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December 11 THE NEED FOR REVERENCE

God is greatly to be feared…and to be had in reverence.

Psalm 89:7

Many persons who have been raised in our churches no longer think in terms of reverence, which seems to indicate that they doubt God’s presence is there! Much of the blame must be placed on the growing acceptance of a wordly secularism that seems much more appealing than any real desire for the spiritual life that is pleasing to God.

We secularize God; we secularize the gospel of Christ and we secularize worship!

No great and spiritually-minded men of God are going to come out of such churches, nor any great spiritual movement of believing prayer and revival. If God is to be honored and revered and truly worshiped, He may have to sweep us away and start somewhere else!

Let us confess that there is a necessity for true worship among us. If God is who He says He is and if we are the believing people of God we claim to be, we must worship Him! In my own assessment, for men and women to lose the awareness of God in our midst is a loss too terrible ever to be appraised!

Dear Lord, forgive me for those times when I rush right in and start “dumping” my complaints and needs on You without first acknowledging and honoring You as the Almighty God. I humbly bow before You, Lord.[1]


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

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December 11 Parable of the Sower: Superficial Hearers, Part 2

The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.—Matt. 13:20–21

Those who only superficially receive the gospel might be baptized, join a church, and seem for a long time to be Christians. But trials and testings will eventually expose such persons’ spiritual lifelessness. Such difficulties are not the ordinary hardships of life but the problems encountered “because of the word.” When the Christian life’s demands get too severe, the person discontinues any pretense of following the Lord.

“Falls away” is the translation of skandalizō, the Greek verb that means to cause to stumble and can include the concept of offending someone. We get the English scandalize from it. All these ideas fit the superficial hearer because when something really tests his or her faith, they stumble, become offended, and abandon the gospel (cf. John 8:31; 1 John 2:19).

If a person’s profession of salvation doesn’t include real conviction of sin, a strong desire for the Lord, and a love for His Word, along with willingness to suffer for Him if need be, it’s only a matter of time before that one renounces any previous profession of faith.

It is encouraging, however, that the same kind of tribulation that makes the false believer wither makes the true believer stronger. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12); but “after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

ASK YOURSELF

Everything of real value comes with a cost. Why should Christianity be any different? Where do we get the idea that following Christ should require little effort and be met with little resistance, both from within and without?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 354). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

December 11 Deliverance from Temporary Distress

I know this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:19

Today’s verse shows the value of confident trust in God. Paul knew his current distress was only temporary and that he would be delivered from it.

Why was Paul convinced of his deliverance? His statement, “I know this will turn out for my deliverance” is a quote of the Greek version of Job 13:16. Job was a righteous man who suffered greatly, yet he was delivered because God always delivers the righteous. Job said, “After my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26). He knew that either temporally or eternally God would deliver him.

Paul knew he could trust God to deliver him just as God had delivered Job. He was confident his circumstances would work out for good, whether he was released from prison, vindicated at his trial, and delivered from execution or passed into glory as a martyr. You may not face the same trials as Paul, but whatever your circumstances, the same confident trust is available to you.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 372). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

December 11, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

11–12 The Lord was faithful in changing circumstances. The psalmist returns to the dominant motif of this psalm—Yahweh the Vindicator. He is the Lord who effectually changed wailing into dancing, mourning into joy, and a deathly cry into a song of joy (v. 11). Such is the goodness of God. Notice how Calvin, 1:489, observed this over four hundred years ago: “But however much God may terrify and humble his faithful servants, with manifold signs of his displeasure, he always besprinkles them with the sweetness of his favor to moderate and assuage their grief.”

