Category Archives: Daily Devotional Guide

February 26 Morning Verse of The Day

16:7 Saul also had appearance and stature, but he had proved unworthy.[1]

16:7 stature, because I have rejected him. The reference to “stature” as a false measure of an individual’s qualification to be king, along with the notice that this son of Jesse is “rejected,” is reminiscent of Saul, who was notable for his height (9:2; 10:23) but was rejected (15:23, 26).

the Lord looks on the heart. It is an axiom that God’s standards are inward, not outward (13:14 note; Rom. 2:28, 29). See “God Sees and Knows: Divine Omniscience” at Prov. 15:3.[2]

16:7 the heart God emphasizes that superficial and non-spiritual considerations are not to be critical criteria for the choice of God’s leaders.[3]

16:7 man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Outward appearance cannot predict whether someone will faithfully obey the Lord, for a person’s actions flow from his heart (cf. 2 Chron. 16:9; Ps. 51:10; Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:21–23; Luke 6:45; 1 Thess. 2:4). The “heart” in Scripture refers to a person’s inward moral and spiritual life, including the emotions, will, and reason.

16:7 The choice of David contrasts with people’s looking on outward appearance (10:23–24). The contrast prefigures people’s rejection of Christ’s humiliation and suffering (Isa. 53:3; 1 Cor. 1:18–31).[4]

16:7 his appearance … height of his stature. Samuel needed to be reminded that God’s anointed was not chosen because of physical attributes. This was initially a difficult concept for Samuel as he was accustomed to a king whose only positive attributes were physical. the Lord looks at the heart. The Hebrew concept of “heart” embodies emotions, will, intellect, and desires. The life of the man will reflect his heart (cf. Mt 12:34, 35).[5]

16:7 — But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Even a godly man like Samuel couldn’t help but judge a man’s character by his appearance. This is why we must continually go to the Lord for His wisdom; only He sees the heart.[6]

Ver. 7. Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature.God’s estimate of human availability:—

This enunciation of one fixed principle in the Divine government is of immense value as having a practical bearing upon all the mighty relations which each man sustains to his Maker.

  1. Let us try to analyse the statement on the negative side, to begin with. The Lord does not look upon the outward appearance in fixing His judgment of any human soul. It so happens that this very narrative actually specifies many of those particulars which men are wont to regard as highest in value.
  2. For example, the Lord does not look upon one’s social rank. The family of Jesse had no conspicuousness or remarkableness, as the world reckons. Moreover, David was the one that made it royal, and when he was chosen he was by no means the head of it. Good Lady Huntingdon used to say she thanked God for the letter M, for he did not tell Paul to say “not any,” but “not many.” Now it is certainly true that the best part of the world’s highest worth has risen from what would by some be called its lowest sources. It is usual to sneer at the plebian birth of Oliver Cromwell as well as that of Napoleon Bonaparte; but this had nothing to do with any vices they displayed or any virtues they possessed. These men were kings of other men by reason of a manhood which Charles the First never got from the contemptible Stuarts, nor Louis the Sixteenth from the more contemptible Bourbons. The pride of rank is prone to run into an extreme of superciliousness, of self-seeking, and of oppression. Cornelius Agrippa actually institutes an argument to prove that there was “never a nobility which had not a wicked beginning.
  3. Furthermore, the Lord does not look upon one’s family history. The lineage of Jesse, Obed, and Ruth was quite humble in its origin. David’s mother is not even mentioned by name in the Scriptures. It is pitifully mean and conceited for anyone to set himself up as meritorious because his family once had a hero among its members.
  4. Again, the Lord does not look upon one’s fortune. If anyone supposes that the wealth of the “rich kinsman” Boaz had come down by inheritance into this family estate, we are surely without hint that the property had anything to do with the lot of the shepherd-boy David.
  5. Nor does the Lord look upon one’s appearance. It is interesting to notice that in the margin of our English Bibles the words in the seventh verse of this chapter, “the outward appearance,” are rendered more literally “the eyes;” and also the words in the twelfth verse, “a beautiful countenance,” are rendered “fair of eyes.” That is to say, David is not chosen for his good looks, nor is Eliab rejected because of his; they may both have had fine eyes, but the Lord doth not regard such things in His selection of men for high service of Himself. John Milton was blind, and Thomas Carlyle was not considered attractive in showy company. Paul was diminutive and half blind, in bodily presence weak and in speech contemptible; “but,” says Chrysostom, “this man of three cubits’ height became tall enough to touch the third heaven.”
  6. Once more: the Lord does not look upon one’s age in making His choice of men. He sometimes selects children, and then trains them at His will. Polycarp was converted at nine years of age, Matthew Henry at eleven, President Edwards at seven, Robert Hall at twelve, and Isaac Watts at nine. God chooses His best workers often in the beginning of their intelligent existence; they that seek Him early are sure to find Him.
  7. Turn to the positive side of the statement concerning the Divine choice of men. The Lord does not look upon the outward appearance: what does he look upon? What is meant here by the word “heart?” “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” It is not necessary that we try to be abstruse and philosophical in giving an interpretation to this familiar word “heart.” The entire nature of the individual is brought into view.

III. In a sober review of what has already been said, it seems as if there might be wisdom in picturing our own lives for a little while, in holding them out before careful and discriminating analysis. Then we can put some fair questions.

  1. For example, this: Do we hope for God’s favour on the ground of a long line of personal recommendations? Some there are who conceive of their advantages as far higher than those of others, although many men with whom they compare themselves are on much superior elevations both in experience and in communion with God.
  2. Then again: this subject leads us to inquire whether our personal salvation is to be settled by what the world around us thinks about our showy piety, or by what the Lord Himself thinks. There is an outward sanctimoniousness which looks very like sanctity: will it all end the same way?
  3. Finally, in view of this subject, there would follow this question: How much of what worldlings prize will vanish when the Lord makes known His register of actual worth? Calmly does that eye of God keep gazing down upon men: it registers us all justly; and that estimate will stand for ever undisturbed. (C. S. Robinson, D.D.)

Outward appearance:—

Men of the world worship outward beauty, but if they find it nothing more than an appearance without a reality in manner and deed, it soon tires them. An old writer compares beauty to an almanac; if it last more than a year it is a marvel. Men weary of that beauty which is nothing more than an ornamental show. A modern writer aptly says that “the highest beauty is the expression of an honest heart and a sweet disposition.” There is a flower known by the name of “Imperial Crown,” which is admired on account of its showy appearance, but you throw it away because of its unpleasant perfume. The Lord values men and women, not by their diamonds, their gold, their carriages, and their titles, but by the purity of their heart and the helpfulness of their disposition. In God’s mind, there is no distinction of plebeians and aristocracy. The only nobility God recognises is the truth of the heart, and the goodness of the life.

  1. God has created us in order that we may acquire true beauty. If we are honest, we shall admit that in heart we are not beautiful. The New Testament confirms this; but the gospel is good news, revealing that every man may be transformed into the children of light by the indwelling of the beautiful spirit of God. When governed by the new nature, which God gives to every one that asks, all mankind shall become beautiful. He is still a man, but he has received the nature of a God. Do you think God sent you into the world only to stitch at that machine, or to go up a ladder with bricks, or to sweep that gutter? He sent you into the world to be made a beautiful being, with a holy character, a sweet disposition, an angelic life. Let us live for our high destiny. Do not be troubled though it takes many years to grow beautiful.
  2. If we would be beautiful in the sight of God, and exhibit this character to our fellow-men, we must learn His will, and do it, and on no account grieve Him.
  3. Another foundation for a beautiful character is that you are not only to love God, but also love your fellow-men. If you would be beautiful in your life, you must copy the disposition of Jesus, Who lived for one great object, namely, to bless and save mankind. (W. Birch.)

Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.—God’s estimate of human character:—

  1. God’s purpose claims a specific direction: the “Lord looketh on the heart.” What does this mean? David’s own understanding of the examination through which he in company with his brothers passed in this instance comes to view afterward in the rehearsal of one of his historic Psalms for the temple use: “The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.” The chief of all the words he here employs is “integrity:” this he accepts cordially for himself and repeats with equal candour for the aid of others. Now we know that the word “integrity” is derived from the Latin integer; and the meaning of integer is “whole;” and wholeness is our old strong Saxon for holiness. That is to say, what God means by stating that He looks upon, not the outside of a man, but his “heart,” is, that He considers the wholeness of one’s nature, and desires it to become holiness. He looks at each man through and through, and registers him by his soundness, his genuineness, his entire character.
  2. God’s purpose erects a fixed standard. A man’s “heart,” as thus understood in the religious sense and as worthy of the Divine regard, depends upon the thoroughness with which the man adjusts each exertion of his will to the Divine wall. That is to say, God’s heart is the test of man’s heart, God’s wish, God’s plan, God’s purpose—in a single word, God’s law—showing the perfect standard.

III. God’s purpose starts a permanent revolution in a human character. The most interesting verse in this narrative, as well as the most valuable, is that which announces how “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” It is wonderful to think of these changes now wrought upon this anointed stripling. Henceforth he is to be the shepherd of Israel; so he continues to manage his father’s flocks a while longer, in order that he may learn the shepherd’s duty. Henceforth he is to be the sweet singer of Israel; so he lingers out under Bethlehem sunsets and Syrian stars, in order that he may seek poetic images a while longer for some additional Psalms. Henceforth he is to be the monarch of Israel; so he is led a while longer among fierce outlaw experiences, consorting with the oppressed and the poor, in order that he may learn to understand his own subjects before he has hold of the sceptre by which be is to rule them wisely. And during this entire period this crownless king is hastening unconsciously forward in the lines of God’s unfaltering purpose. The Unseen One is the All-seeing One. He does not look on the outward appearance at all, save as one of His ways of knowing the man’s heart. This leads to another question: What is the use of wasting years of weary life in just trying to keep up appearances before men and women and before God? Oh, how full this old world is of those who spend their time and energy in fashioning parades of unreality and hypocrisy and emptiness, not one of which is looked on by God, not one of which is respected by men! And this, too, to the neglect of the heart, upon which are grounded the decisions of present favour and future destiny. What disappointments at the day of final reckoning there will be for men and women who have fought for a title, a star, or a ribbon, in the vain hope of being looked upon because of it! What disclosures of folly, what revelations of surprise! How ignoble their aims, how empty their achievements, how absurd their ambitions, how fierce their rivalries, how useless their victories, how unimportant even their worst defeats! The call of God does not confer on any one the privilege of pride or the indulgence of haughtiness; it calls a servant to service, and kingship comes further on. It only makes a true soul more knightly and more humble to know that he has been summoned in secret into the grand purposes of God. (C. S. Robinson, D.D.)

The standard of God’s judgment:—

  1. We learn the difference between God’s judgment and man’s. God looketh on the heart; man on the outward appearance. The greatest heart, in that family beat in the humblest bosom. God saw the only kingly heart in the shepherd boy, and He made him king. So the world stands before God. He divests men of the trappings of wealth, the robes of office, the assumptions of power. These things are temporal and adventitious circumstances, mere cobwebs we have woven round us. Man looks on the face, God on the heart; man on the body, God on the soul. Man’s judgment is false; God’s is true.
  2. Then we learn that appearances are often deceitful. Our race has had bitter lessons of this truth. Our first parents learned that the glittering folds of the serpent only covered the malignant spirit of the devil. How often have we learned “one may smile and smile and be a villain.” I remember that the grandest man I saw in the war, grand in the splendour of his military equipment, was an ignorant and presumptuous corporal; and the plainest and most unpretentious man was the greatest general. In the Saviour’s time the most pretentious men, who “thanked God they were not like other men,” were the Pharisees, who paraded their virtue and advertised their pride before the ignorant and astonished multitude.

III. We learn that honour belongs to no station. This man was a shepherd. His brothers were warriors. God put the shepherd over the soldiers. When He would select a man to write the immortal “Pilgrim’s Progress,” where did he find him? A noble from the English court? A professor from the Oxford faculty? No; but a tinker from Bedfordshire. Here is his own description of himself: “I was of low and inconsiderable generation; my father’s house being of that rank that was meanest and most despised of all families in the land. I never went to school to Aristotle or Plato, but was brought up in my father’s house in a very mean condition among a company of poor countrymen.” James A. Froude says of this man: “This is the account given of himself and his origin by a man whose writings have, for two centuries, affected the spiritual condition of the English race, in every part of the world, more powerfully than any other book or books except the Bible.” God saw the heart of a kingly man beneath the tinker’s coat of John Bunyan. Do you wonder at the astonishment of the people when a poor peasant stood up in the synagogue in his own village and said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Do you wonder that they said, “Is not this a carpenter, the son of a carpenter?” That is the language of men.

  1. Finally, let us be content with an humble station. David’s life is an illustrious example of this. He was, doubtless, never so happy or contented as when following his father’s sheep over Judea’s hills. His greater honours only brought him greater cares and greater sorrows. Then let us learn humility and contentment in our lot. (E. O. Guerrant, D.D.)

The imperfection of human insight:—

From the outset of David’s life, then, we may draw three important conclusions. First, that God makes choice of those to inherit His best blessings whose hearts He knows to be right. Secondly, to be very cautious in our opinions concerning ourselves. Thirdly, to be equally circumspect in our judgments concerning others.

  1. First of all it is to be observed, that, when the Scriptures speak of persons as ordained and predestinated to future blessings, it is only either because their lives and conversation are pleasing to God, or, if not so, because He foreknows that they will afterwards prove so. When it is said of Abraham that “he shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him;” a reason immediately follows: “For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment.” When the honour of giving existence to John the Baptist is bestowed on Zacharias and Elizabeth, the sacred historian takes pains to inform us that “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” When Cornelius was chosen to be the first-fruits of the Gentile harvest, we are told: “He was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.” The case of St. Paul, which is ordinarily brought forward as an especial proof of God’s arbitrary selection, is, indeed, a confirmation of what we are now saying. The heart of Paul was especially adapted for receiving, embracing, and diffusing the mercies of the Gospel. Man, who looked on the outward appearance, judged otherwise;—Ananias, who knew him only by the fame of his persecutions, would remonstrate with God: “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy name.” But the Lord replied as he did to Samuel; he confuted the proud self-complacency of human penetration, with “go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me.” Similarly in the text, the reason given for the selection of David from all the sons of Jesse is, “the Lord looketh on the heart.” The Lord knew the sincerity and the piety of his intentions, and therefore, although he was despised of men, he was accepted of God. This conduct of the Lord, with respect to David, is especially important, because it is only a sample of His dealings in regard to ourselves. The Lord is now looking on the heart of every one amongst us. It should be remembered that the greatest sinner may be anxious to preserve a good reputation with the world, because without this, it would be impossible to maintain a comfortable existence: but it should also be remembered that reputation is not virtue, but only its semblance: and those who strive to obtain a good name are generally successful, since man looketh only on the outward appearance. Doubtless, a good name is a valuable possession; but we are not to suppose that we are good precisely in proportion as we are so reputed. We may act from a desire to stand well with the world, instead of a wish to approve ourselves to God. Regard not the opinion of the world as any standard of your situation in respect of God. Like Eliab, you may win the admiration and affection of the world, and yet not be accepted by God.
  2. Moreover the Christian will acquire another important lesson from the text, as regards the consideration of his own condition. No one among us ought to esteem himself unhappily circumstanced, whatever may be his situation, or whatever his afflictions. Remember that of the sons of Jesse seven were honoured and esteemed by their father, and among men; one was neglected and despised; yet were all the former rejected by the Lord, while the poor unhonoured David was taken from the sheepfold to be a king and the ancestor of the blessed Messiah. But at the same time remember, that David was not chosen because he was despised among men, but because his heart was right towards God; poverty and lowliness of estate in themselves give us no title to the favour of God; but the poor who endeavour to do their duty in their station, and the afflicted who bear their afflictions patiently, have no reason to repine: the Lord has looked on their hearts, and pronounced concerning them.

III. What the text instructs us with regard to our judgments of others. The text shows the extreme unreasonableness, no less than wickedness of such conduct. We can only judge by outward appearance after all: Samuel, a religious man, chosen by God to be His minister and interpreter, is mistaken in his estimate of Eliab: and, after this, we must acknowledge that the wisest among us have little chance of an insight into the character of others, so long as our opinions must be guided by outward appearance. But above all, this incapability of seeing the hearts of men should restrain us from all curious speculation on the characters of those with whom we have no concern. Could we see their hearts as clearly as we can observe their outward conduct, we should still be inexcusable, as frail and fallible creatures, in passing judgment on our brethren: but, as it is, our judgments may be false as they are cruel and criminal: like Jesse, nay, like Samuel, we may despise those whom God has not despised. (H. Thompson, M.A.)

David anointed king:—

Samuel’s grief over Saul’s failure and consequent rejection seems natural. To Samuel Jehovah had first revealed the fact that Saul was to be king Samuel had anointed him. Samuel stood sponsor for him. Between them had grown up a warm attachment, so that one ground of his grief would be the sense of personal disappointment. Then he also grieved for the nation. But even sacred and sincere grief may transgress its law and become sinful. There is a natural and healthy sorrow for what is gone, that is right. And there is a morbid and unreasonable clinging to what we cannot call back, that is wrong. There is a stubborn refusal to accept the situation, that is rebellious and wicked. Then Jehovah states the ground for this chiding: “How long wilt thou mourn? I have rejected him.… I have provided me a king among the sons of Jesse.” Kings come and go, but the kingdom stays. God’s workers appear and disappear, but His work goes on. The importance of a single individual to the success of God’s work is often exaggerated. The very life of this church is said to depend on the ministrations of a certain pastor. The loss of this generous and devout layman, we are told, would kill the church. But if the rank and file are steady and faithful, the loss of a leader does not bring inevitable defeat. God provides against emergencies. At every great crisis, God speaks and says: “I have provided me a man.” When the time has come for missionary work among the Gentiles, Paul is ready When the time is ripe for the Reformation, Luther is ready. When American slavery is to be fought with words and laws and grape shot, Wendell Phillips and Lincoln and Grant are ready. Every large doorway of opportunity is filled with a large man. But back behind all emergencies God sits and waits. His great right hand is full of men, and when the hour strikes he speaks to the crisis and says: “I have provided me a king.” Men who do not know God wonder at the opportune appearance of the right man at the right place and just in the nick of time It all comes naturally and inevitably in the order of Providence. When summer comes, the beasts of the field need shade trees to protect them from the heat of the sun. But the same sun that brings the necessity for shade calls out the leaves to furnish it. There is purpose and unity in it all. The children of God never marvel at the meeting of the man and the occasion. And in this passage, one hand of God was rejecting Saul, was clearing the ground for a new and better reign; and the other was already reaching for David, anointing him king, and leading him up to the empty throne. “I have rejected, I have provided,” are the two sides of the picture, the two hands of God’s activity. One makes the emergency, the other makes and moves the needed man to meet it. The chief grounds for choosing Saul, the former king, had been his physical and fighting excellence. Now in the face of this failure, which resulted from the lack of inward fitness, it was natural that Jehovah should say to Samuel: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; … for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Saul was selected for his outward excellence, but now a man must be chosen who has the inner qualities of faith and obedience; one who, because of that inner attachment to God may become in spite of faults and sins a “man after God’s own heart.” The Lord seeth not as man seeth. Jehovah is not simply asserting his keener judgment, but that his seeing is bent on different objects. It goes for the inwardness of things. And it is important that God’s children should have firm hold of this same canon of judgment—not the outward, but the heart. It is a valuable principle in judging individual men and in judging wide movements of men. Some proposed social or industrial reform may wear an attractive outward appearance, but we are to look to the real inwardness, the heart of it. In the last analysis what will it do for the spirit of man, for the man who lives in and back of all the outward prosperity and adversity with which the reform deals? The purpose of society is not so much to get the bodies of men well fed, well housed, well clothed, as to make men. And you can only make men as you get down to where the man lives, where the man is. Within all prosperity or adversity dwells an ethical and spiritual being, and he must be faced and provided for. And all social efforts must look at the heart and recognise that nothing but the bringing of the heart into harmony with the Divine order will secure permanent and prosperous harmony in things outward, So that, before we can anoint any movement and call it king, we look at its inwardness. Thus instructed by the spirit of the Lord as to the principle of right judgment, Samuel reviews the remaining sons of Jesse with new eyes. He realises now that we cannot put a man on the scales and weigh him or stand him against the wall and measure him and tell how much man we have God in choosing kings and leaders breaks away from our little man-made rules of primogeniture. He ignores our petty conventionalities as to grades of honour and dishonour in kinds of honest work. His choices seem to go across lots and break down the little fences men have built along the lines of succession. The Spirit of God, which is the only anointing and ordaining power in the Church or in the world, goeth where it listeth. So in this lesson the spirit of God looked over the tops of the little objections Jesse laid in the way, on out to the fields where the last son of the family was humbly tending sheep, and recognising the royalty in him, said: “Send and fetch him: we will not sit down until he comes hither.” And when David came the Lord said: “Arise, anoint him: for this is he.” Here was another proof of the central thought, that the Lord seeth not as man seeth. David had done nothing kingly yet. The signs and tokens of coming royalty were not in any outward marks or deeds. He was all in the bud. But the Lord looked on the heart and saw inside of the shepherd, a king, and he knew that it only required time to make the kingliness live and grow and sit upon its throne. (C. R. Brown.)

The Divine method of judging character:—

  1. It is exclusively Divine. It is not given to man, not given perhaps to the highest created intelligence, to peer into the depths of another spirit, and there sound all the motives and impulses of action. In sooth, man is unable to detect or ascertain all the varied forces even within himself, which prompt his own actions. “Who can understand his errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” Still less able is he to penetrate into the motives of his fellow-men.
  2. It is manifestly just.
  3. To judge from appearance would be very inaccurate judgment.

(1.) Some of our external actions have no intentions at their root. They start from blind impulse, break forth from a sudden rush of passion. Such actions are scarcely ours. From a sudden gust of feeling the soul has lost its balance, and an act is performed which is regretted the moment after its execution. Surely it would be wrong to judge a man from these sudden outbreaks of impulse, the rare exceptions of his life.

(2.) Actions apparently bad spring sometimes from good intentions. Saul persecuted the Church of God from good intentions.

(3.) Sometimes actions apparently good have their rise in bad intentions.

  1. To judge from appearance would be a very partial judgment. Suppose it were possible to catalogue all your external actions, say for one week of your existence, and then catalogue also the unembodied desires, wishes, volitions, cravings, aspirations of the soul during that week, what would be the one compared to the other? A page to a volume. Our inner activities are incessant, varied, and almost innumerable. Therefore to judge a man by his external conduct would be a very partial judgment. From this it seems clear that God’s method of judgment is after all the true method.

III. It is alarmingly suggestive.

  1. It suggests the imperfection of the best of us in the sight of Heaven.
  2. It suggests terrible revelations at the last day.
  3. It suggests the necessity of a heart’s renovation. (Homilist.)

The fallibility of human judgment:—

Here is a principle of the Divine government which is well worthy of attention; for it is put before us in direct contrast with our own natural tendencies and habits; and put before us in a way powerfully calculated to show us the fallacy and the carnality of our own mode of judging of each other. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth.” Now, it is not to be supposed that man is condemned because he has not the omniscience of the Deity: it is not man’s sin that he does not look at the heart; he cannot look at the heart. But the error into which Samuel fell, and into which the majority of men fall, is, a carnal readiness to form a conclusion, in a manner not delegated to them, upon inadequate grounds. It is wisdom in such a case to recognise our unfitness to form a judgment, owing to the scanty range of our knowledge: and yet we see how frequently the reverse is the case, and how, on inadequate grounds, men rush to an immediate conclusion. Samuel suffered all the testimony of his experience, founded on Saul’s wilful and impenitent conduct, to be silenced by the outward personal attractions of Eliab: and though he had manifest proof of the unfitness of Saul for the throne, he did not allow himself to entertain the idea which his experience might have suggested to him, that, in this case also, a comely exterior might cover a weak understanding and a depraved heart. This, then, is the difference between the judgment of man and the judgment of God. God looks through all the motives, and forms a just and impartial judgment from all the premises before Him: man sees but little indeed; but he forms a hasty, and partial, and inferior judgment from all the evidence that is really before his eyes. The various scenes of life present unnumbered instances of the evil to which we refer.

  1. With a view, therefore, to correct this evil, allow me to illustrate it by a reference to several facts of Scripture. The Scripture supplies us with some very striking cases which exemplify this impartial judgment of the Lord.
  2. The judicial decision in the garden of Eden is a remarkable instance of it. Both Adam and Eve throw the blame from themselves. But how wisely and justly does the holy Lord God discriminate between them, and so fairly apportion to each their due measure of punishment, as to leave it beyond all question that “the Lord searcheth the heart.”
  3. There are some striking instances in which God marks and discerns the wickedness that is unseen by man. The instance of Enoch is one of these. The ungodly men of his days had spoken hard speeches against him, and decided him and his prophecies: but, in the meantime, “Enoch walked with God;” and the eye of God was upon him, and he saw not as men seeth.
  4. The history of Moses presents to us a similar instance. In his early endeavours to benefit his people, he was misunderstood; and, having interfered for their welfare at the risk of his life, he was driven by the treacherous conduct of those whom he laboured to serve, to leave the palace and seek shelter in the wilderness. But there the Lord recognised him as a chosen servant; and from hence, at length He called him to be the leader and commander of His people and the law-giver to the whole world.
  5. There is a still more striking case in the mysterious dealing of God with Job. The misfortunes which burst simultaneously upon him, deceived his best friends; and, judging from outward appearances, they pronounced him a wicked man. But, in the midst of all these trials, the Lord knew him to be “a just man, one who feared God and eschewed evil;” and, in the end, He brought forth his judgment as the light and his righteousness as the noon-day.
  6. We pass on to the instance of the Redeemer Himself. Our blessed Lord was regarded by the priesthood and the people as a madman and a deceiver. Men accounted Him a blasphemer; but the Lord declared that “grace and truth were in His lips.” Man regarded His death as a satisfaction due to the broken law of His own nation; the Lord accounted Him the spotless victim in the cause of redeeming mercy. There never has been a more striking exemplification of the difference between the judgment of God, and that of man.
  7. A similar difference of estimation, also is found with reference to the Apostles, the first preachers of Christian truth. Men thought lightly of their character. He speaks of their being regarded as “reprobates.” But what in the midst of this contempt of men, is the judgment of God? “We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” They were approved by the Divine wisdom as the ministers of God, and in all their varied labours they had his testimony with them.
  8. We may just glance at other instances, where those who obtain the favourable estimation of men, stood condemned before Him who searcheth the heart. This was the case with Saul, who was still honoured before the people, long after God had rejected him: with Absalom, whose personal appearance stole away the hearts of the people, and seduced the subjects of David from their rightful sovereign: with Nebuchadnezzar, who, walking in his pride, commanded the adoration of the people to a golden image, which he blasphemously set up to represent himself: and the Lord doomed him seven years to a degraded condition in the wilderness. It was the case also with Herod, who, while the people cried, seduced by his oratory, “It is the voice of a god, and not the voice of a man,” was smitten by the angel of the Lord, and was eaten of worms, because be gave not the glory to God.
  9. We ought to endeavour to profit by these considerations: and although we cannot impart to ourselves the accuracy of full and unerring observation and judgment, yet, at least, the consideration of the circumstances in which we are placed, and of our tendency to error, ought to lead us to watch with jealousy the judgment we form.
  10. In the first place, then, we should suspect the judgment that we form of the outward appearance, and the importance we are sometimes led to attach to it. Why should we estimate so highly that which is so soon to decay? Let us learn from the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and from the destruction that wasteth at noon-day, the madness of priding ourselves on distinctions which a single hour may destroy.
  11. How erroneous is the estimate that men in general are disposed to form of character. We are perpetually the slaves of our own prejudices; led by a few general blandishments, we mistake that which is faulty for that which is good, and account all that glitters gold.
  12. How much deeper is our error in the defective and partial standard by which we judge ourselves; and yet we are willing to acknowledge we stand on a very different ground for judgment. Conscience brings us near to God; even we do not bear with the outward appearance. No man can so completely turn away from his inward conscience as not to know something that is passing within—something of his defects; in some measure, in fact, to look at the heart. One of the great sins of man, however, is the settled, resolute habit of looking only to external and superficial merits, and trying to destroy all consciousness of the future by the follies of the life that is present.
  13. Consider again, bow this view of the dealings of God exalts the grace of redemption. “The Lord looked down from heaven,” we are told; and when he saw there was none righteous—no, not one, then His own arm brought salvation. He knew the amount of the evil that was in the creature He determined to redeem, or the remedy would not have been adequate. But what a thought it is that the Lord should so provide for the cure of sin in all its disgusting forms, and, in His pity, should blot it out for ever by the blood of His own Son! It is almost inconceivable that such a price should be paid for such a race and nothing but such evidence as God has vouchsafed, could make us believe it.
  14. “The Lord looketh at the heart.” If His inspection is such at all times, how much more solemn is the thought of His coming, when He shall judge the secrets of men’s hearts at the last day! (E. Craig, A. M.)

Judgments, Human and Divine:—

Admiration for physical height and bulk natural to warlike peoples. Regarded by them as indispensable qualification for leadership. Thus Herodotus tells us that the Ethiopians “confer the sovereignty upon the man whom they consider to be of the largest stature, and to possess strength proportionable to his size.” And again, after stating that the armies of Xerxes numbered more than five millions of men, he continues: “But of so many myriads, not one of them, for beauty and stature, was more entitled than Xerxes himself to possess the power.” Saul then was just the kind of man to fulfil such conditions as these. “From his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.” Nor was he deficient in other qualities, courage for instance, such as would recommend him to a bold and warlike people. But in judgment he was lacking, and in action self-willed. The malady which came upon him during his later life was the fit precursor of his tragic end. His sun set in darkness and in blood upon the mountains of Gilboa. The gloom of Saul’s closing years had been deepened by the knowledge that he had been superseded by the Divine decree, and that as he had been the first so he was to be the last of his family to occupy the throne. Some years before the death of Saul, Samuel had been sent to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse king in his room. We must not however suppose, because David was chosen by Him Who “looketh not on the outward appearance, but upon the heart,” that he was not well-favoured and attractive. Physical beauty even, if more than skin deep, if it result from the shining through the windows of the beautiful tenant within the house, is and always has been a great moral force in the world. The thing to be noted, however, is that while these attractions were well fitted to be the handmaids and helpers of the internal qualities which the fair young shepherd boy possessed, it was not on account of his graces of form and feature that the Lord “chose David His servant, and took him from the sheep folds,” etc. (Ps. 78:70–71.)

The principle on which the selection was made is clearly indicated in the words, “The Lord looketh on the heart.” What was there in the heart of David to commend him? There was that in the heart of David which in some way or other rendered applicable to him the designation which was thus prophetically given him, and which has clung to him ever since. “Saul had been man’s man, David was to be God’s man.” And yet rash and sinful though Saul was we do not find that he descended to such depths of wickedness as those which David, in his later history, fathomed. We encounter something like the same difficulty here as we are familiar with in the matter of the Divine preference, shall I say? of Jacob to Esau (Malachi 1:2, 3; Romans 9:13). Naturally Esau’s was the more generous and open nature, just as there are magnanimous traits in the character of Saul which it would not be easy to find so prominent in the disposition of David. But the truth is that both in Jacob and in David, with all their faults and failings, there were aspirations after goodness, which were altogether foreign to the natures of the two men with whom, on the page of history, they stand contrasted. We cannot imagine Esau occupying the place, or undergoing the experience of Jacob at Peniel. Neither can we think of Saul as the author of such outpourings of “a broken and a contrite spirit” as the penitential psalms. And one of the best answers that can be given to the question, How comes it that such an one as David could be spoken of as “a man after God’s own heart?” is to be found in such words as those of Thomas Carlyle on the subject. The text then presents us with a contrast between human judgments and the Divine judgment of men and things. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth,” for “Man looketh on the outward appearance.”

  1. Here we have the secret of the imperfection, the necessary imperfection of human judgments.
  2. The “outward appearance” may lead us to over estimate the values of things. In small things and in great we are to a large extent at the mercy of the impressions made upon us through the senses. How slow we are to learn that an attractive exterior may conceal a false and faithless heart; that the value of a deed depends not upon the scale on which it was done, but upon the motive which inspired it; that the only true greatness, whether of men or of actions, is that which is moral and spiritual.
  3. But, on the other hand, we must also remember that we may easily be led by the “outward appearance” to the undervaluing of men’s motives and characters. There are a hundred and one facts which ought to be taken into the account before a perfect judgment of any man can be formed, facts of which his fellow men are, and must be, largely ignorant. Again, “The Lord seeth not as man seeth,” for “The Lord looketh on the heart.”
  4. While our judgments must be partial and imperfect because our knowledge is so limited, there is One Who knows. The features in any man’s life and character, our ignorance of which disables us from appraising at their proper worth his words and actions, are all known to God: the hereditary bias towards some form of evil which has made his life a continual battle field; the educationary influences which surrounded him in early youth, and which have necessarily done so much to make him, for good or evil, what he is to-day; all these and many other factors in the problem which every human life presents, are fully known to Him.

III. This great and solemn truth yields us two lessons:—

  1. One of warning. We may impose upon our fellow-men, and even delude ourselves, but we can never deceive God.
  2. One of consolation and encouragement for all who have been made the victims of the slander and misrepresentation of their fellows, etc. What does He see when He looks upon your heart and mine? (F. R. Bailey.)

Deceptiveness of appearance:—

Were men to be guided by the appearance of things only, in forming their judgment, how erroneous and deceptive would it be! The sun would be no more than a few miles distant and a few inches in diameter; the moon would be a span wide and half a mile away; the stars would be little sparks glistening in the atmosphere; the earth would be a plain, bounded by the horizon a few miles from us; the sun would travel and the earth stand still; nature would be dead in winter and only alive in summer; men would sometimes be women and women men; truth would often be error and error truth; honest men would be rogues and rogues honest men; piety would be wickedness and wickedness piety. In fine, there is scarcely any rule so deceptive as the rule of appearance; and there are multitudes who, in many things, have no other rule by which they form their judgment. Hence the errors of their speech and life; the ridicule and blunders into which they plunge themselves before the world. If appearance were the only rule of judging, what would you say of Jesus in His humble birth; in His lowly training; in His fasting and temptation; in His servant-form; in His persecutions from the people; in His poor disciples; in His bloody sweat; in His base trial; His mock kingship; His ascent up Calvary; His crucifixion with two thieves; His dying exclamation? What would you say of Christianity as the religion of this Man and His poor Apostles? But you are not to judge Jesus and His religion by the appearance, any more than nature and man.

The Lord’s choice:—

The world loves that which strikes the eye, something or somebody who is imposing in appearance, and who makes an impression. How far is this from the thought of God! He would not have a repetition of Saul. It was just because Jesus had “no beauty”—according to the eyes of men—“that they should desire Him,” that the people of Israel despised and rejected Him. They wanted one whose pomp would vie with the court of Rome. They wanted one who should resist evil; one who should value earthly glory; another Solomon. And they saw a Man coming from the carpenter’s shop, meek and lowly in heart, associating with the very poorest, touching the leper, allowing the vilest of women to weep over His feet, eating with publicans and sinners: One whose only might was over sin, sickness, sorrow, and death. And they despised His meekness and poverty of spirit; there was nothing in Him that the world could pride itself upon; so they cast Him out and crucified Him. (M. Baxter.)

The Lord looketh on the heart.The life of the heart:—

Judge not realities by appearances. Let me point out to you a most thriving and prosperous man, whose case will explain exactly what I mean. There is no question that in trade he is very successful. He drives into town every morning as well? Yes. And generally has a flower in his button-hole? Yes. His name is seldom seen on a subscription list, and he makes but a poor figure amongst the charities which are popular in the circle in which he moves. He is called stingy and mean: people say sharp things about him when his back is turned. You saw him putting down five pounds just now, and you thought the figure looked shabby without a cypher at the end of it; but you don’t know that last year he paid a thousand pounds of his father’s debts, for his father, though an honourable man, had been ruined in business; nor do you know that only this morning, on which he gave the despised five pounds, he sent a cheque for fifty guineas to his two sisters, and that he sends them a cheque of the same value four times in the course of every year! nor do you know that he is paying for the education of two brothers, and that he is laying by what he can afford to give them a nice start when they are ready for business. Judge not, that ye be not judged! The Lord looketh on the heart! There is another side to this picture. Here is a fine dashing fellow, who is the charm of every circle into which he enters. A free-handed, genial, sparkling man. Many a ten-pound note he gives away; many a subscription list he nobly leads. Wherever he is known he is praised as a charitable man. Could you have heard as I have heard him, your feelings would undergo no trifling change. I have heard his words in secret, and seen his face when the true expression of the soul was upon it. “Why not lessen your expenses?” said a confidential friend. “Appearances,” he sternly replied, “must be kept up. We must get money somehow. What securities have we in hand? Mortgage them, sell them, do what you like with them—only get me what money I want.” He must keep the blacking on his boots and the nap on his hat, for if he fail in surface he will fail altogether. He is made up of surface. A pin point could scratch it off. So let him beware, for a touch may topple him over into his own place. Man has a heart-life as well as a hand life. It is upon the heart-life that God looks, and upon it that He pronounces His judgment. We cannot put all that is in our heart into our hand. God knows our advantages and disadvantages, and His judgment is the result of His omniscience. There was a sharp discussion the other day in a gentleman’s kitchen. One speaker said to another, “I am ashamed of you; we ought not to be in the same house together; you are common and vulgar-looking, besides being scratched and chipped all over. Look at me; there is not a flaw upon all my surface; my beauty is admired; my place in the house is a place of honour.” The other speaker was not boisterous; there was no resentment in the tone of the reply: “It is true that you are very beautiful, and that I am very common, but that is not the only difference between us. See how you are cared for; you are protected by a glass shade; you are dusted with a brush made of the softest feathers; everybody in approaching you is warned of your delicacy. It is very different with me; whenever water is wanted I am taken to the well; when servants are done with me they almost fling me down; I am used for all kinds of work; and there never was a scullery maid in the house who did not think herself good enough to speak of me with contempt.” It is so with men. Some of us live under glass shades; others of us are as vessels in common wear; but we could not change places; each must do his proper work, and each will have his appropriate reward. The Lord looketh on the heart! There are two grave-stones in yonder churchyard which occasion a good deal of remark. You will be pleased to hear something about them. The first is considered a marvel of art. The marble and the granite of which it is composed are the purest that can be found, and what can exceed the brilliance of their polish? The stone tells you that it is put up to commemorate the life of the best of mothers. It was erected by her son, who resides in the chief mansion in the vicinity. He is proud of the stone. For nothing else is he known but for that stone. He has never written his name on the holy roll of charity. No poor family would miss him were he to have a similar stone put above his own head. The other stone is modest, but really good. There is not one line of pretence about it. It, too, was put up by filial piety to commemorate motherly excellence. You should hear how it is talked about by the man who owns the fine stone. He says: “I am ashamed of such men! It is true enough that he was not very well off when his mother died, but look how he has got on since! Why, he must be worth some thousands a year. I wonder he is not ashamed of himself, to let that thing stand there—he should take it up and put another in its place. I don’t know how men can do such mean things.” And having so said he walks towards his own stone, and heaves a sigh that has meaning in it. And how about that other son? Thus! He never allows a poor woman to go from his door without help, because her presence reminds him of what his own mother used to be in the days of her poverty, and never does he give the help without saying in his heart: “Sacred to the memory of my dear mother.” He never sees a poor woman go along the road but he looks after her and says: “Once my mother was very much like that, and for her sake I must do something for this poor creature.” It is in this way that he sets up his gravestones; in this way that he honours his mother. He says nothing about it. He writes epitaphs on hearts, not on stones; and though he is misjudged by man there is One who makes an imperishable record of his love—for the Lord looketh on the heart!

  1. The Lord looketh on the heart,—This must be terrible news to a bad man.
  2. The Lord looketh on the heart,—This is the joy of all men who live in truth.
  3. The Lord looketh on the heart,—Then man’s supreme concern should bear upon his spiritual life. Fool is he who filters the stream when he might purify the fountain. How is it with our hearts? (J. Parker, D.D.)

Man’s heart under God’s eye:—

The man who simply looks at himself in the light of the opinions which his fellow men form of him, is in imminent danger of making fatal mistakes. The man who even looks at himself in the light of the favourable judgment which the Church of Christ may form of him, is in a most dangerous position. But no man is in this danger who has formed the habit of always judging of himself, as he appears to himself when he stands face to face, if I may use this phrase, with God. The reason of our mistakes upon most subjects is, that we have too much fellowship about them with God’s erring creatures, and too little communion with Himself.

  1. God’s knowledge of human nature. It is—
  2. Immediate and direct. His acquaintance with us men is not through outward appearance; it is not in any sense by the outward; He looketh on the heart. The body does not intercept His vision. The body is not even a medium. He sees the body, and knows the body as perfectly as He knows the spirit. He is not dependent on our words for His knowledge of sin. He is not dependent upon our actions for knowledge of us, neither upon our history. He has no informant. God’s knowledge of human nature is not second-hand or inferential, but immediate and direct.
  3. Being immediate and direct, God’s knowledge of man is perfect. His eye is upon your thoughts and your thinkings. His eye is upon your reason and upon your reasonings. His eye is upon the emotional part of your nature, and the rising and falling of your emotional susceptibilities. Sin, while being conceived, He sees.
  4. Because God’s knowledge is direct and perfect it surpasses men’s knowledge of each other, and of themselves. It surpasses what can be known by men of themselves, and of each other. Men, with reference to self-knowledge, consult their consciousness. I do not say the conscience. The word consciousness is a more general word, including a state of the entire nature; but I speak not of the state of one faculty, but rather, I repeat, of the whole being. Men consult consciousness, and they consult memory. But then, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;” so that men, with relation to self-knowledge, are very often self-deceived. Now, on all these grounds, God’s knowledge surpasses that knowledge of ourselves, and of each other, that is even possible to us. But yet, more, does it surpass what is actually known; because none of us, or few of us, have the knowledge of human nature, the knowledge of ourselves, or of each other, which we might have, perhaps, if we sought for it. This seems to be the doctrine of the text.
  5. Now let us consider the life lessons it yields.
  6. The first practical thing here taught us is, the folly of permitted self-delusion. Now do not call the words permitted self-delusion, a contradiction, for they do not involve a contradiction, or, if they do, it is just one of those contradictions that we so often find in human nature. Permitted self-delusion is not uncommon in other spheres. The case of a man who, in trading, knows perfectly well that he is not solvent, but tries to believe that he is solvent, and goes on as though he were solvent, is a case of permitted self-delusion. The man does not actually face his business circumstances. I say that is a case of permitted self-delusion, and there is something very much like this in professed religious life. Men more than half know that they are not Christians, but they try to persuade themselves that they are Christians. Now the doctrine we have been looking at, or rather, the fact of God’s perfect knowledge of human nature, shows the utter stupidity of all this. Delusions and deceptions with reference to character cannot continue. Just as in the spring and autumn, you have often seen the early mists dispelled by the sun, so all mists on all subjects, and especially on the character of man, will ere long be dispersed by the strong light of God’s light, and every man will appear to be just what he is—exactly what he is.
  7. At the same time it shows us the utter uselessness of all hypocrisy. The two things are so closely connected together that it is only for the sake of giving force to them that I can at all separate them. Say that instead of a man being thus willingly self-deceived, he wears a mask, and does not mind saying, in certain quarters, and to certain persons, that he wears a mask—how utterly useless that mask is! because the eye with which we chiefly have to do, has never rested on that mask, as on a surface; it has always gone right through it—piercing it at every point. On the mask there is the eye of a saint, and on the eye of the real face there is the eye of a lascivious, sensual sinner. But God has never been cheated by that mild saint’s eye.
  8. Then we learn, further, the exposed position of all our sins. But there is another view we may take of this subject, that may help us in another direction.
  9. We see through God’s perfect knowledge of human nature, His thorough competency to save us. Men die of diseases with which their medical attendants are unacquainted, as the best physician and surgeon would frankly acknowledge. Every day mistakes are made—unavoidably made, I say, not carelessly made. Men go down to the grave, and all about them are ignorant of what has taken them down to the tomb. Now, suppose God were in this position with reference to our sins. You see at once that He could not entirely save us. We have accustomed ourselves, therefore, really to look on God’s searching the qualifications to redeem us.
  10. There is another lesson we may learn here, that is, the duty of being passive under Divine discipline. Troubles may come upon you, and you may perplex yourself as to their intent. You cannot see what faults they are sent to correct. But, generally, you will find, when God chastens, there is a close connection between the sort of chastening and the fault He chastens for, so that you can tell whether the affliction be a correction—whether it be a chastening or not. But very often sorrows are sent not as chastisements. And they are sent for what purpose? They are sent to prevent sin; not to correct you for sin already committed, but to prevent you committing some sin.
  11. And we see, the reasonableness of our acting on God’s judgment of men. Do let us look upon mankind, brethren, with the light of God’s Word about men. You will find here, in the truth of the text, an antidote for disquiet under misconception and misrepresentation; a motive to diligence in keeping the heart. And you will learn, further, the advantageous position of Him who is now our Lord and Master, and Who will come to be our Judge. Let us just recognise our ignorance even of our own nature. There is a sort of rebuke here, or if not a rebuke, God points with His finger at our limited knowledge. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth.” That implies that we do not see all; we see only in part; we see only imperfectly. Let us recognise the limit of our knowledge, let us recognise the fact that we do not, except as we see ourselves, in light of God’s light, see our own real hearts, and that we are not in a position, alone, even to understand ourselves. Let us apply this rule in judgment of our fellow men, cherishing, at the same time, if we be God’s children, a child-like trust in God’s knowledge. I see nothing terrible in this truth if a man be sincere. I see everything terrible in it if a man be willing to deceive himself, or if a man be a hypocrite. (Samuel Martin.)

God looketh on the heart:—

God does not judge of the heart by the actions, but of the actions by the heart. In His sight the stream of our conduct is pure or impure according to the state of the heart—the fountain of action: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornifications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”

  1. That it is the exclusive prerogative of God to look upon the heart. The heart is covered with an impenetrable veil, through which no eye can pierce; it is a field of operation into which we cannot look. Within its secrecies the meanest feelings are fostered, and the most generous purposes rise unnoticed and unknown. The knowledge of the human heart is, in fact, a portion of the experimental philosophy, and is only to be acquired by a careful investigation of facts. It is a solemn consideration, but it is possible that our hearts may be filled with enmity or love to the Creator, our minds may be essentially carnal or spiritual, while our nearest earthly friend is wholly ignorant of the relation in which we stand to the eternal world. Were our most intimate friend, to endeavour to unbosom his mind to us, with how little would he make us acquainted; how much must there ever remain wrapt in obscurity, and in all the darkness of secrecy! All we know of the hearts of others is what they are pleased to tell us; but we are frequently deceived; our confidence is often betrayed, and we receive the thrust of an enemy through the professions of a friend. We are not even free from deception and mistake if we turn to our own hearts. We very frequently persuade ourselves that we are actuated by right motives, whilst a secret principle of selfishness is contaminating the fountain of action. The Lord looketh on the heart, not as implying a curious search, arising from previous ignorance. It is said of the angels concerning the mysteries of redemption, that they desire to look into them, but there are no secrets with the Divine Being. When it is said that “God looketh on the heart,” it is implied that He regards the state of the heart: it is not an inoperative knowledge, a passive contemplation, but an influential regard in opposition to the procedure of man, who is only influenced by the outward appearance. The state of the heart is not a matter of indifference to Him, but His watchful eyes are ever engaged in a vigilant inspection of human spirits. No barriers can interrupt His view. He marked the sin of Achan when his covetousness was excited by the wedge of gold, and the Babylonish garment; He detected the same sin when Gehazi robbed Naaman, and lied unto the prophet, and he exposed the guilt of David in the matter of Uriah.
  2. The administration of the Divine government proceeds on the principle of my text. The Lord looketh on the heart, not only in the administration of His laws, but the scheme of Providence in all its ramifications is but an adaptation of His perfections to this truth. However inscrutable His dispensations may appear to us, they are not an unmeaning exercise of power, a blind bestowment of favour, or a tyrannical infliction of pains and penalties, they are the exercise of His power according to the dictates of infinite wisdom and goodness. In selecting instruments to carry into effect these purposes of His will, the Lord looketh on the heart: He sent Samuel to Bethlehem to the family of Jesse, and ordered him to anoint one of Jesse’s children, whom He would point out to him, to be king over Israel. In illustration of the same truth, we may refer you to His choice as the messenger of His grace to the Gentile world. Who would have selected the persecutor breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the church of God, to display a warmer zeal and holier courage in building up the temple he once attempted to destroy? Infinite wisdom discerned the fitness of the instrument, and consecrating it to the most hallowed purposes. Whenever the church has revived, and Zion has arisen from the dust and put on her beautiful garments, individuals have been selected eminently calculated to effect the desired object. Witness the holy energy and unconquerable perseverance of Luther. In the field of missionary labour we have a Brainerd and a Swartz a Morrison and a Milne. The venerable Carey, whose power in acquiring languages has only been equalled by his unpretending piety, and his devotion to the sacred work of his Master, was selected by that God who looks on the heart, and was raised to a dignity and moral elevation which the grace of God could alone enable him to adorn. By the same principle God over-rules the machination of wicked, and the errors of good men, for His own glory. In the ordinary dispensations of His Providence He acknowledges the same principles of operation. He has perpetual reference to the state of the heart. He is subjecting us to a moral discipline, by which we are to be trained up for glory, and virtue, and immorality. We must not imagine that affliction is the only way by which God manifests a vigilant attention to the heart. He makes the opposite state of felicity and enjoyment a proving time. How frequently has the accumulation of wealth proved to be the touchstone of a man’s character. But not only in the arrangements of our worldly affairs, but in His gracious dealings with us, the Lord looketh on the heart. The discipline to which Christians are subject, arises from the intimate acquaintance which God has with the hearts of all men.

III. We must improve our subject, which is full of instruction.

  1. It teaches us the necessity of uprightness. Does God look upon the heart? How vain will it be, then, to garnish our exterior, whilst the soul remains unclean and polluted!
  2. Again, our subject teaches us the nature of all acceptable worship. God is a spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Mere formality must ever appear hateful to Him. Where the heart is not engaged, there can be no true worship.
  3. Our subject teaches us the awful condition of the impenitent sinner. He lives forgetful of God, but God is not forgetful of him.
  4. Our subject is a source of encouragement to the church collectively, and to the individual believer. Are the affairs of this world managed, and the interests of the church superintended on the principle that the Lord looketh on the heart?
  5. But it is not only a source of encouragement, but our text is a motive to holiness. All the dispensations of His Providence, and the operations of His grace should furnish a separate motive to purity. (S. Summers.)


  1. The Divine superiority to human prejudices. The prophet was misled by a mere prejudice. Very frequently the outside show, the mere accidental circumstances of personal appearance, wealth, or position, are taken as criteria of worth. Now we may observe respecting such modes of estimation:—
  2. That the standard is obviously false.
  3. It is one of which many take advantage. Many avail themselves of this common prejudice for purposes of the darkest villany. It is the convenient cloak of the base and the hypocritical.
  4. It is often the cause of great wrong. Much injustice is perpetrated through the force of this prejudice. The wicked are justified while the righteous are condemned.
  5. The certainty of the right-hearted being preferred. Those whose hearts are right with God may be contemned by the world, but they may be sure of approval in His sight “who looketh on the heart.” That such will ever be the case may be argued:—
  6. From universal conviction. False as are the principles on which men choose to act, their convictions are generally on the side of the right. The common conscience of humanity testifies to the worth of right-heartedness.
  7. From the voice of revelation. The Bible is decisive in its assertion of this principle. It pronounces as with a voice of thunder, its indignant repudiation of the prejudice by which human conduct is governed, and maintains the opposite as the eternal rule of Divine preference.
  8. From their own consciousness. The wrong-hearted are self-condemned, while those whose hearts are right with God enjoy a cheering consciousness of His approbation.

III. The importance of attending to heart culture. It is of vital importance to have the heart made and kept right with God. How is this to be secured?

  1. It can be attained only through Christ. The heart will never be right with God till it is made so through the redemptive work of Christ.
  2. It requires the operation of the Holy Spirit. To obtain such views of “the truth as it is in Jesus,” and such affinity for it, as shall issue in the rectification of the heart Godward, there must be the co-operation of the Spirit.
  3. It demands the most strenuous efforts. The most strenuous efforts, on the part of man, are required to become and continue right-hearted. Learn—

(1.) To value men as God values them.

(2.) To consider the question, is thy heart right with God?

(3.) To give greater attention to the culture of the heart. (S. A. Browning.)

Man measured from the depths:—

When in Scotland recently, I went to a very interesting place, the Observatory at Paisley. I there saw an instrument for measuring earthquakes, a seismological register. A block of stone, twenty-four solid feet in depth, was thrust into the ground; down and down it went, standing like an isolated column in the vacuum carefully preserved on every side of it. On the top a delicate instrument was poised, which actually wrote with a pencil a record of the vibrations and oscillations that were taking place in every part of the globe. Said the gentleman in charge, “If an earthquake were to take place in Japan, its motions would be written here as faithfully as though we were on the spot to measure it.” “Then what about the rumbles here in Paisley?” said I. “You make noises enough in your streets: would they be registered by your instrument?” “No,” was the reply. “We do not trouble about vibrations on the surface. We measure from the depths.” That is the way to measure—truth in the inward parts. We do not measure by a man’s profession, but by what comes from the depths of his nature. (R. J. Campbell, M.A.)[7]

16:7 People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. The heart is viewed as the seat of the emotions (1 Sam. 1:8; 4:13; 17:32; 25:36; 28:5), will (6:6; 7:3), motives (17:28), reason (21:12), and conscience (25:31; 2 Sam. 24:10). A person’s “heart,” or mind, is relatively inaccessible to human beings, but the Lord is able to probe people’s innermost regions and assess one’s true character (Jer. 11:20; 20:12).

When God chose Saul as king, he gave the people the kind of physically imposing individual that they, like other nations, would find desirable (1 Sam. 8:5; 9:2; 10:23–24). Samuel himself falls into this superficial way of thinking when he reasons that Jesse’s son Eliab, who apparently is physically impressive (v. 7), is God’s chosen king (see as well his words in 10:24). Humans tend to look on the outward appearance when evaluating someone’s suitability for a task, but God is more concerned about what is on the inside. He accommodated himself to the people’s wishes and standards when he selected Saul, but he will choose Saul’s replacement in accordance with his own standards.[8]

7 Like Eliab, Saul’s appearance (mar’ēhû)//height (lit., “the height of stature”) had been noteworthy. See on 9:2; 10:23.

I have rejected him: the Lord had already decided on David before sending Samuel to Bethlehem (v. 1). Or is this perfect verb performative (see 17:10), with the Lord rejecting him by uttering “I hereby reject him” to Samuel? The same verb *m’s is used in 15:23, 26; 16:1 for the rejection of Saul. According to Mettinger, “Eliab is something of a ‘new Saul,’ so that in his rejection Saul is denounced in effigy.”

My way of seeing is not like man’s way of seeing: literally, “ (I am) not as man sees.” Most of the modern translations supply “the Lord” or “God” as the subject: for example, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at” (NIV); cf. “For I am not as man sees” (Syr.).35 However, the MT as it is could be translated “ (I am) not,” the subject being understood from the immediate context; this is supported by the Syriac version, though Joosten proposes a different Hebrew Vorlage. The same phenomenon can be recognized in Hab. 1:5b “ (I am) going to do” (NIV; also LXX; NASB; cf. NRSV: “a work is being done”; also JPS), the subject being supplied from the context.

The expression by the eyes (la‘ênayim) means “by what he sees”; compare “the outward appearance” (NRSV; NASB; NIV); “only what is visible” (JPS). The preposition by is a lamed of specification; see GKC, §119u. Driver mentions a similar expression in Lev. 13:15 and Num. 11:7, though “eye” is singular there. This structurally perfect parallelism can be analyzed on surface:

a (NP) — b (VP) — c (advPh) man judges by eyes

a′ (NP) — b′ (VP) — c′ (advPh) Lord judges by heart

But, semantically c//c′ are twisted in terms of their possessors: the “eyes” are the eyes of the man who is judging, while the “heart” is the heart of the one being judged, not of the Lord.

The expression judges by the heart (yir’eh lallēbāb) literally means “sees to the heart”; the Lord judges man according to the man’s heart, that is, his internal condition. Compare “looks at the heart” (NIV; NASB; cf. NRSV: “on”); “sees into the heart” (JPS).39[9]

[1] Beyer, B. E. (2017). 1 Samuel. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 434). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 402). 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 (1 Sa 16:7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 517). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Sa 16:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (1 Sa 16:7). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[7] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: I Samuel (pp. 380–394). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[8] Chisholm, R. B., Jr. (2013). 1 & 2 Samuel. (M. L. Strauss, J. H. Walton, & R. de Rosset, Eds.) (p. 111). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[9] Tsumura, D. (2007). The First Book of Samuel (pp. 419–420). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

40 Days to the Cross: Week One – Friday

Confession: Psalm 130:1–4

Out of the depths I call to you, O Yahweh.

“O Lord, hear my voice.

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my supplications.

If you, O Yah, should keep track of iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you is forgiveness,

so that you may be feared.”

Reading: Mark 10:13–16

And they were bringing young children to him so that he could touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the young children come to me. Do not forbid them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a young child will never enter into it.” And after taking them into his arms, he blessed them, placing his hands on them.


When our Lord blessed the little children, He was making His last journey to Jerusalem. It was thus a farewell blessing which He gave to the little ones. It reminds us that among His parting words to His disciples, before He was taken up, we find the tender charge, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). The ruling passion was strong upon the great Shepherd of Israel, who “will gather the lambs in his arm[s], and he will carry them in his bosom” (Isa 40:11); and it was fitting that while He was making His farewell journey, He should bestow His gracious benediction upon the children.

Beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ is not here among us in person; but we know where He is, and we know that He is clothed with all power in heaven and in earth to bless His people. Let us then draw near to Him this day. Let us seek His touch in the form of fellowship and ask the aid of His intercession.

—Charles H. Spurgeon

As a Little Child


Jesus says we must welcome in the kingdom of God like a child. What areas of your life are marked by self-sufficiency? Is your posture like that of a child—totally relient on God and receptive to Him?[1]

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 25 Evening Verse of The Day

9:16 Salvation does not depend on human will or effort. Salvation is based on God’s mercy. The situation is not that people want to be saved but cannot be (2Tm 2:25–26), or that they are running after God but cannot find him. Apart from God’s drawing them, none is seeking the one true God—not a single one (Rm 3:11–12).[1]

9:16 Salvation, then, is not ultimately based on human free will or effort but depends entirely on God’s merciful will.[2]

9:16 it. God’s gracious choice of certain people unto eternal life (see note on 8:29). who wills. Salvation is not initiated by human choice—even faith is a gift of God (see note on 1:16; cf. Jn 6:37; Eph 2:8, 9). who runs. Salvation is not merited by human effort (see notes on v. 11).[3]

9:16 but of God: The basis of God’s sovereign choice is not a person’s conduct, but God’s compassion. God is free to show mercy to whom He chooses.[4]

9:16 The conclusion, then, is that the ultimate destiny of men or of nations does not rest in the strength of their will or in the power of their exertions, but rather in the mercy of God.

