Category Archives: Daily Devotional Guide

March 18 Praying for Others

Scripture reading: Colossians 1:9–14

Key verse: Colossians 1:9

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Perhaps you are driving your car and a friend comes to mind. It may be someone you have not seen in years. Or you could be reading through your devotions and God places a burden on your heart to pray for a family member. His Spirit is calling out to you to be sensitive and pray for that person.

You don’t need to know what the other person is going through in order to pray for him. God will show you what is necessary. One of the greatest blessings comes when you recognize the moving of the Holy Spirit and follow Him in prayer.

Paul encouraged the Colossians by telling how he prayed for them. Imagine what it was like to have Paul pray for you!

Prayer is the greatest gift you can give another person. When you approach the throne of God on behalf of another, you are doing exactly what Jesus has done for you.

Paul prayed that these early believers would have “all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you may walk worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9–10).

Prayer reveals new dimensions of God’s love. It keeps us from becoming self-focused. Instead we become others focused. God takes our prayers and uses them to unlock doors of blessing in the lives of others.

Father, use my prayers to unlock doors of blessing in the lives of others. Help me to be sensitive to the prompting of Your Spirit to pray for those in need.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 81). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

March 18, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Terror Of The Father

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” And when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were much afraid. (17:5–6)

A third confirmation of Jesus’ deity was the terror caused by the intervention of the Father while Peter was still speaking. Through the form of a bright cloud God overshadowed the three disciples and spoke to them in a voice out of the cloud. To the testimony of the transfiguration itself and the testimony of the two Old Testament saints was now added the surprising testimony of God the Father.

Throughout the wilderness wanderings of Israel the Lord manifested Himself through “a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way” (Ex. 13:21; Num. 9:17; Deut. 1:33). Isaiah predicted that “when the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy” (Isa. 4:4–5). In his vision of the last days John “looked and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped” (Rev. 14:14–16).

Out of such a bright cloud the Father overshadowed Peter, James, and John, and spoke to them in an audible voice, … saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” The Father spoke almost identical words at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:17), and during Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem—but a few days before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion-the Father again publicly and directly declared His approval of the Son (John 12:28).

In calling Jesus His Son, the Father declared Him to be of identical nature and essence with Himself (cf. John 5:17–20; 8:19, 42; 10:30, 36–38). Scripture frequently refers to believers as children of God, but they are adopted children, brought into the heavenly family only through the miracle of His grace (Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). Jesus is the essence of divine nature, as the apostles repeatedly emphasize (see Rom. 1:1–4; 2 Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; Col. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 1:3; 2 John 3).

In calling Jesus His beloved Son, the Father declared not only a relationship of divine nature but a relationship of divine love. They had a relationship of mutual love, commitment, and identification in every way.

In saying, “with whom I am well-pleased,” the Father declared His approval with everything the Son was, said, and did. Everything about Jesus was in perfect accord with the Father’s will and plan. Compare John 5:19; 8:29; 10:37–38; 12:49–50.

Then, directly addressing the three disciples, perhaps Peter in particular, God said, “Listen to Him!” He was saying, in effect, “If My Son tells you He must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die, believe Him. If He tells you He will be raised up on the third day, believe Him. If He tells you to take up your own cross and follow Him, that is what you are to do. If He says He will come again in glory, then believe Him and live accordingly.”

The outspoken, brash Peter and his two companions now knew they stood in the awesome presence of Almighty God. As would be expected, when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were much afraid. Peter was probably so utterly traumatized that he promptly forgot about his presumptuous suggestion to build the three tabernacles.

The combined awareness of the Lord’s grace and His majesty, His love and His justice, His friendship and His lordship should cause a kind of spiritual tension in every believer. On the one hand he rejoices in his loving fellowship with the Lord because of His gracious kindness, and on the other hand he has reverential fear as he contemplates His awesome holiness and righteousness. As the believer walks in obedience to God, he experiences the comfort of His presence. But as he walks in disobedience, he should feel the terror of that same presence. Proverbs declares that spiritual wisdom begins with the fear of God (Prov. 9:10).

Sinful men in the presence of a holy God always want to hide. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve had uninterrupted fellowship with God, but after they sinned the relationship was vastly changed. When “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, … the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). When Isaiah beheld the divine majesty and glory that surrounded the heavenly throne, he cried out in great fear, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). As he stood in the presence of perfect holiness, the sense of his own utter sinfulness overwhelmed him. Daniel was likewise terrified when the Lord spoke directly to him after his vision of the ram, goat, and little horn (Dan. 8:15–17).[1]


5. Lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them. Their eyes were covered by a cloud, in order to inform them, that they were not yet prepared for beholding the brightness of the heavenly glory. For, when the Lord gave tokens of his presence, he employed, at the same time, some coverings to restrain the arrogance of the human mind. So now, with the view of teaching his disciples a lesson of humility, he withdraws from their eyes the sight of the heavenly glory. This admonition is likewise addressed to us, that we may not seek to pry into the secrets which lie beyond our senses, but, on the contrary, that every man may keep within the limits of sobriety, according to the measure of his faith. In a word, this cloud ought to serve us as a bridle, that our curiosity may not indulge in undue wantonness. The disciples, too, were warned that they must return to their former warfare, and therefore must not expect a triumph before the time.

And, lo, a voice from the cloud. It deserves our attention, that the voice of God was heard from the cloud, but that neither a body nor a face was seen. Let us therefore remember the warning which Moses gives us, that God has no visible shape, lest we should deceive ourselves by imagining that He resembled a man, (Deut. 4:15.) There were, no doubt, various appearances under which God made himself known to the holy fathers in ancient times; but in all cases he refrained from using signs which might induce them to make for themselves idols. And certainly, as the minds of men are too strongly inclined to foolish imaginations, there was no necessity for throwing oil upon the flame. This manifestation of the glory of God was remarkable above all others. When he makes a cloud to pass between Him and us, and invites us to himself by His voice, what madness is it to attempt to place Him before our eyes by a block of wood or of stone? Let us therefore endeavour to enter by faith alone, and not by the eyes of flesh, into that inaccessible light in which God dwells. The voice came from the cloud, that the disciples, knowing it to have proceeded from God, might receive it with due reverence.