Because of the mercy of the Lord, the psalmist vows to continue in the praise of God (v. 12b). The NIV translates “glory” (kābôd; see 7:5) as “heart.” The word occurs in parallelism with “soul” (7:5; NIV, “life”) and so frequently refers to the whole human being or existence. He will glorify the Lord! To this end he was redeemed, because he had argued, “Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” To this end the Lord vindicates his servant in the presence of his enemies (cf. v. 1; 23:5; 2 Th 1:5–10). Alter, 135, senses the magnificence of the psalmist’s language: “It is through language that God must be approached, must be reminded that, since his greatness needs language in order to be made known to men, he cannot dispense with the living user of language for the consummation of that end.”[1]


David celebrates god’s answer (vv. 11–12)

David returns to the point with which he began. His heart is filled with thanksgiving because God had heard and answered his prayer. Those who have been saved have been chastised, and those who have been chastised are eager and ready to praise when the chastisement is over.[2]


30:11 Now back to David. Verses 9 and 10 give us his prayer to God when he was in the throes of his illness. Then between verses 10 and 11 the answer comes. He is healed by the Lord. The last two verses of the Psalm celebrate his recovery. For David it was like the difference between the mourning of a funeral and the joy of a wedding. Or to change the figure, it was like a new suit of clothes. God had removed his sackcloth and dressed him up in garments of gladness.[3]


30:11–12 I Will Give Thanks Forever. The experiences in which sorrow has turned to joy lead the psalmist, and all who worship with him, to expect to sing God’s praise and give him thanks (cf. v. 4) forever. My glory is a poetical term in the Psalms for one’s whole being (cf. 16:9; 108:1).[4]


30:11 You have turned my wailing into my The psalmist returns to his praise of thanksgiving as he describes the faithful restoration Yahweh provides.

By proclaiming his thanksgiving, the psalmist shows the benefit of Yahweh’s deliverance; Yahweh’s deliverance enables him to praise Yahweh and proclaim his thankfulness. The psalmist encourages others to praise and give thanks with him (vv. 4–5).

dancing Represents a joyous celebration (Jer 31:13).

sackcloth A sign of mourning. See note on Neh 9:1.[5]


30:11, 12 mourning into dancing: The psalmist has been transformed and renewed because of God’s blessing on his life. He boasts in God as he fulfills his vow of praise. My glory refers to the psalmist’s inner being (16:9).[6]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 301). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Ellsworth, R. (2006). Opening up Psalms (p. 95). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 591). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 974). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 30:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 668). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

December 11 GROWING ADMIRATION FOR GOD

Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power; thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee.

—Exodus 15:6-7

Then there is admiration, that is, appreciation of the excellency of God. Man is better qualified to appreciate God than any other creature because he was made in His image and is the only creature who was. This admiration for God grows and grows until it fills the heart with wonder and delight. “In our astonished reverence we confess Thine uncreated loveliness,” said the hymn writer. “In our astonished reverence.” The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much within the constitution. Never breaks over our bylaws. He’s a very well-behaved God and very denominational and very much one of us, and we ask Him to help us when we’re in trouble and look to Him to watch over us when we’re asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn’t a God I could have much respect for. But when the Holy Ghost shows us God as He is we admire Him to the point of wonder and delight. WMJ022-023

Maybe it’s time, Lord, for You to show us a new and unusual vision of Your majesty and power! Come among us in power and restore to us a sense of wonder, astonishment and delight. Amen.[1]


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

December 11 God’s Unfathomable Ways

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:8

✧✧✧

Christ’s humiliation displayed God’s wisdom.

Somewhere along the path of Christ’s descent, you’d think He would have said to Himself, These people really aren’t worth redeeming. This is too degrading and humiliating! But the grace and love of God toward sinners was such that Christ stooped to die for you and me. At the end of Paul’s doctrinal survey of salvation in Romans, he said, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (11:33). He was in awe of God’s plan of salvation—a plan no man would have devised.

If we had planned the Incarnation, we probably would have wanted Christ to be born in a palace. His family would have been wealthy and prominent, and He would have been educated in the finest universities with elite teachers and the best tutors. We would have orchestrated events so that everyone loved, revered, honored, and respected Him. He would have been in all the prominent places and met all the prominent people.

We would not have had Him born in a stable to a poor family. He would not have spent His youth in a carpenter’s shop in an obscure town. Rather than a ragtag band of followers, we would have made sure He had only the best people as His disciples, and they would have had to pass stiff qualifying tests for the privilege.