When Paul says that it is not of him who wills, he does not mean that a person’s will is not involved in his salvation. The gospel invitation is clearly directed to a person’s will, as shown in Revelation 22:17: “Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Jesus exposed the unbelieving Jews as being unwilling to come to Him (John 5:40). When Paul says, nor of him who runs, he does not deny that we must strive to enter the narrow gate (Luke 13:24). A certain amount of spiritual earnestness and willingness are necessary. But man’s will and man’s running are not the primary, determining factors: salvation is of the Lord. Morgan says:

No willing on our part, no running on our own, can procure for us the salvation we need, or enable us to enter into the blessings it provides.… Of ourselves we shall have no will for salvation, and shall make no effort toward it. Everything of human salvation begins in God.[5]

16. So then, in does not depend on (man’s) will or exertion but on God’s mercy.

Literally what Paul says is, “So then (it is) not of a person’s willing nor of a person’s running, but of God’s showing mercy.”

To the question, “What is the subject of the sentence?”—for in the original there is no subject—the answers differ. Some say it is “Mercy.” They point to the immediate context (verse 15). Others go back a little farther, to verses 6–15, and answer, “It is being a child of God” (see 9:8), or “salvation,” “life everlasting.” But do not all these answers basically agree?

Hymn writers have caught the idea; see on 1:17, pp. 60, 61, and on 3:24, 25, p. 133. Neither man’s volition nor his exertion brings about salvation. God does. Election, and therefore also salvation, is a matter of God’s sovereign will. Equally ultimate is reprobation.[6]

16. It depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. Again it is emphasized that God’s mercy has its cause in himself, and not in human will or activity. ‘Exertion’ is literally ‘running’, used of vigorous action, as also in Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16, where the reference is to Paul’s apostolic energy.[7]

16. It is not then of him who wills, &c. From the testimony adduced he draws this inference, that beyond all controversy our election is not to be ascribed to our diligence, nor to our striving, nor to our efforts, but that it is wholly to be referred to the counsel of God. That none of you may think that they who are elected are elected because they are deserving, or because they had in any way procured for themselves the favour of God, or, in short, because they had in them a particle of worthiness by which God might be moved, take simply this view of the matter, that it is neither by our will nor efforts, (for he has put running for striving or endeavour,) that we are counted among the elect, but that it wholly depends on the divine goodness, which of itself chooses those who neither will, nor strive, nor even think of such a thing. And they who reason from this passage, that there is in us some power to strive, but that it effects nothing of itself unless assisted by God’s mercy, maintain what is absurd; for the Apostle shows not what is in us, but excludes all our efforts. It is therefore a mere sophistry to say that we will and run, because Paul denies that it is of him who wills or runs, since he meant nothing else than that neither willing nor running can do anything.

They are, however, to be condemned who remain secure and idle on the pretence of giving place to the grace of God; for though nothing is done by their own striving, yet that effort which is influenced by God is not ineffectual. These things, then, are not said that we may quench the Spirit of God, while kindling sparks within us, by our waywardness and sloth; but that we may understand that everything we have is from him, and that we may hence learn to ask all things of him, to hope for all things from him, and to ascribe all things to him, while we are prosecuting the work of our salvation with fear and trembling.

Pelagius has attempted by another sophistical and worthless cavil to evade this declaration of Paul, that it is not only of him who wills and runs, because the mercy of God assists. But Augustine, not less solidly than acutely, thus refuted him, “If the will of man is denied to be the cause of election, because it is not the sole cause, but only in part; so also we may say that it is not of mercy but of him who wills and runs, for where there is a mutual co-operation, there ought to be a reciprocal commendation: but unquestionably the latter sentiment falls through its own absurdity.” Let us then feel assured that the salvation of those whom God is pleased to save, is thus ascribed to his mercy, that nothing may remain to the contrivance of man.

Nor is there much more colour for what some advance, who think that these things are said in the person of the ungodly; for how can it be right to turn passages of Scripture in which the justice of God is asserted, for the purpose of reproaching him with tyranny? and then is it probable that Paul, when the refutation was at hand and easy, would have suffered the Scripture to be treated with gross mockery? But such subterfuges have they laid hold on, who absurdly measured this incomparable mystery of God by their own judgment. To their delicate and tender ears this doctrine was more grating than that they could think it worthy of an Apostle. But they ought rather to have bent their own stubbornness to the obedience of the Spirit, that they might not surrender themselves up to their gross inventions.[8]

16 Paul now spells out the conclusion (“therefore”) he wants to draw from his quotation: “it is not a matter of the person who wills or the person who runs, but of the God who shows mercy.” The sentence reads like a general principle (note the present tenses of the verbs). But to what does the principle apply? Our translation preserves the ambiguity of the original in not making clear the subject of the sentence (“it”). We might substitute “salvation” or “God’s purpose in election” (see v. 11b), but the connection with v. 15 suggests rather “God’s bestowal of mercy.” In keeping with a popular view of this passage as a whole, many commentators think that the “mercy” involved here is God’s mercy in choosing different persons or nations in the outworking of his historical plan.212 But, as we have seen earlier (see esp. the notes on v. 13), Paul’s use of OT examples of God’s choosing and rejecting develops a principle that he applies to the salvation of individual Jews and Gentiles in his own day (see 9:3, 6a, 22–23, 24). Here, the principle Paul formulates moves beyond the positive assertion of v. 15—God’s bestowal of mercy has its origin in his own will to be merciful—to its negative corollary—God’s mercy does not, then, depend on human “willing” or “running.” The former denotes one’s inner desire, purpose, or readiness to do something;215 the latter the actual execution of that desire. Together, then, they “sum up the totality of man’s capacity.”217[9]

16 And lest this mercy be construed as depending on a person’s desire or effort, Paul strongly denies any such qualification. Mercy, like grace, stands over against human worth and effort whenever salvation is concerned. It is free because God is not bound to show mercy to any.[10]

Salvation Is of the Lord

Romans 9:16

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

We are in a section of the Bible in which every sentence has exceptional importance. Because of this, we have been moving very slowly. In the last study we looked at Romans 9:15. In this study we look at verse 16.

Verse 16 can be considered an inference drawn from the truth in verse 15, which is a quotation from the Old Testament. If that is the case, the thought would be: If God has mercy on whom he wills to have mercy and shows compassion to whom he wills to show compassion, then salvation is of God who shows mercy and not of man. That is true enough. But it is probably better to see verse 16 as a statement of the truth behind the quotation. If this is the case, it means that salvation is not of man but of God; therefore, God shows mercy on whom he wills to show mercy and has compassion on whom he wills to have compassion.

This is better, because the chief point of verse 16 is the exclusion of any human role in salvation. The verse says, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Or as the King James Version has it, “So then it is not of him that willeth, not of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

Today’s Evangelism

This text has enormous implications for the way we do evangelism. In fact, it is a rebuke of most popular evangelism in our day.

You may recall from our studies of Romans 6 that when I was writing about sanctification in that context, I said that we tend to approach it in either of two wrong ways. Either we introduce a formula: “Follow these three [or four] steps to sound spiritual growth.” Or we recommend an experience: “What you need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit [or meaningful worship or whatever].” I pointed out that neither of these is introduced by Paul. Rather, he bases his approach to sanctification on sound teaching. He tells us that we are to go on in the Christian life for the simple reason that we have become new creatures as the result of God’s work in us, and we cannot go back to what we were.

The situation is exactly the same in most of our current approaches to evangelism. We choose either a formula or a feeling.

The formula represents something we must do: “Give your heart to Jesus,” “Pray the sinner’s prayer,” “Hold up your hand and come forward,” “Fill out this card.” The feeling is something we try to work up in evangelistic services by certain kinds of music, moving stories, and emotional appeals.

Let me say that I do not doubt for a moment that God has sometimes used these methods and that he has sometimes worked through feelings, just as he has also sometimes used quite different things. The problem with these ways of doing evangelism is not that God has not occasionally been gracious enough to use them, but that they distort the truth about salvation by making it something we do or to which we can contribute and thus, to that degree, detract from the glory of God.

Besides, these approaches contradict our text, which says that salvation “does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

These approaches are also ineffective, as we would expect them to be, for they have filled our churches with thousands of people who think they are saved because they have made a profession or come forward at a meeting, but who are not born again. In many cases, those who have done these things are not even any longer present in the churches.

The Negative Teaching

Romans 9:16 contains both negative and positive teaching, each of which is meant to be comprehensive. Negatively, we are told that salvation does not come by man’s desire or effort, that is, neither by his will nor by his personal attainments. Positively, we are told that salvation comes from God.

The words desire and effort are meant to include everything of which a human being may be capable, and they thus reduce everyone to the position of being saved by the mercy of God or not saved. The first word concerns volition. The second refers to active exertion. Specifically they deny that we are saved by “seeking God” or “wanting to be saved” or, to run with the other term, by “choosing Jesus,” “surrendering our lives to Jesus,” “taking Jesus into our hearts,” or doing anything else of which we may think ourselves to be capable. It is true that there is a faith to be exercised, a choice to be made, a life to be surrendered, and seeking to be done. But those are the result of God’s working in us according to his mercy, and not the conditions on which he does.

Robert Haldane wrote rightly, “It is true, indeed, that believers both will and run, but this is the effect, not the cause, of the grace of God being vouchsafed to them.”

I know there are objections, some of them scriptural.

“What about John 1:12?” says someone. “Doesn’t that verse say, ‘To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’?” It does, of course. But the answer to the implied objection—that we become born again as the result of our receiving Jesus—is found in the next verse, which describes those who are saved as “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (v. 13). That fixes the sequence rightly, just as Paul has expressed it in Romans 8; Ephesians 1 and 2, and elsewhere: first, election; then, rebirth; third, faith accompanied by repentance; and lastly, adoption into the family of God along with other benefits.

Together, John 1:12 and 13 actually teach that “it does not … depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

Another verse that some people will quote is Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then they ask, “Doesn’t that teach that we have to give our hearts to Jesus and then confess him as Lord to be saved? Doesn’t it mean that we are the ones who ultimately determine whether or not we will be saved? If we are saved, isn’t it because we want to be saved? If we are lost, isn’t it because we choose to be?”

Well, we know the mouth speaks what is in the heart. Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34b). So the critical question is: What kind of a heart is it that confesses, “Jesus is Lord”? Is this the new heart, which is given to us by God,—or the old, Adamic heart, which is enmity against God? It cannot be the latter, because the Bible everywhere teaches that the old heart is thoroughly corrupt. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9). Ezekiel called it a “heart of stone” (Ezek. 11:19). Can a stony heart repent of its sin and come to God? Can a heart as wicked as this “choose” Jesus? Impossible! We can no more change our hearts than a leopard can change its spots.

Therefore, if we are to repent and believe the gospel, we must be given a new heart. A “heart of flesh” is Ezekiel’s term for it. This heart is given to us by the new birth. It is this heart only that believes on Jesus.

The Positive Teaching

This brings us to the positive teaching of this verse, namely, that salvation is entirely of God. God has mercy on whom he wills to have mercy, and he shows compassion on whom he wills to show compassion.

I have titled this study “Salvation Is of the Lord,” which comes, as I am sure you realize, from the Old Testament. It is from the story of Jonah, from chapter 2, and I refer to this now because Jonah is a good illustration of our text in Romans, namely, that salvation “does not … depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” The story of Jonah is a story of God’s mercy from beginning to end: mercy to the sailors, mercy to the people of Nineveh, and, above all, mercy to Jonah. Moreover, as far as man’s desire or effort is concerned, not only did Jonah not desire God’s will or strive to do it, he actually willed and tried to do the opposite. He tried to run away from God as deliberately as he could.

Jonah was a prophet, and God came to him with a command to proclaim a message of judgment on Nineveh, the capital of Assyria: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). We would have expected Jonah to be responsive to such a call at once. Instead, “Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (v. 3a). Scholars debate the location of this ancient city, but most believe it was on the far coast of Spain beyond the Rock of Gibraltar. This fits the story, of course, for it means that Jonah was so determined to resist God’s sovereign call that he set out in precisely the opposite direction and for a destination as far away as possible. God said, “Go east.” Jonah went west, as far west as anyone knew to go. If he went farther than that, he would presumably have fallen off the edge of the world, which is, in a sense, what happened to him.

Why did Jonah disobey God? Strangely, at the end of the story, we find him explaining that it was because he suspected that God was going to be merciful to these people (Jonah 4:2)—and he did not want that, because they were the enemies of his people. No one can successfully run away from God, however. So, although Jonah went west instead of east, God went after him and brought him back. The text says that God hurled a great storm after Jonah.

At this point the mariners come into the story, for the judgment on the disobedient prophet affected them, too, and they were soon in as much danger of drowning from the fierce gale as Jonah was. They were pagans, but they had some spiritual perception and understood that the storm was unusually fierce, supernaturally so, in fact; they reasoned that some powerful god was angry with one or more of them. When they drew straws to find out who it was, the lot fell on Jonah.

Jonah understood that God had found him out and was now exposing his disobedience. He confessed what he was doing. But he was still unrepentant. He had that “heart of stone” Ezekiel had written about. So, when the sailors asked what they should do to him to make the sea calm down for them, Jonah replied, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you” (v. 12).

I like to point out that Jonah did not know that God had prepared a great fish to swallow him and eventually return him back to land. So, if he was asking to be thrown overboard in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, it meant that he was willing to be drowned. It meant that in his heart he was still unrepentant, for he was saying, “I would rather die than submit to God’s will.”

That is what it means to have a hard heart. It is what every one of us has until God replaces it.

Was Jonah a genuine believer at this point? Good question! I used to say he was. We would expect it of a prophet. If he was, he is an example of how stubbornly disobedient some Christians are with God, at least for a time. Today, however, I am not so sure. It is clear that Jonah was not right with God, and his is more an example of an unregenerate heart than a regenerate one. At any rate, Jonah seems to have experienced what we would call a conversion inside the great fish, which is where the verse “Salvation comes from the Lord” occurs (Jonah 2:9).

What happened inside Jonah while he was inside the fish is the heart of this great story.

Prayer from the Depths

When Jonah was turning his back on God to go to Tarshish, it did not bother him at all that he was abandoning God. But suddenly, when he was thrown overboard to his death and found himself in the position of apparently being abandoned by God, and Jonah actually calls his condition hellish, saying, “From the depths of the grave [that is, from Sheol] I called for help” (Jonah 2:2). As the story shows, God had not abandoned Jonah. But Jonah thought he had, and his despair was the very first step in his conversion.

What Jonah did in that great fish was to pray. God brought him to that point. As he prayed, he discovered that God was using the very depths of his misery to show him mercy.

Jonah’s prayer has four characteristics of all true prayer, and these have bearing on the question of correct biblical evangelism, which is where we started.

  1. He was honest. The first thing we notice about Jonah’s prayer is that it was honest. That is, his disobedience had gotten him into a mess, and he acknowledged it. Before we get to this point, when God is working in our lives, we tend to explain away the hard hand of God’s judgments. We tell ourselves that we are only having a temporary setback, that things will get better, that they are not as bad as they seem. But when God begins to get through to us, the first thing that happens is that we admit our misery and desperate circumstances for what they are. Moreover, we admit that God has caused them. This is what Jonah does. You hear it in his prayer.

You hurled me into the deep,

into the very heart of the seas,

and the currents swirled about me;

all your waves and breakers

swept over me.

I said, “I have been banished

from your sight;

yet I will look again

toward your holy temple.”

Jonah 2:3–4

To acknowledge that God was behind his misfortune increased his terror, for it was not the sailors or even mere circumstances he was fighting. It was God. God had summoned Jonah to trial, cast a verdict of “guilty” against his sinful prophet, and sentenced him to death. This is a terror almost beyond words! But, in another sense, the acknowledgement of God’s hand in his misery also provided comfort. For God is merciful, and it is always better to fall into the hands of God, even the angry God, than of men.

It is often in judgment that mercy may be found.

  1. He repented. The second characteristic of Jonah’s prayer is a spirit of repentance. We see it in two ways. First, he acknowledged that what had happened to him, while caused by God, was nevertheless his own fault. This is the meaning of verse 8, where Jonah says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” An idol is anything that takes the place of God. So Jonah is confessing that he had rejected God, just as surely as those who literally worship idols. Therefore, he had renounced the source of all mercy.

The second way we know Jonah was genuinely repentant is that he does not ask God for anything. If he had, we might suspect that he was repenting only to get something from God. That is, he would have been treating his repentance as a good work that somehow was supposed to put God in his debt. Salvation does not come that way. Remember: Deserving something and receiving mercy are two entirely different things. Jonah knew now that all he deserved was damnation. Therefore, he was willing to wait upon the mercy of God, if it should come, without demanding anything.

  1. He was thankful. “Thankful?” we might ask. “From the belly of a fish? Only a few hours or days away from death? What could Jonah possibly be thankful about?” Well, if we continue to think of his plight in physical terms, there probably is no good answer. But it is vastly different if we think spiritually. True, Jonah had no hope of any bodily deliverance. But he had found the grace of God. His entire prayer shows he had. His word for what he had found is “salvation” (v. 9).

This is the greatest miracle of the book. Not the great fish. Not the storm. The greatest miracle is Jonah’s salvation.

  1. He was willing to take his position alongside the ungodly, all of whom need salvation by the mercy of God only. The final characteristic of this prayer is likewise significant. For when Jonah prayed, as he did at the end, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good” (v. 9, emphasis added), he was promising to do exactly what the pagan mariners had been willing to do, and did do, in the previous chapter. When they saw the power and holiness of Jonah’s God, “They offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him” (Jonah 1:16). It was right that they should. But here, in the second chapter, Jonah is taking his place alongside of them.

Earlier he had said, “I don’t want to preach to pagans. I am a Jew. I want God to judge the pagans.” But now, after he had discovered how much he deserved God’s judgment himself, he was willing to come to God as the mariners came—as a suppliant seeking mercy.

“Jesus Saves”

I have two final points. The first is a restatement of the truth that salvation is by the mercy of God and is without conditions.

What conditions could there be? Robert Haldane asks that question and answers with a telling paragraph:

Is it faith? Faith is the gift of God. Is it repentance? Christ is exalted as a Prince and a Savior to give repentance. Is it love? God promises to circumcise the heart in order to love him. Are they good works? His people are the workmanship of God created unto good works. Is it perseverance to the end? They are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.… “Thy people,” saith Jehovah to the Messiah, “shall be willing in the day of thy power.” Thus the believer, in running his race, and working out his salvation, is actuated by God and animated by the consideration of his all-powerful operation in the beginning of his course, of the continuation of his support during its progress, and by the assurances that it shall be effectual in enabling him to overcome all obstacles and to arrive in safety at the termination.

Second, what does this say about the proper way to do evangelism, the point with which I started?

Well, the weaknesses of our contemporary evangelism have been recognized and critiqued by many, among them Walter J. Chantry, Ernest C. Reisinger, and Gordon H. Clark, all of whom have written things that have been helpful to me. As I have read their books, I have found that there is a common bottom line. Evangelism is to teach the Word of God. Not just a certain evangelistic core, or only certain doctrines, or only truths that will move or motivate the ungodly. It is to teach the Bible and to do this as carefully, consistently, and comprehensively as possible, while looking to God (and praying to God) to give new life. Gordon Clark expressed it by saying quite succinctly, “Evangelism is the exposition of the Scripture. God will do the regenerating.”6

“Just preach Jesus!” someone says.

Did I hear, “Just preach Jesus”?

Let’s do it. But remember what Jesus means. Jesus means “Salvation is of the Lord,” the very words uttered by Jonah from the belly of the fish. To preach Jesus is to preach a Calvinistic gospel.[11]

[1] Patterson, P. (2017). Salvation in the Old Testament. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1796). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2173). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ro 9:16). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 1442–1443). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1718). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 324–325). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[7] Bruce, F. F. (1985). Romans: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 6, p. 193). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 357–359). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[9] 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. 612–613). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[10] 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, p. 153). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[11] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: God and History (Vol. 3, pp. 1083–1090). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

February 25 Morning Verse of The Day

5:44–45 Loving enemies and praying for one’s persecutors does not make a person God’s child. Only rebirth does that. However, the sort of forgiving love Jesus mentions displays your family resemblance to the heavenly Father, and thus serves as a sign to your true identity. God blesses both the evil and the good with sun and rain.[1]

5:44 Love your enemies. God hates evil, but he still brings many blessings in this life even to his enemies (v. 45) by means of “common grace” (the favor that he gives to all people and not just to believers). These blessings are intended to lead unbelievers to repentance (Acts 14:17; Rom. 2:4). Of course there is a sense in which God hates those who are resolutely and impenitently wicked (cf. Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Eph. 2:3), but God’s blessings of common grace constitute his primary providential action toward mankind here and now.

5:45 sons. The children of the heavenly Father are those who respond to his will as expressed in the ministry of Jesus (cf. 12:48–50). (Regarding “sons” [Gk. huioi], see ESV Preface.) sun … rain. God shows grace and care for all of his creatures; therefore Jesus’ disciples are to imitate God and love both neighbor and enemy.[2]

5:44, 45 love your enemies … that you may be sons of your Father. This plainly teaches that God’s love extends even to His enemies. This universal love of God is manifest in blessings which God bestows on all indiscriminately. Theologians refer to this as common grace. This must be distinguished from the everlasting love God has for the elect (Jer 31:3), but it is a sincere goodwill nonetheless (cf. Ps 145:9).[3]

5:44 KJV adds a phrase from Luke 6:27–28. It does not appear in ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א or B or several other geographically separated early manuscripts. In verse 44 there are two PRESENT IMPERATIVES: “keep on loving and praying” and one PRESENT PARTICIPLE: “the one who keeps on persecuting.” These PRESENTS speak of on-going commands both of loving and forgiving on the part of the believer as well as the possibility of on-going persecution.

5:45 “that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;” Believers’ lifestyles clearly reveal whose family they belong to: God’s or Satan’s. Children act like their fathers (cf. Lev. 19:2).[4]

44. Jesus rejects this distinction in favour of an undiscriminating love. The enemy will be primarily one who is outside and opposes the community of God’s people (see on v. 43, and the reference to those who persecute in this verse; see also on brethren, v. 47). The disciple’s attitude to religious persecution must go beyond non-retaliation to a positive love. But an exclusive application to cases of religious persecution would introduce the very legalism Jesus repudiates; there is no-one the disciple need not love. There is a sweeping universality in the love Jesus demands which has no parallel in Jewish literature (Banks, pp. 200–201). And this love will issue in prayer for the persecutors; it is not just a sentimental feeling, but an earnest desire for their good.14

45. Undiscriminating love will mark disciples out as sons of your Father, for the son shares the father’s character, and it is the character of God to dispense his natural blessings on all alike. Nothing is said here, of course, about spiritual blessings; the verse gives no warrant for a belief in universal salvation. There is no incompatibility between a recognition that some are saved and some lost and a practical kindness which embraces all men, even the persecutor.[5]

  • Love your enemies. This single point includes the whole of the former doctrine: for he who shall bring his mind to love those who hate him, will naturally refrain from all revenge, will patiently endure evils, will be much more prone to assist the wretched. Christ presents to us, in a summary view, the way and manner of fulfilling this precept, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, (Mat. 22:39.) For no man will ever come to obey this precept, till he shall have given up self-love, or rather denied himself, and till men, all of whom God has declared to be connected with him, shall be held by him in such estimation, that he shall even proceed to love those by whom he is regarded with hatred.

We learn from these words, how far believers ought to be removed from every kind of revenge: for they are not only forbidden to ask it from God, but are commanded to banish and efface it from their minds so completely, as to bless their enemies. In the meantime, they do not fail to commit their cause to God, till he take vengeance on the reprobate: for they desire, as far as lies in them, that the wicked should return to a sound mind, that they may not perish; and thus they endeavour to promote their salvation. And there is still this consolation, by which all their distresses are soothed. They entertain no doubt, that God will be the avenger of obstinate wickedness, so as to make it manifest, that those who are unjustly attacked are the objects of his care. It is very difficult, indeed, and altogether contrary to the disposition of the flesh, to render good for evil. But our vices and weakness ought not to be pleaded as an apology. We ought simply to inquire, what is demanded by the law of charity: for, if we rely on the heavenly power of the Spirit, we shall encounter successfully all that is opposed to it in our feelings.

This is undoubtedly the reason why monks, and other bawlers of the same class, imagined that these were advices, and not precepts, given by Christ: for they took the strength of men as the standard, for ascertaining what they owe to God and to his law. And yet the monks were not ashamed to claim perfection for themselves, having voluntarily bound themselves to attend to his advices. How faithfully they support the title to which they lay claim I do not now say: but the folly and absurdity of alleging, that they are only advices, will appear from many considerations. First, to say that he advised his disciples, but did not authoritatively command them, to do what was right, is to dishonour Christ. Secondly, to represent the duties of charity, which depend on the law, as matters on which they are left at liberty, is highly foolish. Thirdly, the words ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, but I say to you, mean in this passage, “I denounce,” or “I command,” and cannot, with propriety, be rendered, “I advise.” Lastly, that it is an express command of what must necessarily be obeyed, is proved, without any difficulty, from the words of Christ: for he immediately adds,

  • That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven. When he expressly declares, that no man will be a child of God, unless he love those who hate him, who shall dare to say, that we are not bound to observe this doctrine? The statement amounts to this, “Whoever shall wish to be accounted a Christian, let him love his enemies.” It is truly horrible and monstrous, that the world should have been covered with such thick darkness, for three or four centuries, as not to see that it is an express command, and that every one who neglects it is struck out of the number of the children of God.

It ought to be observed that, when the example of God is held out for our imitation, this does not imply, that it would be becoming in us to do whatever God does. He frequently punishes the wicked, and drives the wicked out of the world. In this respect, he does not desire us to imitate him: for the judgment of the world, which is his prerogative, does not belong to us. But it is his will, that we should imitate his fatherly goodness and liberality. This was perceived, not only by heathen philosophers, but by some wicked despisers of godliness, who have made this open confession, that in nothing do men resemble God more than in doing good. In short, Christ assures us, that this will be a mark of our adoption, if we are kind to the unthankful and evil. And yet you are not to understand, that our liberality makes us the children of God: but the same Spirit, who is the witness, (Rom. 8:16,) earnest, (Eph. 1:14,) and seal, (Eph. 4:30,) of our free adoption, corrects the wicked affections of the flesh, which are opposed to charity. Christ therefore proves from the effect, that none are the children of God, but those who resemble him in gentleness and kindness.

Luke says, and you shall be the children of the Highest. Not that any man acquires this honour for himself, or begins to be a child of God, when he loves his enemies; but because, when it is intended to excite us to do what is right, Scripture frequently employs this manner of speaking, and represents as a reward the free gifts of God. The reason is, he looks at the design of our calling, which is, that, in consequence of the likeness of God having been formed anew in us, we may live a devout and holy life. He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. He quotes two instances of the divine kindness toward us, which are not only well known to us, but common to all: and this very participation excites us the more powerfully to act in a similar manner towards each other, though, by a synecdoche, he includes a vast number of other favours.[6]

44 Jesus’ radical new precept, “Love your enemies,” does not specify whether he is talking about personal hostility or about political enemies—which at that time would mean primarily the Roman occupying forces. The following verses focus on the former (“those who persecute you;” “those who love you;” “your own circle”), but even to raise the question is probably to engage in the sort of casuistry Jesus’ simple demand was intended to sweep aside. The change from the singular “enemy” of v. 43 to the plural here may be intended to underline its comprehensiveness: there is no class of enemy which is excluded (cf. the very general “bad person” in v. 39). To “love” (agapaō) in the NT is not only a matter of emotion but also of an attitude which determines our behavior, acting for the good of the other (7:12 well sums up its implications), and is therefore appropriately expanded by the following clause, “pray for those who persecute you.” The expectation of persecution for Jesus’ followers is a recurrent theme in Matthew’s gospel (5:10–12; 10:16–39; 13:21; 16:24–26; 23:34–36; 24:9–13). His demand here goes even beyond v. 39: not only are they not to retaliate, nor even to resist, but even positively to seek the good of their persecutors and to pray for them. The example of Stephen (Acts 7:60) was followed by many of the early Christian martyrs. Prayer is mentioned primarily as an expression of good will towards the persecutors, without specifying its content, but presumably it would at least include the request that they, like Saul of Tarsus, might see the light.158

A realistic assessment of what “loving enemies” might mean in practice must of course take account of the very robust way in which Jesus reacted to the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees in the diatribe of ch. 23. His concept of love is apparently not at the level of simply being nice to people and of allowing error to go unchallenged. Love is not incompatible with controversy and rebuke.

45 Love for enemies is a reflection of the character of God himself. The thought is not that such behavior will by itself make the disciples into God’s children,160 since that status is already implied in the term “your Father who is in heaven” (see on 5:16). Rather it will be the proper outworking of that relationship and demonstrate its legitimacy (as with the peace-makers in 5:9, a beatitude which is strongly reflected in this passage). Like father, like son (as v. 48 will further require). Both bad and good are part of God’s creation and his provision of natural resources is not targeted towards his “favorites”162—a thought which should give pause to some contemporary patterns of prayer for God’s discriminatory benevolence to his own people whether in matters of weather and natural resources or with regard to health, prosperity, and the like. The disciple’s benevolence should be equally open and uncalculating.[7]

44–45 Jesus allowed no casuistry. The real direction indicated by the law is love, rich and costly and extended even to enemies. Many take the verb “love” (agapaō, GK 26) and the noun (agapē, GK 27) as always signifying self-giving regardless of emotion. For instance, Hill comments on this passage: “The love which is inculcated is not a matter of sentiment and emotion, but, as always in the OT and NT, of concrete action.” If this were so, 1 Corinthians 13:3 could not disavow “love” that gives everything to the poor and suffers even to martyrdom; for these are “concrete actions.” The same verb is used when Amnon incestuously loves his half sister Tamar (2 Sa 13:1 LXX); when Demas, because he loves this world (2 Ti 4:10), forsakes Paul; and when tax collectors love those who love them (v. 46).

The rise of this word group in Greek is well traced by Robert Joly, ʼΑγαπᾶν et Φιλεῖν: Le vocabulaire chrétien de l’amour, est-il original? (Brussels: Presses Universitaires, 1968). Christians doubtless took over the word group and largely filled it with their own content, but the content of that love is not based on a presupposed definition but on Jesus’ teaching and example. To love one’s enemies, though it must result in doing them good (Lk 6:32–33) and praying for them (v. 44), cannot justly be restricted to activities devoid of any concern, sentiment, or emotion. Like the English verb “to love,” agapaō ranges widely from debased and selfish actions to generous, warm, costly self-sacrifice for another’s good. There is no reason to think the verb here in Matthew does not include emotion as well as action.

Much recent scholarship identifies the “enemies” with the persecutors of Matthew’s church. Verses 44–47 are then seen as Matthew’s transformation of Luke’s more general exhortation (6:32–35) into encouragement for believers in Matthew’s day to submit graciously to their persecutors. If Matthew’s first readers were being persecuted for their faith, that was doubtless one application they made, though it is unlikely that Matthew himself intends to be quite so restrictive and anachronistic. The words “those who persecute you” introduce one important kind of “enemy” but do not exclude other kinds. Jesus himself repeatedly warns his disciples of impending persecution (e.g., vv. 10–12; 10:16–23; 24:9–13), so there is little need to doubt the authenticity of the warning here.

One manifestation of love for enemies will be in prayer; praying for an enemy and loving him will prove mutually reinforcing. The more love, the more prayer; the more prayer, the more love. John Stott (Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 119) writes, “Jesus seems to have prayed for his tormentors actually while the iron spikes were being driven through his hands and feet; … ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34). If the cruel torture of crucifixion could not silence our Lord’s prayer for his enemies, what pain, pride, prejudice, or sloth could justify the silencing of ours?”

Jesus’ disciples have as their example God himself, who loves so indiscriminately that he sends sun and rain (they are his to bestow) on both the righteous and the unrighteous (cf. Seneca, Ben. 4.26; b. Taʿan. 7b). Yet we must not conclude that God’s love toward men is in all respects without distinction and that therefore all must be saved in the end. The same Jesus teaches otherwise (e.g., in 25:31–46), and the NT shows that some aspects of God’s love are indeed related to his moral character and demands for obedience (e.g., Jn 15:9–11; Jude 21).

Theologians since Calvin have related God’s love in vv. 44–45 to his “common grace” (i.e., the gracious favor God bestows “commonly,” without distinction, on all men). He could with justice condemn all; instead he shows repeated and prolonged favor on all. That is the point here established for our emulation, not that God’s love is amoral or without any distinctions whatsoever. See D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2000).

It is equally unsound to conclude that the OT requires harsh terms for an enemy but that the NT overcomes this dark portrait with new demands for unqualified love. Counterevidence refutes this notion: the OT often mandates love for others (e.g., Ex 23:4–5; Lev 19:18, 33–34; 1 Sa 24:5; Job 31:29; Ps 7:4; Pr 24:17, 29; 25:21–22 [cf. Ro 12:20], and the NT speaks against the reprobate (e.g., Lk 18:7; 1 Co 16:22; 2 Th 1:6–10; 2 Ti 4:18; Rev 6:10). Rather, vv. 44–45 insist that the OT law cited (v. 43) points to the wealth of love exercised by the heirs of the kingdom, a love qualitatively different from that experienced by other people (see comments at vv. 46–47).

45 God’s example provides the incentive for Jesus’ disciples to be (genēsthe, more likely “become”) sons of their Father. Ultimately this clause does not mean that the disciples act in a loving way to show what they already are (contra Schniewind, Zahn) but to become what they not yet are (Bonnard, Lagrange)—sons of the Father, in the sense established in v. 9. The point of the passage is not to state the means of becoming sons but the necessity of pursuing a certain kind of sonship patterned after the Father’s character. “To be persecuted because of righteousness is to align oneself with the prophets (5:12); but to bless and pray for those who persecute us is to align oneself with the character of God” (Carson, Sermon on the Mount, 53). “To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine” (Plummer). Both vv. 44 and 45 show that Jesus’ disciples must live and love in a way superior to the patterns around them.[8]

love your enemies

But I say to you, love your enemies. (5:44a)

Here is the most powerful teaching in Scripture about the meaning of love. The love that God commands of His people is love so great that it even embraces enemies.

William Hendriksen comments,

All around him were those walls and fences. He came for the very purpose of bursting those barriers, so that love—pure, warm, divine, infinite—would be able to flow straight down from the heart of God, hence from his own marvelous heart, into the hearts of men. His love overleaped all the boundaries of race, nationality, party, age, sex.…

When he said, “I tell you, love your enemies,” he must have startled his audience, for he was saying something that probably never before had been said so succinctly, positively, and forcefully. (The Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973], p. 313)

The scribes and Pharisees were proud, prejudiced, judgmental, spiteful, hateful, vengeful men who masqueraded as the custodians of God’s law and the spiritual leaders of Israel. To them, Jesus’ command to love your enemies must have seemed naive and foolish in the extreme. They not only felt they had the right but the duty to hate their enemies. Not to hate those who obviously deserve to be hated would be a breach of righteousness.

Jesus again sets His divine standard against the perverted human standards of that heretical Jewish tradition and reinforces it with the emphatic I. In Greek verbs a pronominal suffix indicates the subject, as here with lēgo (I say), and the separate pronoun I would not have been necessary had Jesus intended simply to give information.

But here, as in each preceding instance in the sermon (vv. 22, 28, 32, 34, 39), the emphatic form (egōlegō) gives not only grammatical but theological emphasis. In placing what He said above what tradition said, He placed His word on a par with Scripture—as His hearers well understood. Jesus not only placed emphasis on what was said but on who said it. It was not just that His teaching was the standard of truth, but that He Himself was the standard of truth. “Your great rabbis, scribes, and scholars have taught you to love only those of your own preference and to hate your enemies, ” Jesus was saying. “But by My own authority, I declare that they are false teachers and have perverted God’s revealed truth. The divine truth is My truth, which is that you shall love your enemies.”

As we have noted, the Old Testament concept of neighbor included even personal enemies. That is the truth Jesus expands in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The point of the parable is not primarily to answer the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” though it does that, but to show that Gods’ requirement is for us to be neighbors to anyone who needs our help (Luke 10:29, 36–37).

The human tendency is to base love on the desirability of the object of our love. We love people who are attractive, hobbies that are enjoyable, a house or a car because it looks nice and pleases us, and so on. But true love is need-oriented. The Good Samaritan demonstrated great love because he sacrificed his own convenience, safety, and resources to meet another’s desperate need.

The Greek language has four different terms that are usually translated “love.” Philia is brotherly love and the love of friendship; storgē is the love of family; and erōs is desiring, romantic, sexual love. But the love of which Jesus speaks here, and which is most spoken of in the New Testament, is agapē, the love that seeks and works to meet another’s highest welfare.

Agapē love may involve emotion but it must involve action. In Paul’s beautiful and powerful treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13, all fifteen of the characteristics of love are given in verb form. Obviously love must involve attitude, because, like every form of righteousness, it begins in the heart. But it is best described and best testified by what it does.

Above all, agapē love is the love that God is, that God demonstrates, and that God gives (1 John 4:7–10). “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us … [and] God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:5, 8). Because of His love, we can love, and “if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:11–12).

When Jesus told the disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34), He had just finished washing their feet as an example of humble, self-giving love. The disciples had done nothing to inspire Jesus’ love. They were self-centered, quarrelsome, jealous of each other, and sometimes even argued with and contradicted the One whom they confessed to be their God, Savior, and Lord. Yet everything that Jesus said to them and did for them was completely and without exception for their good. That was the kind of love He commanded them to have for Him and for each other. And that is the kind of love He commands all of His followers to have even for their enemies.

The commentator R. C. H. Lenski writes,

[Love] indeed, sees all the hatefulness and the wickedness of the enemy, feels his stabs and his blows, may even have something to do toward warding them off; but all this simply fills the loving heart with the one desire and aim, to free its enemy from his hate, to rescue him from his sin, and thus to save his soul. Mere affection is often blind, but even then it thinks that it sees something attractive in the one toward whom it goes out; the higher love may see nothing attractive in the one so loved, … its inner motive is simply to bestow true blessing on the one loved, to do him the highest good.… I cannot like a low, mean criminal who may have robbed me and threatened my life; I cannot like a false, lying, slanderous fellow who, perhaps, has vilified me again and again; but I can by the grace of Jesus Christ love them all, see what is wrong with them, desire and work to do them only good, most of all to free them from their vicious ways. (The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1964], p. 247)

Love’s question is never who to love—because we are to love everyone—but only how to love most helpfully. We are not to love merely in terms of feeling but in terms of service. God’s love embraces the entire world (John 3:16), and He loved each of us even while we were still sinners and His enemies (Rom. 5:8–10). Those who refuse to trust in God are His enemies; but He is not theirs. In the same way, we are not to be enemies of those who may be enemies to us. From their perspective, we are their enemies; but from our perspective, they should be our neighbors.

In 1567 King Philip II of Spain appointed the Duke of Alba as governor of the lower part of the nation. The Duke was a bitter enemy of the newly-emerging Protestant Reformation. His rule was called the reign of terror, and his council was called the Bloody Council, because it had ordered the slaughter of so many Protestants. It is reported that one man who was sentenced to die for his biblical faith managed to escape during the dead of winter. As he was being pursued by a lone soldier, the man came to a lake whose ice was thin and cracking. Somehow he managed to get safely across the ice, but as soon as he reached the other side he heard his pursuer screaming. The soldier had fallen through the ice and was about to drown. At the risk of being captured, tortured, and eventually killed—or of being drowned himself—the man went back across the lake and rescued his enemy, because the love of Christ constrained him to do it. He knew he had no other choice if he was to be faithful to His Lord (Elon Foster, New Cyclopedia of Prose Illustrations: Second Series [New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1877], p. 296).

The Scottish Reformer George Wishart, a contemporary and friend of John Knox, was sentenced to die as a heretic. Because the executioner knew of Wishart’s selfless ministering to hundreds of people who were dying of the plague, he hesitated carrying out the sentence. When Wishart saw the expression of remorse on the executioner’s face, he went over and kissed him on the cheek, saying, “Sir, may that be a token that I forgive you” (John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, ed. W. Grinton Berry [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], p. 252).

Our “enemies,” of course, do not always come in such life-threatening forms. Often they are ordinary people who are mean, impatient, judgmental, self-righteous, and spiteful—or just happen to disagree with us. In whatever personal relationships we have, God wants us to love. Whether a conflict is with our marriage partner, our children or parents, our friends and fellow church members, a devious business opponent, spiteful neighbor, political foe, or social antagonist, our attitude toward them should be one of prayerful love.

pray for your persecutors

and pray for those who persecute you. (5:44b)

All men live with some sense of sin and guilt. And guilt produces fear, which in its ultimate form is fear of death and of what is beyond death. In various ways, therefore, most people have devised religious beliefs, rituals, and practices they are convinced will offer them some relief from guilt and judgment. Some people try to get rid of guilt simply by denying it or by denying the existence of a God who holds men accountable for sin.

Throughout history the worst persecutions have been religious. They have been the strongest against God’s people, because the divine standards He has given to them and which are seen in them are a judgment on the wickedness and corruption of false religion. God’s Word unmasks people at their most sensitive and vulnerable point, the point of their self-justification—whether that justification is religious, philosophical, or even atheistic.

Because persecution is so often the world’s response to God’s truth, the Lord assures us that, just as He was persecuted, so will we be (John 15:20). Therefore His command for us to pray for our persecutors is a command that every faithful believer may in some way have opportunity to obey. It is not reserved for believers who happen to live in pagan or atheistic lands where Christianity is forbidden or severely restricted.

Jesus taught that every disciple who makes his faith known is going to pay some price for it, and that we are to pray for those who exact that price from us. Spurgeon said, “Prayer is the forerunner of mercy,” and that is perhaps the reason why Jesus mentions prayer here. Loving enemies is not natural to men and is sometimes difficult even for those who belong to God and have His love within them. The best way to have the right attitude, the agapē love attitude, toward those who persecute us is to bring them before the Lord in prayer. We may sense their wickedness, their unfairness, their ungodliness, and their hatred for us, and in light of those things we could not possibly love them for what they are. We must love them because of who they are—sinners fallen from the image of God and in need of God’s forgiveness and grace, just as we were sinners in need of His forgiveness and grace before He saved us. We are to pray for them that they will, as we have done, seek His forgiveness and grace.

Our persecutors may not always be unbelievers. Christians can cause other Christians great trouble, and the first step toward healing those broken relationships is also prayer. Whoever persecutes us, in whatever way and in whatever degree, should be on our prayer list. Talking to God about others can begin to knit the petitioner’s heart with the heart of God.

Chrysostom said that prayer is the very highest summit of self-control and that we have most brought our lives into conformity to God’s standards when we can pray for our persecutors. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor who suffered and eventually was killed in Nazi Germany, wrote of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:44, “This is the supreme demand. Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God” (The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R. H. Fuller [2d rev. ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1960], p. 166).

manifest your sonship

in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (5:45)

To love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors shows that we are sons of [our] Father who is in heaven. The aorist tense of genēsthe (may be) indicates a once and for all established fact. God Himself is love, and the greatest evidence of our divine sonship through Jesus Christ is our love. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). In fact, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (v. 20).

Loving as God loves does not make us sons of the Father, but gives evidence that we already are His children. When a life reflects God’s nature it proves that life now possesses His nature by the new birth.

One of the commonest and most damaging criticisms of Christianity is the charge that Christians do not live up to their faith. Even though the world has a limited and often distorted idea of what the gospel is, they know enough about the teachings of Christ and the life of Christ to realize that most people who go by His name do not do all that He commanded and do not live as He lived.

But even a person who has never heard of Christ or the teachings of the New Testament would suspect there is divine power behind a life that loves and cares even to the point of loving enemies—simply because such a life is so utterly uncharacteristic of human nature. A life of self-giving love gives evidence of sonship of the Father who is in heaven. That phrase emphasizes the heavenly realm in which the Lord dwells, the realm that is the source of this kind of love.

Those who are God’s children should show impartial love and care similar to what God shows. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Those blessings are given without respect to merit or deserving. If they were, no one would receive them. In what theologians traditionally have called common grace, God is indiscriminate in His benevolence. His divine love and providence in some forms benefit everyone, even those who rebel against Him or deny His existence.

An old rabbinic saying tells of the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. As the story goes, when the Egyptians were destroyed the angels began to rejoice; but God lifted up His hand and said, “The work of My hands are sunk in the sea and you would sing?” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, 2 vols. [rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 1:176).

“The eyes of all look to Thee, and Thou dost give them their food in due time,” the psalmist testifies. “Thou dost open Thy hand, and dost satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Ps. 145:15–16). There is no good thing—physical, intellectual, emotional, moral, spiritual, or of any other sort—that anyone possesses or experiences that does not come from the hand of God. If God does that for everyone, His children should reflect that same generosity.[9]

[1] Stein, R. H. (2017). Differences in the Gospels. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1508). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1830–1831). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 5:44). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Utley, R. J. (2000). The First Christian Primer: Matthew (Vol. Volume 9, p. 46). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[5] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 133–134). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 304–307). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[7] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 225–227). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[8] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 191–193). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[9] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 343–349). Chicago: Moody Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Week One – Thursday

Confession: Psalm 25:16–18

Turn to me and have mercy on me

because I am lonely and afflicted.

Remove the troubles of my heart;

bring me out from my distresses.

Consider my affliction and trouble,

and forgive all my sins.

Reading: Mark 10:1–12

And from there he set out and came to the region of Judea and the other side of the Jordan, and again crowds came together to him. And again, as he was accustomed to do, he began to teach them. And they asked him if it was permitted for a man to divorce his wife, in order to test him. And he answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” So they said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” But Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your hardness of heart. But from the beginning of creation ‘he made them male and female. Because of this a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh,’ so that they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

And in the house again the disciples began to ask him about this. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”


See a teacher’s wisdom.… By His argument He showed that it was the commandment of His Father, and that not in opposition to Moses did He command these things, but in full agreement with him. Notice Him arguing strongly not only from the creation, but also from His command. For He not only said that He made one man and one woman only, but that He also gave this command that the one man should be joined to the one woman.… But now both by the manner of the creation, and by the manner of lawgiving, He showed that one man must dwell with one woman continually, and never break off from her.

—John Chrysostom

Homolies of St. John Chrysostom


Jesus comes with authority. How are you eager for Him to reign in all parts of your life—your relationships, your work, your thoughts, and your goals?[1]

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 24 Evening Verse of The Day

10:4 Christ is the end of the law in being both its fulfillment and its termination. Any system of salvation based on performance is excluded.[1]

10:4 Christ is the end of the law. The interpretation followed here is that Christ is the goal or purpose of the law (Gal. 3:24). Another interpretation is that for believers Christ makes the law obsolete because they no longer strive to establish their own righteousness by it.[2]

10:4 is the end The Greek word used here, telos, often translated “end,” could refer to a goal, result, or termination. Thus, Christ can be understood as the law’s fulfillment, in the sense that His death and resurrection achieved God’s purpose for the law.

of the law for righteousness Paul typically uses the Greek word nomos (“law”) to refer to the law of Moses. Paul’s point about the relationship between righteousness and the end of the law can be read in several ways, depending on how the Greek grammar is translated.[3]

10:4 End probably includes the idea of both goal and termination. The Mosaic law has reached its goal in Christ (it looked forward to and anticipated him), and the law is no longer binding upon Christians (the old covenant has ended). Since Christ is the goal and end of the law, righteousness belongs to all who trust in Christ.[4]

10:4 Christ is the end of the law. Although the Gr. word translated “end” can mean either “fulfillment” or “termination,” this is not a reference to Christ’s having perfectly fulfilled the law through His teaching (Mt 5:17, 18) or through His sinless life (2Co 5:21). Instead, as the second half of the verse shows, Paul means that belief in Christ as Lord and Savior ends the sinner’s futile quest for righteousness through his imperfect attempts to save himself by efforts to obey the law (cf. 3:20–22; Is 64:6; Col 2:13, 14).[5]

10:4 — For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

When we place our faith in Christ, God looks at us just as He looks at Jesus, who completely obeyed the whole law, without exception and without fault. The perfect record of Christ becomes ours through faith.[6]

10:4 End can mean “fulfillment”; that is, Christ fulfilled all the requirements of the law. It can also mean “goal,” to say that Christ was the object to which the law led. The point is that Israel was ignorant of God’s righteousness because they failed to comprehend what the law was intended to do. The law revealed sin and showed that people could not hope to keep the law. Christ came and fulfilled it, then offered us His righteousness through faith in Him.[7]

10:4 If they had only believed on Christ, they would have seen that He is the end of the law for righteousness. The purpose of the law is to reveal sin, to convict and condemn transgressors. It can never impart righteousness. The penalty of the broken law is death. In His death, Christ paid the penalty of the law which men had broken. When a sinner receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, the law has nothing more to say to him. Through the death of his Substitute, he has died to the law. He is through with the law and with the futile attempt to achieve righteousness through it.[8]





“for Christ is the end of the law”




“for Christ has brought the law to an end”




“but now the law has come to an end with Christ”


This statement is in line with Matt. 5:17–48. The purpose, goal or end (telos) of the Law was not salvation, but conviction of sin, and that purpose continues (cf. 3:10–20 and especially Gal. 3:24–25). The classical NT text on this subject is Gal. 3:1–29.

When discussing this issue, context is crucial. Paul uses the OT in several different ways. When discussing the Christian life, the OT is God’s revelation (cf. Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11), but when discussing salvation it is void and has passed away (cf. Heb. 8:13). This is because it is a metaphor for the old age. The gospel of faith in Jesus is the new age of the Spirit. The Law’s time is up!





“for righteousness to everyone who believes”




“so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes”




“so that everyone who believes is put right with God”




“so that all who have faith will be justified”


Chapters 9–11 must be interpreted together. The emphasis on God’s sovereignty stated so strongly in chapter 9 must be held in tension with the call for all to believe in chapter 10 (cf. vv. 4, 9, 11, 13; 3:22; 4:11, 16).

The universality of God’s love and redemptive purpose was stated in Gen. 3:15 and strongly implied in Gen. 12:3 and Exod. 19:5–6. The prophets often spoke of God’s universal love and plan to unite all mankind. The fact that there is one God and that He made all humans in His image provides a universal invitation to all to be saved. However, the mystery is that no one can respond without the agency of the Spirit (cf. John 6:44, 65). Then the question becomes, “Does God draw all humans to salvation?” The answer must be, “Yes!” (cf. John 3:16; 4:42; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). The haunting paradox of sin, the fall, and Satan is that some say “No.” When Paul preached, some Jews responded, some did not; some Gentiles responded, some did not!

The term “believe” (pisteuō) is translated by three English terms, “believe,” “faith,” and “trust.” It is PRESENT TENSE, which speaks of continuing belief. It is not the acknowledgment of facts (theology, historical details, gospel information) that receives the gift of God’s grace through Christ. The NT is a covenant; God sets the agenda and initiates the necessary response, but the individual must respond in initial faith and repentance and ongoing faith and repentance. Obedience and perseverance are crucial. Christlikeness and ministry are the goal![9]

4. For Christ is the goal of the law, so that there is righteousness for everyone who puts his trust (in him).

Does one wish to understand the goal, the meaning and substance, of the Old Testament law? Then study Christ. Is not the very purpose of the law the establishment of love? See Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18 (in that order); cf. Matt. 22:37–39. Is not Christ the very embodiment of that love, both in his life and in his death? And is it not true that because of this love which caused him to suffer and die in his people’s stead, there now is right standing with God for everyone who reposes his trust in the Savior? Is not this the very theme of Romans?

Since verse 4 refers to Christ, as the law’s goal, in the sense explained, it would seem to be logical, in the present case, to refer to Christ also in the next verse.[10]

Righteousness for those who believe (v. 4)

Paul’s words are the more potent for their brevity.

For Christ is the ‘end’ of the Law

for righteousness

for all who believe.

The introductory ‘For’ ties verse 4 back into the preceding passage (9:30–10:3) and summarizes that passage. Paul describes Israel’s futile attempt to establish ‘righteousness’ based on Law.

9:31      Israel pursued the Law to attain righteousness …

9:32      [Israel] pursued righteousness based on works …

10:3      They seek to establish their own righteousness …

Israel pursued Law for righteousness based on works. But Christ is ‘the end’ of ‘the Law’.

What does Paul intend us to understand by ‘end’, ‘righteousness’ and ‘believe’?

By his word ‘end’ (telos) Paul has in mind several layers of meaning. First, ‘end’ means ‘end point’ or ‘goal’. In this sense Christ is the ‘fulfilment’ of all the hopes, promises and ‘visions’ of the ‘Law’, that is, the entire corpus of the Old Testament. But ‘end’ also means ‘that which terminates’. Understood like this, Christ crucified and risen brings Law to an ‘end’. In this second layer of meaning, ‘Law’ is the covenant God gave the people through Moses at Mt. Sinai. As promised by the prophets, however, God established a ‘new covenant’ based not on Law, but on the promised Christ who died for sins, and on the Spirit who changes the hearts. But this way of ‘righteousness’ Israel has rejected.

‘Righteousness,’ the keyword of the entire letter (see on 1:17), was reintroduced in the previous chapter (see on 9:30–31). By ‘righteousness’ Paul means God’s own ‘righteousness’ that he shares with sinful man (as in v. 3). But on what terms does God give his ‘righteousness’ to man?

The answer is provided in the words, ‘to all who believe’ (see on 1:16–17; 3:22–5:1), which in context can mean only one thing, namely, ‘all who believe’ in ‘Christ’ who is ‘the end of the Law’. ‘Christ’ has fulfilled the ‘promises’ of the Law and the Prophets as the Davidic Messiah Jesus, crucified and risen. Thus ‘Christ’ is the One in whom man is to believe, whether Jew or Gentile, to enjoy the gift of God’s righteousness.

Earlier Paul had demonstrated that no one—Jew or Gentile—is capable of achieving his own ‘righteousness’ (see on 1:18–3:20). This teaching is rejected by most Jews who seek to attain the ‘righteousness of God’ by the ‘works’ of the ‘Law’. Thus throughout Romans Paul sets ‘Christ’ against ‘works’ and ‘Law’ as the means to the ‘righteousness of God’. Paul is insisting that only God can declare sinful people ‘righteous,’ which he does by way of ‘gift’ or ‘donation’ to those who ‘believe’ in Jesus, the son of David and the Son of God, crucified and raised.

‘All who believe’ has a precise meaning. It is not a vague ‘believing’, a misty religiosity but a personal trust informed by the apostolic gospel that is intentionally directed towards the Son of God and away from any kind of self-effort hoping for acceptance by God.[11]

Ver. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Christ the end of the law:

  1. In what sense? 1. As its great antitype. 2. Its only sacrifice. 3. The source of its moral power.
  2. For what end? To secure—1. Pardon of sin. 2. Holiness of life.

III. Unto whom? 1. Every one. 2. That believeth. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness:

  1. The end of all law is righteousness—the production of the most perfect results. 1. In the natural world the use of the law is to perpetuate results essential to its well-being, e.g., the circulation of the atmosphere, ebb and flow of tide, alteration of seasons, motions and influence of planets, &c. 2. The great aim of law in the moral world is to regulate conduct so as to produce a righteous character. The aim of the law of Moses was to lead to a higher life (chap. 7:10). (1) The ethical element in the Mosaic law discovered to man the havoc made by sin (chap. 7:7, 11, 13). (2) The ceremonial element shadowed forth the remedy. The sacrifices and festivals were intended to show the necessity for the expiation of sin, by the atonement of Christ.
  2. In Christ we have the grand end of both the ethical and ceremonial law—righteousness and holiness. Law depends for its authority upon the personal character of the lawgiver. The character of Christ was like His law—holy, just, and good. 1. From Christ proceeds the moral law by which sin is discovered to us. His character is a constant reproof to us. His words bring home the consciousness of violated law. 2. In Christ is the only remedy for sin. The arrangements of the ceremonial law terminated in Him—the shadow retired when the substance appeared. In His life and death He fulfilled the duties and endured the penalties of the law, thus vindicating the righteousness of God and providing a complete righteousness for sinful man.

III. Faith in Christ is accepted as a perfect obedience to the law. Law is powerless punitively when the end for which it exists is attained. We disarm the law by obeying it. All our unaided efforts to obey law—while in a state of lawless unnature—are futile. It is like running alongside a parallel pathway into which we are vainly trying to turn ourselves. Faith, and faith only, is the means of junction. This puts us into the position in which law would place us. The end of all law being the production of the most perfect results, this very end is answered when we believe in Jesus. For Christ, and all He has, becomes our own. “He is made unto us, of God, wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” “The law and the gospel are evidenced in man’s moral nature. The law the ideal of its life, the gospel the life of its ideal.” Lessons: 1. It is hopeless to attempt to attain righteousness by law, because of our moral inability to obey all its requirements. 2. Faith in Christ is the only and universal way of obedience. (J. S. Exell, M.A.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness:

  1. What is implied in these words. 1. That the law of God has been universally broken (chap. 3:10, 12). 2. That, therefore, every man is under the curse of that law (Gal. 3:13; Rom. 2:8, 11). 3. That, in order to be saved, this curse must be removed and sins remitted. 4. That no man of himself can remove this curse or obtain this remission of his sins. 5. That notwithstanding God cannot recede from His claims, nor abate one jot or tittle of what His holy law demands, either in penalty or precept. 6. That every person who would obtain salvation must look out for such a righteousness as shall be answerable to all the claims of the law, be perfectly satisfactory to God, and therefore available for his justification and peace.
  2. In what way is “Christ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”? Consider—1. The general purport of Christ’s coming (Psa. 40:6, 10; Heb. 10:1, 14; Isa. 42:6, 7, 21; Dan. 9:24; Jer. 23:5, 6; 33:15, 16; Isa. 53:6, cf. 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21). 2. The special character of His mediation. We must consider it as substitutional. We must behold Him rendering unto God, for those whom He represented, a perfect obedience to the law which they have broken, and suffering to its full and utmost extent the curse which they have incurred. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness—not by abrogating its authority, or lowering its requisitions, to meet the exigencies of our lapsed condition—but rather by asserting its full obligation and satisfying all its equitable claims. This is the great glory of the gospel—that God can be just—in exacting every claim of the law and in punishing every sin of those whom He saves to its full desert—and yet the justifier of them that believe in Jesus.

