sexual Sin in Our Culture

Sen. Lankford Shows Colleagues Photos of Unborn Babies and Challenges Them: ‘Is That a Child or Not?’ — Christian Research Network

(CNS News) – Sen. James Lankford (R.-Okla.) stood on the Senate floor on Jan. 27 in front of an illustration that included ultrasound photos of unborn babies.

Then he asked his colleagues a simple question: “Is that a child or not?”

“Among our most basic rights in America, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, one of the most basic things that come out of our founding documents is these things are referred to as self-evident,” said Lankford….

“Facts are facts, especially when those facts have a face. How can you look at that picture and say, ‘That’s not a human child?’

“How can we not acknowledge the simple facts?” Lankford. WATCH THE VIDEO. View article →

Sen. Lankford Shows Colleagues Photos of Unborn Babies and Challenges Them: ‘Is That a Child or Not?’ — Christian Research Network

February 6 Morning Quotes of The Day

Faith, Hope, and Love Go Together
Romans 12:12; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 11:1

There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither love nor hope without faith.

AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

Ritzema, E. (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Early Church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Wondrous Is the Strength of Cheerfulness
Ecclesiastes 2:24; Colossians 3:23–24

Give us, oh, give us the man who sings at his work! Be his occupation what it may, he is equal to any of those who follow the same pursuit in silent sullenness. He will do more in the same time—he will do it better—he will persevere longer. One is scarcely sensible of fatigue while he marches to music. The very stars are said to make harmony as they revolve in their spheres. Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, altogether past calculation its powers of endurance.

THOMAS CARLYLE

Ritzema, E., & Vince, E. (Eds.). (2013). 300 quotations for preachers from the Modern church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 6 Morning Verse of the Day

19:7 The second part of the psalm extols specific revelation; that is, revelation in verbal form through divine inspiration (e.g., Ex 20:1; 1 Co 2:9–10; 2 Pt 1:21). The law did not come from a sun god, but from the Lord, the sovereign Creator. His revelation is open to all, to guide them in righteousness; the full revelation of the Godhead will come in Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1–3). Critical interpreters have suggested that this psalm is a composite of two psalms because of the sudden shift here from the realm of nature to the realm of Israelite law. Such a view ignores that God’s moral law—His principles for human behavior—are grounded in the structure of the universe (Rm 1:17–25). The creative power of God underlies the integrity of the law. The relationship of the created and moral orders was aptly expressed by Immanuel Kant: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above me, and the moral law within me.”[1]


19:7 law. Torah, the most general term for the law.

reviving the soul. God’s Word transforms the lives of those subject to that Word.

making wise. Wisdom is not superior intellectual power. God’s Word instills reverence for God.[2]


19:7 is perfect The Hebrew word used here, tamim, means to be “perfect” or “blameless”; it emphasizes personal integrity.[3]


19:7 On law, see note on 1:2. perfect. See note on 19:13. reviving the soul. That is, giving refreshment (see Prov. 25:13, “refreshes the soul”; Ps. 23:3 uses a similar expression). Sure, or trustworthy. simple. See Introduction to Proverbs: Character Types in Proverbs.

19:7 The close relation between God’s instruction through creation (vv. 1–6) and through his law (vv. 7–14) anticipates the role of Christ as mediator in creation and redemption (Col. 1:15–20).[4]


19:7, 8 Each of 4 parallel lines contains a word (a synonym) for God’s Word; each describes what His Word is; and each pronounces what it effectually accomplishes.[5]


19:7. In verses 7–9 David described the efficacious nature of the Law of the Lord. Just as the sun is the dominant feature of God’s natural revelation (vv. 4c–6), so the Law was the dominant element in God’s specific revelation in the Old Testament.