We would not have allowed Him to be humiliated. We would have imprisoned or executed anyone who spit on Him, pulled His beard, mocked Him, or hurt Him. Our plan for the Messiah would have been very different from God’s plan, and, as a result no one could have been saved. It’s no wonder the psalmist said, “Thy judgments are like a great deep” (Ps. 36:6). God’s ways are unsearchable, His truths profound. And His plan to redeem us was accomplished by Christ’s humiliation.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Daniel prayed, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him” (Dan. 2:20). Like Daniel, worship the only wise God, who saved you.

For Further Study: Read 1 Peter 2:21–24. What did Christ leave you (v. 21)?[1]


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

December 10 Daily Help

THERE are times in our spiritual experience when human counsel or sympathy, or religious ordinances, fail to comfort or help us. Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because we have been living too much without him, and he therefore takes away everything upon which we have been in the habit of depending, that he may drive us to himself. It is a blessed thing to live at the fountain head. Having nothing of our own to trust to, but resting upon the merits of Jesus. Beloved, when we are brought to a thirsting condition, we are sure to turn to the fountain of life with eagerness.[1][1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 348). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

December 10, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

To Keep from Losing His Reward

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. (9:16–18)

the reward was not for the message or the ministry of the gospel

Paul spoke of boasting in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31), “boasting in things pertaining to God” (Rom. 15:17), and such. Even more often he spoke of rejoicing in the gospel, of glorying in the cross, and supremely of glorying in Jesus Christ. But he says, if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of.

He gloried in the gospel but not for it. He had absolutely nothing to do with the giving or the content of the gospel. He simply received the revelation. Nor was he boasting of his commitment to or ability in preaching the gospel. He did preach the gospel, more diligently than anyone of whom we know, but for this he was under compulsion. The Lord stopped him short one day on the road to Damascus, as he was on his way there to persecute Christians. At that time he was set apart as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:3–6, 15; 26:13–18; cf. Rom. 11:13). Paul chose God’s call in the sense that he was not “disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19), but he really had no choice. He was under compulsion.

As Paul realized later, God had set him apart even from his “mother’s womb” (Gal. 1:15). Like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:13–17), Paul was called and ordained by God before he was born. And like Jeremiah, Paul could refrain from preaching. When frustrated and despondent because of rejection and ridicule, Jeremiah tried to stop preaching but could not. “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it” (Jer. 20:9). To the Colossians Paul said, “I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me” (Col. 1:25).

At some time or another, every preacher whom the Lord has called will realize that he is under God’s compulsion. It is not that God’s calling cannot be ignored, neglected, or slighted, but that it cannot be changed. The man who resists God’s call or tries to give it up will, like Jeremiah, experience a “burning fire shut up in [his] bones” until he obeys. He has no choice.

Ramond Lull, the Spanish mystic, lived a careless and luxurious life for many years. He wrote that in a vision one night Christ came to him carrying a cross and said, “Carry this cross for me, Ramond.” He pushed Christ away and refused. In a later vision the same thing happened: Christ offered the cross and Ramond refused it. In a third vision Christ laid the cross in the man’s arms and walked away. “What else could I do,” Ramond explained, “but take it up?”

Added to that sense of constraint is a serious and compelling responsibility, which Paul articulates in the words, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. In effect, he says that failure to obey that call would result in his suffering serious chastisement. The severest judgments are promised on unfaithful ministers (James 3:1).

Paul gladly preached the gospel, but he did not do it voluntarily. Against my will does not indicate he was unwilling to obey but that his will had no part in the call itself. It was not his choice to serve Christ, so consequently, he did not receive a reward but a stewardship. He was under obligation to preach, for which he neither deserved nor expected reward.

Stewardship indicates that someone gives us something or some responsibility that is valued to them, which we are to care for properly. That is the case in every call to minister. God gives the minister what He highly values for safe care, and promises stern discipline to the one who falls short. Paul uses the interjection woe (ouai) to indicate the impending pain.

the reward was for preaching without charge

Having mentioned what his reward could not be for, Paul now mentions what it would be for.