III. To whom is this provision available, or who are benefited thereby. “Every one that believeth,” and no more. But we must ascertain—1. The testimony given in Scripture to this truth. We are again and again told that faith alone is the means appointed by God for granting the efficacy of this provision to the souls of men. 2. Why we can be benefited in this way of faith, and in no other? It is enough to say that God hath declared it. But we need not let the subject rest here. Man is utterly lost, helpless, and undone. Nothing that we can do can avail for our salvation. Our help and hope are based upon One, who only is mighty to save. It is therefore evident that the only way in which we can be benefited by what another has done for our salvation, must be by believing in Him for the execution of such an interposition, and for the advantage of the blessing procured thereby. 3. What is the nature of that faith by which we become interested in this righteousness. It is the act of a soul made willing in the day of God’s power, under a clear discovery of its lost condition, and a clear perception of the mediation of Jesus, by which it is brought to rely on that mediation, and to plead that righteousness with God for its pardon and peace (chap. 10:10; Heb. 11:1). 4. To what extent is this truth to be carried in the justification of the sinner before God? To the full extent for which it is designed for that purpose. It takes in the sinner’s whole case—sins, guilt, condemnation, and deserved wrath. It brings him a full and complete deliverance and justification from all. Nay, more, it invests him with the perfect righteousness of Christ, as a perfect fulfilment of the law by which he stands accepted with God.

  1. What are the importance and advantages arising therefrom. Hereby—1. The law is established in all its authority, obligations, and claims. 2. God is honoured and exalted in the possession and exercise of all His perfections. 3. A sure and certain way of life and salvation, of pardon and peace, is opened for guilty men. 4. A sure provision is made for a loving, devoted, and delightful obedience to the will of God. 5. There is afforded to the soul a sure rock for its present safety and a firm foundation for its future security, even for ever. 6. The Church of God is provided with an unerring test by which to try every doctrine proposed for her acceptance, and an indomitable weapon by which to conquer every antichristian foe. (R. Shittler.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness:

  1. The proposition. “Christ is the end of the law.” The end of a thing is either mathematical or moral. The mathematical end is the utmost part of a thing, in which the length or continuance is determined; as a point is the end of a line, death the end of life, the day of judgment the end of this world. The moral end of a thing is the scope and perfection of it. Now Christ is the end of the law both ways. 1. The mathematical end of the ceremonial and moral. Of the ceremonial by a direct signification, of the moral by an accidental direction. The ceremonies signified Christ and ended at Him. Properly, the moral law leads sinners to the curse, but by account to Christ, as the disease leads to the medicine or physician. 2. He is also the moral end of both. For He is the body of those ceremonies and shadows, and He perfectly fulfilled the Decalogue for us, and that three ways. (1) In His pure conception. (2) In His godly life. (3) In His holy and obedient sufferings, and all for us. For whatsoever the law required that we should be, do, or suffer, He hath performed in our behalf. Therefore one wittily saith that Christ is Telos, the end, or tribute, and we, by His payment, Ateleis, tribute-free, we are discharged by Him before God. Christ is both these ends, but principally the last is here understood.
  2. The amplification “for righteousness.” When thou art come to Christ thou must not cast away the law, but use it still to make thee more to cling unto Christ and as a rule of righteous living. Christ is the end of the law, not the killing, but fulfilling end; not to end, but to urge thy obedience. When the merchant is come aboard his ship by boat, he drowns not his boat, but hoists it up into his ship; he may have use of it another time. Or as a nobleman neglects not his schoolmaster when he is come to his lands, but prefers him. So certainly, if the law (though sharp) hath brought thee to Christ, thou canst not but love it for this office; if thou doest not, thou hast not Christ. Yea, it will be the delight of a man to be then doing, when Christ is with him, as Peter then willingly and with success cast out his net. Without Christ the law is an uncomfortable study; but with Him, nothing more delightful. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Christ the end of the law:—Consider—

  1. Christ in connection with the law. The law is that which we have cause to dread; for the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” Yet, like the fascination which attracts the gnat to the candle, men by nature fly to the law for salvation. Now, what has our Lord to do with the law? 1. He is its purpose and object. The law is our schoolmaster, or rather our attendant to conduct us to the school of Jesus; the great net in which the fish are enclosed that they may be drawn out of the element of sin; the stormy wind which drives souls into the harbour of refuge; the sheriff’s officer to shut men up in prison for their sin, concluding them all under condemnation in order that they may look to the free grace of God alone for deliverance. It empties that grace may fill, wounds that mercy may heal. Had man never fallen, the law would have been most helpful to show him the way in which he should walk: and by keeping it he would have lived (ver. 5). But since man has fallen, a way of salvation by works has become impossible. The law is meant to lead the sinner to faith in Christ, by showing the impossibility of any other way. It is the dog to fetch the sheep to the shepherd, the burning heat which drives the traveller to the shadow of the great rock in a weary land. The law is adapted to this; for—(1) It shows man his sin. Who can lay his own character side by side with it without seeing how far he has fallen short of the standard? When the law comes home to the soul it is like light in a dark room revealing the dust and the dirt which else had been unperceived. It is the test which detects the presence of the poison of sin in the soul. A true balance discovers short weight, and such is the first effect of the law upon the conscience of man. (2) It shows the result and mischief of sin. The types were intended to lead men to Christ by making them see their unclean condition and their need of such cleansing as only He can give. Men put apart because of disease or uncleanness were made to see how sin separated them from God; and when they were brought back and purified with mystic rites, they were made to see how they can only be restored by Christ, the great High Priest. “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” (3) It teaches men their utter helplessness. Such holiness as the law demands no man can reach of himself. “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” “How can he be clean that is born of a woman?” In grace there is hope, but as a matter of debt there is none, for we do not merit anything but wrath. The law tells us this, and the sooner we know it to be so the better, for the sooner we shall fly to Christ. (4) It shows us our great need. The law is the surgeon’s knife which cuts out the proud flesh that the wound may heal. The law by itself only sweeps and raises the dust, but the gospel sprinkles clean water upon the dust. The law kills, the gospel makes alive; the law strips, and then Jesus Christ robes the soul in beauty. 2. Christ is the law’s fulfilment. (1) God by immutable necessity demands righteousness of His creatures, and the law is not compelled to lower its terms, as though it had originally asked too much; but Christ gives the law all it requires. The law claims complete obedience, and Christ has brought in such a righteousness as that, and gives it to His people. Only as righteous ones can we be saved, but Christ makes us righteous, and therefore we are saved. (2) Jesus has thus fulfilled the original demands of the law, but since we have broken it there are other demands. God “will by no means clear the guilty,” but every transgression shall have its just punishment. Here, then, Christ is the end of the law as to penalty. The claims of the law both as broken and unbroken Christ has met: both the positive and the penal demands are satisfied in Him. (3) Not only has the penalty been paid, but Christ has put great honour upon the law in so doing. If the whole race had kept the law it would not stand in so splendid a position as it does now that the Son of God has paid obeisance to it. Who shall say a word against the law to which the Lawgiver Himself submits? (4) The law’s stability also has been secured by Christ. That alone can remain which is proved to be just, and Jesus has proved the law to be so, magnifying it and making it honourable. He says, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” As to the settlement of the eternal principles of right and wrong, Christ’s life and death have achieved this for ever. “We establish the law, we do not make void the law through faith.” 3. Christ is the end of the law in that He is the termination of it in two senses. (1) His people are not under it as a covenant of life. “We are not under the law, but under grace.” (2) We are no longer under its curse. Jesus has given us all the righteousness it demands, and the law is bound to bless. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
  2. Ourselves in connection with Christ—for “to every one that believeth.” To believe is not merely to accept a set of doctrines but to trust, to confide, to rest in. Dost thou believe that Christ stood in the sinner’s stead and suffered the just for the unjust, and that He is able to save to the uttermost? And dost thou therefore lay the whole weight of thy soul’s salvation upon Him alone? Then Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to thee, and thou art righteous. It is of no use to bring forward anything else if you are not believing, for nothing will avail—sacraments, prayers, &c. Observe—1. There is no question raised about the previous character, for it is written, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” But, Lord, this man before he believed was a persecutor and injurious. Yes, and that is the very man who wrote these words. So if I address one who is defiled with every sin, yet I say if thou believest thine iniquities are blotted out, for the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin. 2. There is nothing said by way of qualification as to the strength of the faith. He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, whether he is Little Faith or Greatheart. The link may be very like a film, a spider’s line of trembling faith, but, if it runs all the way from the heart to Christ, Divine grace can and will flow along the most slender thread. It is marvellous how fine the wire may be that will carry the electric flash. If thy faith be of the mustard-seed kind, if it be only such as tremblingly touches the garment’s hem, if it be but the faith of sinking Peter, or weeping Mary, yet Christ will be the end of the law for righteousness to thee as well as to the chief of the apostles. 3. If this be so then all of us who believe are righteous. We are not completely sanctified, but still, in the sight of God, we are righteous, and being justified by faith we have peace with Him. 4. The connection of our text assures us that being righteous we are saved (ver. 9). Conclusion: 1. If any one thinks he can save himself, and that his own righteousness will suffice before God, I would ask, if your righteousness sufficeth, why did Christ come here to work one out? 2. For any to reject the righteousness of Christ must be to perish everlastingly, because it cannot be that God will accept you or your pretended righteousness when you have refused the real and Divine righteousness which He sets before you in His Son. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness:

  1. What that righteousness is, spoken of in the text. Evidently that which is necessary in order to eternal life, and which infallibly leads to it (chap. 5:17, 21). It is termed “The righteousness of God” (ver. 3; chap. 1:17), and said to be by faith (chap. 3:21, 22; Phil. 3:9). It implies—1. Justification (chap. 3:24; Tit. 3:7); without which, as guilty condemned sinners, we can have no title to eternal life. 2. Regeneration or sanctification (see Phil. 3:9); spoken of Eph. 4:17–24; Tit. 3:5, 6; John 3:5, 6; without which we are not in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), and have no fitness for heaven. 3. Practical obedience (Eph. 2:10); the grand evidence that we are righteous (Luke 1:6; 1 John 3:7). As to the necessity of this, see chap. 2:6, 7; Rev. 22:14; and especially Matt. 7:20, 21.
  2. Where and how this righteousness is to be found. 1. Not in, or by, the law. (1) The moral law (chap. 8:3) which requires perfect obedience. This we have not paid, do not, and cannot in future, pay. Hence it finds us guilty, and has no pardon to give us; it finds us depraved, and has no new nature for us; it finds us helpless, and has no supernatural aid to impart. (2) The ceremonial law. Its sacrifices could not remove sin (Heb. 9:23; 10:4). Its purifications could only impart a ceremonial cleanness, or remove “the filth of the flesh” (Heb. 9:13; 1 Pet. 3:21). Its institutions respecting meats, days, &c. As they did not make the tree good, of course the fruit could not be good (Matt. 12:16–19). 2. But wherefore, then, serveth the law? In Christ was the end for which the law was instituted; the moral law being chiefly to convince men of sin (chap. 3:19, 20; 7:7, 8), and thus to be a “schoolmaster to bring them to Christ” (Gal. 3:19–24), and the ceremonial law to shadow forth His sacrifice and grace. The end may mean—(1) The scope; the law continually points to Christ; the moral law directs the sinner to Him who fulfilled and removed the curse of it, for that justification which itself cannot give; and the ceremonial law directs him to look from its sacrifices and purifications to the atonement and Spirit of Christ. (2) The perfection, or completion (1 Tim. 1:5). Christ fulfilled the moral law in fully explaining its meaning, and freeing it from the glosses of the Scribes; in obeying it, in suffering its penalty, and in providing that it may be written in our hearts; He also answered in His person all the types and shadows of the ceremonial law. (3) The period or termination (chap. 6:21). Thus the whole Mosaic dispensation gives way to the gospel (2 Cor. 3:11), and its ceremonies are taken out of the way by Christ (Col. 2:14). 3. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.” (1) For justification, or righteousness imputed, is only to be found in His obedience unto death (chap. 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). (2) Regeneration, a new creation, and entire sanctification are only to be found in Christ, by His Spirit and grace, who is made of God to us sanctification (John 1:14, 16; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 1:30). (3) Practical righteousness is likewise to be had in Him; His laws direct us how to walk; His promises and threatenings enforce His laws; His example allures us; and His grace enables us to walk in His ways (2 Cor. 12:9; Heb. 4:14–16).

III. By whom this righteousness is to be found. By “every one that believeth” (vers. 5–10). 1. Its object is that God hath raised Christ from the dead. This—(1) Demonstrated Him to be the Son of God (chap. 1:3, 4), and, therefore, the only Saviour able and willing to save to the uttermost. Of this faith is persuaded, and, therefore, trusts in Him for salvation. (2) Was the broad seal of heaven set to His doctrine, of which faith is so thoroughly persuaded as to lay it to heart and walk according to it. (3) Was to show that His atonement was sufficient and accepted; of this faith is also persuaded and, therefore, relies solely on the propitiation in His blood for justification (chap. 3:23, &c.; Gal. 2:16–20). (4) Was that He might ascend, and intercede, and receive for us “the promise of the Father,” for which faith thirsts and comes to Him (John 7:37, 38). (5) He rose and ascended as our Forerunner. This faith believes, and, consequently, anticipates immortality and glory. He rose to give evidence that He will judge all mankind (Acts 17:31). Faith is persuaded of this, and prepares to meet Him. 2. Our faith, in these respects, must be such as will enable us to “make confession with our mouth,” therefore it must be “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (ver. 10). As to the faith that does not part with sin, and give up everything that stands in competition with Christ, it is dead (James 2:20–26). 3. As to the origin of this faith (see vers. 11–17). It arises from the Word and Spirit of God (Acts 16:14; Eph. 2:8, 9; Col. 2:12). Therefore, hearing, reading, and prayer, are the important means. And in the exercise of that measure of faith we have received, however small, it will be increased. (Joseph Benson.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness:

  1. The immutability of the law is a fundamental truth. This rests on its nature and the immutability of God. The evidence is found in nature and conscience. 1. This the Jews believed, and it lay at the foundation of their error, which was twofold. (1) That the law was to be fulfilled by their own righteousness. (2) That the form in which the law was immutable was Mosaism. 2. This error led—(1) To the effort to establish their own righteousness. (2) To their making righteousness consist in ceremonial obedience. 3. Paul taught—(1) That the law is immutable. (2) That it cannot be satisfied by our righteousness, but only by the righteousness of God. (3) That Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (4) Consequently the immutability of the law is consistent with its abrogation, because its abrogation is effected by its fulfilment. The law is immutable so far as it demands righteousness as an indispensable condition of justification. But it is abrogated so far as it says, “Do this and live,” i.e., so far as it requires our own righteousness.
  2. In what sense is Christ the end of the law. 1. Not in the sense of its completion. Telos never occurs in the sense of pleroma. 2. But in the sense of having made an end of it, abolished it. This He has done—(1) In so satisfying its demands that it ceases to require our own personal righteousness as a condition of justification. (2) In putting an end to the Mosaic institutions, so that obedience to that law is no longer necessary to salvation. 3. In the sense of being its aim or object. This means either—(1) That the end of the law is righteousness. Christ is the end of the law because He is our righteousness; its design is secured in Him. So that it is by faith, not works, that the end of the law is to be attained. (2) Or, Christ is the object aimed at in the law. It was designed to bring us to Christ.

III. Consequences. 1. Out of Christ we are exposed—(1) To the inexorable demands of the law. (2) To its awful curse. (3) To its slavish spirit. 2. In Him we are righteous. (1) We meet all the demands of the law by pleading what He has done. (2) We are free from its curse as He was made a curse for us. (3) We are delivered from the spirit of bondage again to fear and are filled with the Spirit of adoption. Conclusion: As a result of faith in Christ our righteousness we have—1. Peace with God, and peace of conscience. 2. Assurance of eternal life, as no one can condemn those whom God justifies. 3. A principle of obedience, for until we are reconciled there can be no holiness. 4. All the benefits of Christ’s triumph. Having obeyed and suffered for us as our representative, we share in all the blessings promised as His reward. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

Christ the end of the law:—Christ was revealed to abrogate, to annihilate, utterly to abolish sin. Now, we all know what it is to have a thing abrogated. Certain laws have held good up to the first of January of this year with regard to the hiring of public carriages, but now are under a new law. Suppose a driver complies with the new law, gets his license, puts up his flag, gives the passenger his card of prices, and afterwards the passenger summons him before the magistrate for asking a fare not authorised by the old law; the magistrate would say, “You are out of court, there is no such law. You cannot bring the man here, he has not broken the old law, for he is not under it. He has complied with the requisition of the new law, by which he declares himself no longer under the old rules, and I have no power over him.” So he that believeth in Christ Jesus may be summoned by conscience when misinformed before the bar of God, but the answer of peace to his conscience is, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (C. H. Spurgeon.) The relation of the law to the gospel (text and 1 Tim. 1:5):—The law of God may be viewed in a twofold aspect, to distinguish between which is to prove a safeguard against both the errors of legality and the errors of antinomianism. We must regard the law—

  1. In relation to the righteousness which constitutes the title to its rewards. 1. When we strive to make this out by our own obedience, the aim is to possess ourselves of a legal right to heaven. We proceed on the imagination of a contract between God and man—whereof the counterpart terms are a fulfilment of the law’s requisitions upon the one side, and a bestowment of the law’s rewards upon the other. The one is the purchase-money—the other is the payment. They stand related to each other, as work does to wages. Now this spirit of legality, as it is called, is nearly the universal spirit of humanity. They are not the Israelites only who go about to establish a righteousness of their own. There is, in fact, a legal disposition in the heart, and, long after the utter shortness of human virtue has been demonstrated, yet will man, as if by the bias of a constitutional necessity, recur to the old legal imagination, of this virtue being a thing of desert, and of heaven being the reward which is due to it. 2. Now, for man to establish a right by his righteousness, is in the face of all jurisprudence. Both the law and the gospel alike disown man’s legal right to the rewards of eternity; and if he be too proud to disown it himself, he remains both a victim of condemnation by the one, and a helpless, hopeless outcast from the mercy of the other. If man will persist in seeking to make out a title-deed to heaven by his own obedience, then that obedience must be perfect. Even if he have but committed one sin—there is the barrier of a moral necessity in his way, which it is impossible to force. The God who cannot lie, cannot recall His curse upon every one who continueth not in all the words of the book of His law to do them. And one of two things must happen. Either, with a just conception of the standard of the law, he will sink into despair; or, with a low conception of that standard, he, though but grovelling among the mere decencies of civil life or the barren formalities of religious service, will aspire no farther and yet count himself safe. 3. Now herein lies the grand peculiarity of the gospel. It pronounces on the utter insignificance of all that man can do for the establishment of his right to the kingdom of heaven; and yet, he must be somehow or other provided with such a right, ere that he can find admittance there. It is not by an act of mercy alone that the gate of heaven is opened to the sinner. He must be furnished with a plea which he can state at the bar of justice—not the plea of his own deservings, which the gospel holds no terms with; and therefore with a plea founded exclusively on the deservings of another. Now what we reckon to be the very essence of the gospel is the report which it brings to a sinful world of a solid and satisfying plea; and that every sinner is welcome to the use of it. In defect of his own righteousness, which he is required to disown, he is told of an everlasting righteousness which another has brought in; and which he is invited, nay commanded, to make mention of. It is thus that Christ becomes the end of the law for righteousness.
  2. As holding out a method by which we might acquire a rightness of character in the cultivation and the exercise of its bidden virtues. The legal right which obedience confers is one thing. The personal rightness which obedience confers is another. Obedience for a legal right is everywhere denounced in the New Testament, but obedience for a personal rightness is everywhere urged. For the one end, the law has altogether lost its efficacy; and we, in our own utter inability to substantiate its claims, must seek to be justified only by the righteousness of Christ. For the other end, the law retains its office as a perfect guide and exemplar of all virtue; and we, empowered by strength from on high to follow its dictates, must seek to be sanctified by the transference of its bidden uprightness upon our own characters. It is no longer the purchase-money by which to buy your right of entry to the marriage supper of the Lamb; but it is the wedding garment, without which you will never be seated among the beatitudes of that festival. To be meet in law, and without violence done to the jurisprudence of heaven, we must be invested by faith with the righteousness of Christ. To be meet in character, and without offence or violence to the spirit or the taste of heaven’s society, we must be invested with the graces of our own personal righteousness. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)[12]

4. Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified. The word ‘end’ (telos) has a double sense: it may mean ‘goal’ or ‘termination’. On the one hand, Christ is the goal at which the law aimed, in that he embodies the perfect righteousness which it prescribes. This is implied in Matthew 5:17, ‘Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.’ And the law’s requirements are fulfilled in the lives of those who are ‘in Christ Jesus’ (8:3–4; cf. 3:31). On the other hand, since Christ is the goal of the law, since in him the law has found its perfect fulfilment, a righteous status before God is available to everyone who believes in him, and that implies the termination of the law’s function (real or imagined) as a means of acquiring such a righteous status. In him the old order, to which the law belonged, has been done away, to be replaced by the new order of the Spirit. Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6–18.

The case for understanding telos as ‘termination’ is presented by Käsemann, ad loc.; the case for ‘goal’ by Cranfield, ad loc. The two senses are combined by Barrett, ad loc.: Christ ‘puts an end to the law, not by destroying all that the law stood for but by realizing it’.[13]

4. For the end of the law is Christ, &c. The word completion, seems not to me unsuitable in this place; and Erasmus has rendered it perfection: but as the other reading is almost universally approved, and is not inappropriate, readers, for my part, may retain it.

The Apostle obviates here an objection which might have been made against him; for the Jews might have appeared to have kept the right way by depending on the righteousness of the law. It was necessary for him to disprove this false opinion; and this is what he does here. He shows that he is a false interpreter of the law, who seeks to be justified by his own works; because the law had been given for this end,—to lead us as by the hand to another righteousness: nay, whatever the law teaches, whatever it commands, whatever it promises, has always a reference to Christ as its main object; and hence all its parts ought to be applied to him. But this cannot be done, except we, being stripped of all righteousness, and confounded with the knowledge of our sin, seek gratuitous righteousness from him alone.

It hence follows, that the wicked abuse of the law was justly reprehended in the Jews, who absurdly made an obstacle of that which was to be their help: nay, it appears that they had shamefully mutilated the law of God; for they rejected its soul, and seized on the dead body of the letter. For though the law promises reward to those who observe its righteousness, it yet substitutes, after having proved all guilty, another righteousness in Christ, which is not attained by works, but is received by faith as a free gift. Thus the righteousness of faith, (as we have seen in the first chapter,) receives a testimony from the law. We have then here a remarkable passage, which proves that the law in all its parts had a reference to Christ; and hence no one can rightly understand it, who does not continually level at this mark.[14]

4 This verse, containing one of the most famous of all of Paul’s theological slogans, grounds (“for,” Gk. gar) what Paul has said about the Jews in v. 3. Specifically, he shows that the Jews’ pursuit of a righteousness of their own, based on the law, is wrong because Christ has brought the law to its culmination and thereby made righteousness available to everyone who believes. We must now justify this reading of the verse by looking at (1) the meaning of the word “law”; (2) the syntactical relationship between the first part of the verse and the second; and (3) the meaning of the word telos (which I have translated “culmination”).

(1) Scholars have argued for four different meanings of the word nomos in this verse: “law” in general, in whatever form; “OT revelation” broadly; “legalism”;404 and Mosaic law. The first and second of these interpretations are unlikely since neither meaning is found in the immediate context. The third, on the other hand, as I have argued elsewhere, is unattested in Paul and is not adopted here. With the great majority of scholars, therefore, I conclude that nomos refers in this verse, as usually in Paul, to the Mosaic law.

(2) Verse 4 contains an assertion—“Christ is the telos of the law”—and a prepositional phrase—“eis righteousness for everyone who believes.” How are we to connect the prepositional phrase to the assertion? A number of scholars argue that it should be connected directly to the word “law.” Paul would then be claiming that Christ is the telos of the law in its relationship to righteousness, or as a means of righteousness (“for everyone who believes” would then be attached to the statement as a whole); see NASB: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (KJV is similar). Most who construe the syntax in this way also think that telos means “end,” “termination.” They therefore conclude that Paul is proclaiming here the end of the (false) understanding of the law as a means of securing righteousness with God or the end of Israel’s misunderstanding of the law and its righteousness as confined to Israel.408 But the syntax does not favor attaching the prepositional phrase directly to the word “law.” It is much more likely that the prepositional phrase introduced by eis functions as a purpose or result clause attached to the assertion as a whole: “Christ is the telos of the law, with the result that there is (or with the purpose that there might be) righteousness for everyone who believes” (so, essentially, most modern English translations).

(3) This leaves the question of the meaning of the word telos. Most major English versions translate this word “end.” But this translation contains a crucial ambiguity: does “end” mean (1) “termination,” as in the sentence “The end of the class finally came!” or (2) “goal,” as in the sentence “The end of government is the welfare of the people”; or (3) “result,” as in the sentence “She did not foresee the end of her actions.” Each of these meanings is possible for the Greek word telos, and each is attested in Paul.412 If we accept the first meaning, Paul’s point will be a purely temporal one: the coming of Christ means that, in some manner, the period of the law’s significance and/or authority is at an end. If we choose either the second or the third meaning, however, Paul will be presenting the law and Christ in a dynamic relationship, with the law in some sense directed toward, or pointing forward, to Christ.

Neither lexical nor contextual data point unambiguously toward one or the other of these two main options. R. Badenas has shown that telos usually means “goal” or “intent” (a teleological sense) in nonbiblical Greek. But in both the LXX and the NT the temporal meaning (“closing part,” “termination”) of telos dominates. The context uses language of pursuing and attaining with reference to the law (9:31–32a); and this might lead us to expect that Paul would now present Christ as the true “goal” of the law, that goal that Israel sought but could not attain. In the same way, Paul’s use of OT texts to describe Christ and the righteousness he has brought (9:32b–33; 10:6–8, 11, 13) might indicate that Paul is thinking of Christ as the true meaning or intent of the law. However, there is much in both the immediate and wider context to favor a temporal translation. The relationship between v. 4 and v. 3 shows that Paul wants to stress the discontinuity between Christ and the law. The Jews’ striving for a righteousness of “their own,” based on the law (v. 3), is wrong (among other reasons) because (“for” [gar]) Christ has brought an end to the law and to the era of which it was the center. This is the same point that Paul has made in Rom. 3:21: God’s righteousness has been made manifest “apart from the law.” Indeed, the salvation-historical disjunction between the era of the law and the era of Christ is one that is basic to Paul’s teaching in Romans (see also 6:14, 15; 7:1–6). Moreover, while Paul certainly emphasizes in this passage the continuity between the OT generally and Christ and the righteousness he has brought (e.g., 9:32b–33; 10:6–8, 11, 13), he consistently emphasizes the discontinuity between Christ and the law (9:30–32a; 10:3; 10:5–8).

These considerations require that telos have a temporal nuance: with the coming of Christ the authority of the law of Moses is, in some basic sense, at an end. At the same time, a teleological nuance is also present. This is suggested not only by the contextual factors mentioned above but also by the fact that similar NT uses of telos generally preserve some sense of direction or goal. In other words, the “end” that telos usually denotes is an end that is the natural or inevitable result of something else. The analogy of a race course (which many scholars think telos is meant to convey) is helpful: the finish line is both the “termination” of the race (the race is over when it is reached) and the “goal” of the race (the race is run for the sake of reaching the finish line). Likewise, we suggest, Paul is implying that Christ is the “end” of the law (he brings its era to a close) and its “goal” (he is what the law anticipated and pointed toward). The English word “end” perfectly captures this nuance; but, if it is thought that it implies too temporal a meaning, we might also use the words “culmination” (NIV), “consummation,” or “climax.”

As Christ consummates one era of salvation history, so he inaugurates a new one. In this new era, God’s eschatological righteousness is available to those who believe; and it is available to everyone who believes. Both emphases are important and reflect one of the most basic themes of the letter (1:16; 3:22, 28–30; 4:16–17). Because the Jewish people have generally not understood that Christ has brought the law to its culmination, they have not responded in faith to Christ; and they have therefore missed the righteousness of God, available only in Christ on the basis of faith. At the same time, Christ, by ending the era of the law, during which God was dealing mainly with Israel, has made righteousness more readily available for Gentiles. Verse 4 is, then, the hinge on which the entire section 9:30–10:13 turns. It justifies Paul’s claim that the Jews, by their preoccupation with the law, have missed God’s righteousness (9:30–10:3): for righteousness is now found only in Christ and only through faith in Christ, the one who has brought the law to its climax and thereby ended its reign. It also announces the theme that Paul will expound in 10:5–13: righteousness by faith in Christ for all who believe.

We conclude our study of this verse with two theological reflections. First, while I have argued that Paul is teaching that Christ brought an “end” to the law, it is important to clarify what this means and, perhaps, more important, what it does not mean. Paul makes this claim in terms of his usual salvation-historical perspective. The Mosaic law represents an epoch in God’s dealings with human beings that has now come to an end. The believer’s relationship to God is mediated in and through Christ, and the Mosaic law is no longer basic to that relationship. But Paul is not saying that Christ has ended all “law”; the believer remains bound to God’s law as it now is mediated in and through Christ (see Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:19–21). Nor is he saying that the Mosaic law is no longer part of God’s revelation or of no more use to the believer. The Mosaic law, like all of Scripture, is “profitable” for the believer (2 Tim. 3:16) and must continue to be read, pondered, and responded to by the faithful believer.

Second, we find in Paul’s teaching about Christ as the culmination of the law another evidence of the beautiful unity of the NT message. For what Paul says here is almost exactly what Jesus claims in one of his most famous theological pronouncements: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). Each text pictures Christ as the promised culmination of the OT law. And together they sound a note of balance in the Christian’s approach to the OT and its law that is vital to maintain. On the one hand, both Jesus and Paul warn us about undervaluing the degree to which Christ now embodies and mediates to us what the OT law was teaching and doing. Our relationship with God is now found in Christ, not through the law; and our day-to-day behavior is to be guided primarily by the teaching of Christ and his apostles rather than by the law. On the other hand, Jesus and Paul also caution us against severing Christ from the law. For he is its fulfillment and consummation and he cannot be understood or appreciated unless he is seen in light of the preparatory period of which the law was the center.[15]

4 This verse gives the reason for the thesis of verse 3 that God’s righteousness and not man’s is the institution of God: “Christ is the end of the law”. This has been taken in the sense that the purpose of the law is fulfilled or realized in Christ. The term rendered “end” does on occasion have this meaning (cf. Luke 22:37; 1 Tim. 1:5). It is also true that if law is understood in the sense of the Mosaic institution, then this institution is fulfilled in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:24). Furthermore, the righteousness which Christ has provided unto our justification is one that meets all the requirements of God’s law in its sanctions and demands. There are, however, objections to this interpretation.

  1. Though the word “end” can express aim or purpose, preponderantly, and particularly in Paul, it means termination, denoting a terminal point (cf. Matt. 10:22; 24:6, 14; Mark 3:26; Luke 1:33; John 13:1; Rom. 6:21; 1 Cor. 1:8; 15:24; 2 Cor. 1:13; 3:13; 11:15; Phil. 3:19; Heb. 6:11; 7:3; 1 Pet. 4:7).
  2. If “end” means purpose then we should expect the apostle to say that the purpose of the law is Christ, the reason being that, on this assumption, the purpose of the law would be the main thought and the real subject of the sentence. But this would give an awkward if not impossible construction as will appear from the translation that would be required: “The end of the law is Christ for righteousness to every one that believeth”.
  3. In this epistle and in the context the antithesis is between the righteousness of the law as that of works and God’s righteousness as the righteousness of faith. The next verse is the clearest demonstration of this antithesis and of the meaning we are to attach to the apostle’s concept of the law as the way of attaining to righteousness (cf. also 3:20, 21, 28; 4:13, 14; 8:3; 9:32). The view most consonant with this context is, therefore, that the apostle is speaking in verse 4 of the law as a way of righteousness before God and affirming the relation that Christ sustains to this conception. The only relation that Christ sustains to it is that he terminates it.
  4. It needs to be noted immediately, however, that a qualification is added: “to every one that believeth”. This qualification implies that only for the believer is Christ the end of the law for righteousness. Paul does not mean that the erroneous conception ceased to be entertained. That was sadly not the case, as verse 3 proves. It is, Paul says, for every one who believes that Christ is the end of the law, and his whole statement is simply to the effect that every believer is done with the law as a way of attaining to righteousness. In this consideration we have an added reason for the interpretation given. If Paul were speaking of the purpose of the law as fulfilled in Christ, we would expect the absolute statement: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness”, and no addition would be necessary or in place.

The foregoing observation regarding the force of the apostle’s statement bears also upon an erroneous interpretation of this verse, enunciated by several commentators to the effect that the Mosaic law had propounded law as the means of procuring righteousness.

It is strange that this notion should be entertained in the face of Paul’s frequent appeal to the Old Testament and even to Moses and the Mosaic law in support of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith (cf. 3:21, 22; 4:6–8, 13; 9:15, 16; 10:6–8; 15:8, 9; Gal. 3:10, 11, 17–22; 4:21–31). There is no suggestion to the effect that in the theocracy works of law had been represented as the basis of salvation and that now by virtue of Christ’s death this method had been displaced by the righteousness of faith. We need but reflect again on the force of the proposition in question: for the believer Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. Paul is speaking of “law” as commandment, not of the Mosaic law in any specific sense but of law as demanding obedience, and therefore in the most general sense of law-righteousness as opposed to faith-righteousness.[16]

4 Israel’s covenantal relation to God and reliance on law keeping do not add up to salvation, since only in and through God’s Messiah is salvation possible (cf. Jn 14:6; Ac 4:12). For this reason, Paul points away from the law and instead to Christ as the way to righteousness for Israel, just as for the Gentiles. The proof that Israel was out of line with respect to the will of God, to the extent of rebelling against him, lies in the fact that when he sent his Son as the bringer of a salvation in full accord with the divine righteousness, the nation rejected him. The same kind of revolution in thinking that was necessary for Paul is required for his people.

Considerable debate has focused on the interpretation of v. 4, especially on the intended meaning of the word the NIV translates as “end” (most translations use this word and thus preserve the ambiguity of Paul’s statement; contrast NJB, “the Law has found its fulfilment in Christ”). Just as in English we speak of “the end of the matter” and use the expression “to the end that”—the one expression meaning conclusion or termination, and the other, purpose or goal—the Greek word telos (GK 5465) allows the same dual possibility. Commentators have been seriously divided about which way to take telos in Paul’s statement, though the majority seem to favor the conclusion that Paul here speaks of the termination of the law (e.g., Käsemann, Dodd, Michel, Sanday and Headlam, Nygren, Stuhlmacher, Schreiner). The decisive factor that favors “termination” rather than “purpose” as the main idea is the contrast in 9:30–32 between the law and God’s righteousness (cf. 10:5–6). Though the law is righteous in its requirements, it fails as an instrument of justification (cf. 8:3–4). Paul’s contention regarding the Jews (v. 3) is not the incompleteness of their position, which needed the coming of Christ to perfect it, but the basic incorrectness of it, because it entailed an effort to establish righteousness by human effort rather than by acceptance of the divine gift. Also favorable to this understanding is the fact that the law had a certain course to run in God’s economy (see esp. Gal 3:19–25; cf. Lk 16:16), and now with the coming of Christ, the law, having fulfilled its job, has come to an end. The law has been terminated both in a salvation-historical sense and in a soteriological sense (cf. 3:21). Adolf Schlatter (Romans: The Righteousness of God [Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995], 213) writes, “God’s righteousness has become manifest in that Christ is the end of the law and thus he also is the end of all of the individual’s own righteousness. For the believer righteousness is brought about precisely because Christ acts apart from the law and takes its place as the individual’s Lord.”

At the same time, the second meaning has some plausibility here, since there is also a sense in which (1) Christ is himself the goal of the law as its fulfillment, and (2) Christ has not brought the law to an end but rather to its goal (examples of those who favor this interpretation include Barth, Cranfield, Fitzmyer, Byrne, and Badenas [see note at 10:4]). If we think of the goal of the law as righteousness and the fact that Paul has argued that the gospel upholds the law because Christians will produce the righteousness of which the law spoke (e.g., 8:4), then we can see how the passage can easily be taken in this way. It also fits with Paul’s teaching about the law as the child-leader to bring human beings to Christ (Gal 3:24).

In fact, surprisingly, both concepts—termination and goal—seem to fit our passage rather well; it is, therefore, tempting to conclude that both ideas are true, namely, that in Christ the law has in one sense been brought to its termination, but in another sense the law has arrived at its intended purpose. A number of commentators who favor the idea of termination also see the possibility of truth in the fulfillment idea (e.g., Barrett, Bruce, Achtemeier, Dunn, Moo, Edwards).

Paul adds a certain qualification to the statement about Christ as “the end of the law so that there may be righteousness.” He is that “for everyone who believes.” This seems to imply that the law is still applicable to those who do not believe: “Those who have not yet passed from the being-in-the-Law to the being-in-Christ, and those who allow themselves to be misled into exchanging the being-in-Christ for the being-under-the-Law, are under the Law and are made to feel its power” (A. Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle [New York: Holt, 1931], 189).[17]

Christ: The Fulfillment of the Law

Romans 10:4

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

I have learned many lessons in more than twenty years of Bible study and preaching, and one of the lessons is that things that seem simple often are not. Our text is an example. Romans 10:4 seems to be a very simple verse. After all, what could be more straightforward than the words “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes”? The verse has only seventeen words, less in Greek (nine words), and all but three of the English words have only one syllable.

Yet Romans 10:4 is a difficult verse to interpret.

And here is the interesting thing: It is the simple words (not the polysyllabics) that are the problem.

The two most problematic words are “end” and “law.”

In his excellent commentary on Romans, the great Princeton Theological Seminary scholar Charles Hodge probably reduced the possible meanings of “end” as much as can reasonably be done, but he still speaks of three possible interpretations: (1) “the object to which any thing leads,” (2) the “completion or fulfillment” of something, or (3) an “end or termination.” In terms of our text, if the first meaning is the right one, the verse means that Jesus is that to which the law points so that, if it is properly used, the law will carry the one using it to him. If the second meaning is correct, the idea is that Jesus has himself perfectly fulfilled the law. If the third meaning is chosen, the verse means that Jesus has brought the dispensation of law to an end by dying for sin, rising again, and inaugurating the Christian Era. Obviously, something can be said for each interpretation.

Then, if you add to these difficulties the possible meanings of “law”—the law of Moses, a principle of conduct, the ceremonial law, or moral law—you can see how the difficulties of interpreting this verse proliferate.

How should we proceed?

I am convinced that in this case the most helpful procedure is not to argue the merits of the various possibilities, but to back off from the text itself and instead ask, “How does Jesus Christ fulfill the law?” He does it in a variety of ways. After we have explored those answers, we can then come back to the text, interpret it, and apply it practically.

To Fulfill All Righteousness

The first way in which Jesus fulfilled the law, and thus became the end of the law, is that he kept it perfectly himself. In books written about Jesus’ work, theologians usually distinguish between what they call Christ’s “active” and “passive” obedience. Jesus’ passive obedience refers to his willingness to accept death in conformity to his Father’s will, according to Philippians 2:8:

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

[emphasis added]

Christ’s active obedience refers to the way he carefully and deliberately kept the law of Moses in all respects.

This has several dimensions. It is usually said that Jesus fulfilled the moral law by obeying it perfectly; he was a perfect man. He fulfilled the types and ceremonies of the law by being the reality to which they pointed and by accomplishing in his death what they symbolized; thus, he was himself the perfect sacrifice for sins to which the daily sacrifices and the great sacrifices on the Day of Atonement pointed. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies by living them out to the letter.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referred explicitly to two of these areas (and probably the third) when he said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17).

In the story of Jesus’ baptism, according to Matthew, there is a sentence that has bearing on Jesus’ fulfillment of the law. John the Baptist had been alerted by God as to who Jesus was. So, when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John demurred, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt. 3:14). John had been teaching about the Messiah’s work in baptizing with the Holy Spirit in contrast to his own merely preparatory water baptism. So he meant that he needed to receive a baptism of the Holy Spirit from Jesus, rather than Jesus receiving any benefit from him.

But Jesus responded, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15).

This has been a puzzling statement to many people, since John’s was a baptism for repentance and Jesus had committed no sin for which he needed to repent. But the reason for it seems clear enough.

On the one hand, since baptism signifies identification, it was by his baptism that Jesus willingly identified himself with all the other Israelites who were responding to John’s preaching by turning from their sin to faith in the Messiah. That is, it was a symbol of the union of Jesus with the believer, a doctrine basic to Paul’s theology. We looked at this earlier in these studies.

On the other hand, since Jesus speaks of fulfilling “all righteousness,” it is clear that he also considered this act to be part of his conscious obedience to all that God required. Through John, God had commanded his believing people to be baptized. So Jesus was baptized.

However, the word that I think is most important in the exchange between Jesus and John the Baptist is “all.” For by it Jesus was declaring his intention to fulfill all that God had required. He did this so well that his enemies were unable to accuse him of any wrongdoing, as much as they would have liked to. And God himself affirmed Jesus’ perfect obedience to the law by declaring, just two verses later, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). This divine evaluation was repeated at the time of the transfiguration (see Matt. 17:5 and parallels).

It was because Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly that he was able to be our substitute in dying for us on the cross, truly “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

This is the first part of the meaning of Paul’s statement in Romans 10:4. It teaches that Christ is “the end of the law” in the sense that he fulfilled or satisfied the demands of the law completely.

Christ Our Righteousness

The second way Jesus became the end of the law is that he fulfilled the law on our behalf, so that now he is not only the source but is himself the righteousness of all who are joined to him by faith. This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21: “Christ Jesus … has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption,” and “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This is what justification is about, and it is what Paul seems chiefly to be talking about in this section of Romans 9 and 10.

We know what Paul teaches about righteousness, of course. But if we can lay that knowledge aside for a moment and go back to look at the end of Romans 9 and the verses that come before our text in Romans 10, we can see at a glance that a major question is unanswered. Paul has contrasted a righteousness that is “by works” with a righteousness that is “by faith” (Rom. 9:32). He has defined the righteousness he is talking about as “God’s righteousness,” showing that it comes “from God” as opposed to righteousness that comes from ourselves (Rom. 10:3). But he has not said in so many words where this righteousness that is “by faith” can be found. Or, to put it in other terms, if righteousness is to be received “by faith” and faith has content, as it must if it is true faith, what is faith’s object?

Those questions are answered by verse 4, which introduces the name of Christ for the first time since the opening paragraph of Romans 9. Jesus is faith’s object. He is the one in whom is located the righteousness we need to be saved.

This justification, by which we stand or fall in the sight of the holy God, involves two corresponding transactions. On the one hand, if we are believers, our sin has been transferred to Jesus Christ and was punished in him when he died in our place on the cross. That is why we sing:

My sin—O the bliss of this glorious thought!—

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

On the other hand, his righteousness was transferred to us, with the result that we are now counted as being righteous in him.

Jesus, thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.

Both belong to justification, and both are true for anyone who has turned from sin and committed his or her life to Jesus Christ. It is what Paul has been writing about in much of the earlier portion of Romans and is reiterating in this passage.

So justification is another meaning of our text: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Free at Last

Thus far we have been thinking of the word end as “fulfillment,” or the “culmination” to which something tends. But “end” also sometimes means “termination,” and this, too, is involved in Paul’s statement. It teaches that Christ has ended the law as a system by which we are supposed to attain to righteousness. Or, to put it in other language, he has freed us from the law’s bondage.

I have to be very careful how I say this, because nothing in this study is more apt to be misunderstood—and that from either of two perspectives.

First, I do not mean, as one commentator has written, that “Christ put a stop to the law as a means of salvation.” The reason it cannot mean this is that the law never was a means of salvation. Paul has spoken of the true purpose of the law in Romans 7, showing that the law was given to reveal the nature and extent of our sin and to point us to Jesus Christ as the only place salvation can be found. So, whatever “the end of the law” means, it clearly does not mean that Christ terminated it as a way of getting saved.

But neither does it mean the end of any continuing value for the law, for the law is part of Scripture, and “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). In fact, in Romans 3 Paul asked, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?” and answered, “Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law” (v. 31). In Romans 7 he said, “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (v. 12).

The best way of understanding this point is by something the apostle Peter said at the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts 15. Representatives of the expanding church had gathered in Jerusalem to decide the question of whether or not the Gentiles needed to submit to the law of Moses, which the Jewish church at that time upheld. It involved the ceremonial laws of Israel as well as the moral law, and the focal point of the debate was circumcision. Was it necessary for Gentile males to be circumcised to be Christians?

As you know, the council decided that it was not necessary. But the reason I refer to this debate is for something Peter said in the midst of it. He argued that God had saved the Gentiles without their becoming Jews, giving the Holy Spirit to them just as to Jewish converts. “Now then,” he said, “why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). The “yoke” was the law. So Peter was admitting that the law had been a burden for the Jews in the past and was arguing that it should not be imposed on the Gentiles, since even the Jews had been unable to sustain that harsh burden.

Does that mean that he was encouraging lawlessness, then? Not at all. He was encouraging righteousness, which is my next point. The council’s decree reiterated some of the law’s moral absolutes, but Peter was acknowledging that righteousness is not attained by legalism. That is, you do not become a better follower of Jesus Christ or a more holy person by adhering to a list of rules. The moral end of the law is attained by Christians, but it is attained by a different principle. It is by the life of Jesus Christ within the believer.

We need to remember that an entire book of the New Testament, Paul’s letter to the Galatians, was written to combat the notion that Christians are to make their lives better or advance their discipleship by legalism. The Galatians were not saved by keeping the law but through faith, as Paul repeatedly points out. Therefore, why should they fall back into legalism? They should continue as they had started out. The main point of Galatians is summarized at the start of chapter 5: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

Righteousness in Us

This leads to my final point, because, whenever we speak of Jesus, the law, and righteousness, we need to say that Jesus has as his ultimate goal in saving us that we are to be a holy people. I need to add that I do not believe that is what this verse teaches. I think it is primarily teaching about justification—from the context and because Paul says that Jesus is the end of the law “so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” A righteousness for us is a righteousness imparted to us by God for Christ’s sake. That is what Paul says.

But Paul also could have said, “… so that there may be righteousness in [or practiced by] everyone who believes,” which would mean an actual righteousness to be attained by us.

How can I say this?

It is because Paul says it himself:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:1–4, emphasis added

We are neither justified nor sanctified by the law. But those who are justified will also be progressively sanctified by the Spirit of Christ who lives within them, and this means that they will inevitably and increasingly live righteous lives. If they do not, they are not Christians.

Three Applications

I said at the start of this study that I wanted to return to some practical applications of our text, and I do that now. There are many, but I want to mention three.

  1. Christ is everything. It is hard for us to imagine how important the law of Moses was for Jewish people living in Paul’s day. The law is important for Jews today, of course, even though tradition has tended to replace a thorough knowledge of it. But it was more so then. The law was the very essence of Jewish religion. Yet Paul, who was himself a Jew, is telling us that Christ is the culmination, fulfillment, and (in a sense) termination of the law. For he “is the end of the law.” It is a way of saying that everything that matters in salvation and religion is in him.

One commentator writes, “Instead of the temple it is to be Christ; instead of Moses, Christ; instead of Aaron, Christ; instead of the law, Christ; instead of ceremonies, Christ; instead of worship localized in a building, there is to be the eternal, omnipotent Christ.” It is impossible to exalt the nature and place of the Lord Jesus Christ too much.

  1. If I am in Christ, I will never be condemned for breaking the law or be rejected by God. How could I be, since Jesus has fulfilled the law on my behalf and has borne the punishment due to me for breaking it? He has become my righteousness.
  2. To be “in him” I must believe on him. For the verse also tells me, “Christ is the end of the law … for everyone who believes.” For everyone? Yes, but for everyone who believes. The promise is universal and specific.

In one of his books, Harry Ironside tells of a young woman he led to the Lord on one occasion. She had received a Christian upbringing, but she had thrown her heritage to the wind and had lived a worldly life. Now she was dying of tuberculosis and had sent for Ironside. She had been given three weeks to live. “Do you think there is any hope for a sinner like me?” she asked when she saw Ironside.

Ironside led her through the gospel, coming at last to John 3:16: “For 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.”

“Are you included in that ‘whoever’?” he asked the woman.

By this point she was ready to commit herself to Christ and did so, and Ironside assured her that if she was truly in Christ there was no condemnation for her, even though she had lived a sinful life and was coming to Jesus at what was apparently the very end of it. John 3:18 said: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already.…”

A month or so later, after Ironside had finished his meetings in that area and had gone elsewhere, he was told of her passing. Her minister had been with her. “Can you hear me?” he had asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?” he continued.


“What does he say about you?”

“Not condemned,” she replied. And then, uttering her last words, “If you see Mr. Ironside, tell him it’s all right.”

It is all right, and will be. “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”[18]

[1] Patterson, P. (2017). Salvation in the Old Testament. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1797). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1631). 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 (Ro 10:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2174). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ro 10:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ro 10:4). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1444). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1720). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 10:4). 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. 342–343). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[11] Barnett, P. (2003). Romans: The Revelation of God’s Righteousness (pp. 227–229). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.

[12] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 336–342). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[13] Bruce, F. F. (1985). Romans: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 6, p. 200). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[14] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 383–385). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[15] 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. 654–660). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[16] Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 49–51). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[17] 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. 159–160). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[18] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: God and History (Vol. 3, pp. 1165–1172). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

February 24 Morning Verse of The Day

8:37 We are more than conquerors not by our ability but because God loved us.[1]

8:37 more than conquerors. The strength shown in enduring the hostility of persecutors and the pain of circumstances is astonishing.[2]

8:37 Christians are more than conquerors, because God turns everything—even suffering and death—into good.[3]

8:37 overwhelmingly conquer. A compound Gr. word, which means to over-conquer, to conquer completely, without any real threat to personal life or health.[4]

8:37 The trials and difficulties listed in v. 35 not only do not separate us from Christ’s love; they make us more than conquerors by forcing us to depend even more on God.[5]

8:37 Instead of separating us from Christ’s love, these things only succeed in drawing us closer to Him. We are not only conquerors, but more than conquerors. It is not simply that we triumph over these formidable forces, but that in doing so we bring glory to God, blessing to others, and good to ourselves. We make slaves out of our enemies and stepping stones out of our roadblocks.

But all of this is not through our own strength, but only through Him who loved us. Only the power of Christ can bring sweetness out of bitterness, strength out of weakness, triumph out of tragedy, and blessing out of heartbreak.[6]





“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer”




“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors”




“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors”




“No, in all these things we have complete victory through him”




“these are the trials through which we triumph”


This was an intensified form of the term “conquer.” Paul must have coined this term (hyper + nikaō). This is a wonderful mixed metaphor, “conquering sheep.” Believers are conquerors through Christ (cf. John 16:33; 1 John 2:13–14; 4:4; 5:4). See Special Topic: Paul’s Use of Huper Compounds at 1:30.

© “through Him who loved us” This PRONOUN can refer to the Father or the Son.[7]

37. In all these things. Possibly a Hebraism, meaning ‘despite all these things’, ‘for all that’.

We are more than conquerors. Greek hypernikōmen, ‘we are super-conquerors.’[8]

37. We do more than conquer, &c.; that is, we always struggle and emerge. I have retained the word used by Paul, though not commonly used by the Latins. It indeed sometimes happens that the faithful seem to succumb and to lie forlorn; and thus the Lord not only tries, but also humbles them. This issue is however given to them,—that they obtain the victory.

That they might at the same time remember whence this invincible power proceeds, he again repeats what he had said before: for he not only teaches us that God, because he loves us, supports us by his hand; but he also confirms the same truth by mentioning the love of Christ. And this one sentence sufficiently proves, that the Apostle speaks not here of the fervency of that love which we have towards God, but of the paternal kindness of God and of Christ towards us, the assurance of which, being thoroughly fixed in our hearts, will always draw us from the gates of hell into the light of life, and will sufficiently avail for our support.[9]

8:37 in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Paul assures the believer of future victory with his choice of words “more than conquerors” (hypernikaō). Nikaō is a favorite word of Revelation for the victorious destiny of believers who are faithful to Christ despite being persecuted for their faith (e.g., 2:7, 17, 26; 3:5).[10]

37 The “but” (Gk. alla) connects this verse with v. 35. Paul assumes a negative answer to the question of v. 35 and here proceeds to go even further: not only are such things as enumerated in that verse unable to separate us from Christ’s love, but, on the contrary, we are “more than conquerors” with respect to them. “More than conquerors” is a felicitous rendering, going back to the Geneva Bible, of the intensive verb Paul uses. If more than simple emphasis is intended, perhaps Paul wants to emphasize that believers not only “conquer” such adversities; under the providential hand of God, they even work toward our “good” (v. 28). But the victory is not ours, for it is only “through the one who loved us”1265 that it happens.[11]

37 There are three observations. (1) “More than conquerors” is a felicitous rendering. What is stressed is the superlative of victory. Appearance to the contrary places the reality and completeness of the victory in bolder relief. Martyrdom seems to be defeat; so it is regarded by the perpetrators. Too often we look upon the outcome of conflict with the forces of iniquity as mere escape, perhaps by the skin of our teeth. In truth it is victory and that not merely but completely and gloriously. The designs of adversaries are wholly overthrown and we come off as conquerors with all the laurels of conquest. (2) This victory is always the case—“in all these things”. In every encounter with adversity, even with the hostility that is unto death, the victory is unqualified. Unbelievable! Yes, indeed, were it not for the transcendent factors perceived only by faith. (3) “Through him that loved us”—this must refer to Christ specifically, in view of verse 34 and the reference to the love of Christ in verse 35. The tense of the verb “loved” points to the love exercised in and exhibited by the death upon the cross. This is not to suggest in the least that the love of Christ is in the past. Verse 35 conceives of this love as abiding and, as such, insuring the security of the believer. But it is the love exercised towards us when we were alienated from God, sinners and without strength (cf. 5:6–10), that certifies the reality and intensity of Christ’s love. We may well have staggered at the superlative terms in which the victory had been described. Here we have the explanation and validation—it is only “through him that loved us”. This is the transcendent factor which contradicts all appearance and turns apparent defeat into victory. Without question the constant activity of Christ as risen and at the right hand of God (vs. 34) is contemplated in the mediation reflected on here. But we cannot but think also of the conquest secured once for all by Christ himself in that cross which exhibited his love. It was then that he “despoiled the principalities and the powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15).[12]

37 Here Paul bursts into a magnificent piece of eloquence, as he will do on occasion (e.g., 1 Co 3:21–23; 1 Co 13). This passage (vv. 37–39) is especially notable for its largeness of conception and majesty of expression: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (cf. NASB, “we overwhelmingly conquer,” which some find puzzling; it could mean that believers turn their enemies into helpers, as 5:3–5 suggests, but this is rather conjectural). BDAG, 1034, affirms that the verb hypernikaō (GK 5664) used here is a heightened form of “conquer” and suggests the translation, “we are winning a most glorious victory.” Bauernfeind (TDNT 4:945) renders it, “we win the supreme victory through him who loved us.”

By saying “loved us,” Paul does not intend to restrict Christ’s love to the past; rather, he is emphasizing the historic demonstration of this love on the cross that gives assurance of its continuing under all circumstances. Nothing in all of life, with its allurements and dangers and trials, can separate the believer from that love. Not even the last and great enemy, death, can separate him or her from that love (cf. 2 Co 5:8; Php 1:21). Death has lost its sting and victory (1 Co 15:54–55).[13]

More Than Conquerors

Romans 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

There are passages of the Bible that are so familiar that we often pass over truths that would be startling if we were coming to them for the first time. Romans 8:37 is an example. We have just been reminded in the previous verse, by a quotation from the Old Testament, that the people of God “face death all day long” and are “considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (Ps. 44:22). But now, in verse 37, we are told that nevertheless we are all “more than conquerors.”

Sheep that conquer? We can think of lions that conquer, or wolves or polar bears or wild buffalo. Edgar Allan Poe even spoke of “the conquering worm,” meaning that at last death comes to all. But sheep? The very idea of sheep as conquerors seems ludicrous.

This is figurative language, of course. But the image is not meaningless, nor is it as ludicrous as it seems. In contrast to the world and its power, Christians are indeed weak and despised. They are as helpless as a flock of sheep. But they are in fact conquerors, because they have been loved by the Lord Jesus Christ and have been made conquerors “through him.”

Yet even that is not the most startling thing about this verse, for the victory of Christians is described as being more than an ordinary victory. In the Greek text a single compound verb, hypernikōmen, lies behind the five English words “we are more than conquerors.” The middle part of the word is the simple verb nikaō, meaning “to overcome” or “to conquer.” (The famous statue “Winged Victory” in the Louvre in Paris is called a Nike, which means “victory” and was the name given to the goddess of victory in Ancient Greece.) The first part of the verb, hyper, means “in place of,” “over and above,” or “more than.” From it we get our word super, which means almost the same thing. When we put the two parts of the word together we find Paul saying that believers are all “super-conquerors,” or “more than conquerors” in Jesus Christ.

But how can that be? How can those who are despised and rejected—troubled, persecuted, exposed to famine and nakedness, danger and sword—how can such people be thought of as overcomers, superovercomers at that?

It is a question worth pondering—and answering. Let me suggest a few reasons we may think like this.

Against Supernatural Forces

The first reason why the victory given to Christians by Jesus Christ is a superlative victory and why we are “more than conquerors” is that we are fighting against an enemy who is more than human.

This is the note on which Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians, reminding the Christians at Ephesus that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). In this passage Paul is thinking of the devil and his hosts, and he is saying that our battle, however human it may seem, is actually supernatural. It is a spiritual battle. If our enemies were mere human beings or mere natural forces, our victory, if we achieved it, would be a natural victory. But, as it is, our foes are supernatural, and therefore our victories are supernatural, too. We are more than conquerors.

The devil is the embodiment of these hostile spiritual forces, and he is a cunning foe. I have often said that we must not overrate Satan’s strength, as if he were the evil equivalent of God. Satan is a creature. Therefore he is not omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent. Only God is that.

However, Satan is very dangerous.

And crafty! The devil devises more schemes in a minute than we can conceive in a lifetime, and all of them are directed toward our destruction. How can we stand against such an evil, crafty foe, let alone be a “superconqueror” of him and his forces? It is not in our own strength, of course. It is as the text says: “through him who loved us.” Martin Luther stood against these spiritual forces, prevailed over them through Christ, and wrote about it in the hymn we know as “A Mighty Fortress”:

Did we in our own strength confide,

Our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is he;

Lord Sabaoth his Name,

From age to age the same,

And he must win the battle.

None of us could stand against Satan’s hostile forces even for a moment, but in Jesus Christ we can stand firm and fight on to victory.

Lifelong Battles

Second, Christians are “more than conquerors” because the warfare we are engaged in requires us to fight lifelong battles.

In his excellent study of this verse Donald Grey Barnhouse sharply contrasts our battles as Christians with the limited battles other soldiers fight: “In earthly battles soldiers are sometimes called upon to fight day and night. But there comes a moment when flesh and blood cannot take more and the struggle comes to an end through the utter exhaustion of the soldier. But in the spiritual warfare there is no armistice, no truce, no interval. The text is in the present tense … in the Greek: ‘For thy sake we are being killed all the day long’ (rsv). From the moment we are made partakers of the divine nature, we are the targets of the world, the flesh and the devil. There is never a moment’s reprieve. It follows, then, that our conquest is more than a conquest, and thus we are more than conquerors.”