The perfect Law of God (cf. “flawless” in 12:6; 18:30; Prov. 30:5) can change people. It revives the soul and the Law’s statutes can be trusted to make one wise.[6]


7. “The law of the Lord is perfect;” by which he means not merely the law of Moses but the doctrine of God, the whole run and rule of sacred Writ. The doctrine revealed by God he declares to be perfect, and yet David had but a very small part of the Scriptures, and if a fragment, and that the darkest and most historical portion, be perfect, what must the entire volume be? How more than perfect is the book which contains the clearest possible display of divine love, and gives us an open vision of redeeming grace. The gospel is a complete scheme or law of gracious salvation, presenting to the needy sinner everything that his terrible necessities can possibly demand. There are no redundancies and no omissions in the Word of God, and in the plan of grace; why then do men try to paint this lily and gild this refined gold? The gospel is perfect in all its parts, and perfect as a whole: it is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it.

Converting the soul.”—Making the man to be returned or restored to the place from which sin had cast him. The practical effect of the Word of God is to turn the man to himself, to his God, and to holiness; and the turn or conversion is not outward alone, “the soul” is moved and renewed. The great means of the conversion of sinners is the Word of God, and the more closely we keep to it in our ministry the more likely are we to be successful. It is God’s Word rather than man’s comment on God’s Word which is made mighty with souls. When the law drives and the gospel draws, the action is different but the end is one, for by God’s Spirit the soul is made to yield, and cries, “Turn me, and I shall be turned.” Try men’s depraved nature with philosophy and reasoning, and it laughs your efforts to scorn, but the Word of God soon works a transformation.

The testimony of the Lord is sure.” God bears his testimony against sin, and on behalf of righteousness; he testifies of our fall and of our restoration; this testimony is plain, decided, and infallible, and is to be accepted as sure. God’s witness in his Word is so sure that we may draw solid comfort from it both for time and eternity, and so sure that no attacks made upon it, however fierce or subtle, can ever weaken its force. What a blessing that in a world of uncertainties we have something sure to rest upon! We hasten from the quicksands of human speculations to the terra firma of Divine Revelation.

Making wise the simple.” Humble, candid, teachable minds receive the word, and are made wise unto salvation. Things hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed unto babes. The persuadable grow wise, but the cavillers continue fools. As a law or plan the Word of God converts, and then as a testimony it instructs; it is not enough for us to be converts, we must continue to be disciples; and if we have felt the power of truth, we must go on to prove its certainty by experience. The perfection of the gospel converts, but its sureness edifies; if we would be edified it becomes us not to stagger at the promise through unbelief, for a doubted gospel cannot make us wise, but truth of which we are assured will be our establishment.[7]


Ver. 7. The law of the Lord is perfect.The best book:

I would not have you forget the true and proper mission of the Bible,—to reveal saving truth. But it is well to remember that, even as a classic, no book equals the Word of God. The Bible has exercised a remarkable influence in the department of literature. “The English tongue would lose its grandest monument if the works which the Bible has inspired were blotted from it.” Religious books, of course, get everything from the Bible; but writers with no distinctly religious object are enormously beholden to its inspiration. There is not a notable book—a book of transcendent genius or power—which has not culled from the Word of God either thought or illustration or telling phrase. We need not, even in an age of advanced education and culture, be ashamed of the Bible. Its study will confer as much credit on our intellect as on our piety. We are not such Bible readers as were our fathers. This is one evil of the multiplication of books. In this generation we are better educated, we know more than our fathers. But have we the same robust and vigorous intellects? It seems to me that there is a deterioration in this respect along with our neglect of Bible study. There are three things which should make the Bible popular among young people—

  1. Its fervid style. There is not a dull passage, if we except a few chronologies and such like, from Genesis to Revelation.
  2. Its exuberance of illustration. It is a book of pictures.
  3. Its practical wisdom. If you live seventy years you will not have gathered all the practical wisdom you may learn now from studying the Bible. Do not forget that you may find in the Bible eternal life. (A. F. Forrest.)