What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. (9:18)

The gospel was thrust on Paul; he was under compulsion to preach it, and would have been in serious trouble with the Lord if he had not. But he was not under compulsion in regard to payment for it. In that he was entirely free to expect support from those he served. He chose not to be paid because he wanted it that way, not because it was necessary. In that choice he found great satisfaction and joy, and for that choice he knew he would receive a reward.

He was determined not to make full use of [his] right in the gospel. He would work after hours, day and night, to earn his own living rather than be a burden to those he served or cause them to think he was in the ministry for the money.

With great happiness and satisfaction Paul forsook a liberty, he refused to take advantage of a right, in order to make a contribution of his very own to the work of Christ.[1]


16–17 If Paul, then, does not preach in order to support himself financially, what does motivate him? While he offers other motivations elsewhere (e.g., 2 Co 5:14), here Paul says that there is simply within his heart an inner “compulsion” (anankē, GK 340) to preach—a trait apparent in certain of the OT prophets (e.g., Jer 20:9; Am 3:8). Moreover, Paul goes so far as to pronounce a prophetic “Woe!” upon himself if he does not preach the gospel—and do so free of charge. The word ouai (“woe,” GK 4026) occurs frequently in the OT prophets to denote coming disaster and even divine judgment (e.g., Isa 3:11; 5:8–25; Eze 13:3, 18; Am 5:18). The notion that Paul is looking ahead to a heavenly reward is very much a part of the picture in this section (vv. 18, 24–27).

18 Paul does not want to receive any monetary reward for his work as a missionary-apostle. What, then, is his payment (misthos, GK 3635, “wages,” “recompense,” “reward”)? It is the inner reward that comes from knowing that he is preaching voluntarily, offering the gospel free of charge, and not making use of his right to gain his support from preaching. In this way, Paul shows his own application of the principle offered in his earlier discussion on whether to eat meat sacrificed in an idol temple. While he felt a personal right to eat such meat, he voluntarily would not exercise that right so as not to put a stumbling block in the way of the gospel (8:13).

But in the present discussion of receiving support for his ministry, how could accepting money from his converts hinder the progress of the gospel? David Garland, 419, points out several possible answers to this question: (1) Some people might not believe the gospel if they knew it would lead to financial obligations. (2) Others might see a contradiction between Christ’s grace being free but becoming a Christian not being free. (3) Paul perhaps did not want to become a “slave” to a patron donor who supported his ministry and who could then control the content of his preaching (“money is power”). (4) Paul wished to dissociate himself from other religious hucksters in the ancient world, some of whom made a good living from flowery rhetorical appeal.[2]


9:16 / This verse lays out the situation Paul faced in preaching the gospel. He preached because God had commissioned or commanded him to do so. It is not to his credit that he preached; he would be in a deplorable situation had he not done so. God’s commission made it necessary for Paul to preach the gospel, and for him to fail to fulfill that charge would be awful, unthinkable.

9:17 / Paul explains how he derives a benefit from his obedience to God’s command to preach that he would not have received had he taken his rightful payment for his services. By not taking support, Paul did not claim his rights. He gave up his own rights for the benefit of being able to offer something to God and to others that he would not have had to offer otherwise. Paul’s practice is simple, although it is so selflessly odd, so God-centered, and so much for the sake of others that we have difficulty grasping his line of thought. Above all, Paul aims to contribute something to the accomplishment of the mission that God gave him.

9:18 / As he concludes this section of the letter, Paul continues to explain why he preached without pay or support from the churches that he founded and to which he ministered. Amazingly, Paul’s reward is that he takes no reward! Paul preached because he was commissioned to do so, and by not taking his due he gave up his own rights as an offering to God. Paul made an offering of his preaching to God, and in so doing he demonstrated his freedom (9:1) by providing his services freely to the church. By refusing to accept support, Paul preached according to God’s commission, but he did not take advantage of the rights of support that God afforded him in conjunction with the command to preach. Paul gave his services to God free of charge, so that ironically his dividend was found in registering no charge.[3]


9:16–17. Paul wanted to continue the practice of preaching without pay. He explained that he could not boast simply because he preached the gospel. He insisted, I am compelled to preach. In other words, he had no choice. God had called him to preach, and he had to fulfill that obligation or fall under divine judgment.