This is my beloved Son. I willingly concur with those who think that there is an implied contrast of Moses and Elijah with Christ, and that the disciples of God’s own Son are here charged to seek no other teacher. The word Son is emphatic, and raises him above servants. There are two titles here bestowed upon Christ, which are not more fitted to do honour to him than to aid our faith: a beloved Son, and a Master. The Father calls him my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, and thus declares him to be the Mediator, by whom he reconciles the world to himself. When he enjoins us to hear him, he appoints him to be the supreme and only teacher of his Church. It was his design to distinguish Christ from all the rest, as we truly and strictly infer from those words, that by nature he was God’s only Son. In like manner, we learn that he alone is beloved by the Father, and that he alone is appointed to be our Teacher, that in him all authority may dwell.

But it will perhaps be objected, Does not God love angels and men? It is easy to reply, that the fatherly love of God, which is spread over angels and men, proceeds from him as its source. The Son is beloved by the Father, not so as to make other creatures the objects of his hatred, but so that he communicates to them what belongs to himself. There is a difference, no doubt, between our condition and that of the angels; for they never were alienated from God, and therefore needed not that he should reconcile them; while we are enemies on account of sin, till Christ procure for us his favour. Still, it is a fixed principle that God is gracious to both, only so far as he embraces us in Christ; for even the angels would not be firmly united to God if Christ were not their Head. It may also be observed that, since the Father here speaks of himself as different from the Son, there is a distinction of persons; for they are one in essence and alike in glory.

Hear him. I mentioned a little ago, that these words were intended to draw the attention of the Church to Christ as the only Teacher, that on his mouth alone it may depend. For, though Christ came to maintain the authority of the Law and the Prophets, (Matth. 5:17,) yet he holds the highest rank, so that, by the brightness of his gospel, he causes those sparks which shone in the Old Testament to disappear. He is the Sun of righteousness, whose arrival brought the full light of day. And this is the reason why the Apostle says (Heb. 1:1) that God, who at sundry times and in various ways spoke formerly by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his beloved Son. In short, Christ is as truly heard at the present day in the Law and in the Prophets as in his Gospel; so that in him dwells the authority of a Master, which he claims for himself alone, saying, One is your Master, even Christ, (Matth. 23:8.) But his authority is not fully acknowledged, unless all the tongues of men are silent. If we would submit to his doctrine, all that has been invented by men must be thrown down and destroyed. He is every day, no doubt, sending out teachers, but it is to state purely and honestly what they have learned from him, and not to corrupt the gospel by their own additions. In a word, no man can be regarded a faithful teacher of the Church, unless he be himself a disciple of Christ, and bring others to be taught by him.[2]


5 The “cloud” is associated, in both the OT and intertestamental Judaism, with eschatology (Ps 97:2; Isa 4:5; Eze 30:3, Da 7:13; Zep 1:15; cf. 2 Bar. 53:1–12; 4 Ezra 13:3; 2 Macc 2:8; b. Sanh. 98a) and with the exodus (Ex 13:21–22; 16:10; 19:16; 24:15–18; 40:34–38). Of the synoptists, only Matthew says that the cloud was “bright,” a detail that recalls the Shekinah glory. The latter eschatological associations (Lk 21:27; 1 Th 4:17) show Jesus in his role as the one who succeeds Moses, the eschatological prophet; the former associations (Ps 97:2 et al.) assure us that Jesus is the messianic King whose kingdom is dawning. But as Liefeld (“Theological Motifs,” 170) points out, common to both sets of passages and to others as well is the more fundamental idea of the presence of God.

It is uncertain whether epeskiasen means “enveloped” (NIV) or “overshadowed” (cf. Ex 40:35). What the Voice from the cloud says is largely a repetition of 3:17, an apparent mingling of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, stressing that Jesus is both Son and Suffering Servant. This is the high point of the narrative (cf. S. Pedersen, “Die Proklamation Jesu als des eschatologischen Offenbarungsträgers,” NovT 17 [1975]: 241–64). (Mark omits the allusion to Isa 42:1; but both Matthew and Luke, not to mention 2 Pe 1:17, attest the connection in different ways; cf. Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 36–37.) But if Matthew 3:17 identifies Jesus, this verse in its context goes further and places him above Moses and Elijah.

The additional words “Listen to him”—an allusion to Deuteronomy 18:15—confirm Jesus is the Prophet like Moses (Dt 18:15–18; cf. Ac 3:22–23; 7:37). This does not mean Jesus is another prophet of Moses’ stature but the eschatological Prophet patterned on Moses as a type; for, as Liefeld has suggested (“Theological Motifs,” 173), Moses’ primary role here is typological, whereas Elijah’s, not explained until vv. 9–13, is eschatological. As Moses’ antitype, Jesus so far outstrips him that when Moses is put next to him, men must “listen” to Jesus, as Moses himself said. The climax of biblical revelation is Jesus, the Son and Servant whom God loves and with whom God is well pleased. Even Moses and Elijah (the Law and the Prophets) assume supporting roles where he is concerned. This confirms our interpretation of 5:17–48; 11:11–15.[3]


The voice from heaven (v. 5)

Just as at Jesus’ baptism, there is a voice that speaks from the glory, out of a cloud, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ This voice echoes 3:17, but develops our understanding further, as we realize that the beloved Son is the prophet who was to come into the world. The voice from heaven, therefore, serves to show that Jesus is one with the prophetic tradition represented by Moses and Elijah, but that he is also the consummator of that tradition. He is, in fact, the last prophet.