The Bible a book for all nations:

Of what is not the Bible the foundation and the inspiration? To what interest of human life does it not give its great benediction? The system of doctrine and duty which the Bible contains is a fixed final system, not a progressive one, and one introductory to a higher, and the Bible will never become obsolete, and will never be supplemented by any other revelation. This proposition has been most flatly contradicted. It is argued that the Bible has accomplished a very good purpose in the world, but it cannot long satisfy the world’s need, because it does not keep pace with the world’s progress. By and by we shall need a broader basis on which to construct the religion of the future. A time, it is said, must come when the theological will be too narrow in its range for the demands of the race, and too dogmatic in its tone for the more liberal, general, comprehensive religion of the future. We are invited to mark the universality of this beautiful law of progressive development in nature, in literature, in the fine and in the useful arts, in human laws and institutions. But those who reason thus overlook the distinction between the apparent and the real progress of man. The true progress of man is the progress of man’s self, apart from all organisation. Those who eulogise modern progress confine their attention to what man does to promote his convenience and comfort. How absurd it is to mark the progress of a man by that which a man manipulates and moulds and makes subservient to his use! The Bible is the book for the soul, and God put into it exactly those truths that He knew were calculated to regenerate the soul. Unless the soul needs to be made over, and given new facilities, you do not want a new Bible, or any annex to the old one. There is another great distinction to keep in mind. While the Bible is fixed and will never be supplemented, the principles contained in it are admissible of universal and of endless application, and for that reason the Bible will never need to be supplemented. It is with the Bible as it is with nature. No new laws have been given to nature from the beginning. And yet how constantly are men discovering laws that for long ages were hidden from human eyes: and men of science will tell you that there are now many latent forces in nature awaiting the genius of the occasion when they shall be discovered and applied to the use of man. What the world wants is not a new Bible, or new principles, or new truths, but the recognition of the old, and the legitimate application of the old to the purposes for which they were intended. So when new forms of old errors arise, we do not want a new Bible to find new truths with which to antagonise these old errors. The fact is, there are no new forms of scepticism. We do not need any other Bible, or a supplement to the old, because the Bible is a book that has a friendly voice and a helping hand to every race. Here is a book equally adapted to the Oriental and the Occidental mind; adapted alike to the Mongolian and the Circassian mind; adapted to all the different divisions into which society is divided. The Bible is sufficient for the world’s need, because it goes down to the very foundation of man’s mental and moral structure, and takes hold of that which is sinful in his soul’s life. As long as sin and sorrow are in the world, so long will this book take hold of that which is deepest, and truest, and profoundest in the soul’s immortal life. And the Bible gives us a perfect ideal in the character of our blessed Saviour. Moreover, we do not need a new Bible, because we do not want any new motives to the practice of the greatest virtue. (Moses T. Hoge, D.D.)

The perfect law:

“The law of the Lord” is the Bible phrase for describing the duty which God requires of man. This law embraces all those principles by which our inward life of disposition and desire and our outward life of word and action ought to be guided. It is an expression of the Divine will respecting human conduct. But perhaps the most correct view of the Moral Law is that contained in a sentence which has often been used in the pulpits of Scotland, “the Law is a transcript of the character of God.” Justice and truth and love are the very elements, so to speak, of His own moral being; they have an inherent rightness, and so, while it is true that they are right because He wills them, a deeper truth is that He wills them because they are right. In other words, while the authority of the law rests upon the Divine will, the law itself has its basis in the Divine nature. The law of the Lord is woven into the very nature of the universe. It is graven in indelible lines on the conscience of man. But we must turn to the Holy Scriptures for the fullest exhibition of the Moral Law. The Bible, however, is not a hand-book of morals after the common style. We do not find in it a systematic exposition of law for national or individual life; and even those parts of it which, to some extent, have this appearance, come far short of being a full expression of the perfect law. The Mosaic economy, for example, looked at in the light of the higher attainments and the wider wants of Gospel times, is admittedly an imperfect economy on its moral as well as on its ceremonial side. No one would dream of introducing into modern law its enactments respecting (to take a case) usury or divorce. In the same way the moral lessons taught by those histories of nations and individuals of which the Bible is largely composed are often doubtful. All this impresses us with the necessity of some guiding principle to enable us to gather from the rich variety of Holy Scripture the law of God—His will for our guidance. Where, then, shall we go for this guiding and testing principle? We answer without hesitation—to Jesus Christ Himself. The chief corner-stone of the Church is also the chief corner-stone of Christian morality. He came “to show us the Father,” and so in Him, in His own character and conduct and teaching, we have the clearest and most authoritative revelation of the Father’s law. We cannot over-estimate the value of having the law of God exhibited in a life as opposed to any statement of it in words. In the life of our blessed Lord, as recorded in Holy Scripture and interpreted to His followers by the Holy Spirit and by the providence of God, we have the final standard of moral theory and practice. He is the incarnate Law. Having defined what the law of the Lord is, we pass on to see wherein its perfection lies, and for one thing, it exhibits the quality of harmony. Every lover of art knows that the chief excellence of a painting lies in the consistency of its various parts and their subordination to the main design. A similar principle applies to music. What is true of beauty presented to the eye or ear holds good of truth and righteousness, the beauty which the mind only can perceive. The ultimate test of any new doctrine lies in its harmony with those Scripture-sustained convictions which we have already formed. The law of the Lord has this crowning element of perfection—it is a harmonious unity whose parts never jar or clash. Of course, we are quite familiar with the objection that one precept of Holy Scripture sometimes comes into antagonism with other precepts. The obedience which a child owes to God, for example, can only be rendered sometimes by disobedience to a parent whom God has commanded the child to obey. We revert to our definition of the law, and reply that this objection confounds the law which is perfect and eternal with particular commandments which are from the nature of the case inadequate and temporary expressions of the law. The commandment may be inadequate, for it is only the verbal form in which the spiritual principle is clothed, and the letter can never exhaust or completely unfold the spirit. The commandment, moreover, may be only the temporary form of the eternal law. The Decalogue is indispensable on earth, but how many of the relations which it is intended to regulate will have ceased to exist, or be radically changed, in heaven! Thus the particular precepts of the law may be temporary, but the law of the Lord which is perfect abides in all its force wherever intelligent beings are. (D. M‘Kinnon, M.A.)

A tribute to the law of God:

The law is characterised by six names and nine epithets and by nine effects. The names are law, testimony, statutes, commandments, fear, judgments. To it are applied nine epithets, namely, perfect, sure, right, pure, holy, true, righteous, desirable, sweet. To it are ascribed nine effects, namely, it converts the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, enriches like gold, satisfies like honey, warns against sin, rewards the obedient. The central thought or conception about which all gathers is that of law. There is a profound philosophy in this passage. It presents Jehovah as Lord, i.e. “Law-ward,” or guardian of law. We are to conceive of God’s law as—

  1. A perfect rule of duty, having a basis of common law beneath all its statutory provisions, an eternal basis of essential right and wrong. “Thou shalt” and “thou shalt not,” based upon eternal principles, not upon an arbitrary will. We are to think of this fabric of law as—
  2. Supported like a grand arch, upon two great pillars: reward and penalty. The whole passage is therefore a challenge to our adoring homage and obedience.
  3. The law is a perfect product of infinite wisdom and love, (Rom. 7:12, 14) “holy, just, good, spiritual.”
  4. It is enforced by Divine sanctions of reward and penalty, and these are each equally necessary to sustain the law and government of God. The testimonies and the judgment are equally perfect. The love that rewards and the wrath that punishes are equally beautiful and perfect. The transcendent thought of the whole passage is that obedience is a privilege.
  5. Law is the voice of love, not simply of authority, therefore only love can truly fulfil.
  6. Obedience is self-rewarding and disobedience self-avenging. The general thought of this whole passage is, obedience the highest privilege.
  7. The law is the expression of Divine perfection; hence leads to perfection.
  8. Of the highest love; hence must be interpreted by love and fulfilled by love.
  9. Of the highest bliss—key to blessing; hence the door to promises.
  10. “Our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.” Cannot justify, but only conduct to the obedient One who can justify. (Homiletic Monthly.)