How did Paul enhance his preaching ministry? He preached voluntarily so he might receive a reward. Paul frequently spoke of himself and of other Christians being motivated to service by a desire for reward and praise (Rom. 2:29; Gal. 6:4–10; Col. 3:24). Eternal reward motivated him as it should all believers. Paul did not want to lose his eternal rewards for preaching willingly and eagerly and without pay. If he preached begrudgingly or received pay, he believed he would be doing nothing more than simply discharging the trust committed to him. To raise his preaching above the level of mere obedience, Paul voluntarily gave up his right to remuneration.

9:18. To sum up the matter, Paul asked what his reward was. This verse presents a number of complexities. If one reads the verse as a question and answer, then two understandings are possible. First, many interpreters have understood Paul to say that preaching was a reward in itself. To preach the gospel free of charge, and in so doing not to make use of his rights for pay, was sufficient reward. But in the light of 9:17, it seems better to understand Paul in another way. The second interpretation is that Paul knew he would one day receive a reward for having preached without remuneration. Christ would reward Paul for not seeking his own benefit in this world.

This verse may also be translated entirely as a question. It would thus read, “What then is my reward so that, when I preach the gospel, I offer it free of charge so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel?” Paul may have been asking what great reward motivated him to forfeit his rights by offering the gospel free of charge. In this case, his answer would come in 9:23: “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”[4]


16. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about. I am compelled to preach, for woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel.

When Jesus called Paul on the road to Damascus, he told him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and to the people of Israel (Acts 9:15; 26:15–18). When he began his ministry, Paul proclaimed the good news to the Jews in the synagogues of Damascus and Jerusalem. He then taught in the church in Antioch and from there went to Cyprus and Asia Minor to acquaint Jews and Gentiles with Christ’s gospel. As he reveals in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, “I testified to both Jews and Greeks that they turn in repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). Because Paul was appointed to preach, he did not see that task as a reason for boasting. Instead, his commission from the Lord compelled him to preach. Paul wanted to complete the task which the Lord Jesus had given him, namely, preaching the gospel to both Jews and Greeks.

“For woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel.” Paul raises the lament which the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles raised. Like Paul, these men were overcome by the urgency of uttering the message God gave them. Jeremiah said that God’s Word was like a fire in his heart and in his bones (Jer. 20:9) and Amos writes that because God has spoken he must speak (Amos 3:8). Peter and John, standing before the Sanhedrin, tell this ruling body that they cannot help but speak what they have seen and heard concerning Jesus Christ (Acts 4:20).

The phrase woe to me describes the greatest misery imaginable for Paul. He would bring this misery upon himself if he proved disobedient to his divine mandate to preach. He must preach the gospel of salvation—in his own words to Timothy, “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). If not, he would incur God’s wrath and its consequences. Paul is a slave of Jesus Christ, as he often notes in his epistles (see, e.g., Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Titus 1:1), and as such he faithfully executes his task (Luke 17:10).

17. If I do this of my own choice, I have a reward. But if I do so under compulsion, I simply fulfill the stewardship entrusted to me.

This verse is obscure, and the first part fails to correspond properly to the message of the previous verse (v. 16). The second sentence fits the context, for Paul indicates that he is under divine obligation to preach the gospel. The problem, then, lies in the first part of the verse, particularly with the word reward. Paul seems to retrace his steps in the following verse (v. 18), where he asks and answers the question what his reward is. With his repeated use of the first person pronoun (four times), he calls attention to himself.