The descent from the mount of transfiguration serves to highlight other issues. The true meaning of Elijah’s appearance is emphasized by Jesus as he identifies Elijah with John the Baptist (vv. 9–13). Jesus still wishes the disciples to keep the events they have witnessed secret. The time for proclamation and publication will come, but is not yet. The unexplained question lingers in the minds of the disciples—why is the coming of Elijah a matter of rabbinic teaching? Jesus’ answer is that the prophecy concerning the coming of Elijah was fulfilled in the appearance of John. And just as Elijah and John were cruelly mistreated in the world, so, too, will Jesus be.[4]


17:5. Peter’s offer was interrupted by the appearance of the Father himself. There is a connection between the cloud’s appearance and the Father’s voice and Peter’s offer to build the shelters. Matthew says the cloud enveloped them while he [Peter] was still speaking. God recognized Peter’s good intention in wanting to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but he corrected Peter’s misperception by elevating his Son above the others.

In addition to Jesus’ dazzling transformation and the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the awesome display drew to its climax as the cloud of the Shekinah glory came down and the voice of God spoke from the cloud.

The cloud was bright, with the same glory that shone from Jesus, face and clothes, reminding us of the cloud of God’s presence during Israel’s wanderings (Exod. 13:21–22), and his indwelling of the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34–38) and the temple (1 Kgs. 8:10–13).

The Father’s words were identical to those spoken at Jesus’ baptism (3:17, see comment there), with the addition of Listen to him (the Greek present imperative, which means “keep on listening” or “always listen”). When the Father affirmed Jesus as his Son, the disciples gained a better idea of Jesus’ true identity—the glorious and suffering Messiah. When the Father expressed his love for his Son, the disciples had a more complete idea why Jesus was pleasing to the Father. He had been and would be obedient to the Father, even to death.

The command to the disciples was “Listen to him,” elevating the word of Jesus above the words of Moses and Elijah. Indeed, Moses himself commanded God’s people to heed the prophet “like me” who would come (Deut. 18:15). This reminds us of Jesus’ repeated challenge, “He who has ears, let him hear” (11:15; 13:9, 43). The disciples had heard all of Jesus’ teachings, but the “ears” of their hearts were not fully open to the meaning of what had been revealed to them.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 3, pp. 67–69). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 313–315). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] 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. 438–439). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Campbell, I. D. (2008). Opening up Matthew (pp. 108–109). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[5] Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 269–270). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

March 18 When the Going Gets Rough

scripture reading: Psalm 46:1–3
key verse: Psalm 54:7

He has delivered me out of all trouble;
And my eye has seen its desire upon my enemies.

You have a flight from Boston to Charlotte. Inclement weather, rain, and clouds shroud the flight path. Is the flight canceled? Rarely. Today’s aircraft are fully equipped to fly in harsh climatic conditions.

It is likewise important to realize that God has fitted you to navigate through turbulent times. Just as the pilot’s confidence is in the instruments, so must your reliance be on God, not yourself.

Your foremost guide in rough times is God’s Word. It is always a lamp unto your feet, especially when darkness is at its deepest.

If you are in tempestuous circumstances, read His Word voraciously, cling to specific promises tenaciously, and anticipate His gracious response.

You can also count on the unerring help of the Holy Spirit who lives in you. As the third person of the Trinity, He is unaffected by emotional, spiritual, financial, or psychological tumult.

He will stabilize you through His divine assistance, upright you when you fall, and constantly gird you through His unfailing strength and love.

God is the Sustainer of your soul. He will see you through when you cannot see at all.

Holy Spirit, You are unaffected by the emotional, spiritual, financial, or psychological tumult that I may face today. See me through when I cannot see at all.[1]


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

18 march (1855) 365 Days with Spurgeon

The victory of faith

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4

suggested further reading: Matthew 4:1–11

Faith helps Christians to overcome the world. It always does it homoeopathically. You say, “That is a singular idea.” So it may be. The principle is that “like cures like.” So does faith overcome the world by curing like with like. How does faith trample upon the fear of the world? By the fear of God, “Now,” says the world, “if you do not do this I will take away your life. If you do not bow down before my false god, you shall be put in yonder burning fiery furnace.” “But,” says the man of faith, “I fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. True, I may dread you, but I have a greater fear than that. I fear lest I should displease God; I tremble lest I should offend my Sovereign.” So the one fear counterbalances the other. How does faith overthrow the world’s hopes? “There,” says the world, “I will give you this, I will give you that, if you will be my disciple. There is a hope for you; you shall be rich, you shall be great.” But, faith says, “I have a hope laid up in heaven; a hope which fadeth not away, eternal, incorrupt, a golden hope, a crown of life;” and the hope of glory overcomes all the hopes of the world. “Ah!” says the world, “Why not follow the example of your fellows?” “Because,” says faith, “I will follow the example of Christ.” If the world puts one example before us, faith puts another. “Oh, follow the example of such an one; he is wise, and great, and good,” says the world. Says faith, “I will follow Christ; he is the wisest, the greatest, and the best.” It overcomes example by example; “Well,” says the world, “since you will not be conquered by all this, come, I will love you; you shall be my friend.” Faith says, “He that is the friend of this world, cannot be the friend of God. God loves me.”

for meditation: Faith can say to society, self, Satan and sin, “Anything you can give, Christ can give better” (Ephesians 2:1–8).

sermon no. 14[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 84). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

18 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Waiting for God

Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the Lord, and of them that speak evil against my soul. Psalm 109:20

suggested further reading: Isaiah 30:18–26

David did not rashly or unadvisedly utter curses against his enemies but strictly adhered to what the Spirit dictated. I acknowledge that many people pretend to have similar confidence and hope, but who nevertheless recklessly rush beyond the bounds of temperance and moderation. But what David beheld by the unclouded eye of faith, he also uttered with the zeal of a sound mind; for, having devoted himself to the cultivation of piety under the protection of God’s hand, he was aware that the day was approaching when his enemies would experience the punishment they had earned.

We learn that David’s trust was placed in God alone. He did not look to people to direct his course according to whether the world smiled or frowned upon him. We can be sure that whoever places his dependence on people will find that the most trifling incident will annoy him.