The perfect law of God:

By the law we may understand the entire written Word.

  1. The character of the law. Perfect, that is, complete and entire. See the testimony—
  2. Of Moses (Deut. 6:6–8).
  3. David, throughout the Psalms, as here in our text.
  4. Jesus, the Son of God.
  5. Paul (1 Tim. 3:14, 16).
  6. Peter.
  7. Its effects. “Converting the soul.” Note what conversion is, the great spiritual change in a man’s heart.

III. Practical lessons.

  1. That it is not enough to have a mere intellectual acquaintance with the Word of God.
  2. The vast criminality of those who would withhold the Word of God from men.
  3. How dangerous and wicked to turn from it to the lying fables of deluded or designing men. (J. Allport.)

The light of nature:

It was not in the material heavens, which with all their grandeur the Psalmist had been contemplating, that he found the lesson of perfection. He turned from them to the law of the Lord, and there he found it. With all that the contemplation of nature is able to do, it cannot regenerate the spirit. Neither poetry nor philosophy can help man in the great exigencies of life. None of them can do any good to a dying man. The damps of the sepulchre put out their light. Nor is this to be wondered at. The works of nature were not made to last; hence how can they teach lessons for immortality? They may serve man in many ways here, and aid his piety too, if he be a converted man. But they will never convert him. Man needs the Bible to convert him to God and to fit him to die. This truth has to be insisted on in our day which speaks so much of “the light of nature,” and which subjects the Bible to its pretended discoveries. But we maintain that it is insufficient, and for proof we appeal—

  1. To fact—history. Glance—
  2. At the heathen world—the people are in gross darkness.
  3. At antiquity—they knew nothing of immortality, or the holiness of God. They never had any natural religion; what they had was all unnatural, monstrous. Reason failed them. They knew nothing certainly, though they made many conjectures; what little light they had came from tradition and through the Jews.
  4. The scriptures themselves. These teach that the heavens declare the glory of God, but they do not say that man was ever converted thereby.

III. The inconclusiveness of the arguments employed by the disciples of nature. They say, nature teaches the existence of one God. But until the Bible has taught you this you cannot know it. What we see would rather teach that there are two deities, a good and a bad one. And, in fact, without the Bible men never did believe in the unity of God. And so of the Divine attributes. His unchangeableness and goodness, His spirituality and His will, the sanctions of His law and the immortality of the soul. The real utility of all the light of nature on the subject of religion consists in this: that it demonstrates its own insufficiency for teaching us a single important truth, and thus turns us over to the Word of God; and having done so, shines as a constant witness, and everywhere, to impress the lessons of Bible-teaching upon us. It strikes the infidel dumb, and aids the devotions of the Christian, living or dying. But alone it teaches nothing. God never said it could. And its reasonings, proudly called in the schools “science” and “philosophy,” vanish into smoke when we touch them. You will never read God’s world rightly till His Word teaches you how. After it has taught you you may gather proofs of religion from nature which you could not gather before. The lesson is in nature; but nature is a sealed book to a sinner. It may silence a sceptic, it cannot satisfy a soul. She has no Christ to tell of, no atonement, no pardon, no firm foothold on immortal work. She cannot make men wise or good or happy, or inspire with blessed hope. (T. S. Spencer, D.D.)