  • “If I do this of my own choice.” If we see this verse as continuing the explanation about Paul’s rights as a preacher, the difficulties remain but no longer appear insurmountable. The Corinthians cannot understand how Paul fails to defend his rights as a preacher. They view him as a preacher who has come to them of his own free will. But Paul informs them that if he had come to them of his own choice, he would have expected monetary compensation from them. Then he would have a reward.
  • “But if I do so under compulsion, I simply fulfill the stewardship entrusted to me.” Paul writes the word stewardship to show that although he is an apostle with rights (vv. 1–6), he serves Jesus as a steward (see 4:1). In Paul’s day, stewards were slaves who were given the responsibility of managing their master’s household, estate, or financial affairs.

Paul knows that he has received his stewardship from Jesus himself. Whether a steward does his task by choice or under compulsion, his responsibility remains unaltered. If such a person fulfills his task not of his own will but because his master assigned it to him, he is merely a steward. He is like the servant in the parable who plowed his master’s field, prepared his master’s supper, waited on him, and finally had a free moment to eat and drink. He received no expression of gratitude for his labors, because he was his master’s servant. Similarly, God’s servants should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty” (Luke 17:10).

18. What then is my reward? When I preach the gospel, I offer it free of charge so as not to make full use of my authority in the gospel.

  • “What then is my reward?” Paul realizes that in his discourse he failed to explain the word reward in the first sentence of the preceding verse (v. 17). Now he turns his attention to it and gives his explanation. Paul’s desire to be obedient to his divine commission is evident in many epistles (e.g., 15:9–10; Gal. 1:15–16; Eph. 3:8–9). He regarded his commission to preach as a privilege. As a slave of Christ he willingly obeyed his Sender and thus received a reward. This reward is not something Paul desires for himself. He proclaims the gospel free of charge (v. 18).
  • “When I preach the gospel, I offer it free of charge. “Jesus commanded that the worker should receive his pay (Luke 10:7). In a sense, the phrase preach the gospel denotes as much the preaching as the actual living in accordance with the gospel. Those who preach the gospel should receive their income from the gospel (v. 14). But Paul refuses to avail himself of his apostolic right and calls his preference to preach the gospel without pay his “boast” (v. 15). He labels his action not to accept payment for his work in the ministry his “reward” (v. 18). Conversely, if he had been told to preach for a certain sum of money, he would have been thwarted in his purpose. The gospel would have been proclaimed, but Paul’s reason for boasting would have been taken away.

By not receiving remuneration for his services, Paul was free from obligation to anyone. No one could ever lay a claim on Paul because of some monetary accountability (see 2 Cor. 11:7). In this freedom, Paul could actively proclaim the good news to everyone.

The purity of Paul’s motive is aptly illustrated with a parallel taken from the medical world. “A physician may attend the sick from the highest motives, though he receives a remuneration for his services. But when he attends the poor gratuitously, though the motives may be no higher, the evidence of their purity is placed beyond question.” Paul preached the gospel free of charge—indisputable evidence of his pure motive.

  • “So as not to make full use of my authority in the gospel.” This second part of the sentence not only further explains the first part, but also concludes the entire segment on Paul’s apostolic rights. Paul knows full well that he has the apostolic right to make his living from the gospel, but he chooses to ply the trade of the tentmaker. He uses his other rights but does not receive financial recompense. The last three words of the sentence, “in the gospel,” should be taken with the word authority and should not be understood as an abbreviated reference to preaching the gospel. Paul gratuitously offers his services in regard to the gospel.

We raise two questions. First, why did Paul choose to preach the gospel without charge? He certainly did not do it to gain higher praise than the other apostles, who did exercise their apostolic right. Even though Paul writes that he worked harder than the others, he attributes praise and thanks to God (15:10). The thought of performing work for his own advantage was repugnant to Paul. He worked for the sake of the gospel and its increasing influence in the world.

Second, is Paul asking preachers of the gospel to imitate him? The answer is a resounding no. Nowhere in Paul’s epistles do we find any evidence that preachers should abrogate the command Jesus gave the workers in his kingdom. If a minister of the gospel has an independent source of income and offers his services free of charge, he is free to make that choice. But that choice is his own and he can never require it of others. In the same way, Paul made a choice to supply his financial needs by working at his trade, but he could never demand this of his fellow workers.[5]


9:16 Paul is saying that he cannot boast in the fact that he preaches the gospel. A divine compulsion is laid upon him. It is not a vocation that he chose for himself. He received the “tap on the shoulder” and he would have been a most miserable man if he had not obeyed the divine commission. This does not mean the apostle was not willing to preach the gospel, but rather that the decision to preach did not come from himself, but from the Lord.