Eternal Results

The third reason why Christians are more than conquerors is that the spiritual victories achieved by God’s people are eternal. This is a very important point and one we need to remind ourselves of constantly.

We are creatures of time, and we live in a perishing world. Apart from spiritual battles and spiritual victories, everything we accomplish will pass away, no matter how great an earthly “victory” may seem in the world’s eyes or our own. How can it be otherwise when even “heaven and earth will pass away” (Matt. 24:35)? Great monuments will crumble. Works of art will decay. Fortunes will be dissipated. Heroes will die. Even great triumphs of the human intellect or emotion will be forgotten. Not so with spiritual victories, for our spiritual victories impart meaning to the very history of the cosmos.

I am convinced that this is what our earthly struggles are about and that this is how we are to view them. When Satan rebelled against God sometime in eternity past, God was faced with a choice, humanly speaking. He could have annihilated Satan and those fallen angels, now demons, who rebelled with Satan against God. But that would not have proved that God’s way of running the universe is right. It would only have proved that God is more powerful than Satan. So, instead of punishing Satan immediately, God allowed Satan’s rebellion to run its course. In the meantime God created a universe and a new race of beings, mankind, in which the rebellion of Satan would be tested. Satan could have his way for a while. He could try to order things according to his will rather than God’s. He would even be allowed to seduce the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, into following him in his rebellion.

But God would reserve the right to call out a new people to himself, the very people Paul has been writing about in Romans 8. These individuals would be foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified—all according to God’s sovereign will. And when they were called they would be thrust into the spiritual struggle that Satan and his demons had brought upon the race. Satan would be allowed to attack, persecute, and even kill God’s people. But for them, for those who have been brought to know the love of God in Christ Jesus, these sufferings would not be an intolerable hardship but would instead be a privilege that they would count themselves happy to endure for Jesus.

I am convinced that in his supreme wisdom God has ordered history in such a way that for every child of Satan who is suffering, a child of God is suffering in exactly the same circumstances. And for every child of Satan who enjoys the fullness of this world’s pleasures, there is a child of God who is denied those pleasures.

The unbeliever curses his or her lot if deprived and made to suffer. The believer trusts and praises God and looks to him for ultimate deliverance. Unbelievers boast of their superiority if they are fortunate in securing this world’s success or treasure. Believers acknowledge God as the source of whatever good fortune they enjoy, and if deprived of these things, as is frequently the case, they say, as Job did, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21b).

And the angels look on, as they also did in Job’s case. “Is Satan’s way best?” they ask. “Does the way of the evil one produce joy? Does it make him and God’s other creatures happy? Or is the way of God best? Are believers the truly happy ones, in spite of their suffering?”

We, too, may pose such questions, and even wonder about the truth of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit.…

Blessed are those who mourn.…

Blessed are the meek.…

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.…

Blessed are the merciful.…

Blessed are the pure in heart.…

Blessed are the peacemakers.…

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.…

Matthew 5:2–10

Those words are indeed true! They are profoundly true. They are what God’s people are proving every day of their lives as they suffer and in some cases are put to death, being literally counted “as sheep to be slaughtered.”

“But the poor in spirit are despised,” someone says.

True enough, but “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“But those who mourn, mourn alone,” says another.

They often do, in human terms. But when they mourn an unseen presence stands beside them, Jesus himself, and they are truly “comforted.” They know “the peace of God, which transcends all [human] understanding” (Phil 4:7).

“But the meek are crushed and beaten down.”

In this world they are. Indeed, for God’s sake “we face death all day long.” But our kingdom is not here, any more than Jesus’ kingdom was here, though in the end we will “inherit [even] the earth.”

“But those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are strange, odd. Most people don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

True, but their longings will be satisfied by God himself, while those who seek earthly pleasures will fall short of joys here and in the end will be cast into the lake of fire, where thirst is never quenched.

“But the pure in heart have no welcome here, no secure place.”

True enough, but they will see God. They have a home in heaven.

“Why do we need peacemakers?” asks another person. “We need strong armies to fight the world’s conflicts.” Peacemakers are despised. The strong and powerful are favored.

But those who make peace “will be called sons of God.”

“Who would want to be persecuted, especially for righteousness’ sake?”

No one, of course. But when Christians are persecuted, they count it a privilege, for it shows that they are standing with Jesus, belong to his kingdom, and have a reward laid up for them in “the kingdom of heaven.”

Victories in such sufferings are eternal in the same way that the victory of our Lord upon the cross is eternal. Our sufferings endure for a moment, but they achieve an eternal victory. They point to the truth and grace of God forever. I am convinced that in the farthest reaches of heaven, in what we would call billions of years from now, there will be angels who will look on everyone who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ and thrust into spiritual warfare by him, and they will say, “Look, there is another of God’s saints, one who triumphed over evil by the Lord’s power!” Revelation 12:11–12 describes how they will exclaim of our great victories over Satan:

“They overcame him

by the blood of the Lamb

and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much

as to shrink from death.

Therefore rejoice, you heavens

and you who dwell in them!”

In achieving those eternal victories, we who love the Lord Jesus Christ will have indeed been more than conquerors.

Eternal Rewards

The fourth reason why we are more than conquerors in the struggles of life is that the rewards of our victory will surpass anything ever attained by earthly conquerors.

The kings of this world generally fight for three things: territory, wealth, and glory, often all three. And they reward their soldiers with a proportionate share of these attainments. The Romans settled their soldiers on land won from their enemies, though chiefly to consolidate their territorial holdings. Armies have usually been allowed to share in war’s spoils. Napoleon said that men are led by “trinkets,” meaning titles, medals, and other such glory symbols. The world’s soldiers have their rewards, but they are earthly rewards. The people of God look for rewards in heaven. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “… Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Cor. 9:24–25).

In this life, like our Master, we may wear nothing but a crown of thorns. But in heaven we will wear crowns that are incorruptible and will possess an inheritance that will never slip away.

No Greater Cause

The final reason why we are more than conquerors is that the goal of our warfare is the glory of God, and that is an infinitely worthy and utterly superior thing.

A few lines back I wrote of our reward as being imperishable crowns, using the image the Bible itself gives us. With that in mind I call your attention to a scene in Revelation 4:1–11. The setting is the throne room of heaven, and there, before the throne of Almighty God, are twenty-four elders who represent the people of God saved from all nations and all ages. They, too, are seated on thrones and wear crowns, because the saints reign with Jesus. In the center, immediately surrounding the throne, are four living creatures who cry out day and night, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (v. 8).

Whenever the four living creatures worship God with these words, the twenty-four elders rise from their thrones, fall before God, and worship him. Then—and this is the point for which I recall this picture—they lay their crowns before the throne, saying,

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they were created

and have their being” [v. 11].

This picture is extremely beautiful, for it shows that the crowns of victory won by God’s people are won by God’s grace and therefore rightly belong to him. They are our crowns, but they are laid at the Lord’s feet to show that they were won for his honor and by his strength. In this, as well as in all the other things I mentioned, we are more than conquerors.

But there is one more thing to say: The way to victory is not by “going up” to any self-achieved glory but rather by “stooping down” in suffering.

Remember the picture of Satan given in Isaiah 14? Satan said, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (vv. 13–14). But God tells Satan, “You [will be] brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit” (v. 15).

Where Satan aimed to sit is in some measure where the saints of the ages are raised, for they sit on the “mount of assembly,” higher than anything except the throne of God, as we have just seen. But notice how they get there. Not by trying to dislodge the Almighty from his throne. Rather, they are exalted because they have followed in the steps of their Master, who

… did not consider equality with God

something to be grasped,

but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6–11

Jesus was the prototype—the true sheep fit only “to be slaughtered.” He was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). But he was also a super-conqueror, and we are more than conquerors through him.[14]

[1] Patterson, P. (2017). Salvation in the Old Testament. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1795). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1628). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2172). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ro 8:37). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1442). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1714). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 8:37). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[8] Bruce, F. F. (1985). Romans: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 6, p. 180). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (p. 329). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[10] Pate, C. M. (2013). Romans. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 180). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[11] 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. 565–566). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[12] Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 331–332). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[13] 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, p. 144). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[14] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 991–998). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

40 Days to the Cross: Week One – Wednesday

Confession: Psalm 25:11–15

Also, for the sake of your name, O Yahweh,

forgive my sin, because it is great.

Who is the man fearing Yahweh?

He will instruct him in the way he should choose.

His soul will lodge in prosperity,

and his offspring will possess the land.

Intimate fellowship with Yahweh is for those who fear him,

and he makes known his covenant to them.

My eyes are continually toward Yahweh,

because he will take my feet from the net.

Reading: Mark 9:42–50

“And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it is better for him if instead a large millstone is placed around his neck and he is thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life crippled than, having two hands, to go into hell—into the unquenchable fire! And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life lame than, having two feet, to be thrown into hell! And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than, having two eyes, to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not extinguished.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt becomes deprived of its salt content, by what can you make it salty? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”


There is a perfect cure for all the ills that man is heir to. There is a cure that is sovereign, sufficient, sure, and speedy. Jesus Christ announced that cure long ago, but the overwhelming majority of men and women have not listened, and so our evils, miseries, and despair continue. You will find that our Lord Jesus Christ proposed the cure for all our ills in Matthew 11:28–30, “Come to me, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to carry and my burden is light.” Christ Jesus Himself is the cure for all our evils. He came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). He does it for all who receive Him. Poverty, sickness, bereavement, failure, bitterness of heart, despair, and death—as well as sin and unbelief—are all works of the devil. We can have done with them by coming to Jesus, the Christ of God.

I propose to take up these various evils and show how Jesus, the Christ of God, is the cure for them all and how each one of us may be done with them right now.

—R. A. Torrey

The Gospel for Today


What sins are present in your life right now? Ask your spouse or a trusted friend in your church community to help you recognize and address these sins. Pray that God would shed light on the darkness in your life and use you to spread light.[1]

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 23 Evening Verse of The Day

8:31 If God is for us expresses not a hypothetical scenario, but a sure reality: God really is for us. OT believers had the same assurance: “I fear no danger, for you are with me” (Ps 23:4; cp. Ps 27:1). “This I know: God is for me” (Ps 56:9). Who is against us? The opposition seems like a lot sometimes—the world, the flesh, Satan, secularists, false religions, our enemies—but God loves us and is sovereign. The Lord is our Shepherd, Maker of heaven and earth![1]

8:31 What then shall we say to these things. Vv. 28–30 may be primarily in view here, but they should not be separated from 1:16–8:27, and especially not from 8:1–27. “These things” embraces the whole display of free grace to lost sinners in the letter thus far.

who can be against us. There will certainly be opposition, but Paul’s point is that it lacks the ability to destroy faith. Since “God is for us,” victorious spiritual survival is assured. “For us” expresses the eternal commitment of almighty love that is spelled out in vv. 38, 39.[2]

8:31 who can be against us Up to this point in the letter Paul has repeatedly emphasized the opposition of the flesh, sin, and even the law to believers. Here Paul declares that what matters is not what is against them, but who is for them—God Himself.[3]

8:31 — If God is for us, who can be against us?

All kinds of people can “be against us,” causing us trouble and pain and sorrow. But nothing can ultimately triumph over us. God wins, and in Christ, we win with Him.[4]

8:31 Paul now asks a series of four rhetorical questions in relation to the eternal purpose of God. What then shall we say to these things? In essence, this verse is the conclusion Paul draws to the first eight chapters of Romans. What will our response be to what has been said? If God is for us, who can be against us? This is not one of the four rhetorical questions but rather the answer to the first question. Paul’s only response is he has complete assurance that the eternal purpose of God will come to fruition because God is God. Who can be against us? does not mean that we have no adversaries. Verses 35 and 36 list a great number of adversaries. By this Paul means that there is no adversary too great to thwart the eternal purpose of God.[5]

8:31 When we consider these unbreakable links in the golden chain of redemption, the conclusion is inevitable! If God is for us, in the sense that He has marked us out for Himself, then no one can be successful against us. If Omnipotence is working on our behalf, no lesser power can defeat His program.[6]

8:31 “What then shall we say to these things” This was a favorite phrase with Paul which reflects his diatribe form of presentation (cf. 3:5; 4:1; 6:1; 7:7; 9:14, 30). This question relates to the previously given truths. It is uncertain how far back it refers. It could refer to 3:21–31 or 8:1 or 8:18. Because of the use of “therefore” in 8:1 and the context, 8:18 is probably a good guess.

© “If” This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE which is assumed to be true from the author’s perspective or for his literary purposes. Amazing, amidst all our struggles with sin, God is for us!

© “who is against us” The pronoun “who” is repeated in vv. 33, 34 & 35. It refers to Satan. This paragraph from 31–39 is using the OT literary technique of the Prophets, a court case (cf. Micah 1 & 6). YHWH takes His people to court for spiritual adultery. It is an allusion to Isa. 50:8–9.

Notice the legal terms: “against” v. 31; “a charge” v. 33; “justifies” v. 33; “condemns” v. 34; and “intercedes” v. 34. God is the Judge. Christ is the defense lawyer. Satan is the prosecuting attorney (but he is silent.) Angels fill the courtroom as observers (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9; Eph. 2:7; 3:10).[7]

31. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

What Paul means is, “To what conclusion do these things lead us?” The expression “these things” probably refers not only to the matters mentioned in verses 28–30, or even 18–30, but to everything the apostle has so far written in this epistle. What, then, is the summary of that which Paul has been saying in this letter?

He has pointed out that the one thing a sinner needs above all else is right standing with God, and that this right standing is not obtainable by human exertion or merit. That inestimable blessing is God’s free gift, and there is only one way to obtain it, namely, by faith. See 1:17; 3:24, 28, 30; 4:1, 2, 7, 8; 5:1, 8, 9; 7:24, 25; 8:1. The blessing of salvation has been earned for everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, who will, by God’s power and grace, repose his trust in the Savior. It was he who earned salvation for his people by the shedding of his blood. They are saved by his substitutionary death, his resurrection, and his intercession (1:4, 5; 3:21–26; 4:25–5:1, 2, 8–21; 6:23; 7:24; 8:1–4; and see also 8:34).

If, then, God is on our side, as he clearly proved by what he did and does for us, who is against us? Not as if all the enemies have already been swept away, but what is any enemy able to achieve against us. God being for us?

When Paul says, “If God is for us,” he is not calling in doubt God’s protecting care, love, and promises. On the contrary, this “if” means, “If … as he certainly is!”

In light of all this the opening question, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?” will have to be answered with a very strong, “We have nothing to fear. Victory is certainly on our side.”[8]

Ver. 31. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

If God be for us none can be effectually against us:—First, here’s the supposition “If God be for us.” This “if” is not an if of doubting or ambiguity, but rather of certainty and assurance. That God is, indeed, for all true believers, cannot be denied (Psa. 46:7; 124:1; 118:6, 7). There are two manner of ways especially wherein God may be said to be for His servants: First, by way of allowance, God is so far said to be with His people, as He does own them and approve of them. And this again extends itself to three particulars more, wherein it is considerable: First, the persons of His servants, God is for them (Psa. 147:10, 11; Mal 3:16). Secondly, He is for them in their principles; the doctrines, and truths, and graces which are eminent in them, and whereby they are acted and moved. These God does own them in and approve them for; whatever is of God’s planting, it is of God’s owning; He will maintain His own work. Thirdly, He is for them also in their practices and actions. The ways of good men as good, and as living in the power of religion, are so far forth allowed of by God. He that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men, as the apostle speaks in chap. 14:18. Secondly, God is for all true believers, not only by way of allowance, but also by way of assistance; not only to own them, but to help them, and to be useful to them for their greatest advantage. The ground hereof is laid in two particulars: First, in regard of His interest which He has in them, as they do belong unto Him; interest it does engage affection, and so consequently endeavour and assistance. Secondly, there is not only his relation, but also His covenant; persons who are confederates, they are assistant one to another. For answer hereunto we must say thus much, that God is indeed with His servants, but with these qualifications:—First, in His own time. Secondly, in His own manner. Thirdly, upon His own terms and conditions we must take in that also. And that is of faith, and repentance, and new obedience, and close walking with Him, as we may see (2 Chron. 15:2). It holds also as to engagement; if God be with us it concerns us to be with Him, and to carry ourselves answerably towards Him we should own Him, and all that is His; it is that which He both requires and expects from us. There are two things in the world which God is especially interested in, and whatever is done for them He counts as done to Himself, His truth, and His children; goodness itself, and those who are good. Now, therefore, when we own these, and are for them, we own Him, and shall have the reward of it bestowed upon us. The second is the inference, or that which is deduced from it, in these words, “Who can be against us?” Who can be against us? What a strange question is this? Who rather cannot be against? There’s none who are so likely or ready to have any against them than those who are most for God, or God for them. Let any men look after religion, and they shall be sure to have enough against them. First, who can be against us? That is, who can be rationally against us? It is not so much what any are de facto, but what they are de jure, not what they are in the thing itself, but what they ought to be, and what is fitting for them. Secondly, who can be against us? That is, who can be against us effectually. All the enmity of men, it is a limited and confined enmity, because their hearts, and hands, and affections, and endeavours, are all at God’s disposing. First, Satan, the great and grand enemy of all, he shall not prevail against us. Secondly, evil men who are subservient and instrumental to Satan, they shall not prevail neither in all their attempts and endeavours in the Church. Now there is a threefold ground whereupon this truth does proceed and may be made good to us: First, from God’s omnipotency. Secondly, from God’s immutability; therefore those whom God is for can have none to prevail against them, because those whom He is truly for He is for them for ever. Thirdly, from God’s eternity; He is one who ever continues, therefore those whom He is for, they are sure to have none against them. The third and last may be this, Who can be against us? That is, who can be safely against us? who can be against us with any convenience, or peace, or comfort, or contentment to themselves. (Thos. Horton, D.D.)

God for us:—“These things.” The only question as to the meaning of this expression is, whether it covers the whole Epistle, or is to be confined to this chapter or to the immediately preceding verses. In any case the emphasis of the appeal must be chiefly on the last—things which are so much above the reach of the carnal mind, and so likely to produce a feeling of wonder or revolt. There the things are; they cannot be reasoned away. “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.

  1. The Fact. The world will have much to say against the doctrines of grace. “But if God be for us,” then we can afford to have the world against us. The plan of mercy which determines the way of salvation may surpass all human wisdom and experience, but if it be God’s plan it will take effect. The method of grace by which the sinner’s heart is renewed may surpass the carnal judgment. Yet if it be God’s method it will work His purpose in spite of man’s ridicule and unbelief. The subserviency of Providence to the purposes of redemption will work itself out, though men may be blind to the issue. Now let us apply this to our—1. Doctrinal opinions. God is for us when our views are in accordance with the Scripture. Reason, experience, received opinions, learning and wisdom, may seem to be against us, but God is more than all. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” 2. The interest and safety of attainments and privileges of the believer’s state. The world has much to say upon the subject of the work of grace. There are some who resolve the facts of Christian experience into disease or deception. According to our view this work of grace is God’s most beautiful and costly work. Now, if we are indeed God’s workmanship, if what we call the work of grace be indeed the work of the Holy Spirit, then we may say in the view of the world’s contumely and scorn, “If God be for us, who then can be against us?” 3. The believer’s safety. The text does not imply the absence of danger and opposition. Both Scripture and experience teach us the contrary. The meaning is that nothing shall prevail against us (2 Chron. 32:7, 8). 4. The interest which believers have in the plan of Providence. According to the teaching of the apostle, the entire administration of this present world is determined in the interest of Christ and His Church. Yet how strangely does it appear to be contradicted by the facts around us. How often is the cause of slavery and tyranny seen to triumph over the cause of freedom or piety! But faith, when asked, What shall we say to these things? is still ready with its reply, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
  2. Its influence. It will produce—1. An independence, in matters of conscience and religion, of human authority. Independence of man is necessary to a thorough dependence on God (Acts 4:19). Thus Luther, “Here I stand, I cannot recant; I rest on the Word of God. Let God see to it.” 2. A spirit of patience under the pressure of trial. If God is with us, on our side, why should we faint in our minds? 3. Confidence of the final triumph of the Christian’s interest, and the clearing up of all the dark clouds that rest upon the ways of God. Iniquity shall not always prevail. (P. Strutt.)

God is for us:

  1. The question supposes the existence of a combined and powerful hostility to the Christian. The Bible declares this, observation confirms it, and experience demonstrates it. The believer may be compares to an individual who has thrown off allegiance to his king, has disowned his country, and refuses obedience to its laws, yet continues to dwell in the land he had renounced, and hard by the sovereign he has foresworn. 1. Satan is against us. All his force, malice, subtlety, and skill, and all his myrmidons are marshalled in opposition to the interests of the child of God. 2. The world, too, is against us. It will never forgive the act by which we broke from it. Nor can it forget that the life of the Christian is a constant and solemn rebuke of it (John 15:18, 19). 3. Our own heart is against us.
  2. But God is for us. It was this assurance that calmed the fears and strengthened the faith of Abraham (Gen. 15:1); Isaac (Gen. 26:24); Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 6:15, 16); David (Psa. 27:1); Jeremiah (Jer. 1:17–19); and Paul (Acts 18:9, 10). And Christ’s last words were, “Lo, I am with you alway; even unto the end.” 1. God must be on the side of His people since He has, in an everlasting covenant, made Himself over to be their God. There is nothing in God, in His dealings, or in His providences, but what is on the side of His people. 2. Not the Father only, but the Son of God is also on our side. Has He not amply proved it? Who, when there was no eye to pity, and no arm to Save, undertook our cause, and embarked all His grace and glory in our salvation? 3. And so of the Holy Spirit. Who quickened us when we were dead; taught us when we were ignorant, comforted us when we were distressed? III. It may then well be asked, “Who can be against us?” The law cannot, for the Law-fulfiller has magnified and made it honourable. Justice cannot, for Jesus has met its demands, and His resurrection is a full discharge of all its claims; nor sin, nor Satan, nor men, nor suffering, nor death, since the condemnation of sin is removed, and Satan is vanquished, and the ungodly are restrained, and suffering works for good, and the sting of death is taken away. We will fear nothing, therefore, but the disobedience that grieves and the sin that offends God. Fearing this, we need fear nothing else (Isa. 41:10). Conclusion: 1. The subject, if most consolatory to the Christian, is, in its converse, a solemn one to the unregenerate. It is an awful thing not to have God for us. And if God is not for us there is no neutral course—He must be against us. 2. Would we always have God for us? then let us aim to be for God. God deals with us His creatures by an equitable rule (Lev. 26:27, 28). (O. Winslow, D.D.)

God for us:

  1. How God is for us. 1. Because He hath predestinated His people to be conformed to the image of His own dear Son. “No weapon which is formed against thee shall prosper,” &c. 2. He has called us. When Abraham left the land of his forefathers and went forth, not knowing whither he went, he was quite safe, because God had called him. 3. He has justified us. All the people of God are wrapped about with the righteousness of Christ, and God regards them with the same affection as that wherewith He loves His only-begotten Son. 4. He hath also glorified us, “for He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” He will also glorify us, for He hath prepared a kingdom for us from the foundation of the world. But though this brings in the context, I cannot bring out the depth of the meaning of how God is for us. He was for us before the worlds; He was for us, or else He would never have given His Son. He has been for us in many struggles—how could we have held on until now had it not been so? He is for us with all the omnipotence of His love and with all His boundless wisdom.
  2. Who are against us? 1. Man. How man has struggled against man! We do not in this age feel the cruelty of man to the same extent as the Reformers did, but in many cases we are misrepresented, slandered, abused, ridiculed for truth’s sake. Well did Jesus say, “Beware of men.” “Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” But what are they all? Suppose every man were against you, you might say, as Athanasius did, “I have truth on my side, and therefore against the world I stand.” Of what use was the malice of men against Martin Luther? Men are only puppets moved by God’s hand; therefore be not afraid of them. Latimer greatly displeased Henry VIII. by his boldness in a sermon, and was ordered to make an apology on the following Sabbath. After reading his text he began:—“Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life; therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease; but then consider well, Hugh, from whence thou comest; upon whose message thou art sent! Even by the mighty God! who is all-present, and who beholdeth all thy ways, and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.” He then proceeded with the same sermon, but with more energy. Such courage should all God’s children show when they have to do with man. Modesty is very becoming, but an ambassador of God must recollect there are other virtues besides modesty. 2. The world. This world is like a great field covered with brambles and thorns and thistles, and the Christian is continually in danger of rending his garments or cutting his feet. Luther used to say there was no love lost between him and the world, for the world hated him and he hated it no less. Care little for this world, but think much of the world to come. This poor quicksand, get off it lest it swallow thee up; but yonder rock of ages, build thou on it, and thou shalt never suffer loss. 3. The flesh, the worst of the three. We should never need to fear man nor the world if we had not this to contend with. Some have an irritable temper, others a covetous disposition. Some have to fight against levity, others against pride or despondency. But despite all this we shall one day be found without fault before the throne of God. 4. The devil. He knows our weak points, he understands how to cover up the hook with the bait; and how to take one this way and the other the opposite. But what matters the devil when we have this text. The devil is mighty, but God is almighty.

III. Who are not against us. 1. God the Father. He cannot be against His own children. 2. God the Son. How sweetly He has been for us! The Cross says, “Christ is for you,” and to-day the tenor of His plea before the throne is, “I am for you.” When He shall come a second time the trumpet will ring out, “Christ is for you.” 3. The Holy Spirit as the Comforter, the Illuminator, the giver of life. 4. The holy angels, who are our ministers. 5. The law of God, once our enemy, is now our friend. Conclusion:—1. There is an opposite to all this. If God be against you, who can be for you? 2. But if God be for you, you ought to be for God. If God has espoused your cause, ought you not to espouse His? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

With God enough:—The inscription on the front of Downing Hall, North Wales, translated, runs thus, “Without God, without all; with God, enough.”

The apostle’s challenge:

  1. Its strength. This consists in the grounds on which it rests. 1. The all-sufficiency of God. 2. The covenant relationship of God to His people. “If God be for us.” 3. The demonstrations of love which God has already given (ver. 32). 4. God’s acquittal and acceptance of His people, as the moral Governor of men (ver. 33). 5. The completeness of Christ’s mediatorial work (ver. 34).
  2. Its spirit. This will be illustrated if we contemplate—1. The circumstances under which the words are uttered. This is the language of a man who says, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 2. The boldness of his defiance (vers. 38, 39). 3. The objects of his defiance. Death, life, angels, &c. 4. The influence it exerts.—It leads to patience in suffering, and cheerfulness in doing, the will of God. (T. Ely.)

The safety of the saints:—There are two ways in which a man may be deprived, against his will, of his privileges and possessions—by the lawless violence of the oppressor, or by legal forfeiture for his offences. And, if these two ways are effectually provided against, there is nothing to fear. Our apostle seems to have an eye to this, and shows us that the child of God has nothing to fear from—

  1. Violence. Let us look at—1. The premises of his argument. From which we gather—(1) That God is a Friend. “If God be for us.” It is something to have a friend at all, i.e. one who would help us if he could: but the believer’s friend is the mighty God. (2) What sort of a friend God has been. “He spared not His own Son,” &c. See what a length His friendship carried Him! (3) What sort of a friend God will be. The future may be judged of from the past. “He spared not His own Son; how then shall He not with Him also freely give as all things!” 2. The conclusion—“Who can be against us?” But here occurs a difficulty. “God is for us.” Most true. “None can be against us.” Is that a necessary consequence? Then, again, a conclusion, though illogical, might yet be a truth. Is that the case here? “None can be against us.” Why, our apostle himself speaks of “many adversaries.” The seeming difficulty is unreal. (1) The true idea is that the friendship of God shall so completely protect us from all our enemies, that our interests shall be as secure as if our enemies had no existence. You know what desperate attempts were made by Satan to ruin Job; but God was for Job, and he was not ruined. For the same reason he was foiled in the case of Peter, and his messenger in the case of Paul. (2) But sometimes the mere tone of a denial implies an affirmation of the contrary. Had we heard the apostle, his exulting tone would have conveyed the meaning (ver. 28). “Who can help being for us, when God is for us?” God was for Joseph, and so were his unnatural brethren. God was for the Church; and so were the princes of the world when they slew the Lord of glory! God is for the believer; and so is Satan, who but tries his faith. God is for the dying saint; and so is death, which hastens his translation to Paradise.
  2. Legal process before the bar of God. 1. The first step in a legal process is to produce a charge; and so the apostle inquires, “Who shall lay anything,” &c. What! have not many things, in all ages, been alleged against the righteous? No doubt. But—(1) Irrelevant charges will not do. Sometimes, e.g., the accusation has been that they have kept God’s laws and proclaimed His truth. But such charges are irrelevant. They make that an offence which is a duty. (2) Nor will false charges do. Elijah was called a troubler of Israel. But the troubler of Israel was the prophet’s accuser. Drunkenness was imputed to the apostles, when they were under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Disloyalty and sedition are hackneyed imputations. And so is hypocrisy. Such charges may be safely despised by the Christian. They are relevant, indeed; but they are false, and God will not listen to them. (3) Has the child of God, then, no sins? Ah, he will never deny it. What then becomes of the text? Stay; it asks, “Who” is to bring the charge? Is a fellow-sinner competent to undertake the task? No. There must be clean hands, in the first place, and a commission and warrant, in the second; and a fellow-sinner has neither the one nor the other. None but God can do it, and He never will; for they are God’s elect. Their names would not have been written in heaven if God was going to appear against them. 2. The next stage is that of the verdict—Guilty, or not guilty. The apostle has already shown that there can be no charge; but, if there were one, the believer will not be convicted of it. “It is God that justifieth: who is he that condemneth?” &c. “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” (1) They cannot be condemned, when nothing is laid to their charge. But then God is just, and justice demands the punishment of sin. The charge was made, but Christ bore it. For God made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2) But what if no punishment followed? Was God to turn His wrath upon His own Son? Yes, “it is Christ that died”—died in thy room to expiate thy sins. (3) But was the punishment adequate—the expiation complete? If not, the believer may tremble still—he is not beyond the reach of condemnation. Christ “is risen again.” But He would not be risen if He had not given justice every jot and tittle of its due. (4) But can we be sure that the sacrifice of Christ was accepted? The circumstance that the Son acted by the Father’s commandment, shows that the sacrifice, if in itself complete and sufficient, must have been well-pleasing and acceptable; and to prove it beyond all doubt, Paul says, “Who is even at the right hand of God.” (5) But we have not yet reached the end of the believer’s guarantees. “Who also maketh intercession for us.” We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. And if we are ever condemned, it is Christ that will do it. But an advocate never condemns his own clients. And the apostle announces the happy issue of his advocacy when he tells us,” It is God that justifieth.” 3. When a criminal process succeeds there is execution. Suppose the believer condemned, all that remained would be to inflict the punishment. Yes: but there would be an insurmountable obstacle. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The believer’s confidence has no cause to be shaken, unless he can be separated from Christ’s love. In order to this—(1) You must prove that love to be nothing but a dream. But surely Christ’s death is sufficient to prove its reality. (2) That love must be made to cease. It is not uncommon for the human love to fade. But Christ’s love is everlasting. “Can a woman forget her sucking child,” &c. (3) One way remains. Who shall prevail against the believer in spite of Christ’s love? Love can do little, however great it may be in itself, if it has not corresponding power at its back. But the love of Christ has omnipotence at its command. “Shall tribulation, or distress,” &c., separate? Nay. For (a) They are temporary evils. (b) The worst they can do is to separate the body from the soul for a season; but that is the indispensable and immediate preliminary to the full enjoying of the benefits of Christ’s love, and therefore not a step towards our separation from it! Like the puny insects which mutilate themselves by striking with their stings, they are incapable of hurting us again. (c) The whole action and influence of these evils will be overruled for our good. Therefore, “in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.” (Andrew Gray.)

The presence of God a source of courage:—Why should I fear? Is man stronger than God? I go up to the Soudan alone, with an infinite Almighty God to direct and guide me, and am glad to so trust Him as to fear nothing; and indeed to feel sure of success. (General Gordon.)

Christian courage:—Chrysostom before the Roman emperor was a beautiful example of Christian courage. The emperor threatened him with banishment if he still remained a Christian. Chrysostom replied, “Thou canst not, for the world is my Father’s house; thou canst not banish me.” “But I will slay thee,” said the emperor. “Nay, but thou canst not,” said the noble champion of the faith again; “for my life is hid with Christ in God.” “I will take away thy treasures.” “Nay, but thou canst not,” was the retort; “for, in the first place, I have none that thou knowest of. My treasure is in heaven, and my heart is there.” “But I will drive thee away from man, and thou shalt have no friend left.” “Nay, and that thou canst not,” once more said the faithful witness; “for I have a Friend in heaven, from whom thou canst not separate me. I defy thee; there is nothing thou canst do to hurt me.”

The mightiness of God:—When the army of Antigonus went into battle his soldiers were very much discouraged, and they rushed up to the general and said to him, “Don’t you see we have few forces, and they have so many more?” and the soldiers were affrighted at the smallness of their number and the greatness of the enemy. Antigonus, their commander, straightened himself up and said with indignation and vehemence, “How many do you reckon me to be?” And when we see the vast armies arrayed against the cause of sobriety, it may sometimes be very discouraging, but I ask you, in making up your estimate of the forces of righteousness, I ask you how many do you reckon the Lord God Almighty to be? He is our Commander. The Lord of Hosts is His name. I have the best authority for saying that the chariots of God are twenty thousand, and the mountains are full of them.[9]

8:31 What, then, shall we say … If God is for us, who can be against us? Paul begins this section with two questions. First, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?” Here, “these things” (tauta) refers to all that Paul has been saying since chapter 5 with regard to the blessings of the new covenant. Second, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” “For us” translates hyper hēmōn (“on our behalf”), which Paul regularly uses to depict the vicarious atonement of Christ (see especially 5:6–8). Here hyper applies to God’s work on behalf of Christians. No matter who the enemies of Christians are, God is on his children’s side and will protect them.[10]

31 As we have seen, Paul uses the rhetorical question “What, then, shall we say?” frequently in Romans to advance his argument. Here, however, as in 3:1 and 4:1 (and see the variant in 9:19), these words do not stand alone but are part of a substantive question: “What shall we say in view of these things?” “These things,” as I suggested above, should not be confined to what Paul has just said in vv. 28–30, or even in chap. 8 as a whole, but embrace all the blessings ascribed to Christians in chaps. 5–8. All this Paul sums up in the simple statement, “if God be for us.” The preposition I translate “for” could also be translated “on behalf of.” Paul uses it frequently to depict the vicarious work of Christ (see especially 5:6–8); here it suggests that God is on our side, that he is working for us. If this is so, Paul asks, “who is against us?” Obviously, Paul does not mean that nobody will, in fact, oppose us; as Paul knows from his own experience (to which he alludes in v. 35), opposition to believers is both varied and intense. What Paul is suggesting by this rhetorical question is that nobody—and no “thing”—can ultimately harm, or stand in the way of, the one whom God is “for.” This is how Chrysostom put it:

Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us the causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God’s wisdom turneth their plots unto our salvation and glory. See how really no one is against us![11]

31 “What then shall we say to these things?” has the force of “what is the inference to be drawn from these things?” What is to be our response? The answer is in the form of another question, a question obviously rhetorical, to the effect that, if God is for us, all opposition from others is of no account. When it is said “if God is for us”, there is no suggestion of doubt; this clause simply states the basis of the confident assurance implied in the succeeding question. “Who is against us?” does not mean that there are no adversaries. Verses 35, 36 refer to the most violent kinds of opposition. The thought is simply that no adversary is of any account when God is for us. In reality, in terms of verse 28, nothing is against us so as to work ultimately for evil: if God is for us, all things work together for our good. In the last analysis there is no against within the orbit of the interests of the people of God. It is this truth that is enunciated in verse 31 in respect of all personal adversaries, satanic, demonic, and human.[12]

[1] Patterson, P. (2017). Salvation in the Old Testament. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (pp. 1794–1795). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1628). 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 (Ro 8:31). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ro 8:31). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1441). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1713). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 8:31). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[8] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 286–287). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[9] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 196–201). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[10] Pate, C. M. (2013). Romans. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 178). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[11] 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. 560–561). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[12] Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 322–323). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

February 23 Morning Verse of The Day

24:1–2 Everything on earth belongs to the Lord by right of creation (Dt 10:14). World (Hb tevel) refers to the inhabited world (see note at 19:4–6). According to the ancient Israelite conception, the earth rested on the waters (136:6; Ex 20:4); the seas and rivers are what was seen of this phenomenon. The earth was set on a firm foundation, so it was stable and secure (104:5; Is 51:13).[1]

24:1–2 The psalm begins as a hymn of praise. God is King by creation and by victory over the forces of evil. The poetry suggests that He tamed the primeval waters and founded the earth (136:6). The language is a disparaging reference to pagan worship; the Canaanites venerated gods “Sea” and “River,” perhaps as forces of chaos. In the biblical perspective the Lord has complete control over the forces of nature.[2]

24:1 The earth is the Lord’s. God created and sustains the whole earth; it belongs to Him. Paul cites this verse to establish the principle that there is no food, even things offered to pagan idols, which is unlawful for Christians to eat (1 Cor. 10:25, 26).

24:2 he has founded it upon the seas. This section reflects the creation account in Gen. 1. However, the sea is also a poetic image for evil. Throughout the psalms and the prophets, God is pictured as winning a victory over the sea (Ps. 29:10, 11; 77:16–20; 104:5–9; Nah. 1:4; Dan. 7).[3]

24:1 earth is Yahweh’s The psalm begins by asserting Yahweh’s rule over the earth.

24:2 on the seas Reflects the ancient Near Eastern belief that the earth was supported by pillars sunk into the sea or floated upon the sea (104:5; 1 Sam 2:8).

In ancient Near Eastern mythology, the sea represented chaos. The act of creation involved subduing these forces. Old Testament writers depict Yahweh as having power over the sea (Ps 77:16; Job 38:8) to show He is the supreme deity—infinitely more powerful than other ancient Near Eastern gods who continually battle the forces of chaos. The psalmist describes Yahweh’s power to emphasize His victorious rule as the “King of glory” (Ps 24:7–10).[4]

24:1–2 The Lord Is Creator and Owner of All. The Lord, the covenant God of Israel, is the one who founded the world (cf. Gen. 1:1–2:3, where he is called God, the transcendent Creator). The focus here is on the earth as the dry land, where human beings dwell, as distinguished from the waters (cf. Gen. 1:9–10). Paul quotes Ps. 24:1 in 1 Cor. 10:26 to explain that since God owns everything, foods are included, and thus may be enjoyed without qualms.[5]

24:1 the Lord’s. On His universal ownership, cf. Ex 19:5; Dt 10:14; Pss 50:12; 89:11; in the NT, cf. 1Co 3:21, 23.

24:2 This is a poetic, not a scientific, picture of creation (cf. Ge 1:9, 10; 7:11; 49:25; Ex 20:4; Dt 33:13; Job 26:10; Pss 74:13; 136:6; 2Pe 3:5).[6]

24:1, 2 The earth is the Lord’s: The psalmist praises God as Sovereign over all He has created. These words also set the stage for the question of vv. 3–5: If God is Lord over all, who then may approach Him? those who dwell therein: God’s rule extends to all people, even those who do not acknowledge His power. founded it upon the seas: Drawing on the language of Gen. 1 in which God calls the dry land to rise from the watery abyss (Gen. 1:2, 9), David describes God’s continued control over the waters.[7]

24:1, 2 As the throng nears the city, the announcement rings out that the earth and everything in it belong to God. It is a statement of divine ownership and of Christ’s full right to reign. Then the reason is given. Christ is the One who made the world. It was He who gathered the waters together in one place and made the dry land appear. It was He who formed the rivers, some on the surface of the earth and some beneath the ground. So now He is coming to claim what is really His own but has been denied to Him for centuries.[8]

24:1–2. David praised the Lord because everything in … the world belongs to Him who created it. This is a general acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over all things.[9]

The Extent of His Dominion (24:1–2)

24:1–2. In the opening statement of praise David affirmed that The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains (its “fullness”), recalling God’s statement to Moses in Nm 14:21, “all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” (see also Ps 72:19; Is 6:3; 1Co 10:26). The implication of this parallel phraseology is that, in addition to denoting the extent of the Lord’s dominion, the present statement also implies that the fullness (everything within) of that dominion attests to the glory of God (cf. Ps 19). Furthermore, it highlights God as the Creator, for He has founded it upon the seas.[10]

  1. THE earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 2. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
  1. How very different is this from the ignorant Jewish notion of God which prevailed in our Saviour’s day. The Jews said, “The holy land is God’s, and the seed of Abraham are his only people;” but their great Monarch had long before instructed them,—“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” The whole round world is claimed for Jehovah, “and they that dwell therein” are declared to be his subjects. When we consider the bigotry of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, and how angry they were with our Lord for saying that many widows were in Israel, but unto none of them was the prophet sent, save only to the widow of Sarepta, and that there were many lepers in Israel, but none of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian,—when we recollect, too, how angry they were at the mention of Paul’s being sent to the Gentiles, we are amazed that they should have remained in such blindness, and yet have sung this Psalm, which shows so clearly that God is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. What a rebuke is this to those wiseacres who speak of the negro and other despised races as though they were not cared for by the God of heaven! If a man be but a man the Lord claims him, and who dares to brand him as a mere piece of merchandise! The meanest of men is a dweller in the world, and therefore belongs to Jehovah. Jesus Christ has made an end of the exclusiveness of nationalities. There is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but we all are one in Christ Jesus.

Man lives upon “the earth,” and parcels out its soil among his mimic kings and autocrats; but the earth is not man’s. He is but a tenant at will, a leaseholder upon most precarious tenure, liable to instantaneous ejectment. The great Landowner and true Proprietor holds his court above the clouds and laughs at the title-deeds of worms of the dust. The fee-simple is not with the lord of the manor nor the freeholder, but with the Creator. The “fulness” of the earth may mean its harvests, its wealth, its life, or its worship; in all these senses the Most High God is Possessor of all. The earth is full of God; he made it full and he keeps it full, notwithstanding all the demands which living creatures make upon its stores. The sea is full, despite all the clouds which rise from it; the air is full, notwithstanding all the lives which breathe it; the soil is full, though millions of plants derive their nourishment from it. Under man’s tutored hand the world is coming to a greater fulness than ever, but it is all the Lord’s; the field and the fruit, the earth and all earth’s wonders are Jehovah’s. We look also for a sublimer fulness when the true ideal of a world for God shall have been reached in millennial glories, and then most clearly the earth will be the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. These words are now upon London’s Royal Exchange, they shall one day be written in letters of light across the sky.

The term “world” indicates the habitable regions, wherein Jehovah is especially to be acknowledged as Sovereign. He who rules the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air should not be disobeyed by man, his noblest creature. Jehovah is the Universal King, all nations are beneath his sway: true Autocrat of all the nations, emperors and czars are but his slaves. Men are not their own, nor may they call their lips, their hearts, or their substance their own; they are Jehovah’s rightful servants. This claim especially applies to us who are born from heaven. We do not belong to the world or to Satan, but by creation and redemption we are the peculiar portion of the Lord.

Paul uses this verse twice, to show that no food is unclean, and that nothing is really the property of false gods. All things are God’s; no ban is on the face of nature, nothing is common or unclean. The world is all God’s world, and the food which is sold in the shambles is sanctified by being my Father’s, and I need not scruple to eat thereof.

  1. In the second verse we have the reason why the world belongs to God, namely, because he has created it, which is a title beyond all dispute. “For he hath founded it upon the seas.” It is God who lifts up the earth from out of the sea, so that the dry land, which otherwise might in a moment be submerged, as in the days of Noah, is kept from the floods. The hungry jaws of ocean would devour the dry land if a constant fiat of Omnipotence did not protect it. “He hath established it upon the floods.” The world is Jehovah’s, because from generation to generation he preserves and upholds it, having settled its foundations. Providence and Creation are the two legal seals upon the title-deeds of the great Owner of all things. He who built the house and bears up its foundation has surely a first claim upon it. Let it be noted, however, upon what insecure foundations all terrestrial things are founded. Founded on the seas! Established on the floods! Blessed be God the Christian has another world to look forward to, and rests his hopes upon a more stable foundation than this poor world affords. They who trust in worldly things build upon the sea; but we have laid our hopes, by God’s grace, upon the Rock of Ages; we are resting upon the promise of an immutable God, we are depending upon the constancy of a faithful Redeemer. Oh! ye worldlings, who have built your castles of confidence, your palaces of wealth, and your bowers of pleasure upon the seas, and established them upon the floods; how soon will your baseless fabrics melt, like foam upon the waters! Sand is treacherous enough, but what shall be said of the yet more unstable seas?[11]

Vers. 1, 2. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.The earth the Lord’s:

So the Psalmist in this place speaks of the Divine sovereignty and of the Divine purpose and programme. The Divine sovereignty—the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. God stretches out His sceptre over all places, all peoples, all events. However you parcel the earth out, He is the great Landlord and the Sovereign Ruler doing according to His will amongst the inhabitants of the earth. And the Psalmist tells us in this place on what this rests. God created it, and He sustains it. What a great deal you see in the world that your ancestors did not see, and what a great deal your children will see in it that you do not see! It is a mysterious world, with the fulness thereof. How there is wrapped up in the world unknown possibilities to be manifested in due season. When God created the world He did not leave it; He lives in the midst of the splendour He first created. He is evermore active in all the things of nature and of history. You build a palace, and it comes to ruin, but the earth never comes to ruin. You never have to put an iron band round the firmament to hold up the dome as they have put an iron band upon the dome of St. Peter’s at Rome. Now, the Psalmist here tells how God seeks to accomplish His great purpose in the world that He created, the world that He maintains, the world that He redeemed. He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. What is that? That God, who is the Sovereign of this world, has a great purpose in its government, and He seeks to accomplish that purpose through endless mutability and conflict. Now, you see the very same thing when you look into nature. God has made this world in exactly the same way, and the tangible world, the planet itself, how has it come to pass? He called forth His Spirit, and His Spirit moved on the face of the waters. Movement, you see. So it was in that strange old world, out of movement, mutability, catastrophe, out of these seas and floods, that this lovely earth arose, as the Greeks fabled that Venus arose out of the foam of the sea. Why, you know the history of your planet now pretty well. You know, your fathers, when they wanted to explain the configuration of this planet, always used to talk about the flood and the deluge. Oh! the deluge explained a lot. But you know a great deal better. You have studied geology since then. Nowadays you do not talk about Noah’s deluge having made the planet what it is. You push it a great deal further back than that. For all that went on in these revolutions have left their signs on the rocks. What terrific floods, what mighty deluges, what burnings, what ages of frost and glaciers, and through all that God never lost sight of His final purpose to make this planet into what you see it to-day—music, colour, fragrance—a great and delightful theatre of intellectual and spiritual life. He hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods, and out of movement, unsettlement, change, it arose, the lovely planet that you see it to-day. And mind, it is always going on just the same to-day. One would think sometimes, to look at the earth, that it was asleep. But make no mistake about that. The one thing nature never will stand is immovability. She won’t tolerate stagnation. They say that sometimes in the Pacific they have periods of absolute calm, and in a few days the very sea begins to rot, and the stench is insufferable. Nature won’t stand it, she is full of unsettlement, full of movement, full of catastrophe. That is the way you keep the ocean pure, the atmosphere sweet, and the earth full of vitality. Now, I want to say to you that that is all just as true in the history of ourselves. If you will look down the history you will find that God has ever been active in the midst of the nations, always overturning that He may introduce a civilisation that is a shade better than the civilisation that preceded it. You never can make a nation fixed and permanent. The world from the beginning amongst the nations has been in a state of unrestfulness and changefulness. But I believe there never has been a change in this world but it has been for the better. Mind you, it often seems to a careless eye as if the world were going back, but whenever the critical period comes the best is always on the top. You go back in history to the great conflict, say, between the Greeks and Orientals, when there seemed a time that the Oriental world was likely to swamp Europe, when it was likely to destroy the civilisation of Greece, which was the promise of all future civilisations. But when the critical battle came the Greek was master of the situation. It was just the same again when you come to the great conflicts between the Romans and the Phœnicians. As you know perfectly well, there seemed a day when the Phœnician, with his dark superstitions, his terrible practices, was going to triumph; but when the ultimate time came, when the final battle was fought, the Roman was at the top, with his wiser, healthier, and nobler conceptions, ideals, and strivings. It was just the same again a little later when Mohammedanism came into contact with Europe, and the Moor was at the very gate of Vienna. It seemed as if the inferior civilisation was going to swamp the nobler, but God, who sat upon the face of the waters, said, “Hitherto and no further,” and Mohammedanism was turned back, and it has been going back ever since. It has stopped a bit at Constantinople, but it will have to go. God has not made this world to go backwards. He has made it on the principle of a sure but ofttimes obscure development. Mind, I confess it looks as if it were not so. It seems sometimes as if we made a great deal of movement for positive retrogression. It looks so until we think about it. The world keeps going to pieces continually, and you never get anything fixed. But I am not going to lose sight of the fact that in the midst of instabilities and revolutions God is always quietly present. Always His end is to make men and nations pure and perfect. He has done it in the past; He will do it still. Why, you know well enough, in the fifth century—was it in the fifth or sixth?—a few fishermen laid the foundations of Venice in the slime of the lagoons. These men, with a few sticks and stones, began the creation, and as time went on there grew out of this slender and rude beginning the city of solemn temples, gorgeous palaces, the city of great painters, sculptors, and poets. And they built it out of the seas and established it upon the floods—the ideal city, the city dear to all lovers of the perfect. A few fishermen, in the first century, under the direction of the Master Builder, laid the foundations of a new world in the modern rottenness of the old civilisations, and now for 1900 years another building has been going on, the Church of Christ, the City of God, the Spiritual Venice. And mind, there is not a single movement in this world but aids it. There is no revolution but puts another bit of marble into it. He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods, and I can stand and see the whole world going to pieces with the utmost tranquillity, because I know that the destructive is also the constructive, and God never destroys unless He is going to build in its place something that is larger and more rational and more perfect. And all this is true of the individual life. Prepare yourselves for it. Just look at your lives. They have been one course of unsettlement, and it will be so until that man in white comes and reads over you that we never continue in one state. That is the way with us here. People imagine sometimes that they have got things pretty fairly square, that they have got things on a good basis, and that they are going to have a nice, tranquil time of it. Not a bit of it. He has built it upon the seas and founded it upon the floods. He will turn it over directly. You may be sure of that. When people marry and settle down, you sometimes hear people say, “Oh! they are married and settled now.” You fancy you have got things into shape. You don’t know where the next change is to come from. But it will come. There is no settlement; but mind this, every time God unsettles you it is for a great moral end. There ought to be no change in your life which does not leave you stronger and purer. So look up, the world is not purposeless: no man’s life is a chaos. With endless variation, contrast, conflict, and catastrophe God is with us, and He will bring it out well at last, because when I get to the last page of the Book I read, “And there shall be no more sea.” (W. L. Watkinson.)

God’s mundane property and man’s moral obligation:

  1. His property.
  2. Its extent. The earth and its fulness (ver. 1).
  3. Its foundation—creatorship. “He hath founded it,” &c. (ver. 2).
  4. Man’s moral obligation.
  5. It urges him to be just. “Will a man rob God?”
  6. To be humble.
  7. To be thankful. It is God that has given us ourselves, with all our capacities and means of improvement and of pleasure.
  8. To be acquiescent. God has a right to do what He likes with His own. Let the text be written on our hearts. It is engraved on the front of the Royal Exchange, but how few pause to read it, and fewer still ponder it in their hearts. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The earth and its fulness:

There was a time when every separate department of nature was supposed to have a separate deity ruling over it. Every nation, every district, every sphere of life, every profession, every trade had a god of its own. There was a time when each race and tribe acknowledged no god but one. Then there comes the conviction that the Power which all are in some form seeking after is one and the same everywhere. We never can pass from His dominions.

  1. The Divine Presence in the world. It is His power and His presence which we behold around us. He hath created and preserveth all. The universe is itself a manifestation of Him; it is His garment, it is illuminated and aglow with the Divine presence. As with the earth, so with its fulness. Its products are irradiated with a heavenly glory. They, too, come from Him who is wise in counsel and excellent in working. The earth is given to the sons of men, that it may be subdued and cultivated, that its boundless treasures may be sought out and developed. There is no doubt a wrong way as well as a right way of availing ourselves of them.
  2. All things God’s good gifts. If this can be said of meats and drinks, how much more may it be said of the manifold gifts with which the earth is ripe; the means placed at our disposal for the amelioration of human suffering, the lessening of toil, the advancement of knowledge, the increase of well-being in every shape and form. There was recently brought to light in Cornwall an old picture of our blessed Lord, in which His precious blood is represented as flowing over the various implements of industry—the reaping-hook, the scythe, the shuttle, the cart—implying that by His incarnation all human labour has been sanctified, that everything wherewith we carry on the work of the home, or of the world, is cleansed and consecrated through the life and death of Christ; that in Him all things are gathered together in one, and are made meet to be laid upon the altar of God. (P. MAdam Muir, D.D.)

God’s claims upon men:

There is a strong tendency in the present day to forget the immanence of God in creation. We do well to emphasise the constant dependence of the universe upon the preserving power of God. The Psalmist was wiser than the wisest atheistical philosopher when he declared that the earth is the Lord’s, for He hath founded it. The more we learn of the Creator and His works the more must we realise His infinite wisdom and almighty power. They tell us that the propositions of the evolutionist, if true, obviate all necessity for a personal Creator. But there must have been a great creative plan or this universe could not have come into being, and behind that plan there must have been an Omniscient Personal Intelligence. To what extent have men realised, and do men realise to-day, the conception of the text? How far have they grasped the thought that the earth is the Lord’s and they are His stewards? The Jew was vividly reminded of the truth by that strange institution, the “Year of Jubilee.” It served to remind the whole nation that “Jehovah was the Supreme Landlord under whom their tenure was held.” The Psalmist goes a step further when he declares not only that the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, but also “the world and they that dwell therein.” Not merely because we are created beings do we belong to God. We have realised an immeasurably higher claim upon our service. It is created by His “inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ,”—in a word, by the mercies of Calvary. How many of you thus recognise God’s claim upon you in this definite manner? (Henry S. Lunn, M. D.)

The earth is the Lord’s:

The best of God’s gifts are often those which are least valued. It is the same with truths as it is with things. Whenever a truth becomes very common, whenever, that is to say, it is put by Divine Providence into the minds of all, we begin to neglect it, and to forget that God should be praised for it. To one of these old and familiar, yet pre-eminently useful, truths attention is now directed. From the earliest dawn of our reason we were taught that God made us, that a Wise and Holy Being who loves us was our Creator and the Author of all that exists, and what we were taught we believed, and still believe. But while we may both know and believe this truth, nothing is more likely than that, owing to its very commonness and our familiarity with it, we may realise most inadequately the worth of it, and feel very little of that gratitude to God for the revelation of it which we ought to feel. It is not yet a truth known to all the peoples of the earth. It is not a truth which any man, if left to himself, would be sure or even likely to find out. Great men, giants in the intellectual world, have failed to attain to a clear knowledge of God as the alone Creator and Lord of nature. He who believes in God as the Creator and Ruler of the universe can be neither atheist, materialist, or pantheist. The faith in God as the Creator is the necessary basis of all higher spiritual faith.

  1. The world being recognised as the work and manifestation of God is thereby invested with a deep religious awe, a solemn religious significance.
  2. It is a source of pure and holy joy from which we may draw whenever we look upon anything in nature that is fair and well-fitted to fulfil the end of its creation.
  3. By thus sending men to nature as well as Scripture for their religion our text tends to give breadth and freedom to the religious character.
  4. Only through realising our relation to nature can we realise our relation to God Himself. We owe all to God, and nothing is our own. (Robert Flint, D.D.)

The truth of Divine providence:

  1. Though this is generally acknowledged in principle, it is departed from in practice. Only casual and transient thought is given to the never-ceasing care and kindness of Divine providence.
  2. All the children of God have, in successive ages, proclaimed and deeply felt the truth of the providence of God. Many instances might be adduced from the lives and declarations of the patriarchs to prove that whether in prosperity or adversity the sense of God’s providence was ever present, and His right of possession and disposal ever uppermost in their minds.
  3. Practical reflections. The business of commercial life tends to corrupt the mind and the affections, to withdraw them from the Creator and to concentrate them on the creature. We learn the duty of gratitude for all those blessings which out of that fulness He has showered on us. Since the world and its fulness is God’s and not ours, as He can give so He can take away. As God has distributed to us some part of the world’s fulness, for the use and abuse of our trust we are responsible to Him. The text further declares that not only the “earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” but also “they that dwell therein.” “All souls are Mine,” saith the Lord. (Henry Clissold, M.A.)

The merchants of Britain:

  1. Of the advantages of commerce.
  2. How vast it is. Its standard is planted upon the Andes and the Himalayas. The great Pacific and Atlantic seas are beaten white by our ships. From the ghauts of Malabar to the sands of Coromandel, from the steppes of the Cossack to the wilds of the Arab, from the Thames and the Mersey to the Mississippi and the Missouri, the commerce of Britain has extended its influence.
  3. This great commercial power has done some good. It has opened up new channels of intercourse with mankind. It has created links of sympathy and bonds of union where all was severance and estrangement before.
  4. It has gathered round it great homage and éclat.
  5. It is very successful.
  6. Of great importance to the State.
  7. Must ever be associated with agricultural power.
  8. Is one of the greatest securities against war.
  9. Its perils.
  10. Avarice.
  11. Considering everything from the trade point of view.
  12. Absorbing care.
  13. Reckless speculation.
  14. Pride.
  15. Forgetfulness of God.

III. Its responsibilities.

  1. Merchants should acknowledge God.
  2. Seek to extend His kingdom.
  3. Remember they are but stewards of their wealth.
  4. Pity the poor.
  5. Spread the Gospel. (J. Cumming, D.D.)

The religiousness of secular learning:

This title is not a happy one. “Religiousness” seems to indicate, according to the conventional usage, a flimsy, fussy attention to the externals of religion, rather than a participation in the essential spirit of it. By the use of the adjective “secular” you might suppose I draw the usual broad distinction between things sacred and profane. My question is this, What of religion—of the religious spirit—is there about that which is usually called secular learning? By all other kinds of knowledge than the theological? When a man is studying languages, literature, or science, what is the attitude of the soul towards God? My doctrine is founded upon the principle asserted in the text. “The fulness,” that is, all which makes it up, every particle and grain of which it is composed. All things are directly related to God as effects are to their cause, as phenomena to their basis, substance, or reality. They exist in Him and by Him.