Converting the soul.—The restoration of the soul:

  1. What is here meant by conversion? In margin it is rendered “restoring.” This restoring the soul is from its fall in Adam to its salvation in Christ.
  2. From the darkness of ignorance to the light of Divine knowledge. Ignorance is general where the means of knowledge are not realised. The light of Divine knowledge, employing and enriching the understanding, is essential to the restoration of the soul.
  3. From the oppressive weight of contracted guilt to a state of conscious acceptance with God (Rom. 5:1).
  4. From inward depravity, derived from our first parents, to a conformity to the moral image of God. The removal of guilt from the conscience, and the being “sanctified wholly,” are distinct attainments in the Christian life.
  5. From a state of misery to the possession of real happiness. How can men but be miserable in sin!
  6. The means by which this restoration is effected. By the perfect law of the Lord. For law read doctrine. This doctrine is—
  7. Divine in its origin.
  8. Pure in the means of its communication.
  9. Harmonious, and well adapted to the condition of man in all its parts.
  10. Energetic in its operations. Improvement,—ministers must understand the doctrine of the Lord before they can make it known to others. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

The Word of God converting the soul:

The text might be read, “The doctrine of the Lord is perfect restoring the soul.”

  1. The soul of man in its natural state requires to be converted or restored. See how abundant is the Scripture testimony to this truth. Even the best men have confessed their need. David says of himself, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity,” &c. There has been but one bright exception amongst men, and that is “the Man Christ Jesus.” He alone “knew no sin.” It is the exception which proves the rule.
  2. But many take exception to this by denying the fact of the perversion of the human soul. “As for God, His way is perfect,” as may be clearly seen from those of His works which sin has not depraved. But as for man, Scripture and experience alike attest that he has “corrupted his way.”

III. By denying that man’s recovery is possible. But wherefore? Is anything too hard for the Lord? Cannot He who at first made man upright remodel him after His own image?

  1. By denying the adequacy of the means of recovery. It is said the Word of God is not an adequate instrument. But experience has proved the contrary. For the word, or doctrine, of the Lord is perfect, complete. It will never fail of the desired issue in those who come to the study of it in a right spirit. (Thomas Dale, M.A.)

The excellency of Holy Scripture:

There are two methods which God has taken for instructing mankind. He has taught them by the glories of creation and by the words of Holy Scripture. But man as a sinner has no ear to hear the voice of God in His works. It is only by the revealed works of Scripture that he can find the way of pardon and holiness.

  1. The excellent properties of the Word of God. As a law it is perfect. Nothing can be added to it, nothing taken from it. It contains all our duty and all our consolation; all that is necessary to make us happy and holy. The writings of the heathen philosophers contain a few mutilated principles and some fine sentiments, but they are not directed to any great end, nor are they complete in themselves. As a testimony the Word of God is sure. Considered as the solemn witness and attestation of God to all those truths which concern man’s everlasting salvation, it is sure. It comes with a force and authority to the conscience. It follows that the statutes of the Lord are right. The equity and holiness of them equal their completeness and certainty. They are in all respects true and just and excellent. There is nothing harsh, nothing defiling, nothing erroneous, nothing arbitrary in them. They have not only authority, but goodness on their side. It is a further property of the Word of God that, as a commandment, it is pure. The Bible is a clear and perspicuous rule of duty. Its pure light has no need of proofs, reasonings, evidences, or study. When considered as producing the fear of the Lord it is eternal. The obligations of revealed truth are perpetual.
  2. The surprising effects which the Word of God produces.
  3. It converts the soul. This is the first thing the fallen creature needs. Scripture begins, where man’s necessities begin, with the heart. It unfolds the depravity of our nature. It exhibits the astonishing scheme of redemption in the death of the incarnate Saviour.
  4. After conversion follows joy.
  5. The sincere student will advance in knowledge.
  6. It induces a holy, reverential fear of God. Impress the high and affectionate regard which we should pay to Holy Scripture. (Daniel Wilson, M.A.)