9:17 If the Apostle Paul preached the gospel willingly, he would have the reward that goes with such service, namely, the right of maintenance. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, it is clearly taught that those who serve the Lord are entitled to support from the Lord’s people. In this passage, Paul does not mean that he was an unwilling servant of the Lord, but is simply stating that there was a divine compulsion in his apostleship. He goes on to emphasize this in the latter part of the verse. If he preached against his will, that is, if he preached because there was a fire burning within him and he could not refrain from preaching, then he had been entrusted with a stewardship of the gospel. He was a man acting under orders, and therefore he could not boast in that.

Verse 17 is admittedly difficult, and yet the meaning seems to be that Paul would not claim his right of maintenance from the Corinthians because the ministry was not an occupation which he chose by himself. He was placed in it by the hand of God. The false teachers in Corinth might claim their right to be supported by the saints, but the Apostle Paul would seek his reward elsewhere.

Knox’s translation of this verse is as follows: “I can claim a reward for what I do of my own choice; but when I act under constraint, I am only executing a commission.”

Ryrie comments:

Paul could not escape his responsibility to preach the gospel, because a stewardship (responsibility) had been committed to him and he was under orders to preach even though he was never paid (cf. Luke 17:10).

9:18 If then he could not boast in the fact that he preached the gospel, of what would he boast? Of something that was a matter of his own choice, namely, that he presented the gospel of Christ without charge. This is something he could determine to do. He would preach the gospel to the Corinthians, at the same time earning his own living, so as not to use to the full his right for maintenance in the gospel.

To summarize the apostle’s argument here, he is making a distinction between what was obligatory and what was optional. There is no thought of any reluctance in his preaching the gospel. He did that cheerfully. But in a very real sense, it was a solemn obligation that rested upon him. Therefore in the discharge of that obligation there was no reason for his boasting. In preaching the gospel, he could have insisted on his right to financial support, but he did not do this; rather he decided to give the gospel without charge to the Corinthians. Since this was a matter of his own will, he would glory in this. As we have suggested, Paul’s critics claimed that his working as a tentmaker indicated that he did not consider himself to be a true apostle. Here he turns his self-support in such a way as to prove that his apostleship was nonetheless real; in fact, it was of a very high and noble character.

In verses 19–22, Paul cites his example of the waiving of legitimate rights for the gospel’s sake. In studying this section, it is important to remember that Paul does not mean that he ever sacrificed important principles of the Scripture. He did not believe that the end justified the means. In these verses he is speaking about matters of moral indifference. He accommodated himself to the customs and habits of the people with whom he worked in order that he might gain a ready ear for the gospel. But never did he do anything which might compromise the truth of the gospel.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 209–211). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 338). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (pp. 186–187). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 148–149). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 300–303). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1776–1777). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

December 10: Constructing Lives by the Law

Jeremiah 18:1-18; Romans 2:12-29; Proverbs 16:12-33

Dispensing good, helpful advice gets the benevolent juices flowing. As easy as it is to give advice, though, it often hits me with the irony of a cartoon anvil when I end up tripping over my own counsel. When this happens, I’m convicted to examine my motives for advice-giving.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul challenges the superior mindset that was common among some Jewish people at the time: “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve the things that are superior, because you are instructed by the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light to those in darkness, and instructor of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Therefore, the one who teaches someone else, do you not teach yourself?” (Rom 2:17–21).

Paul is explaining why looking to the ot law for righteousness is futile. No person could perfectly keep the law. By holding to it, they were in fact condemning themselves. Paul even points out that some Jews thought they had attained a higher moral standing because of their knowledge of the law—and believed they were in a position to teach others. Yet they were still breaking the law.