Therefore, even if the whole world abandons us, we, like this holy man, should lift up our heads to heaven and look there for our defender and deliverer. If God intends to use human instruments for our deliverance, he will soon raise up people to accomplish that purpose. But if he chooses to try our faith by depriving us of all earthly assistance, we should not regard that as any negative reflection upon the glory of his name. Rather, we should wait until the proper time when God fully makes known his decision in which we can calmly acquiesce.

for meditation: Patience in waiting for an answer to prayer, especially a prayer for deliverance, must be consciously cultivated if we are to avoid losing confidence in God and his ways. But while waiting is a challenge, the Spirit often uses it to teach us to look to heaven, not people, for deliverance. What lessons have you learned about the Lord or about yourself while waiting on him in prayer?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 96). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

March 18, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

The Test Exemplified

the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (2:6)

The only person who can pass the test of obedience and realize full assurance is the one who … abides in Him—because Jesus Christ is the perfect role model for obeying the Father. In John 15:4–5 Jesus commanded,

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (cf. vv. 10–11)

Believers draw spiritual life from the Lord Jesus Christ, even as branches do from a vine. To abide in Christ is to remain in Him—not a temporary, superficial attachment, but a permanent, deep connection (cf. Luke 9:23; John 6:53–65; Phil. 1:6; 2:11–13). Such authentic abiding in the Savior characterizes those who “continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that [they] have heard” (Col. 1:23; cf. 2:7; Eph. 3:17), because they are truly regenerate—new creatures who possess irrevocable eternal life.

John made it perfectly clear that those who claim to abide in Christ must walk in the same manner as He walked. Walk is a metaphor for daily conduct by believers (1:7; John 8:12; 12:35; Rom. 6:4; 8:4; 1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 5:16; Eph. 2:10; 4:1; 5:2, 8; Col. 1:10; 2:6; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:1; 2 John 6; cf. Mark 7:5). The Lord Himself perfectly exemplified this principle during His earthly ministry. In every way He obeyed His Father’s will:

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38)

“And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29)

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:17–18)

“So that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.” (John 14:31)

Obviously, believers’ obedience will not be perfect, as Jesus’ was. Nonetheless, He established the perfect pattern they are to follow. If anyone claims to know Him and abide in Him, it will be evident in his life. He will walk in the light—in the realm of truth and holiness—and guard (obey) His commandments because of his passionate love for the truth and the Lord of the truth. Therein lies the key to real assurance of salvation.[1]


Conclusion (v. 6)

This conclusion also comes to Christians living in our own time. Do we say we are Christians? Then “whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” The call is to emulate Jesus in our conduct. “Earlier,” as Calvin said, “he had set the light of God before us as an example. Now he calls us also to Christ, to imitate him. Yet he does not simply exhort us to the imitation of Christ, but, from the union we have with him, proves we should be like him.”

To walk as Christ walked is to live, not by rules, but by an example. It is to follow him, to be his disciple. Such a discipleship is personal, active, and costly. It is personal because it cannot be passed off to another. Indeed, we are to find ourselves with Christ, as Peter did following the resurrection. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” When Peter replied, “Yes,” he was told, “Feed my sheep.” This was repeated three times, and it began to irritate Peter. So to escape Christ’s careful probing, he turned to John, the beloved disciple, who was apparently standing some distance away, and asked, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus replied, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” In other words, there was no escaping the call to a personal discipleship for Peter.

To walk as Christ walked is also active because the Lord himself is active. To be inactive is to be left behind.

Finally, it is costly as well, because the path that Jesus walked is the path to crucifixion. It leads to glory, but before that it leads to the cross. Such a path can be walked only by the one who has died to self and who has deliberately taken up the cross of Christ to follow him.

Such a one, whether in John’s day or our own, will always have confidence before God and will be sure that he knows him. Here Dodd concludes most perceptively,

In this passage our author is not only rebutting dangerous tendencies in the Church of his time, but discussing a problem of perennial importance, that of the validity of religious experience. We may have the feeling of awareness of God, of union with him, but how shall we know that such experience corresponds to reality? It is clear that no amount of clearness or strength in the experience itself can guarantee its validity, any more than the extreme vividness of a dream leads us to suppose that it is anything but a dream. If, however, we accept the revelation of God in Christ, then we must believe that any experience of God which is valid has an ethical quality defined by what we know of Christ. It will carry with it a renewed fidelity to his teaching and example. The writer does not mean that only those who perfectly obey Christ and follow his example can be said to have experience of God. That would be to affirm the sinlessness of Christians in a sense which he has repudiated. But unless the experience includes a setting of the affections and will in the direction of the moral principles of the Gospel, it is no true experience of God, in any Christian sense.

There is more to be said, of course, as Dodd also indicates. In fact, more is to be said in the verses following, but thus far the test of one’s experience holds. By the test of righteousness we may know that we know God and may assure our hearts before him.[2]


6. He that saith he abideth in him. As he has before set before us God as light for an example, he now calls us also to Christ, that we may imitate him. Yet he does not simply exhort us to imitate Christ; but from the union we have with him, he proves that we ought to be like him. A likeness in life and deeds, he says, will prove that we abide in Christ. But from these words he passes on to the next clause, which he immediately adds respecting love to the brethren.[3]


6 While the language of this verse is grammatically similar to that of v. 4, it seems John is now offering a maxim to validate the two tests in vv. 4–5. While v. 3 focused on the need to obey Jesus’ teaching, v. 6 emphasizes the need to live by his example. The person who claims to remain in Jesus “ought to walk just as he walked” (NIV, “must walk as Jesus did”), meaning that the true believer’s life will be patterned after the example of Jesus.

The maxim in v. 6 describes the person who “claims to live in him.” The Greek word menō (NIV, “live”; GK 3531) is a key term in Johannine thought. Menō literally means “remain,” “stay,” or “abide,” and John sometimes uses the term in this general sense to imply endurance or durability (cf. Rensberger, 62–63). He warns believers, for example, to “see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you” in the face of the threat of the Antichrists (2:24) and tells the “chosen lady” that “the truth which remains in us will be with us forever” (2 Jn 2; NIV, “the truth, which lives in us …”).