Revelation and conversion:

Trees are known by their fruit, and books by their effect upon the mind. By the “law of the Lord” David means the whole revelation of God, so far as it had been given in his day. It is equally true of all revelation since. We may judge by its effects upon our own selves.

  1. The work of the Word of God in conversion. Not apart from the Spirit, but as it is used by the Spirit, it—
  2. Convinces men of sin: they see what perfection is, that God demands it and that they are far from it.
  3. Drives them from false methods of salvation to bring them to self-despair, and to shut them up to God’s method of saving them.
  4. Reveals the way of salvation through Christ by faith.
  5. Enables the soul to embrace Christ as its all in all, by setting forth promises and invitations which are opened up to the understanding and sealed to the heart.
  6. Brings the heart nearer and nearer to God, by awakening love, desire for holiness, &c.
  7. Restores the soul when it has wandered, bringing back the tenderness, hope, love, joy, &c., which it had lost.
  8. Perfects the nature. The highest flights of holy enjoyment are not above or beyond the Word.
  9. The excellence of this work. Its operations are altogether good, timed and balanced with infinite discretion.
  10. It removes despair without quenching repentance.
  11. Gives pardon, but does not create presumption.
  12. Gives rest, but excites the soul to progress.
  13. Breathes security, but engenders watchfulness.
  14. Bestows strength and holiness, but begets no boasting.
  15. Gives harmony to duties, emotions, hopes, and enjoyments.
  16. Brings the man to live for God and with God, and yet makes him none the less fitted for the daily duties of life.

III. The consequent excellence of the Word.

  1. We need not add to it to secure conversion in any case.
  2. We need not keep back any doctrine for fear of damping the flame of a true revival.
  3. We need not extraordinary gifts to preach it, the Word will do its own work.
  4. We have but to follow it to be converted, and to keep to it to become truly wise. It fits man’s needs as the key the lock. Cling to it, study it, use it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)[8]

19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes … making wise the simple. The “law” (torah) is a general term for God’s self-revelation. It comes from a verb (yrh) that means “to point out” or “teach,” thus giving us “instruction,” a meaning the Prophets and Wisdom literature often give to the term (e.g., Ezek. 7:26; Prov. 13:14). This law is “perfect” (temimah, “whole” or “complete”; see comments on Ps. 15:2), “refreshing the soul” (Ps. 23:3 uses the same Hebrew terms). The Greek idea of “soul” is not intended here, but in Hebrew parlance, “soul” (nepesh) was the self or the essence of the person. The word translated “statutes” is really a singular noun (‘edut), bearing the meaning of attested truth. In Exodus 25:16 it refers to the “testimony” (NIV: “tablets of the covenant law”) placed in the ark. The Lord’s statutes make the uninstructed (“the simple”) wise.[9]


[1] Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 807). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 753). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 19:7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 961). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 19:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 808). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, pp. 272–273). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[8] Exell, J. S. (1909). The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 343–348). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.

[9] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 136). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

God’s Mirror — Daily Devotionals by Thoughts about God

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”  Romans 5:20

We gaze into the mirror every morning. 

The reflection may reveal unpleasant wrinkles and aging, yet this doesn’t keep us from our next appointment with the mirror.

The law of God is like a mirror. It simply reveals the truth that we are sinners. No more, no less. God wants us to see ourselves as he sees us. For example, when we look into the mirror – the law of God – we might hear the command “Do not lie”, and we see that we are liars.

His law reveals the knowledge of our sins and declares that no one is justified in his sight (Romans 3:19-20). Unlike the mirror in our bathroom, this often frightens us, and so we run away from it.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit brings us back to God’s mirror. 

He knows this is our tutor to lead us to Jesus. Believer, the law of God has been your friend. It opened the passage to the narrow path, bringing you to the cross of your Savior where your sins were paid in full.

And you who attempt to be justified by solely keeping the Ten Commandments? Understand that whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of all (James 2:10) unless they accept Jesus as their Savior.