It’s easy for us to discard this as an early church issue. Yet we still sometimes take comfort in “keeping the law” today. If we cling to our own good behavior rather than the righteousness we have in Christ, we commit the same sin. We can attempt to live like a saint—we can cultivate a reputation for goodness and dishing out wisdom—but we’ll set ourselves up for imminent failure because we can never keep up the pretense of godly behavior on our own.

However, if our “circumcision is of the heart”—if we trust in Christ’s sacrifice for our righteousness and the Spirit is working in us—then our hearts will be in the right place. That place is where we know we are great sinners, and where we are receptive to His transforming work to bring us into complete loyalty to Him. Then we will seek God’s favor, not the favor and superiority we crave from others.

If our lives are truly changed, we will be motivated to love others out of the love God shows us. That will give us the right perspective for seeing the transformation that God is working in their hearts. And it will free us to give the best advice of all: Seek God in everything.

What are your motives for giving advice?

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

December 10 The Sacrifice and Exaltation of Christ

“When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

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Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice for all the sins of mankind, then sat down with the Father once He had accomplished it.

The Bible makes it perfectly clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Jesus Christ went to the cross, died the death we deserved, and consequently freed us from the penalty of sin by our faith in Him.

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that Christ “does not need daily, like those [Old Covenant] high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27). In the Old Testament, the priests had to make continual sacrifices, but Jesus made only one. And not only was He the priest, but also the sacrifice! He made a tremendously potent sacrifice, for He forever purged our sins—something the Old Testament sacrifices could never do.

When His sacrifice was complete, “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3, emphasis added). That is significant, because the Old Testament priests never sat down; there were no seats in the sanctuary because they offered sacrifices day in and day out. But Jesus offered one sacrifice, finished it, and then went to the Father and sat down. What the Old Testament sacrifices couldn’t accomplish, Christ’s did for all time.

As a result, God exalted Him to His right hand, the seat of honor and rule and rest. But perhaps most important, it is the place where Christ intercedes to the Father on our behalf (Rom 8:34).

Don’t ever forget what Jesus accomplished for us—and what He still does for us: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank Jesus for His sacrifice on your behalf. Also thank Him for the salvation He has given you and the access you now have to God.

For Further Study: Read Hebrews 9:1–10:18 to gain a deeper understanding of Christ’s ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament priestly system. In what specific ways did He fulfill it?[1][1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 357). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

The Government is Bad and He is Good

Daily Devotions

Did you like Bill Clinton? Was Mr. Bush more to your liking? Do you look with longing at the days of Barak Obama? What is your view of Donald Trump? Who do you want next?

Is there a term that describes your political posture? Are you more liberal, progressive, moderate, or conservative? In your views, are you more inclined to side with the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or “none of the above?”

Where are you in regards to:

  • Tax Cuts, Budget Deficit, and our National Debt
  • Single Payer Health Care, Fiscal Responsibility, and a Competitive Marketplace
  • Border Security, Immigration Law, DACA, and Amnesty
  • Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia, North Korea, and Jerusalem
  • Marriage Definitions, Gender Definitions, and Religious Liberty
  • Standing for the Anthem, Pledge, Police, or Abused Brothers

Whoever you are, I am fairly sure you are frustrated. Approval numbers for all three branches of government are pathetic, and at any point, on…

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Miley Cyrus Tells Young Fans to Worship Satan to Have Stardom

Absolute Truth from the Word of God

I think that the tragedy of entertainer Miley Cyrus telling her young fans to worship Satan pales in comparison to parents who allow their children to see Miley acting out sexual moves onstage, and encouraging them to bow down to the enemy of God. These parents  know full well that their children are being subjected to this satanic rubbish.

AND THEY JUST DON’T CARE.

It is no secret any longer that Hollywood is the devil’s playground. During award shows, the public is subjected to blatant satanic entertainment and devilish hand signals from the audience. My husband and I have chosen not to watch these shows and we have not for quite a while.

Many from Hollywood are casually coming out and admitting that their stardom was made possible by Satan. To soften the news, many call him Lucifer. We know of whom they speak.

When I was growing up in…

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