Other passages indicate that menō is a codeword for several key points in Johannine theology. It is frequently used in the fourth gospel to describe “the relationship of mutual indwelling of the Father, the Son, and the believer” (W. L. Kynes, “Abiding,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel Green et al. [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1992], 2). The Father abides in Jesus, empowering his work (Jn 14:10), and will also abide in those who love Jesus and obey his teaching (14:23). The disciples, in turn, must abide in Jesus, apparently meaning that they must live by his word in order to maintain their relationship with him. It is through this process of mutual indwelling that Jesus gives believers life and power to accomplish his work (15:4–9). This special relationship gives an eschatological dimension to Christian experience. Those who remain with Jesus faithfully throughout their lives will “abide [NIV, live] forever” because they have escaped from the world and its desires (1 Jn 2:17). First John 2:6 highlights the ethical obligation that follows from this relationship: if we truly abide in Jesus, this will be evident in the way we live our lives. All those who do not live this way “abide in death” (1 Jn 3:14; NIV, “remain in death”).[4]


2:6 / The Elder’s answer is a practical one: walk as Jesus did. This verse contains the fifth stated claim of the Elder’s opponents, the secessionists, who had denied the full humanity of Jesus (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7) and separated themselves from the community (1 John 2:19). They claim to live in him. Actually, the Greek original is stronger: they claim to abide or to dwell (menō) in him. Menō means to live in an ongoing, close, personal relationship with God/Christ. It parallels to live in “fellowship with him” (1:6), to “walk in the light” (1:7), “to know him” (2:3–5), and “we are in him” (2:5). The Elder’s opponents claimed to have this profound relationship with God/Christ unbroken by sin (1:8, 10), whereas the believer confesses sin (1:9) and counts on Christ as advocate (niv, “one who speaks … in our defense” [2:1]) and “atoning sacrifice” (2:2).

The Elder insists that the opponents’ claim be tested by a life in imitation of Jesus. You must walk as Jesus did. This test, he is convinced, they cannot pass, because they do not keep God’s commands (2:3–4), as Jesus did. Above all, they do not love as Jesus loved (John 13:34). “The test of our religious experience is whether it produces a reflection of the life of Jesus in our daily life; if it fails this elementary test, it is false” (Marshall, Epistles, p. 128).[5]


6. Now comes the explicit statement of the second version of the Christian claim to know God: it is the assurance of “abiding” (continuously) in him. (For the use and meaning of μένειν, “to abide,” in John, see the comment on v 5; and for its occurrence in 1 John see also Malatesta, Interiority, especially 24–36, 133). But how may the genuineness of such a claim be judged? The answer is that “the test for the reality of the experience of union with God in Christ is the imitation of Christ” (Dodd, 32). The claim, and its attached condition, form in effect an applied example of the principle enunciated in v 5a: “in anyone who obeys his word God’s love has really reached fulfillment.”

ὁ λέγων ἐν αὐτῷ μένειν, “anyone who claims to abide in him.” The second version of the assertion about knowing God has already been introduced in v 5, once more using γινώσκομεν (literally, “we know”): “this is how we can be sure” (plural, as in v 3). The citation of the claim itself, however, uses the singular form, ὁ λέγων (as in v 4): “anyone who claims (to abide in him).” Possibly this reflects the quotation of an actual slogan which individuals were using (cf. also v 9).

But what was the precise nature of the claim? The phrase “to abide in him” (ἐν αὐτῷ μένειν) seems once again to refer, in the first place, to God; and this would follow naturally from the reference to God in v 5a, and the obviously parallel phrase ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμεν (“we exist in him”) in v 5b. However, it is fairly certain that, as before, we cannot exclude a reference to Jesus from this sentence; and, indeed, perhaps we should regard the primary reference as christocentric. (Dodd, 32, takes “him,” [ἐν] αὐτῷ, as standing exclusively for Christ here.)

Two further points support such a view. One is that the allusion in the remaining part of this verse is clearly to Jesus (see below). Secondly, it is possible that the claim to “abide in him” was derived directly from the Fourth Gospel by (docetic?) ex-members of the Johannine community who were not concerned about the ethical responsibilities involved in such an assertion (see the comment on the parallel claim in v 4). In this case the passage drawn upon would, obviously, be John 15:1–7. Note especially v 4, “remain in me (μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί), and I will remain in you.”

A refinement of thought thus seems to be involved in vv 5b–6. The reference to “existing in him” (v 5b) is primarily to God, but includes Jesus; the predominant meaning of “abiding in him” (v 6a) is probably “abiding in Jesus,” but this cannot exclude God; and the subject of “he lived” περιεπάτησεν, v 6b), is Jesus himself. For all his readers, including those (ex-Jewish Christians?) who may have been inclined to regard Jesus as no more than a man, John makes it clear that the ultimate knowledge of God the Father is disclosed through Jesus his Son.

For the verb μένειν (ἐν), “to abide (in),” see the comment on v 5. The use of this word represents a climactic development in the thought of the present passage. In v 4 the writer speaks of “knowing” God in Christ; in v 5b the allusion is to “existing” in him; and here the reference focuses on “abiding” in God through Jesus the Christ. The use of μένειν at this point suggests an intensely personal knowledge of God; it presupposes an intimate and committed relationship with him, through Jesus, which is both permanent and continuous. To abide “in (ἐν) Jesus,” moreover, indicates a close and ongoing relationship between the Father and the Son (cf. John 15:10); it guarantees eternal life; and it provides the power for living ethically as a believer. Thus “abiding in Christ” is used by John interchangeably with “Christ abiding in the believer” (cf. 3:24; John 14:20–21; 15:4–5). On the formula “in him” (ἐν αὐτῷ) in this passage see further Schnackenburg, 105–10.

ὀφείλει καθὼς … περιπατεῖν, “must (live) … as he lived.” For any Christian to say, “I am abiding (habitually) in God through Jesus,” is perfectly acceptable. However, John warns his readers, and in particular those with heretical and antinomian inclinations, that such an assertion by itself is insufficient. As with the broad claim to “know God” (v 4), ethical obligations are included (cf. vv 3, 5). Thus the test of “abiding” in him is, as before, whether or not the claimant is living a life of obedience to God. For this he is obliged to do. The force of ὀφείλει, “he must,” is almost “he binds himself” (so neb).