  1. All secular learning is directly or indirectly religious, because it directly or indirectly brings us into contact with the mind of God as manifested in His works. When you have learned a fact in nature you have learned a thought of God.
  2. Secular learning is directly religious in its tendencies, because it trains and educates the mind for the clearer and fuller comprehension of theological truth. (J. Cranbrook.)[12]

24:1–2. God the Creator

The psalmist begins with a hearty affirmation that everything, animate and inanimate, belongs to the Lord. He owns everything and everyone, and everything and everyone are completely dependent on him. After all, according to the psalmist in verse 2, God created everything and everyone. He thus has authority over all.

The earth was created by placing it on the primordial waters. While it is debated whether or not Genesis 1 assumes the existence of the waters when God began his acts of creation (implied in the translation of Gen. 1:1–2 in the nrsv) or whether the text describes the creation of the waters from nothing (so the niv), here the waters are pre-existent, and the creative act is the founding of the land. Contrary to ancient Mesopotamian creation accounts (Walton 2009 and 2011), though, there is not a hint of conflict between the Lord and the sea in the description of creation (but see Ps. 74:13–17).[13]

24:1, 2. The All-Creating

Characteristically, the first and emphatic Hebrew word is the Lord’s, in verse 1, and he in verse 2. To him as Creator and Sustainer (2), pictured as a city’s founder and establisher, belongs the earth in all its aspects: fruitful earth (1a), peopled earth (1b), solid earth (2). Fullness (translated in 98:7 as ‘all that fills it’) conjures up its wealth and fertility, seen here not as man’s, for exploitation, but, prior to that, as God’s, for his satisfaction and glory (cf. the same Heb. expression in Isa. 6:3). This view of it is not impoverishing but an enrichment: cf. 1 Corinthians 3:21b, 23, and (quoting our verse) 10:25f., 31.

  1. The Psalms claim the peopled earth (1b) for God as Creator (2), King and Judge (e.g. Ps. 9:7f). The New Testament goes further still (John 3:16f.).
  2. Upon could be translated ‘above’, as in 8:1 (Heb. 2), but the poetic image is of the solid earth rising out of the waters, and the allusion is to Genesis 1:9f.; cf. 2 Peter 3:5. rsv rightly has rivers rather than the older versions’ ‘floods’ or neb ‘waters beneath’. To the Old Testament, ‘the foam of perilous seas’ tends to dominate such a scene, making the deep a reminder of formlessness (Gen. 1:2), menace (Ps. 46:5) and restlessness (Isa. 57:20). But (against heathen belief) ‘the sea is his’, as surely as ‘the dry land’. See also on 46:2–4; 74:13; 96:11.[14]

1. The earth is Jehovah’s. We will find in many other places the children of Abraham compared with all the rest of mankind, that the free goodness of God, in selecting them from all other nations, and in embracing them with his favour, may shine forth the more conspicuously. The object of the beginning of the psalm is to show that the Jews had nothing of themselves which could entitle them to approach nearer or more familiarly to God than the Gentiles. As God by his providence preserves the world, the power of his government is alike extended to all, so that he ought to be worshipped by all, even as he also shows to all men, without exception, the fatherly care he has about them. But since he preferred the Jews to all other nations, it was indispensably necessary that there should be some sacred bond of connection between him and them, which might distinguish them from the heathen nations. By this argument David invites and exhorts them to holiness. He tells them that it was reasonable that those whom God had adopted as his children, should bear certain marks peculiar to themselves, and not be altogether like strangers. Not that he incites them to endeavour to prejudice God against others, in order to gain his exclusive favour; but he teaches them, from the end or design of their election, that they shall then have secured to them the firm and peaceful possession of the honour which God had conferred upon them above other nations, when they devote themselves to an upright and holy life. In vain would they have been collected together into a distinct body, as the peculiar people of God, if they did not apply themselves to the cultivation of holiness. In short, the Psalmist pronounces God to be the King of the whole world, to let all men know that, even by the law of nature, they are bound to serve him. And by declaring that he made a covenant of salvation with a small portion of mankind, and by the erection of the tabernacle, gave the children of Abraham the symbol of his presence, thereby to assure them of his dwelling in the midst of them, he teaches them that they must endeavour to have purity of heart and of hands, if they would be accounted the members of his sacred family.

With respect to the word fulness, I admit that under it all the riches with which the earth is adorned are comprehended, as is proved by the authority of Paul; but I have no doubt that the Psalmist intends by the expression men themselves, who are the most illustrious ornament and glory of the earth. If they should fail, the earth would exhibit a scene of desolation and solitude, not less hideous than if God should despoil it of all its other riches. To what purpose are there produced so many kinds of fruit, and in so great abundance, and why are there so many pleasant and delightful countries, if it is not for the use and comfort of men? Accordingly, David explains, in the following clause, that it is principally of men that he speaks. It is his usual manner to repeat the same thing twice, and here the fulness of the earth, and the inhabitants of the world, have the same meaning. I do not, however, deny that the riches with which the earth abounds for the use of men, are comprehended under these expressions. Paul, therefore, (1 Cor. 10:26,) when discoursing concerning meats, justly quotes this passage in support of his argument, maintaining that no kind of food is unclean, because “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.”

  1. For he hath founded it upon the seas. The Psalmist here confirms the truth, that men are rightfully under the authority and power of God, so that in all places and countries they ought to acknowledge him as King. And he confirms it from the very order manifested in the creation; for the wonderful providence of God is clearly reflected in the whole face of the earth. In order to prove this, he brings forward the proof of it, which is most evident. How is it that the earth appears above the water, but because God purposely intended to prepare a habitation for men? Philosophers themselves admit, that as the element of the water is higher than the earth, it is contrary to the nature of the two elements, for any part of the earth to continue uncovered with the waters, and habitable. Accordingly, Job (chap. 28:11, 25) extols, in magnificent terms, that signal miracle by which God restrains the violent and tempestuous ragings of the sea, that it may not overwhelm the earth, which, if not thus restrained, it would immediately do, and produce horrible confusion. Nor does Moses forget to mention this in the history of the creation. After having narrated that the waters were spread abroad so as to cover the whole earth, he adds, that by an express command of God they retired into one place, in order to leave empty space for the living creatures which were afterwards to be created, (Gen. 1:9.) From that passage we learn that God had a care about men before they existed, inasmuch as he prepared for them a dwelling-place and other conveniences; and that he did not regard them as entire strangers, seeing he provided for their necessities, not less liberally than the father of a family does for his own children. David does not here dispute philosophically concerning the situation of the earth, when he says, that it has been founded upon the seas. He uses popular language, and adapts himself to the capacity of the unlearned. Yet this manner of speaking, which is taken from what may be judged of by the eye, is not without reason. The element of earth, it is true, in so far as it occupies the lowest place in the order of the sphere, is beneath the waters; but the habitable part of the earth is above the water, and how can we account for it, that this separation of the water from the earth remains stable, but because God has put the waters underneath, as it were for a foundation? Now, as from the creation of the world, God extended his fatherly care to all mankind, the prerogative of honour, by which the Jews excelled all other nations, proceeded only from the free and sovereign choice by which God distinguished them.[15]

24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it … and all who live in it. The theological truth behind the statement “the earth is the Lord’s” is based on the Pentateuch, found especially in Exodus 9:29 and Deuteronomy 10:14, and, of course, generally attested by the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2.

24:2 for he founded it … established it. The personal pronoun “he” comes before the verb to emphasize that it is God who did this (“for it is he who founded it”). The root word for “establish” (kun) means to “build” a house. Psalm 8:3 uses the same verb in the sense of “create” (NIV: “set in place”).[16]

24:1–2 / Modern readers are bound to look at verse 2 as prescientific naïveté. But this reaction, in fact, reflects on our own naïveté regarding ancient imagery. This poem employs the ancient Near Eastern motif of the divine warrior who becomes king by virtue of his victory over chaotic waters (see the Introduction). This background helps us to make sense of the strange claim, he founded it upon the seas (Hb. yammîm) and established it upon the waters (lit. “rivers,” Hb. nehārôt). In the Canaanite epic the storm god, Baal, becomes king once he vanquishes Prince Sea (Yam)–Judge River (Nahar). His dual name contains the same word pair we see here. Thus, in language familiar to the ancients, Psalm 24 sings of Yahweh’s right to divine kingship.

We can now also understand the point of verse one. What may sound to modern readers like a confession of Yahweh’s possessiveness is, in fact, a proclamation of victory and of liberty for the world, and all who live in it. The point is not that “the earth belongs to Yahweh” but that “to Yahweh the earth belongs,” not to chaos (this is the word order in the Hb. text). The issue is not possession but who possesses it. These verses are no mere doctrinal confession; they are a victory shout. (This is similar to the point of the confession, “Jesus is lord.” He is lord, not death, human tyrants, principalities and powers, etc.)

Also contrary to the expectations of most modern readers, Yahweh’s kingship is not described as a static state but is portrayed as a dynamic victory. The ancient Near Eastern motif of divine kingship also helps us to make sense of the divine roles in verses 7–10. Because he had vanquished the seas (v. 2), “Yahweh of (the military) hosts” (niv “the Lord Almighty,” v. 10), “a warrior (Hb. gibbôr) mighty in battle” (v. 8), is now the King of glory (vv. 7–10) over all the world (v. 1). These verses alert us to the fact that creation order is not a given, rather Yahweh must continue to exert his heroic strength to maintain it. This is a message that we in the nuclear and environmentally critical age must take to heart.[17]

The Lord of Creation (vv. 1–2)

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters (vv. 1–2). The opening words of this psalm are quoted by Paul (1 Cor. 10:26) to show that all foods can be eaten, because they all come from the Lord. The words were very familiar in Jewish circles because they were part of prayers said at mealtimes. Paul was clearly thinking of mealtimes when he uses this quotation as his later comment on partaking of a meal and giving thanks to God make evident (1 Cor. 10:30). He does not draw a conclusion from his use of the quotation, but the reader is expected to understand that even though meat may be offered to idols, because it comes from God, it may be eaten. Central to the psalm’s message is that the Lord is not only the God of Israel; he is the God of the whole world. To him it belongs, as well as all who live in it. It is his, because he is the creator of it. The founding of the earth is described in terms reminiscent of other ancient Near Eastern creation accounts. Other passages in the Old Testament use similar language (Pss. 104:5–6; 136:6; Job 38:4–11).[18]

1–2 The opening verses begin the movement of the poem by asserting that the earth belongs to the Lord, because it was created by the Lord. The rhetorical point scored is that the earthly sphere—into which the Lord moves in this psalm—is already the Lord’s by virtue of the fact that he created it. The Lord’s coming is not the hostile act of an invader conquering that which properly belongs to another. Rather, the Lord comes precisely as the proper lord of earth. The verses contain two poetic pairs: the earth … and all that is in it and the world and those who dwell in it. What is significant about the earth/world is precisely that they form the environment for life. The earth is the ecology that contains life—all that is in it (melôʾāh) refers to all the nonhuman animal and plant life that fill the earth (note that ʾereṣ ûmelôʾāh [“earth and all that is in it”] forms a known pair in Hebrew [Jer. 8:16; 47:2]). Those who dwell in it refers to the human residents of the earth.

The second verse refers to the primitive cosmological view that the earth was founded on the chaotic waters that were hostile to life (cf. Gen. 1:1–13, etc.). The Lord’s act of creation was to transform a nonplace that was inhospitable to life (cf. Pss. 46:2–3; 65:7) into a place that is hospitable to life. God performs this transformation by imposing order onto chaos. The metaphor here is that God founded and established the earth on the waters (ʿal yammîm) and the rivers (ʿal neharôṯ). The metaphor cuts two ways. On the one hand, chaos remains an active element in creation. God has limited the reach of chaos (“thus far shall you come, and no farther,” Job 38:11), but chaos and randomness remain present. On the other hand, creation is secure, because of the Lord’s ongoing providence and stewardship of creation. Thus, the creation into which God is entering in the psalm needs God’s presence, because only God can hold chaos at bay and secure the environment for life.[19]

The Great King (24:1–2)

1–2 The psalm first introduces us to the Creator-King, who rules over the earth. The Lord owns “the earth” and “everything” on it. “Everything” is amplified in the parallel phrase as “all who live in it” (v. 1). Animals and people make their home on earth and are therefore under his dominion. His rule is established particularly because he has made the world habitable (Isa 45:18). There is not the slightest hint of some primitive cosmology in the words “he founded it upon the seas,” as though the psalmist believes that the earth floats on a cosmic ocean (so A. A. Anderson, 1:201); rather, these words signify that the Lord has manifested his wisdom in creating an orderly world (cf. 136:5–6; 1 Co 10:26), and therefore he rules over all. The biblical perspective is opposed to the deification of nature, for, while everything is glorious, its glory is derived from the glorious Creator. So von Rad, 2:339, writes, “When the Old Testament speaks of creation, it sees the world in contrast to God: as a realm with its own splendor, … but which is nevertheless created, i.e., called into being by the creative word with complete effortlessness.”

Craigie, 212, is correct in his argument that the psalmist may use “demythologized” language in order to portray “forcefully the Lord’s creation of an ordered world, upon seas and rivers, symbolizing the subdued forces of chaos.” We are not to assume that the Israelites knew the Canaanite cosmogony, but they may have become familiar with words and phrases that were adapted to Israelite purposes without giving credence to the whole pagan association. Thus “seas” and “waters” (lit., “rivers,” v. 2) may have reflected the forces of chaos in Canaanite cosmogony; but in Israelite usage they are not hostile, chaotic forces independent from Yahweh; rather, they are fully under his dominion (cf. 136:5–6; Ge 1:1–10). The earth is “established.” For the correlation of land-gift, divine order, and humankind’s responsibility, see Walter Brueggemann, “On Land-losing and Land-receiving,” Crux 19 (1980): 166–73.[20]

[1] Warstler, K. R. (2017). Psalms. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 838). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] 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. 811). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 757). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 24:1–2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 966–967). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 24:1–2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 664–665). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 581). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] 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. 812). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[10] Rydelnik, M. A., & Vanlaningham, M. (Eds.). (2014). Psalms. In The moody bible commentary (p. 782). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[11] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, pp. 374–375). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[12] Exell, J. S. (1909). The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 477–480). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.

[13] Longman, T., III. (2014). Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary. (D. G. Firth, Ed.) (Vol. 15–16, pp. 138–139). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

[14] Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, p. 131). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[15] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 401–404). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[16] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 177). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[17] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (pp. 127–128). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[18] Harman, A. (2011). Psalms: A Mentor Commentary (Vol. 1–2, pp. 229–230). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[19] Jacobson, R. A., & Tanner, B. (2014). Book One of the Psalter: Psalms 1–41. In E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, & R. L. Hubbard Jr. (Eds.), The Book of Psalms (pp. 249–250). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[20] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 258–259). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

40 Days to the Cross: Week One – Tuesday

Confession: Psalm 25:6–10

Remember your compassion, O Yahweh,

and your acts of loyal love,

because they are from of old.

Do not remember

the sins of my youth or my transgressions.

According to your loyal love remember me if you will,

for the sake of your goodness, O Yahweh.

Good and right is Yahweh;

therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

He causes the humble to walk in justice,

and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of Yahweh are loyal love and faithfulness

for those who keep his covenant and statutes.

Reading: Mark 9:33–41

And they came to Capernaum. And after he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, because they had argued with one another on the way about who was greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he will be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a young child and had him stand among them. And taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of the young children such as these in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the one who sent me.”

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone expelling demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not prevent him, because there is no one who does a miracle in my name and will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name because you are Christ’s, truly I say to you that he will never lose his reward.”


What do we intend to do as a Church for Christ Jesus, “whom the king wishes to honor” (Esther 6:6)? Let me answer briefly.

Believe Him. Christ is always very pleased with His people’s faith. Beloved, confide in Him. Tell Him your troubles. Pour out your hearts before Him. Trust the merit of His blood, the power of His arm, the love of His heart. There is no box of precious ointment whose smell will more delight Him than your simple, unwavering faith.

He is a God of love: If you would give Him something choice, show Him your love. Let your heart go after Him, and with the arms of your love embrace Him.

—Charles H. Spurgeon

What Shall Be Done for Jesus?


Jesus ushers in the kingdom of God. The ways of this kingdom often defy our ambitions and expectations. During this season of Lent, how are God’s ways overtaking your ways? Pray for the trust and love of a child. Pray that you would be a willing and humble disciple.[1]

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Week One – Monday

Confession: Psalm 25:1–5

To you, O Yahweh, I lift up my soul.

O my God, I trust you; let me not be put to shame.

Do not let my enemies exult over me.

Indeed, none who wait for you should be put to shame.

Those who betray without cause should be put to shame.

Make me know your ways, O Yahweh.

Teach me your paths.

Cause me to walk in your truth and teach me,

because you are the God of my salvation.

I await you all day long.

Reading: Mark 9:30–32

And from there they went out and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples and was telling them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the statement, and they were afraid to ask him.


Oh, do not forget to admire infinitely more the dear Lord Jesus, that promised seed. He willingly said, “Lo, I come,” though under no obligation so to do, “to do your will,” to obey and die for men, “O God!” Did you weep just now, when I bid you fancy you saw the altar, the wood laid in order, and Isaac laid bound on the altar? Look by faith. Behold the blessed Jesus, our all-glorious Emmanuel—not bound, but nailed on a cursed tree. See how he hangs crowned with thorns and in derision of all that are around Him. See how the thorns pierce Him, and how the blood in purple streams trickle down His sacred temples! Hark how the God of nature groans! See how He bows His head, and at length humanity gives up the ghost! Isaac is saved, but Jesus, the God of Isaac, dies. A ram is offered up in Isaac’s room, but Jesus has no substitute. Jesus must bleed. Jesus must die. God the Father provided this Lamb for himself from all eternity. He must be offered in time, or man must be damned for evermore.

And now, where are your tears? Shall I say, refrain your voice from weeping? No; rather let me exhort you to look to Him whom you have pierced. Mourn as a woman mourneth for her first-born. For we have been the betrayers, and we have been the murderers of this Lord of glory. Shall we not bewail those sins, which brought the blessed Jesus to the accursed tree? Having so much done, so much suffered for us, so much forgiven, shall we not love much! Oh! let us love Him with all our hearts, and minds, and strength, and glorify Him in our souls and bodies, for they are His.

—George Whitefield

Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac


Christ willingly died for you and has forgiven you. Consider the paths you have turned from and the roads that you are treading on right now. Pray that you would do everything out of love for Him and a desire to use your time for Him.[1]

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 22 Evening Verse of The Day

8:2 the law of the Spirit of life … the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit means His operative power (7:23). The law of sin is the operative power of sin, or else the divine law as used by sin to produce death (7:8–13).[1]

8:2 law of the Spirit of life Refers to the authority of the Holy Spirit, who gives life and empowers believers to do what is right.[2]

8:2 The evidence that believers are in Christ is that the power of sin has been broken in their lives by the work of the Holy Spirit. Law in both instances means principle.[3]

8:2 The word “for” introduces the reason there is no condemnation for the believer; the Spirit has replaced the law that produced only sin and death (7:5, 13) with a new, simple law that produces life: the law of faith (3:27), or the message of the gospel. the law of the Spirit of life. Synonymous with the gospel, the law of faith. the law of sin and of death. The law of God. Although it is good, holy, and righteous (7:12), because of the weakness of the flesh (see notes on 7:7–11; 8:3), it can produce only sin and death (7:5, 13).[4]

8:2 the law of the Spirit: The Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit who energizes our renewed spirit. It is also possible that the word refers to the spirit in us that has now been brought to life.[5]

8:2. There is another principle at work in believers called the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit of life refers to the power brought by the Holy Spirit that resides in believers. Paul has not mentioned the Spirit since Rom 5:5. In chap. 8 he mentions Him twenty-one times. This is appropriate since the Spirit brings life setting one free from the law of sin (resident in the Adamic nature; cf. 7:18–23) which resulted in an experience of death (see 5:15, 17, 21; 6:16, 21, 23; 7:5, 10–11, 13; 8:6, 10, 13).[6]

8:2 The Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death. These are two opposite laws or principles. The characteristic principle of the Holy Spirit is to empower believers for holy living. The characteristic principle of indwelling sin is to drag a person down to death. It is like the law of gravity. When you throw a ball into the air, it comes back down because it is heavier than the air it displaces. A living bird is also heavier than the air it displaces, but when you toss it up in the air, it flies away. The law of life in the bird overcomes the law of gravity. So the Holy Spirit supplies the risen life of the Lord Jesus, making the believer free from the law of sin and death.[7]

8:2. The word because (gar, “for”), connects through (lit., “in”) Christ Jesus in this verse with the identical phrase “in Christ Jesus” in verse 1. (In the Gr. word order of the sentence in v. 2, “in Christ Jesus” follows the law of the Spirit of life.) If 7:7–25 is Paul’s testimony of his struggle as a believer with indwelling sin, then “the Spirit of life” is the Holy Spirit of God, not the spirit of the new nature each believer receives. The Holy Spirit is the Member of the Godhead who regenerates every believing individual (Titus 3:5) and bestows new life (John 3:5–8), the resurrection life of Christ (Rom. 6:4, 8, 11). Romans 8:2 has the second mention of the Holy Spirit since 5:5, but He is mentioned 18 more times through 8:27. This law (“principle”; cf. 7:23) set me free (the Gr. aorist tense suggests a once-for-all act of freedom at salvation) from the law of sin and death. That principle is called the principle “of sin and death” because sin, as Paul said repeatedly, produces death (5:15, 17, 21; 6:16, 21, 23; 7:10–11, 13; 8:6, 10, 13). As the principle of sin it contrasts with the Spirit; as the principle that brings death it also contrasts with the Spirit who gives life. For the pronoun translated me some Greek manuscripts read “us” and others “you” (sing.). The difference is incidental; the truth stated applies to every believer.[8]

8:2 “the law of the Spirit of life … the law of sin and of death” This could refer to: (1) the contrast between the law of sin (cf. Rom. 7:10, 23, 25) and the new law of God (cf. Rom. 7:6, 22, 25); (2) “the law of love” (cf. James 1:25; 2:8, 12) versus “The Mosaic Law” (cf. 7:6–12); (3) the old age versus the new age; or (4) old covenant versus the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31–34; the NT book of Hebrews).

This contrasting style is sustained.

  1. the law of sin and death vs. the law of the Spirit, v. 2
  2. according to the flesh vs. according to the Spirit, vv. 4 & 5
  3. things of the flesh vs. things of the Spirit, v. 5
  4. mind set on the things of the flesh vs. mind set on the things of the Spirit, v. 5
  5. mind set on the flesh, vs. mind set on the Spirit, v. 6
  6. in the flesh vs. in the Spirit, v. 9
  7. body is dead vs. Spirit is alive, v. 10
  8. you must die vs. you will live, v. 13
  9. not the spirit of slavery vs. the spirit of adoption, v. 16




“has set you free”




“had made me free”


Verses 2–3 are the theological message of chapter 6. There are several different pronouns which appear in the ancient Greek texts; “me” appears in manuscripts A, D, K & P while “you” appears in א, B, F & G. The pronoun “us” appears later in an uncial manuscript, ψ. The UBS4 compilers give “you” a “B” rating (almost certain). The UBS3 gave it a “D” rating (great difficulty).

Newman and Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, say “the UBS Greek text suggests “me,” though rating this a “C” decision, indicating a high probability of doubt regarding the original reading” (pp. 145–146).

This problem of PRONOUNS “us,” “you,” or “me/we” is recurrent in the Greek texts of Paul’s writings.[9]

2. For through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and of death.

Paul speaks about “the law of the Spirit of life.” That the Holy Spirit is life in his very essence and also imparts life, both physical and spiritual, is clear from ever so many passages of Scripture. The basis for this doctrine is probably found already in Gen. 1:1; Ps. 51:11; 104:30. For closer references see John 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 6:8; and do not forget Rom. 8:11. The law of the Spirit of life is the forceful and effective operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of God’s children. It is the very opposite of “the law of sin and death,” for which see on 7:23, 25. Just as the law of sin produces death, so also the law, or ruling factor, of the Spirit of life brings about life. Cf. Rom. 6:23. It does this “through Christ Jesus,” that is, on the basis of the merits of his atonement, and by means of the vitalizing power of union with him.

The question arises, “If in Rom. 7:14–8:2 Paul throughout speaks about himself as a believer, how can he say not only, “I am carnal, sold as a slave to sin … a prisoner” (7:14, 23); but also, “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death”? How can a slave and prisoner also be a free person? Does not this very contradiction show that we have erroneously interpreted Rom. 7:14, 23?

The answer is, “Not at all.” On the contrary, when we read these passages—both 7:14, 23 and 8:1, 2, we say, “How wonderful is the Word of God! What a true picture it draws of the person I really am! On the one hand I am a slave, a prisoner, for sin has such control over me that I cannot lead a sinless life (Jer. 17:9; Matt. 6:12; 1 John 1:8, 10). Yet, on the other hand, I am a free person, for though Satan tries with all his might and trickery to keep me from doing what is right—such as trusting God for my salvation, invoking him in prayer, rejoicing in him, working for his causes, etc., he cannot throughout stop me from doing so. He cannot completely prevent me from experiencing the peace of God that transcends all understanding. The sense of victory, which I possess in principle even now and will possess in perfection in the future, sustains me in all my struggles. I rejoice in the freedom which Christ has earned for me!” (cf. Gal. 5:1).

When an interpreter of 7:21–8:2 limits Christian experience to what is found in 7:22, 25a, 8:1, 2, leaving out 7:21, 23, 24, 25b, does he not resemble the musician who tries to play an elaborate piece on an organ with a very restricted number of octaves, or on a harp with many broken strings?[10]

Ver. 2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Law cancelling law:—1. Few words are oftener on our lips than the word law. But we are in danger of using the word as though laws were impersonal forces, independently of a controlling mind. 2. But a law is not a force. It is only the invariable manner in which forces work. Better still, it is the unvarying method in which God is ever carrying out His infinite plans. How wise and good it is that God generally works in this way, so that we are able to calculate with unvarying certainty on natural processes. 3. And when He wills some definite end He does not abrogate the laws that stand in His way, but cancels their action by laws from higher spheres which counterwork them, e.g., The flight of birds is due to very different causes from a balloon’s. Balloons float because they are lighter, but birds are heavier. The law of the elasticity of the air sets the bird free from the law of gravitation that would drag it to the ground. In the autumn fields the children, in gathering mushrooms, unwittingly eat some poisonous fungus which threatens them with death. Some antidote is given, which, acting as “the law of life,” counterworks the poison, and sets the children “free from the law of death,” which had already commenced to work in their members. So the law of the spirit of life in spring sets the flowers free from the law of death of winter. And “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” set Lazarus “free from the law of sin and death” which imprisoned him in the tomb. And, similarly, the law of life communicated through the Holy Spirit will set us “free from the law of sin and death” which reigns in our hearts.

  1. There is in each one of us “the law of sin and death.” 1. This evil tendency is derived from our connection with the human family. Races and children alike are affected by the sins and virtues of their ancestors. In every man there is a bias towards evil, just as in the young tiger there is predisposition to feed on flesh, and in the duckling to swim. 2. That tendency survives conversion. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” Its strivings may be suppressed; but it is still there, only waiting till His repressive influences are withdrawn to spring up in all its pristine vigour. Conversion is the insertion of a new principle of life, side by side with the old principle of death. Consecration is simply the act by which we put the culture of our spirit into the blessed hands of Jesus. There is nothing, therefore, in either of these acts to necessitate the crushing out of any principle of the old nature.
  2. God does not mean us to be enslaved by sin. What a contrast between chap. 7:23, 24, and the joyous outburst of this text! The one is the sigh of a captive, this the song of a freed bond-slave. 1. Captivity: you have its symbol in the imprisoned lion, or royal eagle; you have it in the disease which holds the sufferer down in rheumatism or paralysis. But there are forms of spiritual captivity equally masterful. Selfishness, jealousy, envy, and ill-will, sensual indulgence, the love of money. 2. But it is not God’s will that we should spend our days thus. We were born to be free; not, however, to do as we choose, but to obey the laws of our true being. When we free an eagle we never suppose that he will be able to dive for fish as a gull, or to feed on fruits as a humming-bird. But henceforth it will be able to obey the laws of its own glorious nature.

III. We become free by the operation of “the law of the Spirit of life.” “The law of sin and death” is cancelled by “the law of the Spirit of life.” Life is stronger than death; holiness than sin; the Spirit than man. The mode of the Holy Spirit’s work is thus—1. He reveals to us that in the intention of God we are free. So long as you consider captivity your normal state and expect nothing better there is little hope of deliverance. 2. He makes us very sensitive to the presence of sin. 3. He works mightily against the power of evil. 4. He enables us to reckon ourselves “dead indeed unto sin” (chap. 6:11). This is the God-given way of overcoming the suggestions of sin. When sin approaches us we have to answer: “He whom thou seekest is dead, he cannot heed or respond.” Conclusion: 1. “Walk in the Spirit”; “live in the Spirit”; yield to the Spirit. Do not be content to have merely His presence, without which you could not be a Christian, but seek His fulness. Let Him have His way with you. And in proportion as the law of the Spirit becomes stronger, that of the flesh will grow weaker, until “as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity,” you will now yield them to righteousness unto holiness. 2. And as you find the Spirit of life working within you you may be sure that you are in Jesus Christ, for He only is the element in whom the blessed Spirit can put forth His energy. He is “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” (F. B. Meyer, B.A.)

The law of sin:

  1. The law of sin. 1. The word “law” taken properly is the edict of a person in authority, wherein he orders something to be done, backing his or their commands with promises of rewards, as also their prohibitions with threatenings of punishment. In this sense there is a law of sin. For—(1) A law is a commanding thing: it lays its imperative injunctions upon men and expects their obedience (chap. 7:1). Now, in this respect sin is a law; therefore you read of the reigning of sin, of obeying sin, of the dominion of sin (chap. 6:12, 14). The subject is not more under the law of his Sovereign, nor the servant of his master, than the sinner is under the laws of sin. As there is this domination on sin’s part so there is subjection on the sinner’s part; no sooner doth it command, but it is presently obeyed (Matt. 8:9). And where it commands and is obeyed there it condemns, which distinguishes it from all other laws. It rules of itself properly, but it condemns as it lays the foundation of condemnation by another—the law of God. And this speaks the inexpressible misery of the unregenerate. (2) A law is backed with rewards and punishments for the furtherance of men’s obedience. Answerably now to this, sin will be pretending to rewards and punishments, which, though in themselves they are but sorry things, yet they have a great power. For instance, sinner, saith sin, do but obey me, and pleasure, honour, profit, shall be thine. But if these enticing arguments will not do, sin then threatens derision, poverty, persecution, and what not. But note—That sin considered as simply commanding is not a law, but it then becomes formally and completely a law when the sinner obeys; so then he owns the power of it. The laws of usurpers, merely as imposed by them, are no laws, because not made by persons in lawful authority; but if a people freely own these usurpers and willingly put themselves under subjection to them, then, to them their laws become valid and obligatory. 2. The word “law” is taken improperly for anything that hath an impelling virtue in it. It hath the force of a law, and doth that which a true law uses to do. And, therefore, when sin is the principle which efficaciously excites a person to those things which are suitable to its own nature, there sin may be called a law.
  2. Its mode of operation. 1. Sin exerts its powers in its vehement urging to what is evil. Sin in the habit is altogether for sin in the act; indwelling sin is wholly for dwelling in sin. Though there was no devil to tempt the graceless sinner, yet that law of sin which is in himself would be enough to make him sin. Corrupt nature is continually soliciting and exciting the unsanctified man to what is evil; it will not let him alone day or night unless he gratify it. What an instance was Ahab of this. Sin put him upon the coveting of Naboth’s vineyard, and this it did with such violence that he would eat no bread because he could not have his will (1 Kings 21:5; see Prov. 4:16). 2. This law of sin shows itself in its opposing and hindering of what is good. It is a law which always runs counter to God’s law. Doth that call for such and such duties? Are there some convictions upon the sinner’s conscience about them? Doth he begin a little to incline to what is good? How doth sin now bestir itself to make head in the soul against these convictions and good inclinations!

III. Its miserable bondage. Such being under the law of sin, it follows that they are under bondage the very worst imaginable. We pity those who live under tyrants. But, alas! what is that if compared with this. The state of nature is quite another thing than what men imagine it to be; they think there is nothing but freedom in it, but God knows it is quite otherwise (2 Pet. 2:19). To better convince you of the evil and misery of this bondage, and excite to the most vigorous endeavours to get out of it, note—1. That bondage to sin is always accompanied with bondage of Satan. The devil’s reign depends upon the reign of sin; he rules in the children of disobedience, and takes men captives at his will. Shall a damned creature be thy sovereign—he who will be thy tormentor hereafter? 2. What sin is. (1) Look upon sin in itself. It is the vilest thing that is: the only thing which God never made. It is the only thing that God cannot do. (2) Look upon sin in the management of its power. Usurpers often make good laws; and indeed they had need use their power well who get it ill. The philosopher tells us that the intention of the legislator is to make his subjects good; but sin’s intention is only to make its subjects bad. Then, this sin is not only out of measure sinful in the exercise of its power, but it is also out of measure tyrannical. All the Neros, Caligulas, Domitians, &c., that ever lived were nothing to it. This first acted the part of a tyrant in them before they acted the part of tyrants over others. The tyranny of sin appears in many things. Its commands are—(a) Innumerable. (b) Contrary. Lust clashes with lust (Titus 3:3). (c) Rigorous. It must have full obedience or none at all (Eph. 2:3). (d) Never at an end. (e) So imperious and cruel that its vassals must stick at nothing. 3. That it is a soul bondage. The bondage of Israel in Egypt was very evil, yet not comparable to this, because that was but corporal and external, but this is spiritual and internal. There may be a servile condition without and yet a free and generous soul within; but if the soul itself be under servitude then the whole man is in servitude. 4. That of all bondage this is the most unprofitable. As to other bondage the master may be cruel enough, but then he makes some amends by giving good wages; but the sinner serves that master which pays him no wages at all—death excepted (chap. 6:21). 5. That the worst of this bondage is that they who lie under it are altogether insensible of it. Where it is external and civil bondage men groan under it, would fain be rid of it (Exod. 2:23). But the poor deluded sinner, like some distracted persons, plays with his chains. 6. That it is the most hurtful and most dangerous bondage: for it makes way for and most certainly ends in eternal death. Death puts an end to other bondage (Job 3:18, 19); but the worst of spiritual bondage follows after death. You have in the text the law of sin and the law of death coupled together (see also Rom. 6:16, 21, 23). (T. Jacomb, D.D.)

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ:—1. Men of the world think that the gospel has to do only, or chiefly, with death, and that its atmosphere is generally repressive. But the fact is the reverse. The gospel gives life for death, joy for sorrow; a conquering power of soul to meet the disability of the flesh; an abounding sphere beyond this world. 2. Every life force is mysterious. We cannot explain the forces of nature. Nor can we explain the mystery of this unique transformation, but we may study its effects and ask ourselves if they are realised in us. Contemplate the change wrought—

  1. In human activities. I will not select one whose life has been abandoned, but who is no stranger to religion, and who has led an outwardly correct life under the guidance of self-respect, and with regard to the good opinion of others. When renewed by the Spirit of God and freed from the law of sin and death he comes under the control of new influences. The love of Christ constrains, not prudence or sagacity. The charm of the Scriptures and of the sanctuary is something never known before. Resistance to sin is not, as before, a feeble, prudential avoidance, but a vehement hate. Love for holiness is ardent, and Christian work not a burden, but a joy.
  2. On one’s mental convictions. I would not refer to the scoffer, but rather to one who regards himself orthodox. He accepts Christianity as the most rational interpretation of nature. He accepts also the historic Christ, and redemption as well. But when such a person is born again, and sees God as his own Father, and the Saviour as his own Redeemer; when he sees the atonement, not as a philosophic scheme, but as a transcendent fact, involving greater resources than those of creation, a patience and love that shrunk not from the Cross, then a flood of light bursts on epistle, gospel and apocalypse, and a glory in the future rises on his view which is unspeakable. This intellectual elevation comes not from a study of the catechism, from a course of eloquent sermons, or from mere reflection upon the Word of inspiration, but as the result of that transforming power called “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

III. On the temper of his heart. The ordinary attitude of a thoughtful mind toward the realities of religion is one of wonder and admiration. Yet all this sentimentality is inert and inoperative. There is no personal affection for the Saviour. Sometimes the character of an acquaintance is dim and commonplace, until some critical exigency arises which gives beauty and worth to that character. Then a personal and passionate attachment is roused. So with the waking of the new life in the soul, Christ appears in new and alluring loveliness. He seems no more afar off, but near at hand, in closest fellowship day by day. With such a Saviour, daily duties are delights however humble. The temper of heart is changed toward Christ’s followers as well. The Christian loves his brethren for the Master’s sake. His love is not founded on social or intellectual considerations, but grows out of spiritual unity and kinship, because of likeness to Christ. This change of temper and taste is the result of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus alone.

  1. In the expectations of the future. All men, pagan as well as Christian, look forward to a future existence. Unconverted men hope to be Christians before they die, but their ideas of the future are dim. With the believer death is seen to be but a transitional step, the mere portal to the shrine. While the world’s law is death in life, the gospel’s law is life in death. So the gospel fronts the world. Which is the better? Conclusion: Learn—1. That it is in this gospel that life asserts its freedom. All departments of thought and effort, religious and secular, are alike ennobled and quickened. 2. This is a life which tends to consummation and perfection. The snow-bound field lies bare beneath the fetters of frost. It seems dead and barren, but with the melting warmth of spring there comes a verdure in place of ice and snow. All things are changed. So when this spiritual life force is allowed to exert its renewing and transforming energy on the soul of man, life is perfected and crowned. (R. S. Storrs, D.D.)

The Christian liberty achieved; or, the law of the Spirit of life making free from the law of sin and death:—The “therefore now” does not introduce an inference from the immediately preceding argument—which could not warrant it—but one grounded on the previously affirmed effectiveness of the gospel to accomplish that for believers which the law never could. The justifying ground of this discharge from condemnation was set forth in chap. 3:21–26. The principle upon which it proceeds was illustrated in chap. 5:12–21. The persons to whom it is extended, and the new life of which they become the participators was specified in chap. 6:1–11. The reason for the impotence of the law was stated in chap. 6:14, and this impotence had supplied the theme for illustration in chap. 7:6–25, and the power of the gospel which had been distinctly stated in ver. 6, with an eye to which the apostle had penned (ver. 25). Note—

  1. The law of sin and death from the power of which believers obtain deliverance in Christ. It will be observed that the apostle does not speak of two laws, but of the one. Not that the two things are one, but that the one “law” pervades them both, and binds them together (chap. 5:12–21; Ezek. 18:4; James 1:15; Eph. 2:1–5; 4:17–19). This one law renders it impossible that the sinner can of himself regain the possession of innocence and peace, and evermore impels him onwards and downwards in the fearful descending circle of transgression and punishment. Man in the very act of sinning dies; or, being already dead, plunges into a still deeper death (Heb. 9:14).
  2. The sphere within which liberation has been provided—“In Christ.” 1. In Christ the double necessity of man’s case has been provided for; the twofold difficulty has been solved; the one by the death of the Son of God, the other by His life (chap. 4:25; cf. 5:18, 21). 2. The actual liberation is conferred on men only as they become united to Christ. It is indeed true that there has come a dispensation of grace and renewed probation to all men; but the actual discharge from condemnation, and the liberty from the “law of sin and death,” do not come to any but to those who are found in Christ by faith (cf. Eph. 1).

III. For all those who are in Christ the liberation is actually accomplished. 1. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ”: He was condemned on their account, and they were condemned in Him. He died for their sins, and they died in Him (chap. 6:7, 8). 2. The liberation from sin is secured to believers in the active life; “for the law of the Spirit of life,” &c. (1) The law of sin is a law of death; and the “law of the Spirit” is a law of life. Sin deals death, and thereby perpetuates both itself and its punishment; but “the Spirit” inspires life, and thereby liberates both from sin and death, and insures everlasting victory and blessedness. (2) But how does the law of this new life in Christ exert within us its liberating power? Does it seize upon us from without, as the Spirit of inspiration seized upon the prophets? Or does it come upon as as a new constituent element of being? Or is it not the law of a new life which is infused into our spirit by the Spirit of God? (3) The new law acts upon the conscience through the medium of the light and truth of the gospel (John 17:3; 2 Cor. 4:6; 1 Pet. 1:23). This living and abiding Word supplies—(a) That precious knowledge of the redemption in Christ which provides peace for the guilty conscience. (b) That knowledge of the royal and perfect law of liberty which is a sure and sufficient guide for conscience in the practical life. (c) That knowledge of God, as a God of love, as our God and Father in Christ, which imparts joyous courage and prevailing power to conscience. Conclusion: 1. Secure this glorious liberty. (1) Ponder well the terrible power of this law, and the dreadful consequences of remaining beneath its dominion. (2) There is now in Christ a perfect liberty from this law available for all who will accept it. Lay hold, by faith, of the hope now set before you in the gospel of Christ. 2. Having secured this inestimable liberty see that you hold it fast. (W. Tyson.)

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ:

  1. The law of the Spirit signifies the power of the Holy Spirit, by which He unites the soul to Christ, in whose righteousness it therefore partakes, and is consequently justified. This law is the gospel, whereof the Holy Ghost is the Author, being the authoritative rule and the instrument by which He acts in the plan of salvation. It is the medium through which He promulgates the Divine testimony; by which also He convinces of sin and testifies of the almighty Saviour. The gospel may be properly denominated a law, because it bears the stamp of Divine authority, to which we are bound to “submit” (chap. 10:3). It requires the obedience of faith (chap. 1:5; 16:26); and when men refuse this submission, it is said that they have not “obeyed the gospel” (chap. 10:16). Although, therefore, the gospel is proclaimed as a grace, it is a grace accompanied with authority, which God commands to be received. Accordingly, it is expressly called a “law” (Isa. 2:3; Micah 4:2); and in Psalm 110:2, referring to the power exerted by its means, it is said, “The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion. Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies”—namely, by thine almighty power. The gospel, then, is the law of the Spirit by which He rules, and the rod of His strength, by which He effects our salvation, just as, in chap. 1:16, it is denominated “the power of God unto salvation.” The gospel is itself called “the Spirit,” as being administered by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:8).
  2. The gospel is the law of the Spirit of life, the ministration of which “giveth life,” in opposition to the “letter” or old covenant that killeth (2 Cor. 3:6; cf. John 6:63; Ezek. 37:14; 1 Cor. 15:45). Christ is the life itself, and the source of life to all creatures. But here the life is that which we receive through the gospel, as the law or power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which the apostle calls “the life of God” (Eph. 4:18).

III. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is set before us in two aspects. As God, the Spirit of life resides essentially in Him; but as Mediator, the Spirit of life has been given to Him to be communicated to all who are one with Him. On this account the Spirit was not given in His fulness (John 7:39) till Jesus Christ as Mediator had entered into heaven, when the Father, solemnly receiving His satisfaction, gave this testimony of His acceptance, in pouring out the abundance of the Spirit on His people (John 16:7; Eph. 1:3). That the Spirit of life is in Jesus Christ, not only as God, but also as Mediator, is a ground of unspeakable consolation. It might be in Him as God, without being communicated to men; but as the Head of His people, it must be diffused through them as His members, who are thus complete in Him. Dost thou feel in thyself the sentence of death? Listen, then “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son.” “I am come that they might have life.” “Because I live ye shall live also.” This life, then, is in Jesus Christ, and is communicated to believers by the Holy Spirit, by whom they are united to Christ, and from whom it is derived to all who through the law of the Spirit of life are in Him. (R. Haldane.)

Law of the Spirit of life:—The “law” in the text, whether that of “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” or that “of sin and death,” is a constraining influence—a moral force, an active power—an agency that acts mightily on the soul. And it is plain from the statements made regarding them, that these laws respectively are paramount at the time; they govern the whole being, either one or the other sits upon the inner throne of a man and governs him. It is a matter of life and death—of happiness or of misery, of freedom or of slavery, of everlasting weal or eternal woe.

  1. The inquiry relates to the law of sin and death. This must be an influence or force which is evil, which is the parent of sin, driving us along in the path of transgression, and which is not only of the nature of spiritual death, but which also issues in eternal death. 1. In order that we may ascertain its nature, let some thought be given to the process by which it is first established in the human soul. 2. As a mighty force this law is seen in those ruling passions of mankind which discard the authority of God. What is supreme love of money but self-gratification at the expense of one’s allegiance to the Most High. 3. We further discover the might of this law of sin and death in the sins of man against his fellow-man. When one overreaches another in trade, does he not gratify his desire for gain at the expense of another?
  2. Some general characteristics of this law. 1. It is often subtle in its actings. 2. It is a law of death as well as of sin. 3. It is slavery. This law of sin and death befools and degrades, and it is an unmitigated despotism. Woe to the soul under its unrestrained power! 4. It has had control universally.

III. We have to ask concerning the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. “The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” 1. It is a Divine implantation. “The Spirit of life” is undoubtedly “the Holy Spirit,” who is the Author of spiritual life in the soul. “When He cometh, He shall convince the world of sin.” Until He speaks inwardly, the mind seems unaware of the presence and power of the law of sin and death. It is also His gracious office to attract the soul to a vital union with Christ. Under the blessed light which He kindles around and within the heart, the redemption of Christ appears in its true aspect as most full, glorious, and adapted to save. 2. As the other is a law of sin and death, this is one of obedience and life. Self-love now seeks its gratification in pleasing God and doing His will. 3. Observe throughout that it is in Christ Jesus. To those who receive Him, He gives the privilege to become the sons of God. The Cross of Christ slays the enmity of the heart.

  1. This law sets free from the other. If it be established as the governing principle the other cannot be. They are in their own nature opposites. Self-love is gratified in the one case, in opposition to the claims of God and the well-being of others; in the other, by obedience and devotion to the supreme law of our being, love to God and man. Conclusion: 1. The adaptation of the religion of Christ to man. 2. We discover where true freedom and true happiness are found. 3. What we all need, and what the world needs, is to be delivered from the law of sin and death by the working in us of this ennobling force. What a glorious object of pursuit! How well worth all self-sacrifice! (H. Wilkes, D.D.)

Believers are freed through the law of the Spirit of life:

  1. The deliverance obtained—1. By nature we are all (chaps. 6; 7) in spiritual bondage. We are “sold under sin,” and so necessarily are under death (chap. 5:12). The law of sin and the law of death are one and the same principle disclosing itself in different manifestations and degrees. Poisonous fruit is sap worked up, legitimately developed. 2. This evil principle drives man from God. (1) As it is darkness (1 John 1:5–7; 2:9), it drives him from the fountain of soul-light. (2) As it is death, from the fountain of life (Acts 17:28). 3. From this 3. From this evil principle believers are made free. Not from death, though its sting is taken away; nor even from sin perfectly. But over against death faith sees the resurrection placed, and over against sin the unblemished perfection of the redeemed.
  2. The agency whereby this deliverance is accomplished. Law counteracting law. 1. The term “law” term “law” may mean mean—(1) A certain code like the Decalogue and the laws of nations. (2) A principle operating with all the regularity and fixedness of statute—in which sense laws of thought, gravitation, refraction, are laws. 2. The latter is the signification here. (1) The “law of the Spirit” this new victorious law is called. It is contrary to whatever is of the flesh. In its origin, nature, mode of working, it is Divine. From God it comes. For God it moves. To God it leads. (2) It is the law of the Spirit of life. As the same Spirit is named the Spirit of wisdom, counsel, &c. (Isa. 11:2), of holiness (chap. 1:4), of truth (John 14:17; 15:26), because He makes wise, holy, leads into all truth, so He is here named the Spirit of life, as He leads into life, and works life. Of all soul-life He is the Author, Promoter, Regulator, Perfecter (John 6:63; 1 Pet. 3:18). This law of the Spirit of life as the stronger man casts out the strong (Luke 11:22). Water poured into a vessel expels the air.

III. The sphere within which this agency is so efficiently operative. Like laws of nature, it works within certain limits. Iron, not glass, will conduct electricity. Dews, droughts, hurricanes are conditioned by varied zones of atmospheric circumstances; so outside the region of “being in Christ Jesus” the law of the Spirit of life does not effect its hallowing results upon our souls. Within that radius, however, its might is sovereign. It frees believers. Conclusion: Note—1. The urgent importance of ascertaining which of these laws is supreme in our soul. If not conscious of resistance to the law of sin, we are under its sway. We may even be troubled about the commission of certain sins, and give heed to certain duties, and yet be in utter servitude to it (Ezek. 33:31). 2. The great need of asking the promised Spirit (Matt. 7:11; Luke 10:13). Regeneration, sanctification only obtainable through His power. 3. The duty of consciously living in this freedom, not confusing liberty with license (Luke 1:74, 75). Carefulness against presumption and despondency alike is indispensable (Eph. 6:11–13). 4. The strong consolation of knowing that ultimate perfection can be calculated upon with all the certainty of a result of “law.” Given the reign of the law of the Spirit of life in a soul, then amid and in spite of all conflicts the beauty of the renewed life will be patent and increase (Psa. 138:8; Heb. 12:23; 13:21). (J. Gage, B.D.)

The law of the Spirit frees from the law of sin:—Note—1. The Spirit frees from the law of sin. In reference to this you may consider Him either essentially as He is God, or personally. As it is the Son’s proper act to free from the guilt, so it is the Spirit’s proper act to free from the power of sin, it belonging to the Son to do all without and to the Spirit to do all within. That which God once said in reference to the building of the temple—“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit”—is applicable here. 2. This is done by the Spirit of life. This refers either to the Spirit as He is a living Spirit, or refers to the time when the Spirit quickens and thus regenerates, or to the method of regeneration itself. The Spirit who renews, when He renews, by renewing, brings sin under. 3. It is the law of the Spirit by which this is done. Here is law against law, the power and efficacy of the Spirit against the power and efficacy of sin (Eph. 3:20). The law of sin has a moral and a physical power; and so with the Spirit. He hath His moral power, as He doth persuade, command, &c.; and He hath His physical power, as He doth strongly, efficaciously incline and impel the sinner to such and such gracious acts; yea, as He doth effectually change his heart, make him a new creature, dispossess sin of its regency, and bring him under the government of Christ. And herein the law of the Spirit is above the law of sin. Set corrupt nature never so high, yet it is but a finite thing, and so hath but a finite power; but the Spirit is an infinite being, and puts forth an infinite power. For the better opening of the truth in hand, note—

  1. The necessity, sufficiency, efficacy of the power of the Spirit in freeing men from the power of sin. 1. The necessity of the power of the Spirit. Omnipotency itself is requisite thereunto; that is the strong man which keeps the palace till Christ, through the Spirit (which is stronger than it), comes upon it and overcomes it. The power of nature can never conquer the power of sin, for nature’s greatest strength is on sin’s side. That the power of the Spirit is thus necessary if you consider that—(1) Sin is in possession. (2) It hath been so a long time. (3) Its dominion is entire; it hath all on its side. When there is a party within a kingdom ready to fall in with the foreign force that comes to depose the tyrant, he may with more facility be vanquished; but if all the people unanimously stick to him, then the conquest is the more difficult. Christ said, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me”; so the poor sinner may say, “The sin-subduing Spirit comes, but He finds nothing in me to close with Him.” (4) The natural man likes the power of sin. (5) Sin is very resolute for and in the maintaining of what it hath; it will fight it out to the last, and die rather than yield. (6) Satan sets in with it, and upon all occasions gives it all the help he can, as allies do. 2. Its sufficiency. As Christ is able to save to the utmost from sin’s guilt, so the Spirit also is able to save to the utmost from sin’s power. God once said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9). Now, as that grace is sufficient to bear up under the heaviest afflictions, so this grace is sufficient to bring down the strongest corruptions. Who is sufficient for these things? Why He, and none but He, who hath infinite power. 3. Its efficacy. (1) He doth not only in a moral way advise, counsel, persuade the sinner to cast off sin’s bondage, but puts forth an insuperable strength upon him, and so goes through with the work. (2) When He comes about this or any other saving act, He doth not leave the sinner’s will in suspense, but, in a way congruous to its liberty, He overcomes and determines it for God against sin, so as that it shall neither hesitate nor make any resistance to His grace.
  2. In what ways the Holy Spirit doth exert his power. 1. He effectually works upon the understanding, that being the leading faculty. (1) Whereas He finds it under darkness, He acts as a Spirit of illumination, filling the soul with saving knowledge. It required Omnipotency to say, “Let there be light”; no less a power is requisite to the having enlightening of the sinner (Eph. 5:8). But this being done, sin is broken in its power by it; for ignorance is one of its royal forts. (2) Whereas it lies under sad mistakes, therefore the Spirit doth rectify it and makes it to judge aright. (3) Whereas it is full of high and proud thoughts, of strange imaginations and reasonings, He casts them down (2 Cor. 10:5). 2. He then proceeds to the will. (1) Of all the faculties, sin contends most for the will, which, when it hath once gained, it will not easily part with. And so, too, the Spirit contends most for the will. He puts forth the greatest efficacy of His grace for the setting of that right and straight for God, that it may choose and cleave to His holy commands in opposition to the laws and commands of sin. (2) Yet though He acts thus efficaciously, He doth not at all violate its liberty, but exerts all this power in such a way as agrees with that liberty (Psa. 110:3; Cant. 1:4). He removes that averseness, obstinateness, reluctancy, that is in it against what is holy and spiritual. 3. In acting on the affections, He disengages them from sin, and sets them directly against it, and so freeing the sinner from the love of sin. Application: 1. Let such who desire this mercy betake themselves to the Spirit for it. (1) See that you pray in faith, believing in the sufficiency of His power. (2) Let all other means be joined with prayer. They are but means, and therefore not to be relied upon; yet they are means, and therefore not to be neglected. 2. Let such who are made free from this law of sin own the Spirit of life as the author of their freedom, and ascribe the glory of it to Him. 3. Greatly to love and honour the Spirit. 4. As you have found the law of the Spirit in your first conversion, so you should live under the law of the Spirit in your whole conversation. 5. Set law against law—the law of the Spirit against the law of sin. (T. Jacomb, D.D.)

The believer’s freedom from the law of sin:

  1. The leading terms of the text. 1. By the “Spirit of life” we are here to understand the Holy Ghost. Men are spiritually dead; the animal and intellectual life remains; but the spiritual life—the life which connects man with, and qualifies him for the enjoyment of God—was extinguished by the fall, and can only be restored by the “Spirit of life.” And hence we are said to be “born again” of the Spirit. And as it is His office to restore spiritual life, so He maintains it. All “good” comes from Him and depends on Him. 2. He is called “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” Because—(1) We are indebted to Christ for the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is owing to Christ’s meritorious sacrifice that we are enabled and entitled to receive the Spirit. (2) It is the office of Christ to dispense the Spirit. From His “fulness” it is that we are to “receive grace upon grace.”
  2. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. By this we are to understand the gospel, applied by the Spirit’s power to the hearts of men. The gospel is often called a law—“The perfect law of liberty”; “The isles shall wait for His law”; “The law of Messiah shall go forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.” What law ever went forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth but the gospel? 1. A law is an enactment or command issuing from supreme authority, fully published and made known, and enforced by sanctions of reward to the obedient, or of punishment against the disobedient. This constitutes, when it is published or made known, the rule of action, the standard of character, and the ground of decision and judgment; this is law in general. The gospel answers to this general definition in every particular. (1) It is an enactment or command. It comes with authority. It is not a statement of historical facts, an exhibition of truth, a collection of promises only; it comes to us with authority, that the facts should be credited, the truths received, the blessings included in the promises sought by us; so it may be said of us that we are God’s witnesses that the gospel is a “law.” Where there is no knowledge of the gospel there can be no obligation to receive it; but the moment the gospel comes to a man, from that time it becomes binding upon his conscience, and it is at his peril if he neglect or disobey it. (2) It is enforced by sanctions; there is reward to the obedient, punishment for the disobedient. (3) It issues from the highest authority in the universe. (4) It is duly published and made known. Whatever may be said of the condition of those who live in the “dark places of the earth,” generally speaking, at least, ignorance of the gospel among ourselves is wilful, and therefore criminal. (5) It constitutes the standard of character and the rule of decision. “God will judge the secrets of all hearts,” says Paul, “according to my gospel.” 2. But why is it called the Spirit’s law? Because it is the instrument by which the Spirit most efficiently operates upon the understanding, the will, the conscience, and the character of the man. By, and with it, he operates with the force and the authority of a law, overcoming and reducing and governing the mind. The power that accomplishes the great work of regeneration is the power of the Spirit; but the instrument He employs is the “Word of truth.”

III. The law of sin and of death. 1. By this some understand the moral law considered in its application to fallen man, as the covenant of works. This law, when given to man innocent and holy, in the possession of Divine and spiritual life, was well adapted to his case. But when man became a transgressor, then that which “was ordained unto life” began to operate unto death. It is the “law of sin” to all the unconverted, its very object being to “make sin appear exceeding sinful.” By the law is the knowledge of sin. Let a man apply it to his own character, and it will prove, to the conviction of his conscience, that he is a sinner; and, of course, wherever it proves sin it pronounces the sentence of death. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” 2. But others understand (and the general scope of St. Paul’s argument is favourable to the opinion) the sinning principle in the nature of fallen man. Wherever this principle of unsubdued enmity to God and holiness exists in the heart, it will manifest itself in outward acts of sin. And these acts become habits, by repetition; and thus sin becomes master. There his law is “a law of death.” Wherever there is sin in the root, there is death in the fruit; “the end of these things is death.” “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

  1. The law of the Spirit of life makes us free from the law of sin and death.” 1. This is true of the law of sin and death, understood as the covenant of works, the broken moral law. It is in reference to this that the apostle seems to be speaking in ver. 1. Before they were “in Christ,” they were condemned by the law for having broken it. But no sooner did they put their souls, by penitence and faith, into the Saviour’s bands, than all the mass of transgressions and guilt which rested upon them was removed. And now “there is no condemnation,” they are “made free from” the condemnatory demands of the moral law, from the curse of the covenant of works. 2. But true believers are delivered from the sinning principle which contaminates our fallen nature. “Sin shall have no dominion over you.” V. Practical inferences. The salvation of Christ is—1. Of indispensable necessity. It is, in fact, “the one thing needful”; “our souls without it die.” 2. A present salvation. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free.” 3. That connected with satisfactory evidence of its existence. St. Paul does not speak as if he were at all doubtful; as if it were a business of mere conjecture or probability, of inference or anticipation. He had a consciousness of his freedom. 4. A personal affair. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free. (Jabez Bunting, D.D.)