Pick up the mirror of God. What do you see in the reflection? Don’t be afraid, only repent. Jesus will not turn you away. He’s waiting for you.

Thank you, merciful Lord, for showing us what we didn’t want to see. This was your power and grace at work in our hearts! Thank you for revealing Jesus, our Savior who forgives undeserving sinners. Amen.

Look in the mirror. What do you see first, your flaws or your good points? What do you think God sees first when he looks into your soul? With Jesus in your life, you can be sure he sees Christ’s goodness.

By Rich Vega
Used by Permission


FURTHER READING

• Let Your Light Shine
• Beauty out of Brokenness

Learn more about knowing Jesus at: https://thoughts-about-god.com/four-laws/

God’s Mirror — Daily Devotionals by Thoughts about God

Pride & Prejudice Today — Daily Devotionals by Thoughts about God

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”  Galatians 6:3-5

There is a classic movie based on a book written by Jane Austen that portrays how both personal pride and prejudice affect relationships. Much misunderstanding and hurt occurs when these two attributes collide!

However, it is human nature to try to judge or cast blame on others rather than to acknowledge one’s own sin. In our minds, we naturally reason that it is almost always “someone else’s fault” that our personal world is in a mess! If only a situation was different, then we would be truly happy, or if someone would not have done what he or she did, then it would not have ruined the day!

My father often states, “There are two kinds of people in the world — saved sinners and unsaved sinners.” His point is that no one has the right to throw stones at someone else (John 8:1-7) because we are all in the same sinful state apart from the salvation that was bought by Jesus’ death on the cross. As Romans 3:23 says, For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”

Comparing ourselves to others usually leads to an unhealthy pride in ourselves and prejudice against others which comes across as judgmental whether it is meant to be or not. We each have our own “load” to carry in life, and we can be proud of ourselves when we are faithful in each task God has given us, and a little less concerned about what our brother or sister is or is not doing!

Father God, help us to focus on our own issues and stop comparing ourselves with others around us. Our self-worth is built on being your children and honoring you with what we do and say, so please teach us to love and accept others as you have made them, just as you love and accept us with all of our faults. Amen.

Today, when you find yourself being critical of someone else, acknowledge this to God, and ask him to give you his eyes to see that person as he sees him or her.

By Karen Woodard
Used by Permission

Pride & Prejudice Today — Daily Devotionals by Thoughts about God

How Many Prayers? – Daily Devotional from Truth For Life

Remember this, and let it fill your heart with gratitude to God: Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.

What countless prayers we have offered from the first moment we learned to pray. Our first prayer was a prayer for ourselves; we asked that God would have mercy upon us and blot out our sin. He heard us. But when He had blotted out our sins like a cloud, then we had more prayers for ourselves. We have had to pray for sanctifying grace, for constraining and restraining grace; we have been led to crave for a fresh assurance of faith, for the comfortable application of the promise, for deliverance in the hour of temptation, for help in the line of duty, and for comfort in the day of trial. We have been compelled to go to God for our souls, as constant beggars asking for everything.

Remember, child of God, you have never been able to get anything for your soul anywhere else. All the bread your soul has eaten has come down from heaven, and all the water it has drunk has flowed from the living rock—Christ Jesus the Lord. Your soul has never grown rich in itself; it has always been dependent upon the daily provision of God; and consequently your prayers have ascended to heaven for a vast range of spiritual mercies. Your wants were innumerable, and therefore the supplies have been infinitely great, and your prayers have been as varied as the mercies have been countless.

So then have you not reason to say, “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy”? For as your prayers have been many, so also have God’s answers been. He has heard you in the day of trouble, has strengthened you and helped you, even when you dishonored Him by trembling and doubting at His throne. Remember this, and let it fill your heart with gratitude to God, who has graciously heard your poor, weak prayers. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”1

1) Psalm 103:2

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

  • — Read on www.truthforlife.org/resources/daily-devotionals/2/6/1/