The particular aspect of obedience mentioned on this occasion is Christlikeness. “He himself must live as Jesus lived.” In other words, the life of the believer must be consistent not only with the assertion that he abides in the Godhead, but also with the life of Jesus himself. For the verb περιπατεῖν (literally, “to walk”), as a synonym for “to live,” see the comments on 1:6–7.

The reference of ἐκεῖνος (“he”) in the phrase καθὼς ἐκεῖνος περιεπάτησεν (literally, “as that one walked”), is clearly to Jesus; for the pronoun ἐκεῖνος in 1 John always refers to him (cf. 3:3, 5, 7, 16; 4:17; also John 7:11; 9:12, 28; 19:21). In the words “live as he lived” the writer is obviously alluding to the earthly activity of Jesus (cf. Acts 10:38); and this is interesting because in 1 John such historical allusion is rare.

The way in which John refers, however elliptically, to the historical life of Jesus here, presupposes that his readers had some factual information on which to base the imitation of Christ which is being advocated. If so, the chief source for this would presumably be the Fourth Gospel itself, which was probably written earlier (see the introduction, xxii). This Gospel, as a growing consensus of scholarship now recognizes, reflects a background of authentic, historical tradition about the earthly ministry of Jesus. See Smalley, John, especially 9–40.

This is the obligation, therefore, laid personally upon every Christian (note the force of αὐτός, “he himself”): not only to obey God’s orders, his word (vv 4–5), but also to follow the example of his Son (v 6). “We cannot claim to abide in him unless we behave like him” (Stott, 92). It is not only a matter of discipleship, but also of obedient discipleship; and this is expressed by habitually imitating Christ. As Jesus lived (περιεπάτησεν, aorist), so must the Christian himself live (ὀφείλει αὐτὸς περιπατεῖν, “he must himself live,” where the infinitive suggests a present, repeated action). In the Johannine writings καθώς (“as”) relates to the life of Christ as both a model to be imitated, and as the means for that imitation to become a possibility (cf. 3:2; 4:17; John 13:15, 34; 15:12, 17). So Malatesta, Interiority, 134; see also O. de Dinechin, RSR 58 (1970) 233–36.

The idea of imitatio Christi (“the imitation of Christ”) appears elsewhere in 1 John. See 3:16, where the sacrificial reference to “giving up life,” as part of the imitation, may connect with 2:2 (“he is himself the offering for our sins”; cf. John 10:11, 15, 17); note also 3:2 (imitation is a dynamic process, a goal not yet achieved). Cf. also John 13:15; Phil 2:5–11; 1 Pet 2:21. On this idea in the NT generally, including John, see Smalley, Themelios 3 (1965) 13–22, especially 16–17.[6]


2:6 Therefore, whoever says he abides in Him should walk just as the Lord Jesus walked. His life, as set forth in the Gospels, is our pattern and guide. It is not a life which we can live in our own strength or energy, but is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to turn our lives over to Him unreservedly, and allow Him to live His life in and through us.[7]


2:6 abides in Him: Abiding is habitual obedience. It has the idea of settling down in Christ or resting in Him. It is evidenced by a life modeled after Christ. A Christian may fail to abide in Christ as evidenced by His repeated commands to abide in John 15:4–10. ought … to walk: The admonition to live by the teaching of Jesus reveals that this conformity comes from us. Slaves must follow the commands of their masters or they will be punished. Employees need to do their work to keep their jobs. However, the Christian as a child of God ought to obey God because of a sincere desire to do so. It should be a joy to follow in the footsteps of the One who died for us.[8]


2:6 — He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

An intimate relationship with Christ makes it both possible and appealing for us to obey God, just as Jesus did. If we think of salvation as an invitation to sin—“He’ll forgive me anyway”—we’re on the wrong track.[9]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (pp. 59–60). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2004). The Epistles of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 49–50). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 176). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 437–438). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Johnson, T. F. (2011). 1, 2, and 3 John (pp. 41–42). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Smalley, S. S. (1989). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 51, pp. 51–53). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2312). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1708). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[9] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (1 Jn 2:6). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.


 

40 Days to the Cross: Week Two – Monday

Confession: Psalm 6:1–4

O Yahweh, do not rebuke me in your anger,

and do not discipline me in your wrath.

Be gracious to me, O Yahweh, because I am feeble.

Heal me, O Yahweh, for my bones are terrified.

My soul is also very terrified.

But you, O Yahweh, how long?

Turn, O Yahweh; deliver my life.

Save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

Reading: Mark 10:32–45

Now they were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going on ahead of them. And they were astounded, but those who were following him were afraid. And taking aside the twelve again, he began to tell them the things that were about to happen to him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him, and after three days he will rise.”

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask you.” And he said to them, “What do you want that I do for you?” So they said to him, “Grant to us that we may sit one at your right hand and one at your left in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” And they said to him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup that I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

And when they heard this, the ten began to be indignant about James and John. And Jesus called them to himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their people in high positions exercise authority over them. But it is not like this among you! But whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be most prominent among you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Reflection

Elevation is pleasing to all, but humility is the step to it. Why do you put out your foot beyond you? You have a mind to fall, not to ascend. Begin by the step, and so you have ascended. This step of humility those two disciples were loth to have an eye to, who said [to the Lord], “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37 nrsv). They sought for exaltation; they did not see the step. But the Lord showed them the step. For what did He answer them? “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38 nrsv) He does not simply say, “Let him deny himself, and follow me.” But He says, “[Let him] take up [his] cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 nrsv)

What is, “Let him take up his cross”? Let him bear whatever trouble he has; so let him follow me. When he begins to follow me in conformity to my life and precepts, many will contradict him, many will hinder him, many will try to dissuade him—even those who are, as it were, Christ’s companions. They who hindered the blind men from crying out were walking with Christ. Whether there be threats or caresses—or whatever hindrances there be—if you wish to follow, turn them into your cross. Bear it, carry it, and do not give way beneath it. There seems to be an exhortation to martyrdom in these words of the Lord. If there be persecution, ought not all things to be despised in consideration of Christ? The world is loved; but let Him be preferred by whom the world was made.