Freedom from law achieved by law:—We see this principle at work in the material world. A higher law comes into play and over-rides ordinary law. Thus dynamic law subjugates mechanical force, as in the steam-engine; chemical law, in turn, annihilates dynamic force; and intellectual power is superior to vital law, and moral to intellectual. The lower laws take effect upon the lower natures. The mechanical law of gravitation affects stones; but let a higher law of affinity come into operation, and those stones will be transformed into other combinations, such as gases, which will be above the laws of gravitation, and will form food for plants, &c. Mechanical law, however applied, cannot convert stones into bread. Chemical law can. If you mechanically pound ice or melt it, you can get nothing but water; but chemistry transforms it into power, and gas, and food. In the text the apostle is presenting to us in the kingdom of grace what is taking place in the kingdom of nature—law conquering law—e.g., a human body subject to chemical law ferments, putrifies, decays; but the vital law holds all these in check. It is only when the higher vital law is gone that the lower law reigns. (Percy Strutt.)

The two laws:

  1. What is meant by “law.” 1. Law is an authoritative code framed by a master for the regulation of his servants. But when we speak of the laws of nature, we denote the process by which events invariably follow each other. The law which accountable creatures are bound to obey is one thing; the law, in virtue of which creatures are always found to make the same exhibition in the same circumstances, is another. 2. It is not difficult, however, to perceive how the same term came to be applied to things so distinct. For law, in the first sense of it, is not applicable to a single command which may never be repeated. True, like all the others, it is obeyed, because of that general law by which the servant is bound to fulfil the will of his master; yet it does not attain the rank of such a denomination unless the thing enjoined be habitual. Thus the order that doors shall be shut, or that none shall be missing after a particular hour, or that Sabbath shall be observed, may be characterised as the laws of the family—not the random orders of the current day. Now this common circumstance of uniformity has extended the application of the term “law.” Should you drop a piece of heavy matter, nothing is more certain nor more constant than its descent—just as if constrained so to do by the authority of a universal enactment on the subject, and hence the law of gravitation. Or, if light be made to fall on a polished surface, nothing more mathematically sure than the path by which it will be given back again to the eye of the beholder, and hence in optics the law of reflection. Or if a substance float upon the water, nothing more invariably accurate than that the quantity of fluid displaced is equal in weight to that of the body which is supported; and all this from a law in hydrostatics. But the difference lies just here. The one kind of law is framed by a living master for the obedience of living subjects, and may be called juridical law. The other is framed by a living master also, for it is God who worketh all in all; but obedience is rendered by the force of those natural principles wherewith the things in question operate in that one way which is agreeable to their nature. This kind of law would by philosophers be called physical law.
  2. In which of these two senses shall we understand “law” in the text. To determine this, we shall begin with the consideration of—1. The law of sin and death. It is quite obvious that this is not a law enacted in the way of jurisprudence. It is neither more nor less than the sinful tendency of our constitution. It is called a law because, like the laws of gravitation or electricity, it has the property of a moving force, inasmuch as it incessantly aims after the establishment of its own mastery. Death comes as regularly and as surely in the train of our captivity to sin as the fruit of any tree, or the produce of any husbandry, does by the laws of the vegetable kingdom. 2. The law of the Spirit of life just expresses the tendency and the result of an operative principle in the mind that has force enough to arrest the operation of the law of sin and death. The affection of the old man meets with a new affection to combat and to overmatch it. If the originating principle of sin be shortly described as the love of the creature, the originating principle of the spiritual life might also be briefly described as the love of the Creator. These two appetites are in a state of unceasing hostility. The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.

III. The second of these laws. 1. Is called—(1) The law of the Spirit, because referable to the Holy Ghost, by whose agency the new moral force has been made to actuate the soul and give another direction to the whole history. (2) The law of the Spirit of life, because he in whom this law is set a-going is spiritually minded; and as to be carnally minded is death, so to be spiritually minded is life. It is like the awakening of man to a new moral existence, when he is awakened to the love of that God whom before he was glad to forget; like a resurrection from the grave when, aroused from the deep oblivion of nature, man enters into living fellowship with his God. It is only now that he has begun to live. 2. When does this visitation of the Spirit descend upon the soul? This is shown by the words “In Christ Jesus.” As surely as when you enter a garden of sweets one of your senses becomes awakened to the perfumes; as surely as when emerging from the darkness of a close apartment to the glories of an unclouded day another of your senses is awakened to the light and beauty, so surely when you enter within the fold of Christ’s mediatorship, and are united with Him, then there is an awakening of the inner man to the beauties of holiness. We refer to a law of nature, the impression of every scene, in which he is situated, on the senses of the observer; and it is also by the operation of such a law that, if in Christ, we become subject to a touch that raises us to spiritual life, and maketh us susceptible of all its joys and all its aspirations. 3. What have we to do that we may attain this condition. I know of no other instrument by which the disciple is grafted in Christ Jesus, even as the branches are in the vine, than faith. And “the Holy Ghost is given to those who believe.” “The promise of the Spirit is unto faith.” (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

Delivered from the law of sin:—Sin and death are partners of one throne and issue one law (cf. vers 14, 21). To obey the one is to obey the other. In former days Paul was compelled to do the bidding of sin. But the Holy Spirit has set him free by making His own will the rule of Paul’s life. Just so a conqueror, by setting up his own laws in a conquered country, makes the former laws invalid. That the country obeys the new laws is a proof of conquest. Similarly, the presence and guidance of the Spirit have made Paul free from the rule of sin. This is not a change of bondage, but freedom from all bondage. For the law of the Spirit is the will of our Maker, and therefore the law of our being. And to obey the law of our being is the only true freedom. “In Christ.” Paul’s deliverance took place objectively in the human body of Christ (chap. 3:24); subjectively, by Paul’s spiritual union with the risen Saviour (chap. 6:11). (Prof. Beet.)

Free from the law of sin and death:

  1. The misery of all men by nature. And that it consists of a state of bondage and captivity, which is here in this Scripture called the law of sin and death. We shall speak of the law of sin. Sin, in those which are unregenerate, does exercise a tyrannical power and authority over them, therefore it hath the denomination of a law given unto it; not that it hath anything which is good or lawful or regular in it, for it is properly the transgression of a law. But it is called a law in regard of that rule which it bears in the hearts of all those that are entangled with it. This is the condition of sin, that it carries with it the nature of a law to the subjects of it. First, in the constant actings of it; sin is like a law so. Things which are acted by law they are acted with a great deal of constancy. The ordinances of heaven and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, they keep their course by a settled decree which is upon them. Even so is it also with those who are carried by this law of sin; it is that which is usual with them, they make a constant course and practice of it as their trade and life. Secondly, it hath the motion of a law in that men are carried to it powerfully and irresistibly without opposition. So is sin to an unregenerate person; it commands him and has power over him, it rules and reigns in him. This is first of all grounded upon that curse which was laid upon man for his first rebellion. But, secondly, sin gets a great deal of power by custom, which has the force of a second nature with it, and in that regard the notion of a law. The Ethiopian may as soon change his skin, and the leopard his spots, as they may cease to do evil that are accustomed to it. Now, for the further illustration of it, we may take notice of the misery of this bondage in these following aggravations. First, in the subject of this thraldom; and that is the soul itself—the immortal soul—that part of man which had the image of God in a special manner imprinted upon it. For this to be in slavery and servitude is a very sad business indeed. We know in the way of the world how bondage is usually aggravated from the quality and condition of the person that is brought into it. Secondly, consider it also in the persons which men are in thraldom to by it, and that is to Satan and his instruments. For a man to be in bondage to a stranger it is not very desirable, but to be in bondage to an enemy or adversary is very abominable. Thirdly, there is an aggravation also in it from the nature and quality and condition of the servitude itself, in all the circumstances of it. Of all servants we count them to be in the worse case that are sold. To this we may further add the insensibleness of this their condition which is usually attendant hereupon. We count them most desperately miserable who discern not the misery which they are in, as mad men that sing in their chains. And so much may be spoken of the first branch of a natural man’s captivity, as it is considerable in his thraldom to evil expressed here in the text by the law of sin. The second is as it is considerable in his obligation to punishment: and that is here also expressed by the law of death, which is added and joined to the other and goes along with it. There is a threefold death which the Scripture makes mention of, and they are all of them the wages of sin. First, natural death, which consists in the separation of the soul from the body (chap. 5:12). Secondly, there is also a spiritual death, which consists in a deprivation of the image of God upon the soul, and the withdrawing of His favour from it. When a man is void of all grace and comfort too, he is then thus far in a state of death (Eph. 2:1). Thirdly, there is eternal death also, which consists in the separation of soul and body from God for ever in hell. Therefore let us accordingly look upon sin and death in this conjunction. Let us not separate or divide these things which God hath thus put together, but in all temptations to the one think of the other. II. The second is the happy recovery and restoration of believers by grace in these words, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free.” First, here is the remedy itself which is mentioned, “The law of the Spirit of life which is,” &c. Where, first, of the meaning of the words. First, there are three terms here before us; there is life, and the Spirit of life, and the law of the Spirit. By life here we are to understand the grace of holiness and sanctification. By the word Spirit joined to life we are to understand either the original, because it is wrought by the Spirit, or the activity and intention of it. By the law of the Spirit we are to understand the power and efficacy of it. For law it is a word of command and hath prevalency with it. Now the point which is here observable of us is thus much, that in the human nature of Christ there is a law of the Spirit of life. There is a fulness and sufficiency of all grace and holiness in Christ considered as He was man. This the Scripture doth sufficiently intimate and confirm unto us in sundry places of it, as in Col. 1:19, “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.” This was requisite thus to be upon a twofold ground and consideration especially—First, in regard of the personal union of His human nature with His Divine. Secondly, as this was requisite in regard of His personal union, so also in regard of His work of mediatorship. First, take it in the preparatory reference; and so the Spirit of life in Christ, it did fit Him and dispose Him and qualify Him for the work of the mediatorship. This we may conceive it to have done in these respects—First, in the sanctifying of the flesh of Christ in the womb of the Virgin. Secondly, it also dignified this nature and advanced it above all other creatures. Thirdly, this Spirit of life in Christ it did also fill His human nature with as much grace as it was capable of, and with all these perfections whereunto the nature of grace doth reach and extend itself. Again, further, it is also considerable in the exertions and transactions of it. Whatever Christ did as mediator, He was more particularly enabled hereunto from this Spirit of life. As first of all, it was this which quickened Him and encouraged Him in His entrance upon it. Secondly, it likewise sustained Him, and upheld Him in the very performance itself. Thirdly, in that moreover it at last revived Him and raised Him from the dead. Adam, he brought down our nature and subjected it to a great deal of disparagement by his transgression; but Christ by His purity and holiness hath set it up, and taken off that disparagement from it which was formerly upon it. Again, further, here is comfort as to the point of continuance of grace and perseverance in it. Forasmuch as that grace and holiness which we now partake of under the gospel, it is in good and safe hands. The grace which we had given us in Adam we lost, but that grace which we have now in the new covenant we have it upon better and surer terms, being such as is now rooted in Christ as the proper subject of it. This law of the spirit of life it is in Christ Jesus. The second is the efficacy of this remedy upon St. Paul and all other believers, “Hath made me free from the law of sin and death”: where the remedy is as large as the disease, and the plaster as broad as the sore. Here is the law of the Spirit in opposition to the law of the flesh, and the law of life in opposition to the law of death in us. First, as to matter of justification. This holiness of Christ it frees us from the law of death and condemnation. But secondly, it holds good in point of sanctification likewise. The pure and holy nature of Christ is the spring and original of all holiness in us. “And of His fulness do we all receive, and grace for grace,” as the apostle tells us (John 1:12). The Spirit of God does not bestow grace upon us immediately, but He bestows it upon us through Christ. Let us learn from hence to bless God for Christ, and give Him the glory of His own holiness in us. (Thomas Horton.)

Spiritual emancipation:—The word “law” may denote commandment, or the customary habit or state of any creature. In the one sense we talk of the laws of God, or the laws of kings; in the other sense we talk of the laws of nature, of matter, or of mind. It seems much better to understand the verse according to the second or subjective use of the word “law,” and then its reference is seen to be to the believer’s sanctification.

  1. Man’s natural state of moral thraldom. 1. There is a principle of depravity in every human heart (Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:22). The whole work of Christ, as tasting death for every man, is based upon the assumption that all the world is guilty before God; for if not, there must be some for whom Christ has not died, inasmuch as they needed no atonement. Yet where are these to be found? This principle of evil may be described according to its various modes of manifestation. It is—(1) The love of the creature, in opposition to the love of the Creator. (2) Self-will, or self-assertion, in opposition to the will of God and the requirements of His law. (3) Sensualism, in contrast with that which is intellectual and spiritual. (4) Pride and self-preference. (5) Selfishness and self-seeking. (6) A tendency to falsehood and guile. 2. This principle operates with the regularity of a natural law, determining all our volitions and affections. Man sins with the same certainty that an apple, loosened from the tree, drops to the ground. It is natural for the sun to rise and set, for the moon to wax and wane, for the tides to ebb and flow, for the seasons to revolve, and for the generations of men to be born and die: to do otherwise, in any of these instances, would imply a miracle or a violence done to the uniformity of nature. So likewise it is natural and inevitable that men, unrenewed by grace, should sin. 3. This law of sin is likewise a law of death. God by express enactment has appointed death as the wages of sin. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” But in addition to that external decree, there is an internal tendency in sin to fructify in death (James 1:15), and to destroy the life of the soul.
  2. The state of moral freedom achieved for us by the gospel. 1. There is a principle of life in them that believe. They live, by having their minds enlightened with the knowledge of God, by feeling the burden of their sins removed, and by being able to look up to God with filial confidence and trust, by having the conscience cleansed from dead works to serve the living God, by being inspired with new emotions, animated by new aims. 2. This life is imparted and sustained by the Holy Ghost. It is not self-generated, but it is given from above. He who receives it is born of the Spirit. 3. This principle of life operates with the regularity of a law. The Spirit takes up His residence in the breast of the converted man, and goes on working till every thought is brought into subjection to Christ, and the work of the believer’s sanctification is complete. 4. This Spirit of life is realised only by our being in Christ. (T. G. Horton.)[11]

2. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free … Compare 2 Corinthians 3:17, ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’; also Galatians 5:13, ‘you were called to freedom.’ ‘Law’ here probably means ‘principle’ (see p. 59). It is the ‘law of the Spirit’ by contrast with ‘the law of sin which dwells in my members’ (7:23); it is the ‘law of life’ by contrast with the commandment which ‘promised life’ but ‘proved to be death’ (7:10). Even if the law of sin and death is not to be identified outright with the law of Moses, the law of Moses nevertheless stimulates sin and condemns to death. But the Spirit ‘by His determining influences produces regulated action without any code’.

The mention of the Spirit here introduces a fuller exposition of his ministry, anticipated in 5:5, where his coming is said to flood the hearts of believers with the love of God, and 7:6, where ‘the new life of the Spirit’ is contrasted with ‘the old written code’ (cf. also the brief reference in 1:4 to the ‘Spirit of holiness’ in connection with Christ’s being raised from the dead). Paul now shows what is involved in the ‘new life’ which the Spirit imparts and sustains. With the entry of the Spirit there is no further talk of defeat. The conflict goes on, but where the Spirit is in control the power of indwelling sin is mastered.

For ‘me’ in ‘has set me free’ some weighty authorities (including the eastern witnesses Aleph and B and the western witness G), followed by the Nestle-Aland text, read ‘thee’ (cf. neb: ‘has set you free’).[12]

2. For the law of the Spirit of life, &c. This is a confirmation of the former sentence; and that it may be understood, the meaning of the words must be noticed. Using a language not strictly correct, by the law of the Spirit he designates the Spirit of God, who sprinkles our souls with the blood of Christ, not only to cleanse us from the stain of sin with respect to its guilt, but also to sanctify us that we may be really purified. He adds that it is life-giving, (for the genitive case, after the manner of the Hebrew, is to be taken as an adjective,) it hence follows, that they who detain man in the letter of the law, expose him to death. On the other hand, he gives the name of the law of sin and death to the dominion of the flesh and to the tyranny of death, which thence follows: the law of God is set as it were in the middle, which by teaching righteousness cannot confer it, but on the contrary binds us with the strongest chains in bondage to sin and to death.

The meaning then is,—that the law of God condemns men, and that this happens, because as long as they remain under the bond of the law, they are oppressed with the bondage of sin, and are thus exposed to death; but that the Spirit of Christ, while it abolishes the law of sin in us by destroying the prevailing desires of the flesh, does at the same time deliver us from the peril of death. If any one objects and says, that then pardon, by which our transgressions are buried, depends on regeneration; to this it may be easily answered, that the reason is not here assigned by Paul, but that the manner only is specified, in which we are delivered from guilt; and Paul denies that we obtain deliverance by the external teaching of the law, but intimates that when we are renewed by the Spirit of God, we are at the same time justified by a gratuitous pardon, that the curse of sin may no longer abide on us. The sentence then has the same meaning, as though Paul had said, that the grace of regeneration is never disjoined from the imputation of righteousness.

I dare not, with some, take the law of sin and death for the law of God, because it seems a harsh expression. For though by increasing sin it generates death, yet Paul before turned aside designedly from this invidious language. At the same time I no more agree in opinion with those who explain the law of sin as being the lust of the flesh, as though Paul had said, that he had become the conqueror of it. But it will appear very evident shortly, as I think, that he speaks of a gratuitous absolution, which brings to us tranquillizing peace with God. I prefer retaining the word law, rather than with Erasmus to render it right or power: for Paul did not without reason allude to the law of God.[13]

8:2 / Paul now resumes the thought of 7:6 concerning the “new way of the Spirit.” Paul’s Jewish contemporaries were familiar with the belief that the day of the Messiah would be accompanied by an outpouring of the Spirit. Keying off the theme of law, Paul says, in effect, that a higher law of the Spirit supersedes the law of sin and death. We know of instances in nature where the effects of one law are cancelled by another. When an airplane wing provides the necessary “lift” to raise a plane upwards, one law (that nature abhors a vacuum) prevails over another (the law of gravity). In like manner, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. This is a development of 5:20–21, “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” The Spirit now stands where the law formerly stood. It is the Spirit of life through Jesus Christ which set me free. The past tense, set me free, refers to a decisive point, most probably Christ’s crucifixion, but possibly the believer’s conversion. At any rate, it is no vague, undefined spirit which stands there for me. Paul expressly links the Spirit with the redemptive and liberating work of Jesus Christ. What God did through the historical Jesus on Golgotha, he now applies and extends to believers through the Spirit in the community of faith. The emphasis again falls on God’s initiative. Christ’s work, and its ongoing effect as applied by the Spirit, brings peace and freedom. “Grace renders that most easy, which seems difficult to man under the law, or rather does it itself,” said Bengel (Gnomon, vol. 3, p. 98).

There is, to be sure, a bristling tension between being a “prisoner of the law of sin” (7:23) and being free from the law of sin. But the inherent intellectual contradiction does not cancel the fact that both represent the experience of believers (see also 2 Cor. 4:7–12). In their earthly frames Christians are never free from the hold of sin, yet there is a marked difference between their response to that grip and that of non-Christians. Augustine said prior to conversion, “My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner” (Confessions 5.10). Christians are alerted to the ways of sin and are no longer ignorant and unresisting accomplices to its work. They recognize the power and deception of its tyranny and fight against it in the name of Christ and in the power of the Spirit.

Christians may still live with the effects of sin, but they do not live under its authority. When Paris was liberated in 1944 the Allies declared France free, even though a large portion of the country still lay under Nazi control. With the loss of the capital, however, the Nazi power base was broken, and it was only a matter of time until the remaining forces were driven from the land. The Christian experience is similar. The cross of Christ has once and for all broken the claim and power of evil over the lives of believers. The capital belongs to Christ, so to speak, even if mopping-up operations are still in effect. The liberating edict of the Spirit is now effecting Christ’s victory throughout creation. The future is assured even if the present is still uncertain. “He must win the battle” proclaimed Luther in the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”[14]

2 The “for” (Gk. gar) indicates that this verse is the ground of the “no condemnation in Christ” announced in v. 1. A liberation has taken place through the Holy Spirit, and this liberation is the basis on which the person in Christ is forever saved from condemnation. In describing this liberation, Paul uses the word nomos to characterize both sides of the situation: “the nomos of the Spirit of life has, through Christ Jesus, set you free from the nomos of sin and death.” Why does he do so?

(1) Nomos in both parts of the verse might refer to the Mosaic law. Paul would then be suggesting that the Mosaic law has a dual role. In the context of the “flesh,” it is misunderstood as nothing more than a series of demands. As such, the law becomes an instrument of sin, leading to death (7:5, 7–13). However, in the context of the Spirit, the law is experienced in all its fuller and truer nature—as promise, and thus as calling for faith. It can then become an instrument of righteousness leading to life (7:10—the commandment is “intended to lead to life”). In support of this interpretation are (a) the undoubted preference of Paul to use nomos to refer to the Mosaic law and (b) the fact that this dual understanding of the law is, allegedly, present in the immediately preceding paragraph (see 7:22–23, 25b). On this view, then, Paul is teaching that the Spirit for the first time puts the law of God in its proper focus and context, and enables it thereby to free the sinner from the narrow and death-dealing misuse of the law.

(2) Nomos in both parts of the verse might have a figurative meaning, contrasting the “principle,” “authority,” or “power” of sin and death with the “principle,” “authority,” or “power” of the Spirit. As we have seen (see the note on 3:27), nomos can mean “binding authority” or “power,” so this translation is lexically acceptable. And this interpretation is clearly preferable to the first.

The first occurrence of nomos, at least, cannot refer to the Mosaic law. The immediate context stresses the incapacity of the law to do what v. 2 describes. It was God acting through his Son who accomplished “what the law could not do” (v. 3). To make the Mosaic law the liberating agent in v. 2 would be to make v. 2 contradict v. 3. But, more seriously, giving the law this kind of role would contradict a central and oft-repeated tenet of Paul’s theology. Throughout his letters, and not least in Romans, Paul pictures the Mosaic law as ranged on the opposite side of the Spirit, righteousness, and life. God’s righteousness has come “apart from the law” (3:21; see Gal. 2:15–3:14); the promise can be attained only through faith and not through the law (4:12–15; see Gal. 3:15–18); the believer must be “released from” the law through union with Christ in order to produce fruit pleasing to God (7:4–6; see Gal. 2:19–20). To be sure, Paul affirms that the law is God’s law and that it was given with a positive purpose within the overall plan of salvation (7:7–13; see Gal. 3:19–4:5). But this purpose is not the liberation of the believer from a misunderstanding or misuse of the law, or from the power of sin and death. The Pauline pattern, enunciated in v. 3, is clear: the impotence of the law has been met not with a new empowering of the law but with God’s gracious activity in Jesus Christ. As Chrysostom put it, “The other [the Mosaic law] was merely given by the Spirit, but this [the law of the Spirit] even furnishes those that receive it with the Spirit in large measure.” To these points may be added the incongruity, however the qualifying genitives be construed and the concept paraphrased, of the nomos liberating the believer from the same nomos. Nor does appeal to the context help; as I have argued, it is unlikely that Paul in 7:21–25 refers to a dual role of the Mosaic law.

The “nomos of the Spirit” cannot, then, refer to the Mosaic law. It may, however, allude to the “law written on the heart” (see Jer. 31:31–34), the “law” of the New Covenant that, according to the parallel text in Ezek. 36:24–32, is closely related to the Spirit. But it is not clear that the law in Jeremiah is anything but an internalized Mosaic law; and it is not, in any case, the liberating power of the new age. This also rules out any notion of “the law of the Spirit” being a new, Christian ethical standard that takes the place of the law of Moses (as some interpret “the law of Christ” [Gal. 6:2]). Paul’s use of nomos here may be rhetorically dependent on his customary use of nomos, but he does not use it in order to suggest that the Spirit is, or conveys, a norm that functions like, or can be substituted for, the Mosaic law. Others think the nomos is the gospel, the new “rule” of which the Spirit is the author. This is possible, but the other texts in which Paul uses nomos in a nonlegal manner (3:27; 9:31–32), and especially the immediate context (7:21–25), point rather to nomos meaning “power,” or “binding authority,” with the following genitive specifying that authority or power. Paul always uses nomos with this meaning in contexts where he has been talking about the Mosaic law. This suggests an intentional play on the word, as Paul implicitly contrasts the law of Moses with a different “law,” in this case the “ ‘law’ of the Spirit who confers life.” The actor in the situation is, then, the Spirit himself. It is God’s Spirit, coming to the believer with power and authority, who brings liberation from the powers of the old age and from the condemnation that is the lot of all who are imprisoned by those powers.

More difficult to decide is whether the second nomos in the verse designates the Mosaic law or whether it, too, means “binding authority” or “power.” In favor of the former is the fact that nomos in v. 3a refers to the Mosaic law; and certainly Paul’s discussion in 7:7–25 would justify describing the Mosaic law as, in some sense, a “law of sin and death” (see also 1 Cor. 15:56). Though given by God, the law of Moses comes to sinful people, for whom that law therefore becomes an instrument of sin and death. While this interpretation fits both the context and Paul’s theology, another factor tilts the scales slightly in favor of rendering this second nomos also as “binding authority” or “power.” This factor is the occurrence of the almost identical phrase, “the nomos of sin,” in 7:23, where, because it is called “the other law,” in distinction from the Mosaic law (v. 22), it must mean the “authority” or “power” of sin. That these similar phrases mean the same thing is suggested also by the material relationship between 7:23 and 8:2; we can hardly miss the fact that the liberation of 8:2 is the answer to the imprisonment of 7:23. We might, then, paraphrase this second phrase, “the binding authority of sin that leads to death.”901 The real contrast in the verse is then between the Spirit on the one hand and sin and death on the other. As sin and death are those powers that rule the old age (see chaps. 6–7), so the Spirit and the eschatological life conferred by the Spirit are those powers that rule the new age.

But what is the nature of the liberation Paul depicts here? Since v. 1, as I have argued, has to do with justification, the liberation of v. 2 may also be restricted to the believer’s being freed from the penalty of sin. Others, however, while not excluding justification, think that v. 2 is focusing more on sanctification; for “the law of sin,” it is argued, is the internal, regulating power of sin. Some then conclude that the believer’s freedom from condemnation depends on the continuing liberation from sin in Christian experience.905 But the liberation here is not just from “the law of sin,” but from “the law of sin and death.” And this expanded phrase appears to be deliberately chosen in order to summarize the total situation of the sinner as Paul has described it in chaps. 6 and 7: helpless under sin’s power, doomed thereby to death and condemnation. This being the case, we cannot restrict the application of v. 2 to either “justification” or “sanctification”; indeed, the very introduction of these terms at this point in Paul’s discussion may unnecessarily complicate matters. “No condemnation” is the banner triumphantly flying over all those who are “in Christ” (v. 1) only because “in Christ” we have been set free by the Spirit from that realm, ruled by sin, in which condemnation (= death) is one’s inevitable fate. Verse 2 is speaking directly about neither justification nor sanctification but about that realm transfer that is the presupposition of both. As such, it significantly advances the discussion of chaps. 5–7 by introducing the Spirit as a key agent of liberation from the old realm of sin and death.[15]

2 Verse 2 supplies the reason for the assurance given in verse 1: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death”. The two verses are not only bound together by the particle “for” but also by the repetition in verse 2 of “in Christ Jesus”. Verse 2 unfolds the implication of the union with Christ emphasized at the close of verse 1. The main question is: what is “the law of the Spirit of life”? “The Spirit of life” must, in accord with Pauline and New Testament usage, refer to the Holy Spirit (cf. vss. 6, 10, 11; John 6:63; 1 Cor. 15:45; especially 2 Cor. 3:6, 17, 18; Gal. 6:8). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life because he is the author of life and also because he is life (cf. vs. 10). The question then becomes: what is “the law” in this connection? We can only arrive at the answer by determining what is “the law” with which it is contrasted, namely, “the law of sin and of death”. The context should be regarded as decisive in this case. In 7:23, 25 the apostle had spoken of “the law of sin”. As we found, it is most probably this same law that is spoken of in 7:21. And it is not without significance that, by reason of the activity of the law of sin in his members, he should call his body “the body of this death”. Since the wages of sin is death “the law of sin” must also be the “law of death”. The word “law” is used in this connection as a regulating and actuating power as well as a legislating authority. In view, therefore, of this contrast “the law of the Spirit of life” should be understood as the regulating and actuating power of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of life. It is eminently appropriate that the Holy Spirit should be designated as the Spirit of life because the power he exercises is unto life as distinguished from the power of sin which is unto death. “The law of the Spirit of life” is, therefore, the power of the Holy Spirit operative in us to make us free from the power of sin which is unto death. This deliverance from the power of sin is correlative with that enunciated by the apostle in 6:2–14. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (cf. vs. 9) and it is only in Christ Jesus that the Spirit’s power is operative unto life.

It is not certain whether “in Christ Jesus” in this verse is to be taken with “the law of the Spirit of life” or with “made me free”. In the former case the stress falls upon the fact that it is in Christ Jesus the actuating, life-giving power of the Holy Spirit is operative, in the latter case that it was in Christ Jesus the power of the Spirit made us free. The one views this life-giving law as being in Christ, the other views the action as wrought in Christ.

These considerations indicate that verse 2 is to be interpreted in terms of a power that is operative in us and that the ruling thought has respect to our deliverance from the power of sin—“the law of sin and death”—rather than to deliverance from the guilt of sin. The thought moves in the realm of internal operation and not in that of objective accomplishment. We must not assume, however, that the basis upon which this internal operation rests and from which it derives its power is far from the apostle’s thought. This is clearly in the forefront in the verse that follows.[16]

2 Verse 2 immediately picks up this practical, dynamic aspect by concentrating on freedom from the imperious rule of sin (cf. 6:18) and death (cf. 6:22–23), the two archenemies of humanity. This new freedom is now available to and made possible for the believer through the operation of the Spirit. The word “law” is again probably to be understood figuratively here (cf. 7:21, 23). It seems improbable (though not impossible) that Paul would refer to the law of Moses as “the law of sin and of death,” even though it provokes sin (7:7–8) and produces death (7:9–11; 2 Co 3:6, 7). For Paul, the law in itself remains holy (7:12). In the present passage, therefore, “law” is used in the sense of a “principle” to indicate the certainty and regularity of operation that characterizes sin (which leads to death) on the one hand and the work of the Spirit on the other. Whereas the word “law” (nomos, GK 3795) emphasizes regularity, “life” (zōē, GK 2437) emphasizes both supernaturalness and spontaneity—hence the superiority of the Spirit’s operation over that of sin (cf. L. E. Keck, “The Law and ‘the Law of Sin and Death’ [Romans 8:1–4]: Reflections on the Spirit and Ethics in Paul,” in The Divine Helmsman, ed. J. L. Crenshaw and S. Sandmel [New York: KTAV, 1980], 41–57).

The syntax leaves unclear whether the words “through Christ Jesus” are to be taken with the words “the Spirit of life” or with “set me free.” Probably the latter is to be preferred. “The Spirit of life through Christ Jesus set me free” points to the Spirit as the life-giver (cf. 2 Co 3:6) but only as mediating that which is in, or through, Christ (cf. Col 3:4). Paul has already noted the enslaving power of sin and the freedom from it achieved by Christ (6:18, 22; cf. Jn 8:34–36).[17]

The Reason for Freedom—Justification

for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (8:1b–2)

As noted at the beginning of the previous section, the therefore that introduces verse 1 refers back to the major theme of the first seven chapters of the epistle—the believer’s complete justification before God, graciously provided in response to trust in the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son.

The divine condemnation from which believers are exonerated (8:1a) is without exception or qualification. It is bestowed on those who are in Christ Jesus, in other words, on every true Christian. Justification completely and forever releases every believer from sin’s bondage and its penalty of death (6:23) and thereby fits him to stand sinless before a holy God forever. It is that particular aspect of justification on which Paul focuses at the beginning of chapter 8.

Paul’s use of the first person singular pronouns (I and me) in 7:7–25 emphasizes the sad reality that, in this present life, no Christian, not even an apostle, is exempt from struggles with sin. In the opening verses of chapter 8, on the other hand, Paul emphasizes the marvelous reality that every believer, even the weakest and most unproductive, shares in complete and eternal freedom from sin’s condemnation. The holiest of believers are warned that, although they are no longer under sin’s slavish dominion, they will experience conflicts with it in this present life. And the weakest of believers are promised that, although they still stumble and fall into sin’s power in their flesh, they will experience ultimate victory over sin in the life to come.

The key to every aspect of salvation is in the simple but infinitely profound phrase in Christ Jesus. A Christian is a person who is in Christ Jesus. Paul has already declared that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death,” and that “therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:3–5).

Being a Christian is not simply being outwardly identified with Christ but being part of Christ, not simply of being united with Him but united in Him. Our being in Christ is one of the profoundest of mysteries, which we will not fully understand until we meet Him face-to-face in heaven. But Scripture does shed light on that marvelous truth. We know that we are in Christ spiritually, in a divine and permanent union. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive,” Paul explains (1 Cor. 15:22). Believers are also in Christ in a living, participatory sense. “Now you are Christ’s body,” Paul declares in that same epistle, “and individually members of it” (12:27). We are actually a part of Him and, in ways that are unfathomable to us now, we work when He works, grieve when He grieves, and rejoice when He rejoices. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,” Paul assures us, “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). Christ’s own divine life pulses through us.

Many people are concerned about their family heritage, about who their ancestors were, where they lived, and what they did. For better or worse, we are all life-linked physically, intellectually, and culturally to our ancestors. In a similar, but infinitely more important way, we are linked to the family of God because of our relationship to His Son, Jesus Christ. It is for that reason that every Christian can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

God’s Word makes clear that every human being is a descendant of Adam and has inherited Adam’s fallen nature. It makes just as clear that every true believer becomes a spiritual descendant of Jesus Christ, God’s true Son, and is thereby adopted into the heavenly Father’s own divine household as a beloved child. More than just being adopted, we inherit the very life of God in Christ.

Martin Luther said,

It is impossible for a man to be a Christian without having Christ, and if he has Christ, he has at the same time all that is in Christ. What gives peace to the conscience is that by faith our sins are no more ours, but Christ’s, upon whom God hath laid them all; and that, on the other hand, all Christ’s righteousness is ours, to whom God hath given it. Christ lays His hand upon us, and we are healed. He casts His mantle upon us, and we are clothed; for He is the glorious Savior, blessed for ever. (Cited in Robert Haldane, An Exposition of Romans; [reprint, McLean, Va.: McDonald, 1958], p. 312)

The relationship between God and His chosen people Israel was beautifully illustrated in the garment of the high priest. Over his magnificent robes he wore a breastplate in which twelve different precious stones were embedded, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Each stone was engraved with the name of the tribe it represented. When the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once each year on the Day of Atonement, he stood before God with those visual representations of all His people.

That breastplate was a rich symbolism of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, standing before the Father making intercession on behalf of all those the Father has given Him (Heb. 7:24–25). In what is commonly called His high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed on behalf of those who belong to Him “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:21).

Luther also wrote,

Faith unites the soul with Christ as a spouse with her husband. Everything which Christ has becomes the property of the believing soul; everything which the soul has, becomes the property of Christ. Christ possesses all blessings and eternal life: they are thenceforward the property of the soul. The soul has all its iniquities and sins: they become thenceforward the property of Christ. It is then that a blessed exchange commences: Christ who is both God and man, Christ who has never sinned, and whose holiness is perfect, Christ the Almighty and Eternal, taking to Himself, by His nuptial ring of faith, all the sins of the believer, those sins are lost and abolished in Him; for no sins dwell before His infinite righteousness. Thus by faith the believer’s soul is delivered from sins and clothed with the eternal righteousness of her bridegroom Christ. (Cited in Haldane, Exposition of Romans, p. 313)

The phrase “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” appears at the end of verse 1 in the King James, but it is not found in the earliest manuscripts of Romans or in most modern translations. It is probable that a copyist inadvertently picked up the phrase from verse 4. Because the identical wording appears there, the meaning of the passage is not affected.

The conjunction for, which here carries the meaning of because, leads into the reason there is no condemnation for believers: the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Paul does not here use the term law in reference to the Mosaic law or to other divine commandments or requirements. He uses it rather in the sense of a principle of operation, as he has done earlier in the letter, where he speaks of “a law of faith” (3:27) and as he does in Galatians, where he speaks of “the law of Christ” (6:2). Those who believe in Jesus Christ are delivered from the condemnation of a lower divine law, as it were, by submitting themselves to a higher divine law. The lower law is the divine principle in regard to sin, the penalty for which is death, and the higher law is the law of the Spirit, which bestows life in Christ Jesus.

But it should not be concluded that the law Paul is speaking of in this passage has no relationship to obedience. Obedience to God cannot save a person, because no person in his unredeemed sinfulness wants to obey God and could not obey perfectly even if he had the desire. But true salvation will always produce true obedience—never perfect in this life but nonetheless genuine and always present to some extent. When truly believed and received, the gospel of Jesus Christ always leads to the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:25–26). The coming kingdom age of Christ that Jeremiah predicted and of which the writer of Hebrews refers is far from lawless. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts” (Heb. 8:10; cf. Jer. 31:33). Release from the law’s bondage and condemnation does not mean release from the law’s requirements and standards. The higher law of the Spirit produces obedience to the lower law of duties.

The freedom that Christ gives is complete and permanent deliverance from sin’s power and penalty (and ultimately from its presence). It also gives the ability to obey God. The very notion of a Christian who is free to do as he pleases is self-contradictory. A person who believes that salvation leads from law to license does not have the least understanding of the gospel of grace and can make no claim on Christ’s saviorhood and certainly no claim on His lordship.

In speaking of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, Paul makes unambiguous later in this chapter that he is referring to the Holy Spirit. The Christian’s mind is set on the things of the Spirit (v. 6) and is indwelt and given life by the Holy Spirit (vv. 9–11). Paul summarized the working of those two laws earlier in the epistle: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

When Jesus explained the way of salvation to Nicodemus, He said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). God “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness,” Paul explains, “but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5–6). It is the Holy Spirit who bestows and energizes spiritual life in the person who places his trust in Christ Jesus. Paul could not be talking of any spirit but the Holy Spirit, because only God’s Holy Spirit can bring spiritual life to a heart that is spiritually dead.

The truths of Romans 7 are among the most depressing and heart-rending in all of Scripture, and it is largely for that reason that many interpreters believe they cannot describe a Christian. But Paul was simply being honest and candid about the frustrating and discouraging spiritual battles that every believer faces. It is, in fact, the most faithful and obedient Christian who faces the greatest spiritual struggles. Just as in physical warfare, it is those on the front lines who encounter the enemy’s most fierce attacks. But just as frontline battle can reveal courage, it can also reveal weaknesses and vulnerability. Even the most valiant soldier is subject to injury and discouragement.

During his earthly life, the Christian will always have residual weaknesses from his old humanness, the old fleshly person he used to be. No matter how closely he walks with the Lord, he is not yet completely free from sin’s power. That is the discomfiting reality of Romans 7.

But the Christian is no longer a slave to sin as he once was, no longer under sin’s total domination and control. Now he is free from sin’s bondage and its ultimate penalty. Satan, the world, and his own humanness still can cause him to stumble and falter, but they can no longer control or destroy him, because his new life in Christ is the very divine life of God’s own Spirit. That is the comforting truth of Romans 8.

The story is told of a man who operated a drawbridge. At a certain time each afternoon, he had to raise the bridge for a ferry boat and then lower it quickly for a passenger train that crossed at high speed a few minutes later. One day the man’s young son was visiting his father at work and decided to go down below to get a better look at the ferry as it passed. Fascinated by the sight, he did not watch carefully where he was going and fell into the giant gears. One foot became caught and the boy was helpless to free himself. The father saw what happened but knew that if he took time to extricate his son, the train would plunge into to the river before the bridge could be lowered. But if he lowered the bridge to save the hundreds of passengers and crew members on the train, his son would be crushed to death. When he heard the train’s whistle, indicating it would soon reach the river, he knew what he had to do. His son was very dear to him, whereas all the people on the train were total strangers. The sacrifice of his son for the sake of the other people was an act of pure grace and mercy.

That story portrays something of the infinitely greater sacrifice God the Father made when He sent His only beloved Son to earth to die for the sins of mankind—to whom He owed nothing but condemnation.[18]

[1] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1625). 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 8:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2170). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ro 8:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1439). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] López, R. A. (2010). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 662). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1708). 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. 469). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[9] Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 8:2). 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. 245–246). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[11] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 642–654). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[12] Bruce, F. F. (1985). Romans: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 6, p. 162). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[13] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 276–277). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[14] Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans (pp. 199–200). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[15] 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. 496–500). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[16] Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 275–277). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[17] 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. 128–129). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[18] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 400–405). Chicago: Moody Press.

February 22 Morning Verse of The Day

21:1 God is sovereign even over a king—and not just Israel’s kings (1Kg 11:23; Ezr 6:22; Is 44:28; Jr 25:9; Ac 4:27–28).[1]

21:1 Oriental kings were absolute despots, exercising complete and unfettered control over their subjects and themselves. Nevertheless, God through His vast providence orders this monarch to carry out His designs even as the monarch would order his subjects. God held unlimited control over even the most absolute human will, i.e., the heart of the king, and that without hampering the king’s personal free will (Gen. 41:37–45; Neh. 2:4, 5; Is. 10:6, 7; 41:2–4). The figure of speech used here is an allusion to the eastern method of irrigation in which several canals were dug from one stream, enabling the husbandman to direct a stream as he pleased by a simple action.[2]

21:1 The king’s heart … Lord. Possibly a reference to the sovereignty of God even over pagan kings who unwittingly do His will (e.g., Cyrus in Is. 45:1), or to the king of Israel, who, like Solomon, received a special endowment of the wisdom of God (16:10 and note). See “God Reigns: Divine Sovereignty” at Dan. 4:34.[3]

21:1 in the hand of Yahweh Even though kings hold great power (Prov 14:28; 16:15; 20:2), they are ultimately under the jurisdiction of God’s power over the entire earth. See note on 29:26.[4]

21:1 The stream of water describes water flowing through a channel or an irrigation ditch, which a skillful farmer can turn to flow wherever he wishes.[5]

21:1 He turns it. See notes on 16:1, 9, 33; cf. 19:21; 20:24. Note the examples of the divine hand of God in the cases of Artaxerxes (Ezr 7:21–23), Tiglath-pileser (Is 10:5–7), Cyrus (Is 45:1–4), and Nebuchadnezzar (Da 4:34) and Belshazzar (Da 5:23–25).[6]

21:1 A person can look at a river and think that it is following a random pattern, but the water is following the direction of God’s hand. So is the king. This world’s apparent chaos is God’s work.[7]

21:1 Just as a channel or canal directs the flow of water, so the Lord rules and overrules a king’s thoughts and actions. This is an encouragement to Christians under oppressive governments or to missionaries taking the gospel to hostile lands.[8]

21:1. Chapter 21 begins (vv. 1–3) and ends (vv. 30–31) with references to the Lord. Verses 2, 8, 26, 28 of chapter 20 referred to kings. Now again the king is mentioned. The heart of the king is in God’s hand (cf. Ecc. 9:1) as are the plans of all people (cf. Prov. 16:1, 9). A farmer directs water by digging canals. Similarly the Lord directs the hearts of kings, as, for example, Pharaoh (Ex. 10:1–2), Tiglath-Pileser (Isa. 10:5–7), Cyrus (Isa. 45:1–6), and Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:21; Neh. 2:1–8). God is sovereign (cf. Prov. 21:30).[9]

21:1. This is a testimony to the “King of kings” (Kidner, Proverbs, 141). God’s sovereignty extends even to the king and the nation he leads. Just like a farmer can direct irrigation channels of water to areas in his land of his choosing, so the Lord directs the king’s heart wherever He wishes. Water is often pictured as a mighty, chaotic force in the OT, something requiring great power and skill to control (Waltke, Book of Proverbs 15–31, 168). But it is also a life-giving blessing. So too the Lord masters the king, powerful though he may be, and directs him in ways that bless—or redirect blessing away from—his nation.[10]

Ver. 1. The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.God and the human race:

In these verses we have God unfolded to us.—

  1. As the controller of human hearts. Some suppose there is an allusion to the gardener directing the rills of water through the different parts of his ground, and that the comparison is between the ease with which the gardener does this and the ease with which the Almighty controls the purposes and volitions of the human soul.
  2. This is an undoubted fact. A priori reasoning renders this obvious. The God of infinite wisdom must have a purpose to answer in relation to the existence and history of the human race. He has a purpose not only in the rise and fall of empires, but in all the events that happen in the individual history of the obscure as well as the illustrious. But unless He has a control over the workings of the human heart and the volitions of the human soul, how could this purpose be realised? If He controls not the thoughts and impulses of the human mind, He has no control over the human race, and His purposes have no guarantee for their fulfilment.
  3. This fact interferes not with human responsibility. Though the Creator has an absolute control over all the workings of our minds, yet we are conscious that we are free in all our volitions and actions. Though the reconciliation of these two facts transcends our philosophy, they involve no absurdity.
  4. As the judge of human character. There is a connection between the second and first verses. The connection suggests—
  5. That God judges men’s characters, not according to their own estimate. Men generally are so vain that they form a high opinion of themselves, but this estimate may be the very reverse of God’s.
  6. That God judges men’s characters not according to the result of their conduct. Though they may unwittingly work out His plans, they do not approve themselves to Him on that account.
  7. That God judges men’s characters by the heart. The essence of the character is in the motive.

III. As the approver of human goodness (ver. 3). Sacrifice, at best, is only circumstantially good—rectitude is essentially so. Sacrifice, at best, is only the means and expression of good—rectitude is goodness itself. God accepts the moral without the ceremonial, but never the ceremonial without the moral. The universe can do without the ceremonial, but not without the moral. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

God rules the hearts of men:

General Gordon had an Arab text inscribed over his throne in the Palace of Khartoum—“God rules over the hearts of men.”[11]

21:1. King of kings

Rivers (av) should be watercourses (rv), i.e. irrigation canals, under the farmer’s control: cf. Deuteronomy 11:10. This is a saying about providence, not regeneration. Tiglath-pileser (Isa. 10:6, 7), Cyrus (Isa. 41:2–4) and Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:21) are all examples of autocrats who, in pursuing their chosen courses, flooded or fertilized God’s field as he chose. The principle is still in force.[12]

1. There can be no question but that all hearts, and all the ways of men are, like the current of waters, subject to divine direction; and they that are made kings and priests to God and the Father, find sweet comfort in the conviction of this undoubted truth. Even Jesus in his human nature had all the blessedness of this promise of the Father. From the union of the human nature with his Godhead, his holiness, and purity of the manhood was altogether preserved; but he needed, and therefore had, all that communication from the Father which might fit him, strengthen him, and carry him through the work which the Father gave him to do. Hence we read, that God gave not the Spirit by measure unto him. John 3:34. And hence also we read, that he was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. Psm. 45:7. So that Jesus King Mediator was directed, fitted for his work, assisted in it, and carried through it by God the Father. See Isaiah 42:1–4. Psm. 22:9–11. And observe what is said of him at the close of all his labours. Psm. 21:1–7.[13]

21:1. The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.

This chapter is bracketed by an inclusio, focusing us upon the ‘Lord’ (vv. 1–3, 30, 31). Here, He is held forth as the only absolute Sovereign. Certainly, God controls the hearts of all men (Prov. 16:9; 19:21; 20:24). But, it may appear that kings, rulers and presidents hold absolute sway. They may even believe that they possess such power, yet they are ‘in the hand of the Lord.’ Their thinking, motives, inclinations and decisions are under the absolute control of God Himself.

By the king’s ‘heart’ is meant all his powers of reasoning, feeling and choice. These are ‘like channels of water.’ The expression describes small irrigation ditches used to bring life-giving water to otherwise unusable land. The farmer directed the water by digging such ditches wherever he wanted and by, then, opening and closing the pathway for the water to flow (Deut. 11:10; Isa. 32:1–2). So, too, God ‘turns it [the king’s heart] wherever He wishes.’ He is able to make even the evil intentions of a man’s heart promote His glorious purposes (Ps. 76:10).

Scripture is filled with examples of such control by God over the hearts of rulers, particularly as they deal with His people and stand to influence His purposes: Abimelech (Gen. 20:6; Ps. 105:14–15), Pharaoh (Acts 7:10; Exod. 10:1–2), Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:21–23, 27), Tiglath-Pileser (Isa. 10:5–7), Cyrus (Ezra 6:22; Isa. 45:1–4), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:30–31, 34–37), Belshazzar (Dan. 5:22–28), and Pilate (John 19:11). This truth is affirmed throughout the Scriptures (Eccles. 9:1; Dan. 2:21; Ps.105:25; 106:46; Rev. 17:17).

Only God is absolute in His control. ‘There is no wisdom and no understanding And no counsel against the Lord’ (v. 30).[14]

1 This proverb features the Lord’s sovereign benediction upon those that please him through his anointed magistrate. Verset A presents the king’s heart both as under the Lord’s sovereign control and as the source of the people’s life. God’s inscrutable mastery extends to the king, the most powerful of human beings, and to the heart, their most free member. The Lord rules even the most free and powerful of all human beings (see 16:14f; 19:12; 20:2). Verset B restricts the Sovereign’s benefits to those who please him. As the heart of the individual determines and directs his every move, the king’s (see 14:28) heart (see p. I:90) determines the nation’s direction and wellbeing (see 10–15). In the Lord’s hand (beyad yhwh, cf. 18:21) could restrict the heart to one that submits itself to the Lord’s power, care and/or authority (see 18:21), but the parallel infers it is non-restrictive, referring to every king’s heart. God’s inscrutable mastery directs the king who has in his hands the life and death of his subjects (16:10–15). Here, the anthropomorphism teaches that the God steers the king’s heart according to the Lord’s good pleasure. The metaphor is a channel of water (or canal, see 5:16; cf. Sir. 48:17) denotes a decision that blesses, not curses, the people. Water is especially precious in the parched Near East. Aside from Lamentations 3:48 and Psalm 119:136, which use the phrase in a hyperbole for tears, it always connotes positively the channeling of abundant, gladdening, life-giving water in an otherwise dry place. Whereas a river (nāhār) might run wild and a wadi (nāḥāl) run dry, the artificial stream of water provides a steady, directed, full supply of refreshing, living giving water. However, it takes great skill and power to direct water’s chaotic nature. In the metaphor upon (see 17:8) all refers to everything in the garden needing water and in its interpretation to every needy person in his realm (see 20:28). Who please him (or whom he delights in, cf. 18:2) “denotes the direction of [God’s] heart or passion.… The basis of God’s delight or lack of it revolves around human obedience (cf. Ps 37:22, 28, 34, 38),” restricting his benedictions to the faithful. The Lord has no emotional pleasure in fools and wickedness (cf. 3:32; 8:7; 11:1, 20; 12:22; 13:19; 15:8, 9, 26; 16:5, 12, 13; 17:15; 20:10, 23; 24:9; 28:9; 29:27; Ps. 5:5). The parallel “Lord’s hand” implies the Lord is the subject and the king’s heart the object of he turns it (see 2:2). Farmers in Mesopotamia and Egypt divert the water by putting up dams and other obstructions in the stream’s flow to direct the water to their fields and gardens. Palestinian farmers depend on heavenly rain (cf. Deut. 11:10–12), but must have captured and directed the water to where it was most needed. Natural streams are not meant, because their direction is fixed. The Lord is the Farmer; the king’s heart is the flexible channel; and his well-watered garden is the pious and ethical needy. In Isaiah 32:2, each ruler is compared to a “stream of water in a dry place,” a reference to salvation from oppressive government. Their governments included guidance by sages. The proverb instructs the audience to be those who please the Lord to receive his favors through his king (16:15; 19:12; cf. Gen. 20:6; 41:37–45; Ps. 106:46; Dan 2:48; 3:30; 6:1–3, 28; Ezra 1:1; 6:22; 7:27; 9:9). It also may instruct them to pray for God’s blessing through the king (Neh. 2:4–5; 1 Tim. 2:1–2), and perhaps cautions the king against arrogance for he functions according to Providence (cf. Isa. 44:28; Jer. 25:9; Acts 4:27–28).[15]

21:1 Sovereignty of God. A king’s decisions are controlled by God. The verse uses synthetic parallelism to develop the point. The first line affirms that the decisions (“heart”) of the king are under the Lord’s control (“in the hand”), and the second explains that God directs the king as he pleases. What clarifies the second line is the simile that the heart is “like a watercourse.” As a farmer channels the water where he wants and regulates its flow, so does the Lord with the king. No human ruler is supreme; to put it another way, the Lord is truly the King of kings. Scripture offers many examples of the truth of this proverb (Ezr 7:21; Isa 10:6–7; 41:2–4; Da 2:21; Jn 19:11).[16]

[1] Stabnow, D. K. (2017). Proverbs. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 985). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Pr 21:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 906). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 21:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1170). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 21:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 769). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 844). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 950). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[10] Finkbeiner, D. (2014). Proverbs. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (p. 939). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[11] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). Proverbs (pp. 523–524). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[12] Kidner, D. (1964). Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 17, p. 133). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[13] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Proverbs–Lamentations (Vol. 5, p. 73). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[14] Kitchen, J. A. (2006). Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (p. 463). Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[15] Waltke, B. K. (2005). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15–31 (pp. 167–168). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[16] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 181). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

February 21 Evening Verse of The Day

7:21 Paul confesses that he is carnal, sold unto sin (v. 14), that more specifically the problem is in his flesh in which nothing good dwells (v. 18) and now that evil (Gk. kakon) is present.[1]

7:21 He finds a principle or law at work in his life causing all his good intentions to end in failure. When he wants to do what is right, he ends up by sinning.[2]

21. So I discover this law: When I want to do good, evil lies close at hand.

The word “So” shows that the apostle here summarizes the contents of the preceding verses (14–20). It is immediately clear that when he here uses the word “law,” he is not thinking of the Ten Commandments. “Law,” as here used, must mean something like operating rule or governing principle. For more on this see verse 23.

The inflexible “law” to which reference is here made, and which the author of this epistle—as well as every believer—is constantly discovering, is this: “When I want to do good, evil lies close at hand.” In view of the fact that, according to verses 17, 20, sinful human nature has established its residence in Paul’s own house (his soul), and has done this with a wicked purpose, the statement “evil lies close at hand,” is indeed very logical. This “evil,” here personified, may be lying down, but is certainly not sleeping. It is pictured as if it were watching the apostle to see whether he is about to carry out a good intention. Whenever such a noble thought or suggestion enters Paul’s heart, evil immediately interrupts in order to turn the good deed into its opposite.[3]

21 On the basis of the unsuccessful struggle to do the good demanded by the Mosaic law, Paul now draws a conclusion: “Therefore [Gk. ara] I find this law: when I will to do the good, evil is present there with me.” Consistency would suggest that the “law” (nomos) Paul refers to here is the Mosaic law, in accordance with his usual use of the term and its meaning throughout 7:4–20. We would then translate “I find, with respect to the law, that.…” But it makes better sense to give nomos here its well-established meaning “principle.”[4]

21 The question on which interpreters are greatly divided is the denotation of “the law” in this verse, whether it refers to the law of God (vs. 22) or to the “other law”, “the law of sin” in our members (vs. 23). Either interpretation makes good sense and is both grammatically and syntactically acceptable. On the former view, namely, that “the law” refers to the law of God, the thought would be as follows: “For me willing conformity to the law in order to do the good I find that the evil is present with me”. Hence what he finds is that evil is present notwithstanding his determinate will to the good which the law of God requires. This fits in well with verse 22 in which he defines this determinate will to the good as delight in the law of God after the inward man. And it is also in accord with verse 23 where the opposing law of sin in his members is called “another law” in contrast with the law of God which, up to this point it is maintained, is the only law referred to in the passage. There is, however, no conclusive objection to the other interpretation, namely, that “the law of sin” (vss. 23, 25) is in view here and that it is defined in terms of the presence of evil in opposition to the determinate will to good. This is the view adopted in the version and, if followed, means that “law” in this instance is used in the sense of rule or principle of action. The usual signification of law, however, as that which propounds and demands action need not be suppressed. “The law of sin” may be conceived of as not only impelling to action that is antithetical to the law of God but also as dictating such action.[5]

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. (7:21)

The continuing presence of evil in a believer’s life is so universal that Paul refers to it not as an uncommon thing but as such a common reality as to be called a continually operating spiritual principle. Lingering sin does battle with every good thing a believer desires to do, every good thought, every good intention, every good motive, every good word, every good deed.

The Lord warned Cain when he became angry that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted but his own was not: “Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7). Sin continues to crouch at the door, even of believers, in order to lead people into disobedience.[6]

[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1438). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1707). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, p. 234). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] 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. 483–484). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[5] Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 264–265). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 1, p. 389). Chicago: Moody Press.

February 21 Morning Verse of The Day

10:13 This well-known verse has provided great encouragement to Christians faced by temptations. At the same time, Paul’s words contain an implicit rebuke. If God keeps us from temptations greater than we can withstand, we cannot plead our temptations as an excuse for sinning. Sin is never a necessity for a believer.[1]

10:13 Temptation Scripture depicts God testing the faith of His followers (Gen 22:1) or allowing other heavenly beings to tempt people (Job 1:6–12).

what is common to humanity The temptation facing the Corinthians is unexceptional—Paul encourages them to resist. Compare Heb 4:15 and note.[2]

10:13 will not let you be tempted beyond your ability … will also provide the way of escape. Even when Christians face morally confusing situations, they should never think that they have no options other than sinful ones. There will always be a morally right solution that does not require disobedience to any of God’s moral laws.[3]

10:13 Paul provides the Corinthians with a word of comfort. The various temptations they were experiencing were normal; all believers throughout the ages have had to resist temptation. God is so good that He will not let believers experience anything for which He has not prepared them. He will give every believer the grace and power to endure. Furthermore, endurance will bring its own reward (9:24–27).[4]

10:13 But then Paul adds a marvelous word of encouragement for those who are tempted. He teaches that the testings, trials, and temptations which face us are common to all. However, God is faithful, who will not allow us to be tested beyond what we are able. He does not promise to deliver us from temptation or testing, but He does promise to limit its intensity. He further promises to provide the way of escape, that we may be able to bear it. Reading this verse, one cannot help but be struck by the tremendous comfort it has afforded to tested saints of God through the centuries. Young believers have clung to it as to a life-line and older believers have reposed on it as upon a pillow. Perhaps some of Paul’s readers were being fiercely tempted at the time to go into idolatry. Paul would comfort them with the thought that God would not allow any unbearable temptation to come their way. At the same time they should be warned that they should not expose themselves to temptation.[5]

10:13. After kicking out the props of false security, Paul pointed toward the One on whom the Corinthians could rely. The temptations that seized the Corinthians were like those people had always faced. They could be met and endured by depending on God, who is faithful. Part of the Corinthian problem, of course, was that some in the face of temptation were not looking for a way out by endurance, but a way in for indulgence.[6]

10:13. The warning to be careful not to fall raised another issue that Paul addressed. What if Christians are so tempted that they cannot resist turning from Christ? Perhaps he had in mind the attraction some Corinthians had toward the idolatrous fertility rituals practiced in Corinth. What if they were not able to resist?

First, all temptations that Christians experience, including that of idolatry, are common to man. Others had resisted the temptation toward idolatry, and the Corinthians could do so as well.