—Augustine of Hippo

Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament

Response

The call to take up your cross is a radical one. Is your life marked by transformation? Are you willing to bear troubles, conflicts, or even persecution on His behalf? Are you willing to share the good news of Jesus with others?[1]


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

March 18 For the love of God (Vol. 2)

Exodus 29; John 8; Proverbs 5; Galatians 4

 

all of proverbs 5 is a warning, in wisdom categories, against succumbing to an adulteress—a warning that keeps returning in the opening chapters of this book (e.g., 6:20–35; 7:1–27). Sometimes it appears that prostitution is in view; sometimes it is simple adultery.

In an age of heightened sensibilities about stereotypes, some have taken umbrage that the person doing the tempting is invariably an adulteress. In the real world, isn’t the tempter at least as often the male, an adulterer?

Many things could be said, but four brief comments will suffice. (a) In part the warning is against an adulteress because it is offered to “my son” (5:1), following up on the fundamental structure of the genre (1:8; see meditation for March 15). (b) Even so, the “son” who goes off with an adulteress is certainly not shielded from blame. The errant son in this chapter is portrayed as more than a victim. This is the son who “hated discipline” and whose heart “spurned correction” (5:12). It is said of him, “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast” (5:22). He is guilty of “great folly” (5:23). (c) In this book, both wisdom and folly will later be personified as women (Prov. 9; see meditation for March 22). In other words, there is no univocal connection between women and evil. Men are often evil, and so are women. Both are called to pursue “Lady Wisdom.” (d) In any case, in the larger canon there are many places where the primary blame for sexual misconduct is clearly laid at the man’s door. That is true, for instance, of Judah’s affair with Tamar, of Amnon’s rape of his half-sister, of David’s seduction of Bathsheba.

Adultery itself is wrong, or foolish, or sinful, or short-term, or undisciplined—whatever the category Proverbs deploys—and not just the adulteress. The chapter not only articulates warnings, but offers an alternative: a marriage that is cherished, developed, nurtured, not least in the sexual arena (5:18–19). But beyond all the immediate and cultural reasons for sexual fidelity in marriage is one of transcendent importance: “For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths” (5:21). There are, of course, several similar verses in Scripture—e.g., “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). But in the context of Wisdom Literature, there is an additional overtone. Not only does God see everything, including any sexual misconduct, but it is the part of wisdom, the wisdom of living out life in God’s universe in God’s way, to please our Maker.[1]


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

March 18 For the love of God (Vol. 1)

Exodus 29; John 8; Proverbs 5; Galatians 4

 

two comments on John 8:12–51.

(1) Already in John 7:7, Jesus said to his brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I testify that what it does is evil.” Both in his own person and in his uncompromising words, Jesus is so offensive that the world hates him. He is the very embodiment of 3:19–21: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

John 8 now goes further. Jesus insists that when the Devil lies, “he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (8:44). Then Jesus adds, “Yet because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me” (8:45).

That is stunning. The first clause is not concessive, as if Jesus had said, “Although I tell you the truth, you do not believe me.” That would be bad enough. But Jesus says, “Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me.” What options does that leave him? Should he tell the smooth lies that comfortable people want to hear? That might get him a hearing, but it is unthinkable that Jesus would follow such a course. So he continues telling the truth, and precisely because he tells the truth, he is not believed. To those so blinded, speaking the truth is precisely what hardens their hearts. It ignites the burning hatred that issues in the conflagration of the cross.

(2) Jesus insists that “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day” (8:56): probably what Jesus has in mind is the promise God made and renewed to Abraham that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12). It is unlikely Jesus is claiming that Abraham had some vision that unfolded the life and times of Jesus in a kind of visionary preview. What he means, rather, is that Abraham knew God, believed God’s promises about the offspring, and in faith contemplated the fulfillment of those promises, rejoicing in the prospect of what he could not yet fully grasp: “he saw it and was glad” (8:56). But at very least this means that Jesus is the object and fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, thus superseding him in importance. More: if the eternal Word (John 1:1) was always with God, and was always God, even Abraham’s faith-borne contemplation of God was nothing less than a contemplation of him who became Jesus of Nazareth. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am” —the very covenant name of God (Ex. 3:14).

When his opponents pick up stones to kill Jesus because of this second point, they prove his first point.[1]


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

March 17 Keep Out of Satan’s Territory

Scripture reading: Luke 22:31–32

Key verse: Ephesians 6:12

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

She had spent a long, hard day at the office. After-hours work caused her to get caught in heavy traffic, the aftermath of an earlier accident. Plans for an early dinner date with her husband were running afoul. Through it all, she tried to remain at peace, knowing circumstances were beyond her control.

However, by the time she arrived home, her husband’s concern for her tardiness had turned to irritation. As the conversation degenerated, both took a defensive posture.

After tempers had cooled, they called to mind Ephesians 6:12. Satan took subtle advantage of the circumstances, turning concern and weariness into personal conflict.

When such conflicts arise between two people, it is hard to keep in mind that the devil is slyly working behind the scenes. We seek to solve problems in our own abilities, ignorant of the reality of the spiritual realm. When we begin to understand the spiritual forces that are at work, we can then be more tolerant and forgiving of others, thwarting Satan’s plan of strife.

Allow Christ to fight your battles in the heavenlies, keeping you out of Satan’s territory.

Lord, fight my battles in the heavenlies. Keep me out of Satan’s territory![1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2002). Seeking His face (p. 80). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

March 17, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Riches of Poverty

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.” (19:27–29)

With hope perhaps tinged with uncertainty, Peter ventured to ask Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” “We came on Your terms, didn’t we?” he said in effect. “Do we thereby qualify for eternal life? The rich young ruler refused to surrender his possessions and his life to You, and he forfeited the kingdom. But we forsook our jobs, our families, our friends, and everything else we had in order to be Your disciples. We have repented of our sins and surrendered to Your lordship. Just as You commanded, we have denied ourselves and taken up our crosses for your sake. Doesn’t that qualify us for a place in Your kingdom?”