Second, God is faithful, and he will not desert his people (see Deut. 7:9; 1 Thess. 5:24; Heb. 10:23; Rev. 1:5). God can be trusted not to allow temptations beyond what Christians can bear. God will always provide a way out of temptation so believers can stand up and not fall into apostasy. He himself tempts no one (Jas. 1:13), but he is in control of Satan, who tempts believers to sin (Matt. 4:1; 6:13). Because of his great love for his children, God does not allow temptations to be so great that they overcome us. Instead, Christians sin because they do not search for a way out.[7]

10:13 “temptation” This word is used three times in this verse and means to tempt with a view toward destruction (see Special Topic at 3:13). There are three sources of temptation in the NT: (1) fallen human sin nature; (2) personal evil (Satan and the demonic); and (3) the fallen world system (cf. Eph. 2:1–3; James 4:1, 4, 7).







“but such as is common to man”




“except such as is common to man”




“that is not common to everyone”




“the kind that normally comes to people”




“none … is more than a human being can stand”


Other humans have faced the same temptation as the Corinthian believers. Jesus also has experienced all temptation which is common to human beings (cf. Heb. 4:15).

© “God is faithful” This is such a crucial descriptive statement! Biblical faith rests on the character of God. Our hope is in His gracious character, sure promises, and redemptive acts.

This aspect of God’s character is first stated in Deut. 7:9, which is an amplification of Deut. 5:9–10. God’s justice moves through time to three and four generations, but His lovingkindness (covenant loyal love, hesed) to a thousand generations. This same affirmation is continued in Isa. 49:7.

This is a major theme in the Corinthian letters (cf. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18), as well as 1 Thess. 5:24 and 2 Thess. 3:3. Believers are to faith God’s faithfulness, to trust God’s trustworthiness. This is the essence of biblical faith!







“but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it”




“but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”




“but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it”




“at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out”




“with any trial will also produce a way out by enabling you to put up with it”


This Greek word was used of a way of escape for a trapped military unit. Believers do not face temptations alone!

The problem in this text is how one relates “provide the way out” with “be able to endure it.” Do some get a way out and others bear it or is God’s way out really a means of enduring? Does the testing stop or do believers work through the testing by faith? Although this ambiguity cannot be settled, the good news is that God is with us in the problems (cf. Ps. 23:4). God will not leave us or forsake us. The exact mechanism of victory is not clearly revealed, but the victory is![8]

13. No temptation has overtaken you except that which is common to everyone. But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear; however, with the temptation he also will provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.

  • “No temptation has overtaken you.” What an encouragement to every believer! What a relief to know that God has set limits! Paul is taking time out from his argument, so to speak, to reassure his discouraged readers with a pastoral word. As a corollary to his directive to stand firm and not to fall (v. 12), he encourages them to view their life realistically. In truth, Paul addresses every person who has come to grips with the daily problems of life.

As is true of all languages, Greek has words that have several meanings. The expression temptation is one of them, for it can also denote “trial.” In his epistle James says, “God does not tempt anyone” (1:13). True, yet Jesus teaches his disciples the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13). He leaves the origin of temptation an open question; a succinct distinction is that temptations are from Satan but trials are from God.

Does Paul intend to say “temptation” or “trial” in verse 13? Perhaps he wishes to convey both meanings. To illustrate, Satan appears before God in heaven, and God allows him to tempt Job, to put his faith on trial. But God uses Satan to demonstrate that Job is able to endure his trials, for in the end Job’s faith triumphs (Job 1, 2, and 42).

  • “No temptation has overtaken you except that which is common to everyone.” The main verb in this sentence is in the perfect tense and connotes a lasting condition. It also conveys that tempting or testing takes possession of people. The degree and extent of any temptation is limited by what is common to everyone. By contrast, at both the beginning and the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus withstood Satan’s temptations beyond what is common to everyone. The hellish agony which Jesus withstood in Gethsemane and at Calvary no ordinary human would ever be able to endure. No believer will have to be subjected to the same experiences.

We ought not to ask to which temptations the Corinthians were subjected. Paul gives no details but only speaks a general word of encouragement that is valid for all Christians.

  • “But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear.” God’s faithfulness to his people is perfect, even though man’s faithfulness to him is imperfect. Scripture proves that not God but man is a covenant breaker. Biblical writers extol the divine attribute of God’s faithfulness that reaches to the sky. With variations, the theme God is faithful is a recurring refrain in Paul’s epistles and elsewhere in Scripture.

How does God demonstrate his faithfulness to believers? God promises that he will not permit anyone to be tempted beyond the point of human endurance. Even if believers knowingly place themselves in circumstances where temptations are rampant and inevitable, God demonstrates his faithfulness by coming to their rescue. Take Lot as an example. He took up residence in Sodom and had to put up with “the dirty lives of evil people,” yet God helped him and rescued him from sudden destruction (2 Peter 2:7, NCV).33 In brief, as a faithful shepherd rescues his wandering sheep, so God watches his people and delivers them from predicaments which they encounter. Paul implies that God sets the limits for man’s temptation in accordance with what he can bear.

  • “However, with the temptation he also will provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.” The adversative however is influenced and strengthened by the word also. God sets limits to human temptations and he himself comes to help his people during their trials. He encourages believers to persist and eventually overcome. He becomes personally involved in the trial by opening a way of escape for those who are tempted and tried. In the Greek, Paul writes the definite article the in the phrase the way of escape. That is, for every trial God prepares a way out. A period of temptation and testing may be compared with a ship approaching a rocky shore and facing inevitable shipwreck. But, “suddenly and, to the inexperienced landsman, unexpectedly, [it] slips through a gap on the inhospitable coast into security and peace.”35

The purpose for the way of escape is “that you may endure [the temptation].” The main verb which Paul uses conveys the meaning to bear up under the temptation. Believers’ endurance prevents them from falling and makes them stand firm in the faith. God’s abiding faithfulness sees his people through their trials and causes them to triumph.[9]

Ver. 13. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.

The limits of human experience:

  1. A great many believe that there never were such people as themselves. 1. Nobody ever did what they have done, or came through what they have come through. There never were such children as theirs; nor such toils, nor even such headaches and worries as theirs. All this comes of a morbid self-conceit. 2. But there is a particular manifestation of this tendency which deserves our heartiest sympathy. There are those who fancy there never were such sinners as they are: that you may just leave them alone, as past all redemption; and there are others who have found some little measure of hope and peace in Christ, but who seem likely to be desponding pilgrims to the end. They will have it that there never were believers so weak as they are, and never such temptations and perils as those which they must pass through. It was to such as these that St. Paul wrote.
  2. We may understand the text as reaching to all that makes the common lot of human-kind. We fancy, when painful trials come, that things so painful were never felt before. But our text reminds us that there is a limit, within which all human experience lies. Human ability and human endurance have their tether, and cannot range very far. Here is a lesson of humility for the self-conceited; let them remember that thousands more have been at least as good. Here is comfort for those bowed down under the sense of sinfulness; thousands are now in heaven who have sinned as deeply as they. Here is encouragement for the tempted: thousands have by God’s grace been led safely through. So you see that the text may be useful as a medicine for two opposite spiritual diseases, presumption and despair. But it is to the comforting view of the text that I would direct your thoughts. It speaks—1. To those under deep conviction of sin. If you wish to persuade a sick man to send for the physician, the first thing you must do is to convince him that he is sick. So the Holy Spirit begins His saving work by showing the careless soul how sick it is. Now there is something very startling in this. It is something quite strange. For the natural thing is, to think that we are not very great sinners. Then the soul is sometimes ready to run from presumption to the other extreme of despair. In that sad time, what unspeakable comfort to know that other men have felt the like! 2. To those under the pressure of temptation. Now there is comfort under any trouble in the bare thought that others have known the like; but the special comfort of the text is, that if no temptation is likely to assail us, except that through which souls as weak as we have by God’s grace passed safely into glory—then that we too may hope, by the same blessed aid, to fight our way through. That which man has done, man may do. The great adversary, and the ensnaring world, fairly vanquished in a hundred battles, may well be vanquished again. But if you are an insincere and half-hearted Christian, seeking to just reach heaven at last after having held by the world here, you need never think to cloak your own proneness to go astray under the pretext that temptation overpowered you. Never think, as some hypocritically do, to cast wholly upon Satan the sin into which they went quite readily themselves. 3. Those under great sorrow and bereavement. The mother who has lost her child is consoled when another, who has passed through the like trial, does but come and sit by her, and say no word but that she has felt the same. Surely there is something consoling amid our earthly sorrows, in the bare remembrance that our Saviour understands them, because He has felt them all! But the text suggests comfort more substantial than this, viz., that others who have known such sorrow as we feel, have been enabled by God’s grace to bear it, and profit by it; and surely there is something in that thought which should enable us to bow the more submissively to our Heavenly Father’s will. It is not alone that the mourner travels through this vale of tears; apostles and prophets are of the company; saints and martyrs go with him; and the sorrowful face of the Great Redeemer, though sorrowful now no more, remains for ever with the old look of brotherly sympathy to His servants’ eyes and hearts. Nothing hath come to us, nothing will come to us, but has been shared by better men. (A. K. H. Boyd, D.D.)

Very peculiar circumstances:—“Ah,” said one to me, “you do not know the peculiar circumstances in which I am placed.” “I ask your pardon,” I replied, “I thought I had spoken of peculiar circumstances.” “Yes, but mine are very peculiar circumstances.” “But is Christ not a mighty Saviour?” “Yes, but mine are very, very peculiar circumstances.” “Will you look away from me now, and speak to God in heaven thus: ‘God, I thank Thee for Jesus Christ. I thank Thee Thou hast looked down on my lost, hell-deserving state, and that He died to save me. I want to live a holy life to Thy glory. But my circumstances are so very, very peculiar that I cannot think Jesus Christ is quite able to keep me in them. I am very sorry for Jesus Christ, and I wish He were a little stronger?’ ” “But,” she exclaimed, “would not that be blasphemy?” “Not more than your saying that in your very, very peculiar circumstances He cannot keep you. Let us try another way. Address yourself to God thus: ‘I go out to my very, very peculiar circumstances, believing that there is for me a very, very peculiar Saviour, able to keep me every day in my very, very peculiar trial. I go believing He will help me if I trust Him, and go trusting Him.’ ” “Is that all I have to do?” “Yes, that is all. Go on trusting, moment by moment, and He will keep you, however peculiar the circumstances, moment by moment, to the end.” (H. W. Webb-Peploe, M.A.)


  1. None of our temptations exceed our powers of endurance. 1. We shall never be placed where to sin will be inevitable. God will so adjust our surroundings that we shall always be able to do what is right. Even when our difficulties arise from what we unexpectedly find in the Church, we shall not find them invincibly obstructive. 2. There is great ground of encouragement in this. We are apt to suppose that our difficulties are unique, and some have sought to improve their position by entering on some more favourable line of life. But the apostle says, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” And this is the highest and most practical wisdom. For every sphere of life has its peculiar temptations, and while we know something of those that meet us where we are, we know nothing of those that may meet us elsewhere, and they might be more perilous to us. But to one trying manfully to make the most of his lot my text comes with very potent help. All things seem to be against you. It was quite otherwise when you never tried to serve God. Still there is nothing in what you have to bear which may not be manfully borne. Christ has not come to save us by taking us out of the world, but to save us by a grace that brings salvation. Wherever you are, therefore, from that very point you may advance to sure, complete, and final conquest. Look at your sources of encouragement as well as your trials. And be sure if any man can be a Christian you are that man. There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear.
  2. With every temptation God will also make a way of escape that we may be able to bear it. 1. This is but an application of the general law that Christ’s grace is sufficient for us. God is here said to make the temptation as well as the way of escape. He knows precisely the strength we need, because He has prepared the occasion on which we shall be called to use it. He never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax. 2. But how is it He makes a way of escape? He does not withdraw the temptation any more than He took away Paul’s thorn. This would be to defeat the very purpose for which He has sent it, viz., to develop by exercise the strength we possess, and train it into greater maturity. If the temptation were removed we should only be confirmed in our feebleness. We escape it by not only avoiding the sin to which it leads, but by using it as a stepping-stone to farther attainment. 3. This way of escape must be sought for, or it may not be found. It reveals itself to the eye that waits only upon God. In our very praying we shall enter into it, and by our very prayer we shall pass through it into larger liberty and strength.

III. God is faithful. Therefore He not only controls the strength of temptation, but will also enable us to sustain it. Should you be disposed to doubt this, remember His faithfulness. He cannot be true to His purpose of grace, and yet allow us to be overcome by the sheer weight and pressure of evil. This would also place Him in contradiction to Himself, which cannot be. His actions are never at variance with His nature, though sometimes they may seem to us to be so. He has pledged Himself by the gift of His Son to leave nothing undone to give it the victory. Let us, therefore, be of good courage. His presence is the guarantee of victory. (C. Moinet.)

Temptation:—Many think that their temptations are—

  1. Singular. But they are common.
  2. Intolerable. But they are proportioned.

III. Invincible. But there is a way of escape.

God the helper of the tempted:—A sentinel posted on the walls, when he discerns a hostile party advancing, does not attempt to make head against them himself, but informs his commanding officer of the enemy’s approach, and leaves him to take the proper measures against the foe. So the Christian does not attempt to fight temptation in his own strength: his watchfulness lies in observing its approach, and in telling God of it by prayer. (W. Mason.)

Able to bear the pressure of temptation:—Professor Wyville Thomson remarks that the fact that a shark “can bear without inconvenience the pressure of half a ton on the square inch is a sufficient proof that the pressure is applied under circumstances which prevent its affecting it to its prejudice; and there seems to be no reason why it should not tolerate equally well a pressure of one or two tons. At all events, it is a fact that the animals of all the invertebrate classes which abound at a depth of 2,000 fathoms do bear that extreme pressure, and that they do not seem to be affected by it in any way.” We turn from the kingdom of nature to the kingdom of grace, and we say to every child of God in the depths of doubts and distresses, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.”

On temptation:

  1. What is temptation? Generally an incentive, enticement, or provocation to sin. But there are other things called temptations which are not so in their own nature, but only as they become, through the corruption of our hearts, the occasions of sin, viz., afflictions, and the self-denying duties of the Christian life. God tempted Abraham, to try him whether he would be obedient or not. Afflictions are called temptations because they stir up impatience and provoke unbelief and apostasy. “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God.” Strictly speaking He can tempt no man. He never provokes us to sin. But He does try and prove us, whether we will keep His commandments or not.
  2. Whence come temptations? From what has been said it is evident that they come—1. Permissively, from God. But permission does not imply approval. God looks on, and suffers creatures to work out their own purposes: that is all. 2. Externally and instrumentally, from Satan, the world, or providential circumstances. 3. Internally, and by way of assistance they derive their force from our own corruptions, and liability to be overcome. Our natures are like dry fuel, ready to kindle at the least spark. It is a happy thing that, while God permits temptation, He also governs and controls it, holding Satan himself in check.

III. Why does God permit temptation? 1. To prove and develop character. 2. To show His own power and wisdom in bringing good out of evil. 3. To strengthen the graces of sanctification in His people. (1) By giving scope and exercise to those graces. What would become of them if they were not called out into action? (2) By necessitating nearness to God and perpetual dependence upon Christ.

  1. How does God limit temptation? 1. By controlling the power and malice of the tempter. 2. By adopting, moderating, alleviating providential circumstances, so as to suit the measure of our strength. 3. By raising our own strength in proportion to the temptation. “As thy day is, so shall thy strength be.”
  2. What security have we that God will so limit temptation? This: “God is faithful.” 1. Therefore He will not break His word. This is the subject of express promise; and God is not a man that He should lie. 2. Therefore He will not falsify the assurances which He has given of His tender regard for the weakest of His people. They are His jewels. Will He suffer them to be trampled under foot? They are the sheep of His pasture. Will He, the Great Shepherd, permit the ravager to make havoc in the fold? They are His children. Will He abandon them to the rage of an implacable foe?
  3. What are our duties in reference to temptation? 1. Beware of rushing headlong into danger. The Word of God gives no sanction to foolhardiness. Why should Peter, in the plenitude of his vainglorious zeal, thrust himself into the high priest’s palace, and dare the jealous scrutiny of a thousand eyes, as though it were impossible for him to faint in the hour of trial? 2. Be armed against timidity and discouragement. If God allows you to fall into circumstances of temptation, be not dismayed. What servant of Christ was ever conducted to heaven without being often confronted by the enemy? 3. Resist to the uttermost. (D. Katterns.)

On temptation:

  1. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. Our translators were not satisfied with this rendering, so they gave “moderate” in the margin, which is further still from the meaning of the original, which signifies “such as is suited to man’s nature and circumstances, and what every man may reasonably expect.” Consider—1. Your body. How many are the evils to which it is liable! Now considering that all pain implies temptation, how numberless must the temptations be which beset every man while he dwells in the body! 2. The present state of the soul. How weak is the understanding! How liable are the wisest to form false judgments! 3. The situation of even those who fear God. They dwell amidst the ruins of a disordered world, among men that know not God, with sin remaining if not reigning, and exposed to the assaults of evil spirits. “The servant is not above his Master”; and if Christ was tempted can we expect exemption?
  2. God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. “He knoweth whereof we are made; He remembereth that we are but dust,” and His justice could not punish us for not resisting a temptation disproportionate to our strength. Not only His mercy but His faithfulness is pledged, for the whole tenor of His promises is “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” Our great Physician observes every symptom of our distress that it may not rise above our strength.

III. He will with the temptation make a way to escape, i.e., a way out. 1. By removing the occasion of it. “I was walking,” says one, “over Dover cliffs with the lady I was to marry in a few days, when her foot slipped, and I saw her dashed in pieces on the beach. I cried, ‘This evil admits of no remedy. I must now go mourning all my days. It is impossible I should ever find another so fitted for me in every way.’ I added in an agony, ‘This is just such an affliction as God Himself cannot redress!’ And just as I uttered these words I awoke: for it was a dream!” Just so can God remove any temptation; making it like a dream when one waketh. 2. By delivering in the temptation—suffering the occasion to remain, but removing its bitterness so that it shall not be a temptation at all, but a ground of thanksgiving. Thus the Marquis de Renty, when asked while suffering from a violent attack of rheumatism, “Sir, are you in much pain?” answered, “My pains are extreme: but through the mercy of God I give myself up, not to them, but to Him.” (J. Wesley, M.A.)

Temptations not irresistible:—Among the various extenuations of sin, none is more common than that, considering the weakness of human nature and the strength of some temptations, it is not to be expected that we should get the better of them. But how groundless this is the text may inform us. Let me—

  1. Explain and state this truth. Observe—1. That the apostle is not speaking of the powers of mere human nature, but of human nature Divinely assisted. 2. That he does not affirm that the measure of Divine grace shall be such as to enable us so to baffle all temptations, as to live perfectly sinless, but only that we shall be preserved from falling into such sins as to throw us out of the favour of God. 3. That the supernatural assistance which enables us to resist temptations, supposes our use of means and our concurrence with it to the best of our power.
  2. Confirm this by various ways of proof. 1. By experience. There is no temptation but what hath been actually withstood by holy men and women, and what hath been already done may be repeated. 2. By reason. They who say any temptation is not to be conquered speak absurdly and inconsistently. For—(1) A temptation is an experiment, a trial, whether we will do or forbear such a thing; and therefore it supposes it to be in our power to do or forbear, else it were no trial. (2) What is grace but an extraordinary supply of strength to resist temptations? And therefore, if it be not now equal to every temptation, the grace of God has been given us in vain. (3) Is not man by nature a free agent? But if there be any such things as inducements to sin that are altogether insuperable, there is an end of his boasted freedom. The great end of man is to glorify God by living according to the perfect rule of right reason and virtue; and yet impossible it is that he should ever attain this end while he converses with temptations which he cannot surmount. Now all other beings have powers that enable them to fulfil the design of their creation. Is man alone utterly destitute of these powers? (4) Consider the nature and perfections of God. (a) How can He be holy, who is the author of sin? And how can He but be the author of sin who hath so adapted us that it is impossible for us to withstand the force of them? (b) How can He be said to be just who places us under irresistible temptations; and yet, as He Himself assures us, will punish us for not resisting them? (c) Again, how can He be true? His promises are most express and lull (2 Cor. 12:9; Rom. 8:37; Numb. 23:19; Rom. 3:4).

III. Application. 1. There is matter of encouragement arising from hence to the good (Psa. 112:7, 8). Is not He that is with you stronger than he that is against you? And hath He not promised that His strength shall support your weakness? 2. Here is ample matter of reproof to the hypocrite and the profane person. Let them not indulge the hope that in this thing the Lord will pardon His servant (2 Kings 5:18), and that one small fault will be overlooked among a crowd of other good qualities. 3. Wherefore, laying aside shifts and excuses, let us set ourselves in good earnest to resist all temptations; let us put out all the strength which we naturally have to this purpose, and beg of God supernaturally to supply us with what we have not. (Bp. Atterbury.)

Temptation and suffering limited and made useful:—The word “temptation” in the first passage is the same as “trial” in the second; and this difference only reproduces the different use of the original word by Paul and Peter respectively. The testing to which Paul refers arises from solicitation to wrong-doing; while Peter speaks of a testing that takes the form of persecution. Our discipline arises first from the sin that is in us, and, secondly, from the sin that is without us. The first constitutes our temptation; the second our trial. The first has to do with our salvation; the second with our equipment for Christian service.

  1. It is a universal law that a man’s real life only begins when he has fought and won his first great battle with sin, or when he has met and endured his first great crushing trial. And yet, it is hardly less universally true that every man, when the hour of his temptation or his trial dawns, imagines that both are peculiar. As long as the thunder-cloud does not gather above their heads and burst upon them, they see nothing strange in the ways of God with men; but, when the storm breaks upon them, it is “something very strange, very peculiar,” they say. Now the great temptations in this century were never better summarised than they were in the Ten Commandments. The same is true of trials. They have their sources in the poverty, sickness, and bereavements which are common to man. You cannot mention a temptation or a trial of which you will not be able to find illustrations in your own community, to say nothing of past generations; so it will be to the end of time.
  2. Now, this fact of the universality of temptation and of trial suggests that there must be some profound necessity for its existence. And this necessity is partly—1. Because we are human—creatures of limited capacities. How many things we pant to do! How many things we want to know! And yet every advance only renders us more conscious of our constitutional limitations. Now, it is a severe trial to a man who is wide awake for him not to know what he wants to know, and to do what he wants to do. It is just here that we discover how it was possible for man, without any tendencies to sin, to fall from his first estate. The temptation was to resent the limitations that were imposed, to seek after a freedom that should be like the freedom of God. There will be always many more things in heaven and in earth than our loftiest philosophies dream of; problems in the moral government of God that stagger us, and where faith in His goodness and righteousness is our only refuge. 2. Because we are sinners, and because a heroic treatment is needed if we are to secure salvation from sin. We are full of pride and obstinacy, and that covetousness which is idolatry, and self-righteousness. And so comes in the serious discipline of life, to teach us our weakness and show us the weakness of our supports, that we may hasten to find refuge in His grace.

III. So universal and necessary a discipline as this must be perfectly adjusted to our capacities and necessities. God does not deal with men in the mass. He deals with each soul singly. In all wise parental government there is the most careful study of each child’s peculiarities. One needs to be pushed; another needs the check. As a father pitieth his child, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. 1. No man is subject to any temptation for which there is not provided a way of escape; and there is no burden that needs to involve necessarily any serious injury. We hear a great deal about irresistible temptations, but there is no such thing. Sin always begins in an evil heart, and for the possession of that evil heart the sinner alone is responsible—not his circumstances nor the government of God. It is the plea of the devil when men say, “The temptation was so strong that I could not resist it.” God bars no man’s way up so that it becomes necessary for him to fall into captivity and to abide there. 2. And, as there are no irresistible temptations, so are there no trials so crushing that a man needs to be buried under them. God is too kind ever to impose any burdens that are heavier than our shoulders can bear. 3. And this brings me to the promised and assured deliverance. The fight may be long and hard, but it need not be of uncertain issue. The trial may be very severe, but God’s pruning-knife never goes further than the requirements of the case. Every death-pang in your experience may be, by the grace of God, a birth-cry. The grave where your dearest hopes are buried may be the garden where the fairest flowers are blooming, filling your life with the very fragrance of heaven. 4. Perhaps some of you are tempted to say that your experience is like that of the apostle of the Gentiles, who had his thorn in the flesh. Well, that drove him to his knees when he found God’s grace sufficient, and after thirty years of service for Christ, he learned to rejoice in tribulation and to glory in infirmities, because in his own weakness the strength of Christ was magnified. 5. But deliverance is not the sweetest nor last word in the gospel of consolation. The discipline is intended to leave us richer than we could have been without its endurance. Temptation and trial are God’s drill and dynamite to blow up the obstructions that choke the channels of our affections and energies until the whole broad stream of God’s life shall course through our own and have its own sweet will. There are three forms of gladness—the gladness that wells up from the comparatively innocent heart of the child, and which is only more intense in the youth; the joy which takes to itself the form of quiet contentment in the maturer years of manhood; and the blessedness of a ripe old age that has learned to submit its own will to the will of God. (A. J. F. Behrends, D.D.)

Our safety in temptation:—It is said of a good portrait that the eyes of it seem always turned to the observer. So it is with Scripture. To the loving it rays forth love; to the trembling, comfort; to the presumptuous, admonition; to the desponding, encouragement. Mark this in the passage of our text. For the careless it has a look of warning: “Let him who thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” But to the anxious it turns a look of encouragement. Rouse up a child to its peril in playing on the brink of a precipice: for the moment this peril is increased; it may be scared into falling over. The hand of help, therefore, must second the voice of admonition. Hence the sudden turn in St. Paul’s words, “But.” Your safety lies:—

  1. Not in what you are to yourselves. Those Corinthians “thought they stood.” But we may not trust—1. Our wisdom. Paul had complimented the Corinthians on their wisdom (chap. 1:5). He makes appeal to them as wise (chap. 10:15). They could talk contemptuously of the emptiness of idolatry (chap. 8:1–7). Yet they ran into the peril of the idolatrous banquets. 2. Our wakefulness. This indeed is an important means of safety. St. Paul had warned the Corinthians, “Take heed lest ye fall” (ver. 12). Forewarned is forearmed. But this is not enough. The disciples were forewarned (Matt. 26:31). Yet they all “forsook Jesus and fled” (Matt. 26:56). Therefore Jesus did not say merely, “Keep awake,” but “Keep awake and pray” (Matt. 26:41). 3. Our will. The resolute man fancies he has built up a breakwater against sin. But who knows the height to which the tide may rise? “Let not a man,” says Bacon, “trust his victory over nature too far; for nature will be buried a great time, and yet revive on the occasions of temptation. Like as it was with Æsop’s damsel, turned from a cat to a woman, who sat very demurely at the board’s end, till a mouse ran before her.”
  2. But in what God is to you. “God is faithful.” 1. To His love for us. Mark the implied contrast in the word. You, alas! are becoming unfaithful to your relation to God (vers. 1–9). 2. To His care over us. “God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” One seems to see a careful father fitting gymnastic exercises to his son’s age and skill and strength. The youth must indeed be exercised; trial is the very condition of growth; the fresh breeze is indispensable to the opening leaf; in the furnace we must be hardened into vessels unto honour, meet for the Master’s use; but see the care with which the Father proportions these exercises, laying on such burdens only as the son’s weak shoulders can bear; changing them according to his proficiency, fitting his discipline to his powers, and his powers to his discipline, so that while he becomes well breathed he may not be breathless; while stimulated, not broken down. 3. To His designs for us. “God will make a way to escape.” He has ulterior views in everything. He makes all things work in concert for our ultimate good. And He will help us to bear up under every intermediate evil, till the way of escape, the passage out of it, is found. Imagine a forlorn hope, sent forward with promise of “supports” to follow (as in the storming of the Redan): the enemy may be mighty; he may now urge by promises, now scare by threats, into surrender; the spirits may faint; a treacherous whisper may arise, “It is no use to struggle any longer.” But the “supports” are coming! Bear up therefore; hold on. Each particular temptation has its outlet; Jesus found it so with Satan’s reiterated attacks. “Consider,” then, those who have fought before you: observe “the end of their struggle”; the “way of escape out of it” (the same word in Heb. 13:7, as in our text). (T. Griffith, M.A.)

How God delivers from temptation:—1. Of all the evils incident to man, there is none from which an escape is so difficult and desirable as from temptations. All escape imports some precedent danger—the difficulty of getting through it, and a final deliverance from it: so in this business of temptation, the danger threatening is damnation; the difficulty of escaping it is due partly to the importunity of the evil one, and partly to an inbred inclination to sin heightened by custom, and inflamed by circumstances. 2. Therefore nothing less than a Being infinitely wise can sound all the depths, and outreach all the intrigues of this tempting spirit; and nothing but a Being of infinite power can support the weaknesses and supply the defects of a poor mortal engaged against him. Now how God does this we shall now inquire.

  1. If the force of the temptation be chiefly from the importunities of the evil spirit, God often puts an issue to the temptation, by rebuking and commanding down the tempter himself. For although he acts the part of an enemy, yet he does the work of a servant. He is in a chain and that chain is in God’s hand. Certain it is that God has put it into the power of no created being to make a man do an ill thing against his will; yet though Satan cannot compel to sin, yet he can follow a man with vehement and continual solicitations to it. Though none of his fiery darts should kill, yet it is next to death to be always warding off deadly blows. And being brought thereby to the very brink of destruction, God is then pleased to step in and command the tempter to hold his peace, or his hand, and so takes him off before he is able to fasten.
  2. If the force of a temptation be from the weakness of a man’s mind, God oftentimes delivers by mighty inward supplies of strength. The former way God delivers a man by removing his enemy, but this latter by giving him wherewithal to conquer him. It is with the soul and temptation as with weak sight and the sunbeams: if you divert the beam you relieve the man, but if you give him an eagle’s eye he will look the sun in the face, and so if God gives an assistance greater than the opposition, the man is delivered by a method as much more noble as the trophies of a conqueror surpass the inglorious safeties of an escape. Thus it was with St. Paul (2 Cor. 12:7–9). God Himself fought his battles, and that brought him off, not only safe, but triumphant. But this kind of deliverance was never so signal and illustrious as in the noble army of martyrs. As God brings His servants into different conditions, He fails not to measure out to them a spirit proportioned to the exigences of each condition. And, therefore, let us so prepare for the day of trial before it comes, as not to despond under it when it comes.

III. If the force of a temptation springs chiefly from those circumstances which expose a man to tempting objects, God frequently delivers by a providential change of the whole course of his life, and the circumstances of his condition. And this He may do either by a general public change which always carries with it the rise and fall of a vast number of particular interests, or by a personal change, affecting a man only. Accordingly, if God shall transplant a voluptuous person from a delicate way of living into a life of hardship, those temptations which drew their main force from his opulence will attack him but very faintly under penury. There is, however, such an impregnable strength in some natures as to baffle all providential methods, and even when occasions of sin are wanting, to supply the want by concupiscence from within. So that a man can be proud though in rags, and an epicure with the bread and water of affliction. In a word, a man can be his own tempter, and so is always sure of a temptation. Nevertheless, the way God took with His own people was to plague them in their bodies and estates for the salvation of their souls. And so now if riches debauch a man, poverty shall reform him. If high places turn his head, a lower condition shall settle it. If his table becomes his snare, God will diet him into a more temperate course of living.

  1. If the force of a temptation be chiefly from the solicitation of some unruly affection, God delivers from it by the overpowering influence of His Holy Spirit gradually weakening, and at length totally subduing it. The tempter for the most part prevails not so much by what he suggests to a man as by what he finds in him. Archimedes said that he would turn the whole earth if he could but have some place beside the earth to fix his feet upon. So, skilful an engineer as the devil is, he will never be able to play his engines to any purpose unless he finds something to fasten them to. If he finds a man naturally passionate he has numberless ways and arts to transport him into a rage. It being with the soul as with some impregnable fort, nothing but treachery within itself can deliver it up to the enemy. “I withheld thee from sinning against Me,” says God to Abimelech (Gen. 20:6); and no doubt God has innumerable ways by which He does this. God may withhold a man from sin by plucking away the baneful object, by diverting his thoughts and desires, by putting impediments in his way, and by various methods of restraint. But when, over and above all this, God, by the powerful impressions of His almighty Spirit, shall subdue and mortify the sinful appetite and inclination itself, and plant a mighty contrary bias in the room of it, this is a greater, a nobler, and a surer deliverance out of temptation than even the prevention of the sinful act itself. (R. South, D.D.)

God’s promise of assistance under trials:—The design of the apostle seems to be the establishment of two things—1. That it is not man himself, but God, who delivers out of temptation; and—2. That the ways by which God does this are above man’s power, and for the most part beyond his knowledge. Now these considerations are great in themselves, but greater in their practical consequences. These are:—

  1. That the only true estimate of an escape from temptation is to be taken from the final result of it. From whence these two things follow. First, that an escape from a temptation may consist with a long continuance under it; indeed so long, that God may put an end to its life altogether. Secondly, that a final escape may well consist with several foils under a temptation. For a foil given or received is not a conquest. The tempter may be worsted in many a conflict, and yet come off victorious at last. True, “if we resist the tempter he will fly from us,” but he may return and carry all before him. It is not every skirmish which determines the victory. Let no man then flatter himself, yet let him not despond; for God may deliver him for all this; only let him continue the combat still. Nothing should make us give up our hope till it forces us to give up the ghost too. But God will have us wait His leisure. There is a ripeness for mercy as well as for judgment, and consequently there is a fulness of time for both.
  2. No way out of any calamity if brought about by sin ought to be accounted a way made or allowed by God. On the contrary, it is a seeking to cure the burnings of a fever by the infections of a plague; a flying from the devil as a tempter, and running into his hands as a destroyer. The temptations which men generally attempt thus to rid themselves of are either from suffering, or from the pretence of compassing some great good by an action in itself indeed evil, but vastly exceeded by the good brought to pass thereby. But this is a wretched fallacy. The procurement of the greatest good cannot warrant the least evil, nor the safety of a kingdom commute for the loss of personal innocence. While men fly from suffering, they are so fatally apt to take sanctuary in sin: which is to go to the devil to deliver them out of temptation. For so men certainly do where suffering is the temptation, and sin must be the deliverance.

III. To choose or submit to the commission of a lesser sin to avoid the commission of a greater ought not to be reckoned amongst those ways whereby god delivers men from temptation. I have heard it reported of a certain monk, who for a long time was worried with three temptations, viz., to commit murder, or incest, or to be drunk; till at length, quite wearied out, he pitches upon the sin of drunkenness, as the least, to avoid his solicitation to the other two. But the tempter was the better artist. For having prevailed upon him to be drunk, he quickly brought him in the strength thereof to commit both the other sins too. Such are we when God abandons us to our own deluded and deluding judgment.

  1. If it be the prerogative of god to deliver men out of temptation, let no man, when the temptation is founded in suffering, be so solicitous how to get out of it, as how to behave himself under it. Nothing so much entitles a tempted person to relief from above as an unwearied looking up for it. In every arduous enterprise, action must begin the work, and courage carry it on; but it is perseverance only which gives the finishing stroke.
  2. There can be no suffering but may be endured without sin; and if so, may be likewise made a means whereby God brings a man out of temptation. The Christian martyrs were a glorious and irrefragable proof of this. No evil, how afflictive soever, ought to be accounted intolerable, which may be made a direct means to escape one intolerably greater. And death itself, which nature fears and flies from as its greatest enemy, is yet the grand instrument in the hand of mercy to put a final period to all temptations. (Ibid.)

God in relation to the trials of the good:—The verb to tempt meant originally to try, to test, or to prove. This is its meaning in John 6:6; Acts 26:7; 2 Cor. 13:5; Rev. 2:2, &c. This is its meaning in the Lord’s Prayer, which means “Lead us not into trial.” The text suggests that—

  1. God permits them. “God will not suffer you,” &c. It has been asked, Is not a being responsible for an evil which he can prevent? Answer. 1. If the prevention would outrage the constitutional liberty of the moral creature, it would be wrong. 2. If the permitter of this evil had determined to subordinate it to the highest beneficence, its permission involves no wrong. If I had the power of preventing a terrible trial befalling an ungodly man, which I knew would turn him to God, should I be justified in preventing it?
  2. He adapts them. “Above that ye are able.” He adapts them—1. To the character. The trial that would touch one man’s leading central imperfection would not affect another. Some men require a blow that shall wound their sensuality, others their greed, others their ambition, others their love. The trial that is needed He will “suffer” to come. 2. To the capacity. He will not allow any trial to happen which the sufferer is incapable of bearing. “As thy day so thy strength shall be.”

III. He subordinates them. “Will with the temptation also make a way to escape.” Or, “make the issue that ye may be able to bear it.” Whether the trial is a temptation to your patience, honesty, resignation, confidence in God, &c., He will cause this issue to be good. And this virtually will be for you a deliverance. All the good in heaven have come out of “great tribulations.” (D. Thomas, D.D.) What keeps the Christian (text and 2 Cor. 12:9):—There is nothing more wonderful than a man whose nature is essentially evil, whose path is thronged with spiritual enemies, should be brought off “more than a conqueror.” The only explanation is to be found in our texts.

  1. This is matter of distinct, positive, repeated promise. God has bound Himself, even by covenant, to stand by His child and never to suffer the enemy to prevail over him. He never goes back on His word.
  2. These promises are matter of experience. They have been put to the test in every age, land, and occasion, and such a thing as a failure was never known.

III. These promises are world-wide in their application. They cover every moment of life—extend to every need and duty—are equal to any emergency or strait.

  1. The significance, the fulness, and the all-sufficing of the pledges of god’s faithfulness can be known only when we have put them to the proof! (Homiletic Monthly.)

A fair chance for salvation:—Let us consider the matter by way of objections. It is objected—

  1. That men are depraved citizens of a fallen world. The answer is that the world is redeemed.
  2. That there is an unusual, startling, compelling element in their temptations. The answer is, that even temptation is tethered by law, and the special severity of it is a myth.

III. That the total moral and social environment must conspire with the inner depravity to make sin victor. The answer is that, practically, there is much in these relations of ours to sin, on the one hand, and righteousness on the other, to break the force of temptation. 1. There is the danger which attends sinning. This is one of God’s ways for our escape. 2. Our memory reproduces the pain and sorrow which past sins caused us. This is another of God’s ways. 3. We know that sinning is wrong, and conscience, more or less alert in all souls, makes another of God’s fire-escapes. 4. Every sinner is, to some extent, conscious of coming retribution, and that mingles with his motives and makes a way of escape. 5. Nor is it a small thing that every grace and nobleness are honoured in the consciousness of sinning men. Is it no way of escape that right-doing wears the purple of royalty?

  1. That, though these things may be true, yet common experience proves that men are in a hard case as related to righteousness. Admitted. Because it is hard infinite love stoops to help us. A hard case, therefore, is not a hopeless case. Redemption has made obedience possible. Suppose you were as anxious to win righteousness as to win your way in the world?
  2. That “anyhow some men have not a fair chance,” e.g., the heathen in the slums of our cities and the heathen abroad. But what does this objection mean? “The race is not fair, and though I might win, I’ll not run where my fellows must fail.” Beautiful self-abnegation! But will this objector apply the principle? These same people have not his chance to be rich—will he surrender his chance on that account? What good of Providence does he refuse because street Arabs have it not? And how can any of us know that others have not a fair chance for salvation?
  3. That general experience confirms the view that the chance is not fair. And now we study arithmetic and the saints are few while the sinners are countless legions. But is there one saint? Has one climbed the hill of virtue? Then you also may climb. That men choose to be morally lazy, rather than agonise for righteousness, may be true. But the men who escape prove to us that there is a way of escape.

VII. That the law is rigorous and men very weak. Here the sinner stands by the sea and tells us it is wide, at the foot of the mountain and declares that it is high. All this is pretty enough. The rigour of the law and the far-offness of perfect character may be admitted. But that is not our practical question. When men began to sail the seas they did not hesitate to creep along the coasts, because the ocean was wide; knowing the Alps to be high, early men struggled up them and through them. The practical man has never hesitated to do what he could because there seemed to be no end to his possible labour. The practical question is not whether you can do all, but have you a margin? Are you conscious of no power to do anything that the law of right asks of you in betterment of your life? This which you can do is your fair chance for salvation. (D. H. Wheeler, D.D.)

The way of escape:—1. St. Paul was writing from Asia to Europe. Many things divide us: time and place, rank and worth, age and country, and yet, in Christ, all may be one; and St. Paul can write, under the shadow of Diana, to dwellers in another idolatrous city, and touch a chord to which their hearts vibrate as one, because Christ is the theme, and the Spirit of Christ the inspiration. And that theme and that inspiration enables us to read, as if written to us, this ancient Greek epistle, though Ephesus and Corinth have passed away. 2. And there is yet another thought in this obliteration in Christ of all natural distances and differences. Mark how St. Paul freshens into new life the old histories of the Bible—makes these Corinthians see in Israelite wanderings the type of all human wanderings and in Israelite judgments the history of the dangers and catastrophes of their own. Such is the setting of my text. 3. Temptation is another word for trial. It is exploration. It is the probing or the sifting which shows what is in us, how much and what kind of natural or acquired evil—how much, if any, of the grace of God’s Holy Spirit, sought and cherished by prayer. 4. Though St. Paul would have us be serious, he would not have us to be despondent, and therefore he adds three words of encouragement about this life of trial.

  1. Do not imagine that you are alone in this experience. Your temptation is quite common. Every physician of the soul knows it perfectly well. 1. There is consolation even in the sympathy of faith. It is no selfishness, it is nature as God made it, to find comfort in the fellowship of suffering. On this principle, in part, the Cross was uplifted. “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them.” If you could place yourself in imagination among the first readers of this letter, you might have said to yourself, “I live here in a city wholly given to idolatry. My own house—wife or husband, sister or mother—scoffs at my faith in Jesus, and threatens me with excommunication if I confess it. How can St. Paul tell me that I am under no temptation but the commonest of all?” But when we turn to our own life, with Christians all around, ought we not to say, “I, at all events, cannot call myself exceptionally tempted.” 2. Yet there is not one who has not some imaginations of a peculiarity in his own temptation. One says, “If my disposition were but passionate instead of being sullen!” Or, “If my snare were only temper instead of being the flesh!” Or, “If I had but a parent who could feel with me, or a husband who was helpful, it would be so much easier to be a Christian! But as things are with me, there is a force in my temptation which is not common at all.” 3. Now let this message straight from God weigh with you in this matter. “Depend upon it,” St. Paul says, “there is more of equalit than you reckon in the spiritual circumstances of God’s creatures. Temptation is not so disproportioned as you, in your own little instance, may imagine, and if you knew all you would admit it.”
  2. St. Paul affirms that, if it were not so, there would be a breach of engagement, where we are quite certain there cannot be, in God Himself. 1. If God did suffer this, He would not be faithful. It is like St. John saying, “God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” There is nothing in the religion of nature which binds God to forgive sin, or to so temper temptation as to make Him unjust if He did not do so. But the gospel, which is God’s covenant in Christ, has introduced new equities; God has promised salvation; therefore all things that accompany it, strength as the day, and a Fatherly hand so guiding that all shall work together for good. It cannot work for good that a man should be overpowered with evil; therefore the promise that the temptation shall be coerced into an exact adaptation to the strength given, i.e., grace, is involved in the promise that faith shall save. 2. What a serious hue does this give to being tempted! With many of us it is a light thing. It is but to sin and be sorry, and all will be well again. St. Paul assumes the terribleness of sin, and says that God Himself would be unfaithful if He left you to it.

III. The temptation comes, but with a way to escape. “The exit”—“the way out.” 1. It may have happened to one of you, on some dull November evening, to find yourself surprised by a sudden transition from twilight to darkness. You have been, perhaps, in a meadow, surrounded by woods. There was one little wicket gate somewhere, but you could not find it. You went round and round the enclosure, but the light was gone, and you might remain there till morning. Accident or Providence at last guided you to it; and then you could understand what St. Paul means—the one way out which makes all the difference between a hopeless entanglement and a remediable perplexity. 2. There is a moment in every temptation when God makes the exit. There is a pause between the suggestion and the execution of every wrong thing, which leaves room for escape. An angry retort is upon your tongue: it need not become articulate. A passionate impulse is upon you: you need not strike. A sinful desire is in your heart: you need not take that turn which will lead you by the house of danger. When lust conceives it bringeth forth sin; but it takes time. Conclusion: 1. If no temptation is above the common, away with our excuses for being what we are. 2. If God adapts the temptation to the strength, you must pray. It is not the strength of nature, but the strength of grace. 3. When temptation is upon you, look out for the way of escape. It is there: take heed that you miss it not. God makes it: it is yours to watch for it, and not to lose it. (Dean Vaughan.)

The limitations of the law of antagonism:—We are all familiar with the severity of life; we often feel, and feel bitterly, the extreme tension and painfulness of our present situation. It may be quite true that the fiery law is on the whole benign, that the battle of life ends with a victory for the better, ere it begins again a battle for the best; but so far as we are concerned individually, it is very difficult to bear the pressure and pain. Very delightful, then, is our text, showing how the Divine love tempers life’s fierce tyranny.

  1. Whilst discipline is essential to the perfecting of our nature, the struggle of life might be excessive and destructive. “Tried above that ye are able.” How easy this might be! We see in nature that the law of antagonism may become so severe and unremitting that it makes impossible those things of beauty and joy which prevail under normal conditions. In Arctic regions plants, which under more genial conditions would unfold themselves in a delightful perfection, remain stunted and mean, exhausting their vitality in withstanding the severities of the climate. The same is true of animal life. The Newfoundland dogs of Kane in the Polar seas become mad through the excruciating severity of the cold. The birds come to a certain strength and glory through the necessity of awareness, but there is often such a fearful bloodthirstiness in the tropical forest, such a profusion of cruel hawks, owls, serpents, and beasts of prey, that a bird’s life is one long terror, and it forgets its music. And this applies equally to man. He is all the better for a regulated conflict with his environment, but all the worse if the conflict attain undue severity. Sometimes a hopeful people have collapsed because they have been compelled to struggle at once against human oppression, and the destructive forces of inorganic nature; with both combined against him, man sooner or later succumbs, and the fields he has won from the primæval wood relapse once more into wild forestry, or into barren wildernesses. And all this is just as true of our moral as it is of our physical and intellectual nature. A fair share of hardship develops heroic qualities, but when existence becomes too hard it breaks the spirit; the child cruelly treated becomes cowed; men and women bred in misfortune’s school becomes timid, nervous, cowardly. So, if Heaven did not temper life, the finer qualities could never be developed in us. Overborne by unmitigated pressure, we should lose all faith, courage, hope; nothing would be left to us but atheism, cynicism, despair. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” Amid all the confusion, waste, ruin, sweat, tears, and blood of the groaning creation, God stands with the measuring-line, dealing to every man trial, as He assigns to every man duty, according to his several ability. “For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.”
  2. Some of the limitations which God has imposed on the severity of life. “But will with the trial also make a way of escape.” 1. There are doors of escape in the direction of nature and intellect. It is not all conflict with nature. Summer hangs out a gay flag of truce. Men shout in the gladness of the vintage; the sky rings with the joy of harvest. We have all gracious hours in which the discords of life are drowned in the music of the world. There are doors of escape also into the intellectual world. The door opening into the library, the picture-gallery, the observatory, the museum—all are doors of hope and salvation. In literature, art, and science increasing multitudes are finding bright intervals which make life endurable, and something more than endurable. 2. The Divine government softens the severity of life by the disposition and alternation of the trials by which we are exercised. A door of escape from one trial is sometimes found in the door which opens upon another, and one, perhaps, not at all less severe. Now, this variation of trial must be regarded as a mitigation of trial. Peter speaks of “being in heaviness through manifold temptations”; but that heaviness might have been utterly crushing had those temptations been less diversified. We little know how much we owe to the vast variety and unceasing change which obtain in the discipline of human life. Change and novelty play their benign part in trial as in pleasure. Manifold temptations are counter-irritants; they relieve one another; together they work to a complex strength and perfection. 3. The severity of life is broken by that law of reaction which God has established within our nature. Trials without discover forces within. Mighty forces often lie latent in nature until peculiar conditions elicit them. The trembling dewdrop is an electric accumulator, and within its silvery cells is stored a vast energy; the raindrop and the snowflake are the sport of the wind, but, converted into steam, we are astonished at their potentiality; the tiny seed seems weakness itself, yet, beginning to germinate, it rends the rock like a thunderbolt. Thus is it, only in a far more eminent degree, with human nature strengthened by the indwelling Spirit of God. Says Victor Hugo, “There are instincts for all the crises of life.” A deep perplexity awakens a flash of insight; a bitter opposition sets the soul on fire; a grave peril opens our eyes to horses and chariots of fire; a severe catastrophe evokes a heroism of which the sufferer had not thought himself capable. The mere metaphysician perceives the extraordinary virtue of this mystic interior power: “In extreme cases the inner-deriving activity will conquer. Martyrs may find the flames at the stake as pleasant as rose-leaf couches.” God dwelling in us, working in us, speaking in us—here is the limitation of the otherwise overwhelming burden of life. As we pass through scorching flame and sweeping flood, He giveth us the victory through the Spirit which worketh in us mightily. 4. The rigour of life is abated by the social law. If, says the modern evolutionist, stern competition is the fundamental law of nature, coalition is the fundamental law of civilisation. The social law is the principle of civilisation, and the process of civilisation is nothing else than the giving to the principle of reciprocity ever more complete ascendancy. 5. Finally, life is blessedly tempered by the religious hope. “Behold, a door was opened in heaven.” What a hiding-place is the Church of God from the storm and stress of life! Strengthened by its sacraments, uplifted by its songs, ennobled by its solemnities, the penitent believing soul forgets its griefs and cares, tasting the powers of the world to come. No language can express the infinite preciousness of the grace flowing to us through the ministers and institutions of the Church of Christ. A lady recently related in one of the journals how she went through a veritable blizzard to see a flower-show. With one step she passed out of the wild night, the deep snow, the bitter wind, into a brilliant hall filled with hyacinths, tulips, jonquils, cyclamens, azaleas, roses, and orchids. It is the privilege of godly men, at any time, to pass at a step from the savage conflicts of life right into the sweet fellowship of God, finding grace to help in the time of need. It is the knowledge of God, the light of His truth, the power of His Spirit, the hope of His glory, which makes us more than conquerors in the times when men’s hearts fail them for fear. “For which cause we faint not.” No men knew more of the travail of existence than did the apostles, but by laying hold of the Eternal they smiled at life in its darkened aspects, at death in its cruellest forms. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Escape from temptation:—“Chronicles of Froissart” relate the issue of a siege, which took place in the days of chivalry, and somewhere, I think, in France. Though gallantly defended, the outworks of the citadel had been carried. The breach was practicable: to-morrow was fixed for the assault. That none, alarmed at the desperate state of their fortunes, might escape under the cloud of night, the besiegers guarded every sally-port, and, indeed, the whole sweep of wall. They had the garrison in a net, and only waited for the morrow to secure or to slaughter them. The night wore heavily on: no sortie was attempted; no sound came from the beleaguered citadel; its brave but ill-starred defenders seemed to wait their doom in silence. The morning came: with its dawn, the stormers rushed at the breach; sword in hand, they poured in to find the nest empty, cold. The bird had flown, the prey escaped. But how? That was a mystery: it seemed a miracle, till an opening was discovered that led by a flight of steps down into the bowels of the rock. They descended, and explored their way with cautious steps and lighted torches, until this subterranean passage led them out a long way off from the citadel, among quiet green fields and the light of day. It was plain that, by this passage, the doors of which stood open, their prey had escaped under cover of night. A clever device, a wise precaution. It was a refuge of the besieged, provided against such a crisis. And when affairs seem desperate, and the worst has come to the worst, how should it encourage God’s people to remember that He has promised them as safe a retreat! (T. Guthrie, D.D.)[10]

13. Verse 13 confirms that promise and warning work together to strengthen the Corinthians as they run the race to the end (1 Cor. 9:24–27). Paul warns them against presumption, but he then assures them of God’s faithfulness. The temptation they are facing is not atypical or extraordinary, but accords with the experience of all people everywhere (cf. Jas 1:13–14). In such temptations, particularly the temptation to apostatize—which is here represented by eating food offered to idols—God is faithful. He does not abandon his people in the midst of temptations to sin, even if the temptation is quite strong in that the Corinthians would be cut off from society if they did not accept invitations to the temples of false gods.

The focus in the verse is not actually on temptation in general, but, in context, on the temptation to apostatize, as the failure of Israel (10:1–10) and the subsequent verses (10:14–22) verify. God’s faithfulness is such that he will not allow the temptation to exceed the capacity of believers. He also provides believers with the ability to withstand the temptation. God’s grace is such that he gives believers the resolve to resist the temptation which beckons them, and they are thus able to withstand the temptation, which in this case is the desire to eat food offered to idols.

The assertion that God is faithful is consistently tied in Paul’s thought to a divine pledge to sustain his people until the end. The Corinthians are assured that they will be ‘blameless’ till the end, and the basis of this promise is that ‘God is faithful’ (1 Cor. 1:8–9). Similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul prays that believers will be ‘kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’, and then assures them that the petition will be fulfilled since the God ‘who calls you is faithful’ (1 Thess. 5:24). So also, in 2 Thessalonians 3:3 the Lord’s faithfulness reveals itself in protecting and keeping believers from Satan, which is another way of saying that they will be guarded from committing apostasy. We read in 2 Timothy 2:13 that believers may be ‘faithless’, yet Christ ‘remains faithful’, which means that those who sin by being faithless do not sin irreparably and thus are saved from final destruction. All of the texts that affirm the faithfulness of God or Christ occur in contexts that promise final salvation.


Paul’s reading of the Old Testament is quite fascinating. Israel and the church are not equated in every sense, and yet Israel is designated ‘our ancestors’ (10:1). In the same way, Israel’s rock was Christ, and Israel tested Christ in the wilderness. A typological relationship is forged between Israel and the church. Typology is not merely retrospective, for God, as the Lord of history, planned from the beginning that Israel would serve as a type for the church. Another feature of typology is escalation. For instance, Israel suffered physical punishment, but the punishment threatened for the church is eternal destruction. Discontinuity between Israel and the church is also present since Israel was a theocracy, whereas the church is not restricted to any particular nation but has members from every people and nation.

Verses 12 and 13 are quite remarkably juxtaposed. On the one hand, Paul warns the readers against presumption, calling them to vigilance and perseverance. In the next verse he assures them of God’s faithfulness, which promises them final preservation. Clearly, there is tension between the two themes, which Paul himself surely recognized. The solution proposed here is that the warnings actually build assurance instead of dampening it, since believers, by heeding admonitions, grow in their confidence that they will finally be saved. Still, perseverance is ultimately grounded in divine strength, in divine preservation.[11]

13. Temptation (see on v. 9) is sometimes understood simply as ‘test’ (gnb, Héring), a meaning it certainly has on occasion. But here it is used in a broad sense which includes both ‘test’ and ‘temptation’. Nothing exceptional in either way had happened to the Corinthians. They had experienced only what is common to man. And God is not simply a spectator of the affairs of life; he is concerned and active. Believers can count on his help. He will always make a way out. This word (ekbasis) may denote a mountain defile. The imagery is that of an army trapped in rugged country, which manages to escape from an impossible situation through a mountain pass. The assurance of this verse is a permanent comfort and strength to believers. Our trust is in the faithfulness of God.[12]

10:13 No temptation has overtaken you. The Greek word peirasmos can mean “trial,” “test,” or “temptation.” When the expected result is negative, translators prefer “temptation”; when a text expects a positive result, “test” proves preferable; “trial” hints at a period of struggle (cf. James 1:2, 14). In this text, there is no agreement among the English Bible translations. All three translations are possible. If Paul speaks to the weak (which would be a shift in emphasis), “temptation” could be a fitting translation. The weak could be tempted to participate in certain idol banquets for social prominence, financial security, or other reasons. If so, Paul recognizes the difficulty associated with declining an invitation to such an event and encourages them to recognize God’s faithfulness (Deut. 7:9). If he speaks to the strong, however (which seems most likely), who consider participation in such banquets their right, the word “test” may best express the sense. If they abstain from participation in these idol banquets, they are heeding Paul’s call to watch out that they do not fall. They will therefore pass the “test.” God is faithful; his test is not intolerable—they will be able to endure it. The test reveals their willingness to follow Christ. They do not need to worry; God will provide a way out of the test (Gen. 22:1–19).[13]

10:13 / More directly, verse 13 declares that the real crisis (temptation) that is besetting the community is manageable and conquerable. In fact, Paul declares the theological basis of such management: God is faithful (cf. 1:9). God provides the antidote to the reality of temptation that humans necessarily face at the juncture of the ages. There is no avoiding this temptation, but in this overlapping of times God’s saving provision is mixed with the temptation. Paul is confident in God’s sustaining grace. Although one can imagine different ways in which Paul would name this divine provision—the Spirit, Christ, the power of God—the apostle does not name God’s grace at this point; rather, he declares God’s faithfulness. In developing the argument as he does, Paul establishes the necessity of the Corinthians’ being related to the God who saves.

Dealt with in isolation from the passage in which it occurs, this verse is sometimes turned into a quasitheological philosophical explanation of human suffering, evil, and divine will. The statement is elaborate and does perhaps invite such exposition and speculation. Yet, one must see that this verse is not an isolated philosophical statement that purports to delineate intricate facets of life. Paul speaks to the Corinthians in context: They are arrogant, overly self-confident, believing themselves to be “standing firm.” But, Paul says, “Watch out!” The Corinthians are not above the unpleasant complications of normal human existence, and facing that fact they have one hope: the faithfulness of God. God is trustworthy, and even if the situation seems impossible, nothing is beyond God’s power and grace. When the Corinthians confront times of trouble they should not deny their susceptibility to temptation or trust their own superspirituality to see them through. Rather, they need to remember, to know, and to act on the one ultimate assurance that is their real security: God is faithful. The tendency to overread this verse is a temptation within itself, but despite the mysterious matters that it raises, the plain sense of the verse is a call to recognize and to trust God.[14]

Temptation and the answer to it (v. 13)

Along with warning about disqualification from the prize, Paul gives tremendous encouragement: no temptation is unique to us, and God’s faithfulness guarantees strength to counter it successfully (v. 13).

THE COMMONNESS OF TEMPTATION (Mark 1:12–13; 1 John 2:16). Someone else has already gone the road we have to take. Bishop Lightfoot, a Bishop of Durham, travelled in a horse carriage, along a very narrow mountain road in Norway. It got so narrow that there were only inches between the wheels of the carriage and the cliffs on one side, and the precipice on the other. The driver suggested in the end that Lightfoot would be safer to get out and walk. Lightfoot surveyed the road and then said, ‘Other carriages must have taken this road. Drive on!’

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS in our times of temptation. God’s faithfulness (v. 13) is a frequent emphasis of Paul (1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:18; 1 Thes. 5:24) and other New Testament writers (Heb. 10:23; 1 Peter 4:19; 1 John 1:9). It is a truth upon which to meditate for our comfort and encouragement.

GOD’S PROVISION WHEN WE ARE TEMPTED (see also Heb. 2:18). The ‘way out’ is not to escape the trial or temptation but to stand up under it. God uses testings and trials to make us spiritually mature (James 1:2–4).[15]

13 These final sentences of the paragraph are among the better known in this letter, having served generations of Christians as a word of hope in times of difficulty. Unfortunately it is also usually cited in isolation from its present context—understandably so, since it is difficult for almost any reader to see how it fits into the scheme of the present argument, especially since the application to come (v. 14) so nicely follows what has preceded (vv. 1–12). The best solution seems to be to regard it as functioning in two directions at once, both as a continuation of the preceding warning (vv. 1–12) and as a word of assurance leading to the prohibition to “flee from idolatry” (v. 14). There is no risk of their falling, Paul seems to be telling them in response to what he has just said, as long as one is dealing with ordinary trials; God will help them through such. But they must, “therefore, flee from idolatry” (v. 14) because by implication there is no divine aid when one is “testing” Christ in the way they currently are doing (v. 9); such activity is decidedly not in the category of “everyday trials.”

Thus, following hard on the heels of the warning to “be careful that you don’t fall” (v. 12), Paul reassures his Corinthian friends that they need not fall, at least not in the vicissitudes of Christian life common to all. The eternal God has already made a divine commitment to them when it comes to everyday human trials: “No temptation [or trial]530 has overtaken you except what is common to mankind,” that is, “to our human condition.532” The “trial” or “temptation” probably harks back to the sins enumerated earlier (vv. 7–10), but now against the backdrop of the larger “trial” that such Gentile converts in Corinth must have undergone through their conversion to this new religion out of the East (cf. esp. 1 Thess. 2:1–3:10). By persisting in attendance at the cultic meals with pagan friends they have put themselves in grave danger of “falling”; but the “temptation” (cf. p. 508 n. 530) to do so as part of the “trial” of their new life in Christ is not of such a nature that they must succumb to it.533

The divine alternative to succumbing that Paul offers is to remind them of God’s prior faithfulness on their behalf. When it comes to the trials common to this human life, “God is faithful” (see on 1:9), meaning God can be counted on to help them, and this in two ways. First, God has pledged “not to let you be tempted/tested beyond what you can bear.” This, of course, speaks not only to the fact of God’s prior activity in behalf of his people, Paul’s emphasis, but also to the fact that they will be called upon to endure. They must be prepared for “a long obedience in the same direction.” In his own faithfulness God has pledged not to allow what is beyond that endurance.535

Second, and as the other side of the same coin, “when you are tempted,537 God will also provide the way out (or make an end) so that you can stand up under it.” This sounds like a contradiction in terms: finding “the way out” so that you can “continue to bear it.”539 But the problem lies only in the less-than-precise wording. There is a “way out of,” or “end to,” whatever testing one may undergo; but that is to be seen from the divine perspective. One may yet have much to endure before the “end” is realized. In any case, one may trust the faithful God to provide the “end” to a test that has not necessarily had divine origins, but that God has “allowed,” as it were.

Paul’s point, then, is that in ordinary human trials one can expect divine aid. There is no danger of “falling” here. But it is otherwise with idolatry. The “way out” in that case is simply put: “Therefore, flee from idolatry,” which is the concern of what Paul says next.

The concluding affirmation of this paragraph helps to put things into perspective. The warning, based on the tragic examples of Israel, is straightforward and powerful. Some sins are so incompatible with life in Christ that sure judgment, meaning loss of salvation, is the inevitable result of persistence in them. These are not matters of being “taken in,” as it were, by temptation, thus falling into sin. These are deliberate acts, predicated on a false security, that put God to the test, as though daring God to judge one who has been “baptized” into Christ. Such heady disobedience, Paul assures us, is headed for destruction. But on the other side is the faithful God, ready to aid those enduring trial, assuring them that there is a way out, an end to it. And in the meantime God is there to apportion the necessary ability to endure, appropriate to the trial, to which our appropriate response is, “thanks be to God!”

  • The Prohibition and Its Basis (10:14–22)

14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

With this paragraph Paul finally brings to a conclusion the long argument with the Corinthians that began with his forbidding them to go to the temples to join in the idolatrous feasts (8:1). As was suggested earlier, the apparently circuitous route Paul has taken in order finally to reach this prohibition is probably due to the nature of their contention with him in their letter, which itself most likely set the agenda for Paul’s response. In any case, the way the argument opens (8:4–6, including the citations from their letter), the specific expression of the problem that followed (8:10), and the immediately preceding argument (vv. 1–13) all lead directly to this paragraph.

In a way similar to a preceding argument (6:12–20, esp. v. 18), Paul finally asserts an absolute prohibition against idolatry (v. 14). Then in an appeal to their good sense (v. 15) he explains from their own experience of the Lord’s Table (vv. 16–17) and from the OT sacred meals (v. 18) that the same realities carry over to the pagan meals (vv. 19–20), which therefore makes participation in one meal absolutely incompatible with participation in the other (v. 21). All of which ends on the rhetorical note that, just as with Israel’s idolatry (v. 9), by their current behavior they are “testing” Christ, provoking him to jealousy (v. 22).

The basis of Paul’s prohibition is twofold: (1) His understanding of the sacred meal as “fellowship,” as the unique sharing of believers in the worship of the deity, who was also considered to be present; (2) His understanding, based on the OT, of idolatry as a locus of the demonic.

It should be noted that these two bases for the prohibition bring closure to the two basic arguments from their letter: (1) that, since an idol is not real, not only is it of little consequence what we eat, but where should be of no concern as well, and (2) that as long as we participate in our own sacred meal, we remain secure in Christ. In the preliminary qualification of the content of their knowledge (8:4–6), Paul had allowed that for the pagans there are “many gods and many lords,” and that for some, these “gods” still had some measure of subjective reality. Now he asserts that they do have reality indeed, but not as “gods”; rather, these “deities” are in fact the habitation of demons. In the immediately preceding argument (vv. 1–13), Paul had pointed out on the basis of the divinely established example of Israel that there is no inherent safety in the sacraments. Now he moves beyond that to demonstrate the absolute incompatibility of eating both sacred meals. The kind of “fellowship” involved eliminates any such possibility.[16]

13 But before Paul shifts back to that topic, he cannot leave what he has just said without an aside related to his warning in v. 12, which he uses to comfort and reassure the Corinthians (and which has done the same for Christians ever since). Trials and temptations (both concepts are covered in the single word peirasmos, GK 4280) are common to us. Certainly the history of the Israelites just mentioned justifies the meaning “temptation,” but the rest of this verse suggests that the meaning “trial” (whether as a result of persecution or as anything that might tempt us to give up on the faith) is also within Paul’s semantic range here. Perhaps in the back of Paul’s mind here, too, is the awareness that if the Corinthians do, in fact, flee from all idolatry (cf. v. 14), they will suffer from social isolation and perhaps even persecution from their neighbors.

We all have plenty of both types of peirasmos in our lives. But for believers, “God is faithful.” Paul never tired of rejoicing in the faithfulness of God to the promises of his Word (see, e.g., 1 Co 1:9; 2 Co 1:18; 1 Th 5:24; 2 Ti 2:13). Especially relevant here is the promise in 2 Thessalonians 3:3, written in the context of persecution and suffering: “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” The Lord will indeed give us the strength by his grace to bear up under any peirasmos that we experience, if we will only depend on his strength (see esp. 2 Co 12:7–10). For we can be confident that he will eventually provide for us a way out, so that while we are still under the peirasmos we can endure it.[17]

[1] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1656). 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 (1 Co 10:13). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2205). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1475). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1781). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 527). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 165–166). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[8] Utley, R. J. (2002). Paul’s Letters to a Troubled Church: I and II Corinthians (Vol. Volume 6, p. 117). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[9] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 335–337). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[10] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: I. Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 16–28). New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company.

[11] Schreiner, T. R. (2018). 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary. (E. J. Schnabel, Ed.) (Vol. 7, pp. 207–208). London: Inter-Varsity Press.

[12] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 142). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[13] Vang, P. (2014). 1 Corinthians. (M. L. Strauss, Ed.) (p. 137). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[14] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (pp. 204–205). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[15] Prime, D. (2005). Opening up 1 Corinthians (pp. 89–90). Leominister: Day One Publications.

[16] Fee, G. D. (2014). The First Epistle to the Corinthians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Revised Edition, pp. 507–512). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[17] 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. 344). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

February 20 Evening Verse of the Day

7:12 holy and righteous and good. The law reflects God’s character (“holy”); it is the objective norm for humanity’s covenantal response to God (“righteous”); and it is beneficial for each one of us personally, since we have been created in the image of God (“good”).[1]

7:12 law is holy Paul praises the law as a good and holy gift from God, since it requires what is right from humanity. He rejects any argument that blames the law as the cause of human sin.[2]

7:12 In light of vv. 7–11, Paul affirms the holiness of the law and the goodness of God’s commands.[3]

7:12 The fact that the law reveals, arouses, and condemns sin, bringing death to the sinner, does not mean that the law is evil (cf. v. 7). Rather the law is a perfect reflection of God’s holy character (cf. vv. 14, 16, 22; Ps 19:7–11) and the standard for believers to please Him.[4]

7:12 — Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

The Word of God reveals to us the character of God—His holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, kindness, and more. As a reflection of Him, the Word both celebrates His perfect nature and reveals to us our own fallen nature.[5]

7:12 The conclusion is that the law as a whole and the individual commandments are holy. Our problem with sin is not the fault of the holy law of God, only of how our sinful nature (vv. 8, 11, 13) responds to the law.[6]

7:12 The law itself is holy, and each commandment is holy and just and good. In our thinking we must constantly remember that there is nothing wrong with the law. It was given by God and therefore is perfect as an expression of His will for His people. The weakness of the law lay in the “raw materials” it had to work with: it was given to people who were already sinners. They needed the law to give them the knowledge of sin, but beyond that they needed a Savior to deliver them from the penalty and power of sin.[7]

7:12. The fourth value is that the law reveals the nature of the Lawgiver. The troublemaker in the death scenario is not the law, but the sin nature, on which Paul is about to pull back the curtain in the second half of the chapter. But here he brings to a conclusion his essential answer to the objector who had asked, “Is the law sin?” (v. 7). Because the law comes from a holy, righteous, and good God, the law itself must reveal those same characteristics, which it does. Is there an unholy commandment to be found among God’s laws? No, because God is holy (Lev. 19:2). Is there an unrighteous commandment to be found among God’s laws? No, because God is righteous (Dan. 9:14). Is there an evil commandment to be found among God’s laws? No, because God is good (Mark 10:18).[8]

7:12 This is Paul’s affirmation of the goodness of the Law. It is not the problem. However Paul’s parallel structure, using “sin” in chapter 6 and “law” in chapter 7, must have upset the legalistic Jewish believers (the weak of 14:1–15:13) in the Roman church.[9]

Ver. 12. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

The law:

  1. Its nature. It is—1. Universal in its extent. It is binding at all times, in all places, and upon all. 2. Perpetual in its obligation: it can allow of no change. Other laws, the ceremonial laws, e.g., may be abrogated or altered, but the moral law, being founded upon the Divine nature, knows no change. “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” &c. 3. Perfect in its character. Being the expression and emanation of the perfect nature and will of God, “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” 4. Spiritual (ver. 14). It comes from God who is Spirit; and it demands of man spiritual obedience. 5. “Holy”; free from all spot and blemish. 6. “Just,” founded upon the eternal principles of right. 7. “Good,” benevolent in its design, tending to promote happiness, and promising life to those that observe it.
  2. Its excellence and importance. This is implied in its nature; but it will further appear if we consider—1. It was originally implanted in the constitution of man’s nature. A written law was not necessary, for the love of God, the essential principle of this law, was bound up in the constitution of Adam (Gen. 1:27; Rom. 2:15). And it is the purpose of God to replace the law in the position which it originally occupied; to rewrite it upon man’s heart. 2. In the giving of this law at Sinai we see another illustration of its excellence. (1) The law contained in the ten commandments was given directly by word of mouth from God. All the other commandments were given through Moses. (2) It was written twice by the finger of God upon both sides of the tables, perhaps covered the whole of them to show that there was to be no addition or alteration. (3) It was written not upon parchment, but upon stone, to show its perpetual obligation. 3. Our Lord (1) Ever recognised it, vindicated its authority, expounded its import, and enforced it by His own sanction and teaching. (2) Not only taught the law, but practised it, rendering it a perfect and sinless obedience. (3) Honoured it by undergoing the penalty which it threatens against all that break its enactments.

III. Its use. 1. To mankind at large—(1) It exhibits, magnifies, and explains the character of God. (2) It teaches men the principles of right and wrong, and how they are bound to act with reference to God, their neighbour, and themselves. The gospel has in no sense superseded or abrogated the law. It comes in as a supplemental system, saving man from the penalty which the law threatens, and placing man in a position whereby he may render obedience to that law. 2. But whilst saying this a considerable difficulty suggests itself as to the relation of the believer to the law. We find a class of passages which appear to teach its eternal obligation upon all men (Matt. 5; Rom. 3:31; 13:10; James 1:25; 2:8). But we find other passages which appear to teach that the Christian is not under the law (1 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 6:14; 7:6). How are we to understand this? The true believer is not under the law—(1) As a ground of condemnation or as a ground of justification. Inasmuch as Christ has perfectly obeyed the law, and atoned for the law’s breach, that work is imputed and made over to him that believes, so that he is delivered from the condemnation of the law (Rom. 8). So far therefore as his judicial standing before God is concerned, he and the law are altogether separated. (2) In regard to sanctification. When a man believes truly in Christ, he has not only imputed to him the merits of Christ, but he has imparted to him the power of Christ’s new life. He is born again of the Spirit. And where that Holy Spirit is, every desire which He inspires, every principle which He suggests, is holy. The man is no longer under the law as a handwriting against him, for he has its principle implanted in his heart, and he can say, “Oh, how I love Thy law; it is my meditation all the day.” 3. Of what use then is the law to a believer? I answer that if the work of grace were perfected within us, that if we acted in perfect harmony with the instincts and quickenings of the Spirit of God, it would be of no use. But inasmuch as the work of grace is not perfected within us, inasmuch as there is a tendency oftentimes towards evil, the law of God is necessary for him who is not under the law, but under grace. (1) In keeping us under grace. The law not only leads him as to a schoolmaster first of all to Christ, but keeps him trusting in the Saviour. (2) In restraining the believer from sin. There are those who think there is but one motive which ought to influence a Christian’s heart—love, and no doubt perfect love would be enough. But we are not perfect, and therefore, though we are delivered from the fear of bondage and the fear of terror, yet the fear of reverence ought ever to influence the Christian. 4. As regards the unconverted, the law is of great importance. (1) As a restraining principle to keep them back from open and notorious sin. (2) As a convincing principle (ver. 9). (3) As a principle of conversion. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Use it honestly, prayerfully, perseveringly, and you will find you can have no rest, until it has shut you up into the faith, until it has been the means of driving you to that refuge which is open for the sinner in Christ. (E. Bayley, B.D.)

The law holy and just and good:—Observe—

  1. The doctrine laid down in my text. 1. The law has different meanings. At one time it stands for the whole religion of Moses; as when the Jews are said to “make their boast of the law.” In another place it means the ceremonies which formed a prominent part of that religion; in which sense “the law had a shadow of good things to come.” But, very frequently the ten commandments are meant, as here. (1) By quoting the tenth commandment in ver. 7, Paul shows that the whole argument relates to the moral law. (2) This allusion also explains the repetition in the text. The whole law, but particularly that commandment to which I have alluded, is “holy, just, and good.” (3) The selection of this particular command shows that Paul viewed it as a spiritual law; extending, not to actions only, but to desires. He never knew what the law was till this tenth commandment came with power to his conscience; e.g., the sixth, he thought, forbad only actual murder; the seventh, actual adultery; the eighth, actual stealing. But when at length it was said, “Thou shalt not covet,” he then perceived that even the desire of things forbidden was sinful. 2. What, then, is the doctrine laid down by St. Paul concerning this heart-searching law? (1) It is holy. (a) The things which it forbids are evil; the dispositions which it requires are excellent. (b) By what standard shall we estimate holiness and unholiness? There is none other but the will and character of God. Those actions and dispositions which are agreeable to His nature, and which resemble His inimitable perfections, are holy; those of a contrary kind are unholy. God’s law is the very copy of His own Holy character; were it perfectly obeyed man would be holy, as God is holy. (2) It is just. (a) God could require nothing short of this. Anything less than entire purity of heart is not only different from God’s nature, but directly opposed to it. We may, without offence, be less wise or powerful; but it is impossible to admit the thought of His consenting that we shall be less holy. God made man “in His own image, and after His own likeness”; “God made man upright.” Was it unreasonable to require that man should preserve this holy likeness? (b) But you may object that we have now lost our original likeness to God; and that it is therefore no longer just to demand from us perfect obedience. But God’s rights cannot be diminished by any change in our condition. A bankrupt has lost the power of paying his debts; yet it is still just in the creditor to demand them, especially when, as is the case with men, the bankruptcy is the result of wickedness. (3) It is good. The whole of it tends to our welfare. If we had never broken it, there would have been no such thing as sorrow; and, if men would govern their hearts and lives by it, the world’s miseries would soon have an end. For what is the sum and substance of its requirements? Love to God above all, love to our neighbour as to ourselves. Now we know that love is happiness. The joys of heaven will consist of perfect love to God, and the mutual love of each other.
  2. Its practical uses. Learn—1. A lesson of the deepest self-abasement. The law, when first given to man, only made known to him his duty; but ever since the fall it has taught “the knowledge of sin.” The law is holy; but what are we? Moreover, the doctrine shuts out all excuse. We cannot complain of the law, for it is just and good. Yet have we all our lives acted contrary to it. 2. A lesson of despair. Whatever it may have been to man in a state of innocence, it is now the ministration of condemnation. It pronounces a curse on every transgressor; it worketh wrath; it has shut us up like prisoners, under a charge of sin so fully proved that it cannot be evaded. From all this let us learn that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be saved. Perfect obedience is necessary if we are to be justified by it. Can you, then, stand up and claim a full acquittal? If once you have sinned your soul is lost. Learn this and you will then be prepared to hear of a Saviour, who hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, and despair will prove the parent of hope and joy. 3. How you ought to walk and please God. The law is what it ever was, holy, and just, and good. And therefore, though it cannot justify us as a covenant, it must still instruct us as a guide. (J. Jowett, M.A.)

The law holy and just and good:

  1. Holy. 1. In principle. 2. In requirement. 3. In operation. 4. In tendency. As a whole and in each commandment it bears the character and expresses the mind and will of Him who is infinitely holy, and requires only what is holy and pure (Micah 6:8).
  2. Just. It demands what is just and right and nothing more, and requires only what man was made capable of rendering. It tends to promote justice and righteousness everywhere; and secures to each his due—God, our neighbour, ourselves.

III. Good—useful, beneficial, tending to the happiness of man. The commandment broken was Paradise lost; the commandment observed will be Paradise restored. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

The law holy and just and good:—Some think these high characters are given to the law as being holy, in teaching us our duty towards God; just in prescribing our duty towards our neighbour, and good in regard to ourselves. Others thus, the law is holy respecting the matter of it, because it prescribeth holy things; just in propounding rewards and punishments, and good in respect to the end, leading to holiness and happiness. But I think we ought to carry the point much further: all these titles are given to the law, both in relation to the Author, the matter, and the end of the law. The Author of the law is holy, just and good; so is the doctrine or matter contained in the law; and so is the end proposed by the law. (J. Stafford.) The excellence of the law:—Holy in its origin, just in its requirements, good in its purpose. (Archdn. Farrar.)

The holy law:—Holy in its nature, just in its form, good in its end. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

Perfection of the law:—God’s justice is seen in the law given to man as the universal law of his existence. To give law to rational creatures is the prerogative of their Creator, and His law is, by an inevitable consequence, holy, just and good; it neither prohibits nor enjoins anything that is not in the most perfect accordance with the infinite perfections of God and the true and best interests of man. “It represents Him as the Righteous Governor of the universe, whose laws are in perfect consistency with the principles of equity, and whose character is in accordance with His laws. Referring to these principles of morality which are engraven on the heart of man, it declares that they were engraven by the finger of God, and that conscience is His vicegerent, speaking to us in His name, and making known to us the principles of His moral administration. And it unfolds a more copious code of morality, in which the same principles are revealed, for our better information and surer guidance—principles which, being engraven in the book of nature, and revealed in the written Word, are infallibly certain, and ought to be regarded as a true manifestation of the righteous character of Him who is the Author alike of nature and of revelation.” (J. Buchanan.)

The law and the gospel:

  1. Their difference. 1. In time and mode of original relation. The law is coeval with creation; the gospel was made known after the fall. The law is discoverable by the light of nature, the gospel is a hidden mystery. 2. The law addresses man as a creature, the gospel as a sinner. 3. Command, the characteristic of the law; promise of the gospel is the promise of life in Christ. Contrast between the covenant of Sinai and the covenant of grace. 4. The law condemns, the gospel justifies. Law only acquits or condemns, mercy is revealed in the gospel. 5. The law requires, the gospel enables. No enabling power in a command; motive and power supplied by the gospel.
  2. Their harmony. 1. There is no real antagonism. (1) The law prepares the way for the gospel. (2) The gospel fulfils, and so establishes the law. There are two ways of dealing with law, repeal and relaxation. Neither mode supposable in Divine government. How can man be saved and yet the law upheld? Perfect obedience the one condition of life. Christ undertakes for man. Fulfilment in man’s own person. Faith lays hold of precepts as well as promises. The law is a rule of life, written on the heart. The gospel secures its fulfilment for man and in man. (a) Assigns its just place and value to the Law in the Christian scheme. (b) Assigns its just place and value to the gospel. Conclusion; 1. How sure a foundation laid for the believer’s hope. 2. How sure a provision made for the believer’s holiness. (E. Bayley, B.D.)[10]

12. The law … the commandment … The law is the law in its entirety; the commandment is each of the precepts which it comprises (613, according to the traditional reckoning). The law is holy, because God, whose character it reflects and whose will it declares, is himself holy (cf. Lev. 11:45; 19:2).[11]

12. So then the law is indeed holy, &c. Some think that the words law and commandment is a repetition of the same thing; with whom I agree; and I consider that there is a peculiar force in the words, when he says, that the law itself and whatever is commanded in the law, is holy, and therefore to be regarded with the highest reverence,—that it is just, and cannot therefore be charged with anything wrong,—that it is good, and hence pure and free from everything that can do harm. He thus defends the law against every charge of blame, that no one should ascribe to it what is contrary to goodness, justice, and holiness.[12]

7:12 the law is holy. Verse 12 is a concluding statement qualifying verses 1–11 and is reminiscent of verse 7. Here in verse 12, Paul reiterates that the law is not the culprit in bringing about disobedience to God; sin is the perpetrator of disobedience. Rather, the law (the entire law of God to Moses) or commandment (a summary command of that law) is holy, righteous, and good. The law originated from God’s holy character and prescribes just conduct, and it is good because it is applicable to all humanity, proceeding as it does from the ultimate good—God himself.[13]

12 Having shown that the law is the innocent cat’s-paw of sin, Paul can now return and complete the point with which he began the paragraph. “Is the law sin? Of course not! [v. 7a].… The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.” Paul introduces this verse as the inference to be drawn from the true role of the law in the history that he has sketched in vv. 7b–11. Paul brings together as essentially parallel terms “law” and “commandment”; both refer to the Mosaic law, the former as a body, the latter in terms of the specific commandment that Paul has cited in v. 7 as representative of the whole. In calling the law “holy,” Paul is not describing its demand for holiness777 but its origin—it was given by the one who is in his nature “holy.” Again, the description “just” may allude to the function of the law, in that it prescribes “just” conduct, or perhaps to the nature of the law, as demanding no more than what is “right.” But the context encourages us to view “just” in accordance with the legal connotation this word group often has in Paul: the law, being holy, “cannot be charged with anything wrong.” “Good,” finally, also denotes the nature of the law, attributing to it that “goodness” which is characteristic, ultimately, of God alone (see Mark 10:18).

Although it is the experience of Israel with the Mosaic law that Paul describes in vv. 7–12, their experience, as we have seen, is symptomatic of that of all people who, in various ways, are confronted with God’s law in its various forms. Thus the failure and death of Israel should serve to remind all of us that salvation can never be earned by doing the law, but only by casting ourselves on the grace and mercy of God in Christ. Augustine says, “God commands what we cannot do that we may know what we ought to seek from him.” And Calvin: “In the precepts of the law, God is but the rewarder of perfect righteousness, which all of us lack, and conversely, the severe judge of evil deeds. But in Christ his face shines, full of grace and gentleness, even upon us poor and unworthy sinners.”780 The experience of Israel with the law should also remind Christians never to return to the law—whether the Mosaic or any other list of rules—as a source of spiritual vigor and growth.[14]

12 “So that the law is holy.” “So that” intimates a conclusion drawn from what precedes. We might have expected, “Nevertheless the law is holy”, in view of the function performed by the law as providing the occasion for sin. But, instead, we have a deduction drawn from verses 7–11 to the effect that the law is holy. What is it that warrants this inference? It is surely the fact that the law intrinsically and originally was unto life and therefore directed to the promotion of what is holy, just, and good. It becomes the occasion of sin only because of the contradiction which inheres in sin both as principle and as principle incited to action. The law is not sinful (vs. 7).

“The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good.” The law itself and in its concrete stipulations is holy. The “commandment”, no doubt, reflects specifically on that mentioned in verse 7, “thou shalt not covet”. But the proposition that it is holy, just, and good applies to every commandment. As holy, just, and good it reflects the character of God and is the transcript of his perfection. It bears the imprint of its author. This, as we shall see, is stated expressly in different terms in verse 14. As “holy” the commandment reflects the transcendence and purity of God and demands of us the correspondent consecration and purity; as “righteous” it reflects the equity of God and exacts of us in its demand and sanction nothing but that which is equitable; as “good” it promotes man’s highest well-being and thus expresses the goodness of God.[15]

12 It is time for the apostle to give a decisive answer to the question he had raised in v. 7: “Is the law sin?” So very far from being identifiable with sin, “the law is holy” (hagios, GK 41), as are the individual commandments it contains. It is possible to understand “the commandment” (hē entolē, GK 1953) as a reference to every single precept of the law, but the singular form leads one to think that Paul is casting a backward glance at the tenth commandment. But what Paul says of that commandment refers equally to the law as a whole. The commandment is “holy” because it comes from a holy God and searches out sin. It is “righteous” (dikaia, GK 1465) in view of the just requirements it lays on humans, and also because it forbids and condemns sin. It is “good” (agathē, GK 19), or beneficent, because its aim is life (v. 10). The misuse of the law at the hands of sin has not altered its own intrinsic character. Its goodness is twice reaffirmed in v. 13. Stuhlmacher, 108, writes, “In contrast to what his opponents maintain, the law is, for Paul, in no way a sinful power, but rather the arrangement and gift of God.”[16]

[1] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1624). 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 7:12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2169). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ro 7:12). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ro 7:12). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1437). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1706). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Boa, K., & Kruidenier, W. (2000). Romans (Vol. 6, p. 226). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 7:12). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[10] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 582–585). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[11] Bruce, F. F. (1985). Romans: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 6, pp. 152–153). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[12] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (p. 257). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[13] Pate, C. M. (2013). Romans. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 158). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[14] 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. 464–465). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[15] Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 252–253). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[16] 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. 120–121). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

40 Days to the Cross: Week of Ash Wednesday – Saturday

Confession: Psalm 51:13–19

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed,

O God, the God of my salvation;

then my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good in your favor toward Zion.

Build the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will delight in righteous sacrifices,

burnt offering and whole burnt offering.

Then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Reading: Mark 9:14–29

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. And immediately the whole crowd, when they saw him, were amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And one individual from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought to you my son who has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes paralyzed. And I told your disciples that they should expel it, and they were not able to do so.”

And he answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me!” And they brought him to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately convulsed him, and falling on the ground, he began to roll around, foaming at the mouth. And he asked his father how long it was since this had been happening to him. And he said, “From childhood. And often it has thrown him both into fire and into water, in order that it could destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us!” But Jesus said to him, “If you are able! All things are possible for the one who believes!” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and enter into him no more!” And it came out, screaming and convulsing him greatly, and he became as if he were dead, so that most of them said, “He has died!” But Jesus took hold of his hand and raised him up, and he stood up. And after he had entered into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why were we not able to expel it?” And he said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing except by prayer.”


The praying sinner receives mercy because his prayer is grounded on the promise of pardon made by Him whose right it is to pardon guilty sinners. The penitent seeker after God obtains mercy because there is a definite promise of mercy to all who seek the Lord in repentance and faith. Prayer always brings forgiveness to the seeking soul. The abundant pardon is dependent upon the promise made real by the promise of God to the sinner.

While salvation is promised to him who believes, the believing sinner is always a praying sinner.… “Behold he prays” is not only the unfailing sign of sincerity and the evidence that the sinner is proceeding in the right way to find God, but it is the prophecy of abundant pardon. Get the sinner to praying according to the divine promise, and he then is near the kingdom of God. The very best sign of the returning prodigal is that he confesses his sins and begins to ask for the lowliest place in his father’s house.

It is the divine promise of mercy, of forgiveness and of adoption which gives the poor sinner hope. This encourages him to pray. This moves him in distress to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me” (Luke 18:38).

—E. M. Bounds

The Possibilities of Prayer


Like the father of the child in Mark 9:14–29 and the prodigal son—needy and at the end of themselves—may you, too, cry out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Confess your sin today, seek God, and know that you find mercy because He is merciful.[1]

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 20 Morning Verse of the Day

5:13 — “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Throughout the Book of Revelation we see the Son and the Father honored and worshiped side-by-side. We see this even with titles; “the Alpha and the Omega” can refer to the Father (1:8) and to the Son (22:13).[1]

5:13 Now the music becomes a diapason, a full, deep burst of harmonious song. Every creature … in heaven and on the earth joins in heaping eternal blessing and honor and glory and power on God the Father and on the Lamb.

This verse parallels Philippians 2:10 and 11, which insists that every knee will bow at the name of Jesus and every tongue confess Him Lord. No single, specific time is mentioned, but it will obviously be after the saved are raised to everlasting life and then after the unsaved are raised to everlasting judgment. Believers will have already acknowledged Jesus as Lord; unbelievers will then be compelled to honor Him. Universal homage to the Father and the Son is an assured fact.[2]

13. And every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them I heard saying,

“To the one sitting on the throne and to the


be thanksgiving and honor and glory and

power forever and ever.”

After the four living beings and the twenty-four elders have sung and similarly the countless angels, a third group of creatures utters a song of praise. This third group sums up the rest of God’s created beings; the wording is a repetition of verse 3 with the addition of the two phrases “and on the sea, and all things in them” (see Exod. 20:11; Ps. 146:6). The last phrase comprises the totality of God’s creatures, for nothing has been left out. I interpret the phraseology to be poetic language designed to incorporate everything God has made, for we cannot expect Satan and his followers in hell to utter praises to God.

All intelligent beings in God’s created universe sing his praises: the saints and angels in heaven, the birds in the sky, God’s people on earth, and all living beings on land and in the sea. The overwhelming chorus of all these voices, in praise to God and to the Lamb, defies human imagination. God is the King of creation who delegated the work of creation and redemption to his Son. As God receives tribute from his creatures, so does the Lamb, for he has completed the tasks that God assigned to him.

All intelligent beings in the entire universe sing praises “to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb.” The names God and Jesus are not mentioned. Instead the appellations the one and the Lamb show full respect to the Deity. They emphasize, first, God’s absolute power over the universe and, second, the Lamb’s victory over death and the grave. The hymn they sing is an affirmation and summary of those sung earlier (4:11; 5:12). This doxology evokes an affirmative “amen” from the representatives that surround God’s throne.[3]

13. Now the whole creation joins in the song. Every creature is explicit enough, but John spells it out by mentioning specifically heaven, earth, the subterranean regions and the sea. All that is in them is redundant, but it serves to emphasize that all are included in the mighty chorus of praise. John’s vision is not concerned with an obscure being of no great importance. In the last resort there is no creature, wherever found, which does not recognize the superior worth of the Lamb.

The qualities selected for mention in this song are not the same as those in the preceding one, and those retained are in a different order. The word for power is different (kratos here, but dynamis there). In the former the whole seven are grouped under a single article in the Greek, whereas here each of the four has its own article to give separate emphasis. Here there is no mention of ‘worthy’, for it is not the achievement of redemption that is hymned, but the Persons themselves. But we should not unduly stress the niceties of what one song inserts and another omits. There is a certain exuberance about both which recks not of exact calculation. They are simply the fervent outpouring of hearts full of adoration and love and praise for all that God has done through the Lamb. This song ends by linking him who sits on the throne with the Lamb. The two are joined in a way which is characteristic of this book (6:16; 7:9, 10, 17; 14:1, 4; 21:22, 23; 22:1, 3). There cannot be the slightest doubt that the Lamb is to be reckoned with God and as God.[4]

13 In vv. 9 and 10 the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders raised their voices in praise of the redemptive work of the Lamb. This is followed (in vv. 11 and 12) by an innumerable host of angels praising the worthiness of the Lamb. The climax of the scene is reached in v. 13, where all creation gives praise, honor, glory, and power to God and to the Lamb. John hears the roar of the adulation as it rises to heaven. It is the adoration of the entire created world. The universality of Christ’s great redemptive work calls for a universal response. The created order is specified as that which is in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and on the sea. The added phrase “and all that is in them” stresses that no living creature failed to join in the great and final hymn of praise (cf. Phil 2:9–11). The doxology is fourfold, repeating three elements of the previous seven (v. 12), but exchanging “might” (kratos; NRSV: the NIV translates “power”) for “power” (dynamis). It may be that the fourfold ascription corresponds to the fourfold division of creation. The praise of the entire created order is addressed to the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. Throughout the Apocalypse the two are regularly joined. In 22:1 the water of life flows “from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (cf. 6:16; 17:10).[5]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Re 5:13). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2363). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 213–214). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Morris, L. (1987). Revelation: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 20, p. 102). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[5] Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (pp. 137–138). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

February 19 Evening Verse of the Day

6:11 In Rom. 6:1–13, three essential elements of the sanctification process are given: (1) know what salvation means (v. 3); (2) reckon or consider yourself to be dead to sin (present imperative); and (3) present yourself and the parts of your body to God as instruments of righteousness (present imperative, v. 13). We are called to live experientially what we are positionally. That sanctification requires our active involvement is clearly evident.[1]

6:11 consider yourselves. Recognize that what has been said in vv. 1–10 is already the truth about yourself.[2]

6:11 alive to God Like Christ, believers live for God and are empowered to do His will.[3]

6:11 Dead to sin means dead to the pervasive love for and ruling power of sin. Christians must realize that the mastery of sin has been broken in their lives (see note on v. 6).[4]

6:11 Even so. This implies the importance of his readers’ knowing what he just explained. Without that foundation, what he is about to teach will not make sense. Scripture always identifies knowledge as the foundation for one’s practice (cf. Col 3:10). consider. This word was often used metaphorically to refer to having an absolute, unreserved confidence in what one’s mind knows to be true—the kind of heartfelt confidence that affects his actions and decisions. Paul is not referring to mind games in which we trick ourselves into thinking a certain way. Rather he is urging us to embrace by faith what God has revealed to be true. dead to sin. See vv. 2–7. in Christ. Paul’s favorite expression of our union with Christ. This is its first occurrence in Romans (cf. Eph 1:3–14).[5]

6:11 — Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

One day, the sin that still dwells in our unredeemed bodies will be eradicated. Until then, we are to draw on the power of the Spirit to put to death the sin that still wants to express itself, and obey God for His glory.[6]

6:11 Reckon is an accounting term that means “to take into account,” “calculate,” or “decide.” Verses 3–10 reveal the truth that believers have already died to sin because they have participated in Jesus’ death. Since believers have died with Christ and have also been raised with Him, Paul now urges Christians to consider themselves dead … to sin. Although before conversion they were still enslaved to the power of sin, now they are free to resist it.[7]

6:11. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin. Believers must adopt an attitude by reckoning themselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul does not only mean to draw an inference from v 10, but to the entire set of truths mentioned from vv 1–10. Christians are commanded continually to “calculate” (logizesthe; cf. 4:3) the reality of being positionally dead to sin in Christ Jesus, and alive to God’s new, powerful realm of existence (v 10).[8]

6:11 Paul has described what is true of us positionally. Now he turns to the practical outworking of this truth in our lives. We are to RECKON ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To reckon here means to accept what God says about us as true and to live in the light of it. Ruth Paxson writes:

[It means] believing what God says in Romans 6:6 and knowing it as a fact in one’s own personal salvation. This demands a definite act of faith, which results in a fixed attitude toward “the old man.” We will see him where God sees him—on the Cross, put to death with Christ. Faith will operate continuously to keep him where grace placed him. This involves us very deeply, for it means that our hearty consent has been given to God’s condemnation of and judgment upon that old “I” as altogether unworthy to live and as wholly stripped of any further claims upon us. The first step in a walk of practical holiness is this reckoning upon the crucifixion of “the old man.”

We reckon ourselves dead to sin when we respond to temptation as a dead man would. One day Augustine was accosted by a woman who had been his mistress before his conversion. When he turned and walked away quickly, she called after him, “Augustine, it’s me! it’s me!” Quickening his pace, he called back over his shoulder, “Yes, I know, but it’s no longer me!” What he meant was that he was dead to sin and alive to God. A dead man has nothing to do with immorality, lying, cheating, gossiping, or any other sin.

Now we are alive to God in Christ Jesus. This means that we are called to holiness, worship, prayer, service, and fruitbearing.[9]

6:11. Here, for the first time in Romans, Paul gives a true command, the first application of the entire book. Consider means “to count, compute, calculate, take into account, to make account of” something, and here means “a deliberate and sober judgment on the basis of the facts one has.” The believer is not commanded to “put the old sin nature to death” as he is in Eph 4:22 and Col 3:9 (see the comments there), for this is done for him and her by God at the moment of conversion. Rather, believers are commanded to understand these profound facts, and failure to do so amounts to sin (cf. Jms 4:17).[10]

6:11. In the simplest of terms, Paul says that the way we are to experience what Jesus experienced (in the same way that he is free from sin to live to God) is to count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God. Count yourselves—so far, this has been something that God has done to us, and now Paul says we are to do it to ourselves. For instance, in Romans 4:3 Paul says that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him [counted to him] as righteousness.” That forms the basis of Paul’s argument in Romans 4 that God likewise will credit righteousness to the account (count yourselves) of those who exercise faith like Abraham did.

The word is logizomai which can mean “to count,” “to credit,” “to think.” In the numerous times Paul uses the word in his epistles, the NIV translates it with the following semantic range: “think” (Rom. 2:3; 2 Cor. 11:5; 12:6; Phil. 4:8), “regard” (Rom. 2:26; 9:8; 14:14; 1 Cor. 4:1), “maintain” (Rom. 3:28), “credit” (Rom. 4:3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24; Gal. 3:6), “count” (Rom. 4:8; 6:11; 2 Cor 5:19), “consider” (Rom. 8:18, 36; 2 Cor. 10:7; Phil. 3:13), “keep a record” (1 Cor. 13:5), “reason” (1 Cor. 13:11), “claim” (2 Cor. 3:5), “expect” (2 Cor. 10:2), “realize” (2 Cor. 10:11), “hold” (2 Tim. 4:16). Anyone who ever doubted the richness of the English language will appreciate the depth and variety of terms used to translate a single Greek word.

Logizomai is from logos, an idea embodied in a word (or, in the case of Christ, a person). Logizomai here is present middle imperative, a command to be carried out upon oneself: count yourselves. In essence, logizomai says that words have meaning. When believers in Christ arrive in heaven one day, they will see Abraham, Why? Because God declared that Abraham was righteous. What God said had meaning, and the results of it will be shown when we arrive in heaven and see Abraham, just like God said. In the same way, if God says those who have died and been raised with Christ are dead to sin, they are dead to sin.

This is not a word game, or a matter of positive thinking. It is a matter of conforming our minds and renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2) to the truth from God’s perspective. It is a matter of believing (and coming to understand experientially) that when God speaks truth … because his words are alive they bear fruit and produce results (Isa. 55:11; Heb. 4:12). God’s words change things (Mark 4:39) and people (Mark 2:9–12). So when God says that the believer in Christ is dead to sin as a result of identification with the death and resurrection of Christ, that person has, in fact, been changed from being a person alive to sin to being a person dead to sin.

Because words are how we communicate and think, and because different words will strike a responsive note in different people different ways, the entire semantic range of a concept like logizomia is helpful to meditate upon:



[that is …]


that this is true.


count yourselves …


think for yourselves, regard yourselves as, maintain for yourselves, credit yourselves, consider yourselves, keep a record for yourselves, reason with yourselves, claim for yourselves, expect for yourselves, realize for yourselves, hold onto for yourselves …


… dead to sin.[11]


6:11 “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin,” This is a PRESENT MIDDLE (deponent) IMPERATIVE. This is an ongoing, habitual command for believers. Christians’ knowledge of Christ’s work on their behalf is crucial for daily life. The term “consider” (cf. 4:4, 9), was an accounting term that meant “carefully add it up” and then act on that knowledge. Verses 1–11 acknowledged one’s position in Christ (positional sanctification) while 12–13 emphasized walking in Him (progressive sanctification). See Special Topic at v. 4.[12]

11. So then you yourselves should also consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

At this point doctrine makes way for exhortation. What has been established, namely, that believers are in principle dead to sin and alive to Christ, must become the abiding conviction of their hearts and minds, the take-off point for all their thinking, planning, rejoicing, speaking, doing. They must constantly bear in mind that they are no longer what they used to be. Their lives from day to day must show that they have not forgotten this. They are “in Christ”: chosen “in him” (Eph. 1:4), redeemed “in him” (Eph. 1:7), living “in him” (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:12). Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to them. His Spirit has been poured out into their hearts. In a sense it is true that when Christ died, they died with him. When he arose, they arose with him. Cf. 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.

What may well be the best commentary on Rom. 6:11 is Paul’s own: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. On the things that are above set your minds, not on the things that are upon the earth. For you died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ (who is) our life is manifested, you also will be manifested with him in glory” (Col. 3:1–4).[13]

We must count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God (11)

We could put it in this way. If Christ’s death was a death to sin (which it was), and if his resurrection was a resurrection to God (which it was), and if by faith-baptism we have been united to Christ in his death and resurrection (which we have been), then we ourselves have died to sin and risen to God. We must therefore ‘reckon’ (av), ‘consider’ (rsv), ‘regard’ (neb), ‘look upon’ (jbp) or count (niv) ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in, or by reason of our union with, Christ Jesus (11).

This ‘reckoning’ is not make-believe. It is not screwing up our faith to believe what we do not believe. We are not to pretend that our old nature has died, when we know perfectly well it has not. Instead we are to realize and remember that our former self did die with Christ, thus putting an end to its career. We are to consider what in fact we are, namely dead to sin and alive to God (11), like Christ (10). Once we grasp this, that our old life has ended, with the score settled, the debt paid and the law satisfied, we shall want to have nothing more to do with it.

Let me revert to John Jones. We saw that his life was divided into two halves, his biography into two volumes. Volume 1 ended with the judicial death of his former self; volume 2 opened with his resurrection. He must remember these facts about himself. It is not to pretence that Paul calls him, but to reflection and recollection. He has to keep reminding himself: ‘Volume 1 is long since closed. I am now living in volume 2. It is inconceivable that I should reopen volume 1, as if my death and resurrection with Christ had never taken place.’

Can a married woman live as though she were still single? Well, yes, I suppose she could. It is not impossible. But let her remember who she is. Let her feel her wedding ring, the symbol of her new life of union with her husband, and she will want to live accordingly. Can born-again Christians live as though they were still in their sins? Well, yes, I suppose they could, at least for a while. It is not impossible. But let them remember who they are. Let them recall their baptism, the symbol of their new life of union-with Christ, and they will want to live accordingly.

So the major secret of holy living is in the mind. It is in knowing (6) that our former self was crucified with Christ, in knowing (3) that baptism into Christ is baptism into his death and resurrection, and in considering (11, rsv) that through Christ we are dead to sin and alive to God. We are to recall, to ponder, to grasp, to register these truths until they are so integral to our mindset that a return to the old life is unthinkable. Regenerate Christians should no more contemplate a return to unregenerate living than adults to their childhood, married people to their singleness or discharged prisoners to their prison cell. For our union with Jesus Christ has severed us from the old life and committed us to the new. Our baptism stands between the two like a door between two rooms, closing on the one and opening into the other. We have died, and we have risen. How can we possibly live again in what we have died to?[14]

11. You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is no game of ‘let’s pretend’; believers should consider themselves to be what God in fact has made them. It is no vain exercise but one which is morally fruitful: the Spirit has come to make effective in them what Christ has done for them, and to enable them to become in daily experience, as far as may be in the present conditions of mortality, what they already are ‘in Christ Jesus’ and what they will be fully in the resurrection life. (This is the subject of 8:1–27.)[15]

11. So count ye also yourselves, &c. Now is added a definition of that analogy to which I have referred. For having stated that Christ once died to sin and lives for ever to God, he now, applying both to us, reminds us how we now die while living, that is, when we renounce sin. But he omits not the other part, that is, how we are to live after having by faith received the grace of Christ: for though the mortifying of the flesh is only begun in us, yet the life of sin is destroyed, so that afterwards spiritual newness, which is divine, continues perpetually. For except Christ were to slay sin in us at once to the end, his grace would by no means be sure and durable.

The meaning, then, of the words may be thus expressed, “Take this view of your case,—that as Christ once died for the purpose of destroying sin, so you have once died, that in future you may cease from sin; yea, you must daily proceed with that work of mortifying, which is begun in you, till sin be wholly destroyed: as Christ is raised to an incorruptible life, so you are regenerated by the grace of God, that you may lead a life of holiness and righteousness, inasmuch as the power of the Holy Spirit, by which ye have been renewed, is eternal, and shall ever continue the same.” But I prefer to retain the words of Paul, in Christ Jesus, rather than to translate with Erasmus, through Christ Jesus; for thus the grafting, which makes us one with Christ, is better expressed.[16]

11 The introductory words, “in the same way also,” indicate that Paul is now drawing a comparison—a comparison between the death and life of Christ and the attitude Christians are to adopt toward themselves. But Paul also states in this verse a summarizing inference from the teaching of the paragraph as a whole. As the death Christ died was a death “to sin” (v. 10), so Christians who have died with Christ (vv. 4a, 5a, 6, 8a) must now regard themselves as being those who are “dead to sin.” And as Christ’s once-for-all death led to resurrection and new life in God’s service (vv. 4b, 9–10), so Christians who participate in that resurrection life (vv. 4b, 5b, 8b) must regard themselves as those who are “alive to God.” Paul uses a present imperative, urging us constantly to view ourselves in this light. As always in Paul, the indicative grounds the imperative. In union with Christ we have been made dead to sin and alive to God; it remains for us to appropriate (v. 11) and apply (vv. 12–13) what God has done for us. As Thielicke puts it, “The imperative does not refer to the dying. Over this we have no control, since Jesus Christ has died for us and we only receive the gift of his dying and are drawn into it. The object of the imperative is that we should take this death into account, take it seriously, and thus make the gift become a gift in which we participate.” It is the “affirmation of a new reality.”453 The last phrase of the verse reminds us that this new state is possible only in union with Christ: we are alive to God only “in Christ Jesus.” Being “dead to sin” and “alive to God” is a state achieved only in union with Christ, who himself died to sin and is alive to God.455 In this context, “in Christ” must be seen in light of the persistent “with Christ” language of vv. 4–10. Both phrases connote that the believer has experienced what has taken place with our representative, Christ. While the “with” language is more suitable to actions (dying, being buried, being raised), the “in” language fits better the continuing relationship of “deadness” to sin and “aliveness” to God of which this verse speaks. Only “in relation to,” “as joined to,” Christ—by faith—can the new life of victory over sin become a reality. (See the excursus following 6:14 for discussion of Paul’s “in Christ” language.)[17]

11 This verse is hortatory. “Reckon yourselves” is imperative rather than indicative. What is commanded needs to be carefully noted. We are not commanded to become dead to sin and alive to God; these are presupposed. And it is not by reckoning these to be facts that they become facts. The force of the imperative is that we are to reckon with and appreciate the facts which already obtain by virtue of union with Christ. The expression “dead unto sin” implies an abiding state or condition resultant upon the once-for-all decisive event of having died to sin by union with Christ in the efficacy of his death. And the complementation of “dead unto sin” and “alive unto God,” as parallel to Christ’s death to sin and life to God (vs. 10), implies that the life to God is of abiding continuance just as being dead to sin is. The security and permanence of this life to God are insured by the fact that it is “in Christ Jesus” the life is maintained.[18]

11 In the previous verses, Paul has been imparting information on the subject of union with Christ, and in keeping with this he has three times used the word “know” (vv. 3, 6, 9), as a way of focusing on what is true. Now he employs a different key word—“count” or “reckon” (logizomai [GK 3357], the same term used so often in ch. 4 in connection with righteousness), used in the imperative. We encounter here the oddity of the juxtaposition of the indicative and the imperative—i.e., something is flatly affirmed to be true, and then immediately we encounter the command to act in a way that manifests this truth. This interesting feature of Pauline thought is the result of the tension between what is sometimes called “positional” truth and “experiential” truth and is not unlike that between present and future eschatology. The challenge of Christian living for Paul can be stated in the maxim, “Be what you are,” or, “Act out your true identity.”

Counting something as true does not create the fact of union with Christ but makes it operative in one’s life. The charge to consider oneself “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” is thus in the present tense, stressing the necessity to keep up the process if one is to avoid reactivating the body of sin. Paradoxically, the Christian is dead and alive at the same time, as in Galatians 2:20—dead to sin and self but alive and responsive to God. The Christian is to give no more response to sin than a dead person can give. On the other hand, all the potential afforded by redeemed life is to be channeled godward: “alive to God.”

Paul seems to lay considerable stress on the importance of this process of counting true or reckoning. It is not a matter of attempting to convince oneself of something untrue, thus amounting to self-deception. Rather, it is a matter of letting the truth of union with Christ have its intended effect. What is factually true must be allowed to become a matter of experience. Christians are “to arm themselves with the mentality that they are dead to sin; for that is what happened to them in the baptismal experience” (Fitzmyer, 438).[19]

You Can Count on It

Romans 6:11

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

I want to start this study with a brief quiz on the early chapters of Romans, and the question I want to ask is this: How many times in the letter up to this point has the apostle Paul urged his readers to do something? That is, how many exhortations have there been?

More than ten? Thirty? Less than five?

How many imperative statements occurred in chapter 1? Were there more exhortations in chapter 5 than in chapter 4?

What do you think? How many exhortations has Paul made so far?

The answer to this question is that there have been none at all! And the reason I emphasize this is to call attention to the most significant thing to be noted about Romans 6:11. This verse is an exhortation, and it is the first in the epistle. This is the first time in five and a half chapters that the apostle has urged his readers to do anything.

What are they to do? The text says: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

This is an important enough statement in itself, but it becomes even more so when we realize that Romans 6:11 is also a turning point in the letter. I mean by this that, having gotten the first olive out of the bottle, so to speak, the other exhortative olives now tumble out naturally. The next verses are full of them: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body.… Do not offer the parts of your body to sin … but rather offer yourselves to God … and offer the parts of your body to him …” (vv. 12–14, emphasis added).

What God Has Done

Most modern Americans are activists. So we are inclined to think, as we come to this verse, that we are at last getting to what matters. But, at the risk of prolonging our discussion of the earlier chapters beyond the limits of most people’s tolerance, I need to say that the point I am making—that this is the first exhortation in the letter—is of great practical importance.

Let me approach it this way. We live in an age of self-help books and seminars, in Christian circles as well as in the world at large, and these small books (they are usually small) and short (perhaps weekend-length) courses promise the consumer great things. The Christian versions offer formulas by which we are supposed to be able to move ahead quickly in our Christian lives. They teach us how to become great prayer warriors, perhaps even “change the world” through prayer. They show us how to relate to others successfully. They promise quick and effective methods of Bible study.

I do not want to suggest that these “quick fix” offerings are useless, of course. They are not useless. They are helpful to many, and I am sure they have their place, particularly in our fast-paced, solution-oriented culture. Still, if you have read any of these books or attended these seminars, isn’t it the case that you have generally been disappointed at some level, perhaps even deeply frustrated? Perhaps you have even been frustrated enough to write off completely these methods for growing strong in the Christian faith. You have said, “I am sure they must work for other people, but not for me. They help, but not enough. Probably nothing will help me. I am probably called to be just a normal [read ‘second-class’] Christian.”

What is wrong here? I suggest that because of our characteristic North American impatience with matters of basic substance or with anything requiring hard and prolonged work, we have jumped ahead too quickly to the “exhortation” parts of Christianity and have not taken sufficient time to understand and appropriate the fundamental teachings. If this is so, then Paul’s procedure in Romans should be of great help to us. Was Paul not interested in the spiritual growth of the Roman Christians? Of course, he was. But he knew that there was no use rushing ahead to tell them how to live the Christian life until he had first fully instructed them on what God had done for them in Jesus Christ. This is because the work of God in Christ is foundational to everything else about Christianity.

What Paul principally wanted his readers to understand here is what theologians call the mystical union of believers with Jesus Christ. Paul’s way of talking about this is to say that Christians are “in Christ,” “in Jesus Christ” or “in him.” Those who count such things tell us that those phrases occur 164 times in Paul’s writings. One of them is in our text, and it is the first time this exact phrase has occurred in Romans. Yet it is what Paul has really been talking about for several chapters. Romans 5 dealt with it directly, contrasting our former state of being in Adam with our present state of being in Christ. In Romans 6 this has already been presented indirectly in terms of our having died to sin and having been united to Jesus in his resurrection.

This has been done for us by God. It has been his work, not ours. We have no more joined ourselves to Jesus in his resurrection than we have died for our own sins. If we are Christians, everything that is necessary has been done for us by God.

A Bookkeeping Term

What we learn in a general way, by reflecting on the amount of teaching Paul has given in chapters 1–5 of Romans, is reinforced by the verb he uses in Romans 6:11. It is the word count (or “reckon,” as some of the other versions have it). The Greek word is logizomai, and it is related to the more common term logos, meaning “word,” “deed,” or “fact.”

In classical Greek, logizomai had two main uses:

  1. It was used in commercial dealings in the sense of evaluating an object’s worth or reckoning up a project’s gain or losses. In other words, it was a bookkeeping term. We have preserved a bit of this in our English words log, logistics, and logarithm. A log refers to the numerical record of a ship’s or airplane’s progress. Logistics is a military term dealing with the numbers and movement of troops or supplies. A logarithm is the exponent to which a base number is raised to produce a given number.
  2. Logizomai was also used in philosophy in the sense of objective or nonemotional reasoning. We have preserved this meaning in our English words “logic” and “logical.”

The common ground in these two uses of the word is that logizomai has to do with reality, with things as they truly are. In other words, it has nothing to do with wishful thinking. Nor is it an activity that makes something come to pass or happen. It is an acknowledgment of or an acting upon something that is already true or has already happened. In bookkeeping, for example, it means posting in a ledger an amount corresponding to what actually exists. If I “reckon” in my passbook that I have $100, I must really have $100. If not, “reckoning” is the wrong word for me to be using. “Deceiving myself” (or others) would be more like it.

It will also help us in our understanding of Romans 6:11 to recognize that logizomai has already been used several times in Romans and that in every case it has referred to recognizing something that is factual. In fact, logizomai has appeared fourteen times before now, and it will occur again (in Romans 8 and 9). The chief use has been in chapter 4 (eleven occurrences), where Paul employed it to show how our sins have been reckoned to Christ and punished there, and how his righteousness has been reckoned (“credited”) to us. These two “reckonings” are the two parallel sides of justification, and when we studied them (in volume 1) we saw that their strength comes from knowing that they concern realities. They are not just imaginary transactions. Jesus really did die for our sin; he suffered for our transgressions. Similarly, his righteousness really has been transferred to our account, so that God accounts us righteous in him.

This has bearing on Paul’s exhortation to us in Romans 6:11. For although he is proceeding in this chapter to the area of what we are to do and actions we are to take, his starting point is nevertheless our counting as true what God has himself already done for us.

This is so critical that I want to ask pointedly: Do you and I really understand this? We cannot go on until we do.

Can I possibly say it more clearly?

Try this: The first step in our growth in holiness is counting as true what is, in fact, true.

And this: The key to living the Christian life lies in first knowing that God has taken us out of Adam and has joined us to Jesus Christ, that we are no longer subject to the reign of sin and death but have been transferred to the kingdom of God’s abounding grace.

And this: The secret to a holy life is believing God.

The First Reality: Dead to Sin

In our text Paul says there are two things God has done that we are to count on. First, that we are dead to sin if we are Christians. We have already seen how this is to be taken. It does not mean that we are immune to sin or temptation. It does not mean that we will not sin. It means that we are dead to the old life and cannot go back to it.

That is the reality Paul first stated explicitly at the beginning of Romans 6, in verse 2. “We died to sin,” he said. In verses 3 and 4, he restated it: We were “baptized into his death” and “buried with him through baptism into death.” It was also said in verse 5: “We have been united with him in his death.” Verse 6 said it, too: “Our old self was crucified with him.” Verse 7 again made the point that we “died” with Christ. All those statements have been factual. They describe something that has happened.

On the basis of this truth, Paul now tells us to “count” ourselves as having died to sin in Christ Jesus. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones renders it: “Consider, and keep constantly before you, this truth about yourself.” In other words, learn to think of yourself as one who has been delivered from sin’s realm.

This is such a pivotal text that it is worth adding a number of things that this statement does not mean. Lloyd-Jones lists six of them:

  1. It does not mean that it is my duty as a Christian to die to sin. The text has nothing to do with duty. It is concerned with fact.
  2. It is not a command for me to die to sin. How can I be told to do what has already been done to me?
  3. It does not mean that I am to reckon that sin as a force in me is dead. That would not be true. Sin is a force in me, though it is a force whose effective power over me has been broken (v. 6).
  4. It does not mean that sin in me has been eradicated.
  5. It does not mean that I am dead to sin as long as I am in the process of gaining mastery over it. That would make the statement refer to something experimental, and it does not do that. It refers to a past event.
  6. It does not mean that reckoning myself dead to sin makes me dead to sin. That is backwards. What Paul is saying is that, because we have died to sin, we are to count on it.

The Second Reality: Alive to God

The second reality Paul says we are to count on is that we are now “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This statement completes the parallel to verse 5, in which Paul said, “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we wil