Peter was speaking for all of the Twelve, because he had no suspicion of Judas’s betrayal. As that false disciple would soon make evident, he had not forsaken everything for Christ but was instead seeking to use Him for his own ends. He expected Jesus to overthrow Rome and set up His own earthly kingdom, with the disciples given the highest places of honor and power. Judas was much further from the kingdom than the rich young ruler, who at least knew he needed eternal life and had a certain desire for it. Judas, on the other hand, was totally concerned with his present, earthly life.

But the rest of the Twelve, despite their small faith and slowness to understand Jesus’ teaching, had truly given themselves to Him. They shared with Judas many of the common Jewish misconceptions about the Messiah and His kingdom. They may still have been expecting Him to establish the kingdom during their lifetimes and therefore could not bring themselves to accept the idea of His suffering and death. But they nevertheless continued to follow and obey Him. As Peter had declared in behalf of the Twelve, “You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68–69).

Although Peter and the others were still confused about much of Jesus’ message and mission, they knew they truly belonged to Him and that He truly loved them and would not forsake them. They were certain He had something divinely good in store for them, even if they had a distorted idea of what it was. Peter therefore asked to hear from Jesus’ own lips concerning what then will there be for us? “What are the benefits of Your kingdom for us?” they wanted to know “What do we have to look forward to as Your disciples?”

Some have criticized Peter for his expectation of blessing and reward. But Jesus gave no hint of dissatisfaction with the question. Instead, He acknowledged that they were indeed His true and sincere disciples, referring to them as you who have followed Me. The Greek aorist participle characterizes them as His followers.

Next, He gave them the marvelous and unique promise that in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The term palingenesia (regeneration) literally means new birth. It was used by Josephus for the new birth of the Jewish nation after the Babylonian Captivity and by Philo of the new birth of the earth after the Flood and after its destruction by fire. It is used only twice in the New Testament, here and in Titus 3:5, where Paul uses it to refer to the personal new birth of believers. In the present passage, however, Jesus uses it to represent the rebirth of the earth under His sovereign dominion at the time of His second coming. It will be paradise regained and a global parallel to the individual rebirth of Christians.

The earth and the world of men will be given a new nature, described in great detail by the Old Testament prophets and by John in Revelation 20:1–15. Just as they have been given spiritual life and a new nature in Jesus Christ but are not yet perfected, so there will be a rebirth of the earth that is divinely recreated. Although it will not yet be a totally new earth (Rev. 21:1), it will nevertheless be wonderfully superior to the present fallen and unredeemed earth. It was the belief of the Jews that Messiah would renew the earth and heavens, based on the prophecy of Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22. Peter called it “the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient times” (Acts 3:21).

All believers will sit on the throne of Christ (Rev. 3:21), exercising authority over the people of the earth (Rev. 2:26), while the apostles are uniquely ruling restored Israel. This cannot be the eternal state described in Revelation 21:12–14, where twelve gates in the New Jerusalem are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes and twelve foundations are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles.

At the time of the restoration of the earth, righteousness will flourish, peace will abound, Jerusalem will again be exalted, health and healing will prevail, the earth will produce food as never before, the lion will lay down in peace with the lamb, the deserts will blossom, and life will be long. The age-old curse that began with the Fall will then be limited, in anticipation of its being eliminated completely in the eternal state to follow (Rev. 22:3).

As God had long before predicted, the Messiah, the Lord’s Anointed, will then receive all the nations as His inheritance and have the very ends of the earth as His possessions. “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,” the psalmist declared; “Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware” (Ps. 2:2, 8–9). Then the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). This is a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13–14, where God, “the Ancient of Days,” gives the kingdom to the Son of Man. Jesus is affirming the reality that He will rule in the coming kingdom.

At that time the redeemed of all the ages will also reign with Him. “Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him” (Dan. 7:27; cf. 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 20:4). The nation of Israel will be restored, and sharing Christ’s rule over her will be the Twelve apostles, who also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthias, who took Judas’s place among the apostles shortly before Pentecost (Acts 1:26), will join the other eleven on the twelve thrones (cf. Dan. 7:22 and Isa. 1:26).

Because amillennial interpreters do not believe in a literal thousand-year kingdom on earth or in Israel’s national restoration, they take the twelve thrones and the twelve tribes as being purely figurative. One such writer made no attempt to discern Jesus’ meaning but simply commented, “Now we have to wonder what our Lord meant by the twelve tribes of Israel.”

If Jesus was referring to a real reigning on His part when He spoke of His throne, He must be referring to literal thrones that the apostles would sit upon while literally judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And as already noted, this millennial truth is also revealed elsewhere in Scripture.

The Word makes clear that in the reign of Christ over the world, He will be sovereign and rule over Jews and Gentiles with righteousness, peace, and immediate justice. He will be worshiped as supreme Lord, and His kingdom will bring prosperity, healing, health, and blessedness.

Not only that, Jesus continued, but “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive as much, and shall inherit eternal life.” Those who renounce their possessions and become poor for Christ’s name’s sake are going to share with the apostles in His triumph and reign. Mark reports that Jesus said the person who gives up those things for His sake and the gospel’s “shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age” (Mark 10:30).

When a person comes to Jesus Christ he must often have to turn his back on certain relationships, even with those who are very dear to him. Many times his conversion turns his own family and closest friends against him, in some cases even to the point of seeking his disinheritance or even his life. But the one who gives up everything for Christ’s sake, not only will inherit eternal life but also the family of God in this present life. He will have a host of new fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters with whom he will forever be united in God’s divine family. Wherever he goes, he meets spiritual loved ones, many of whom he has never seen or heard of before. Throughout the world he finds those who will share his sorrows, encourage his spirit, and help meet his needs, material as well as spiritual.

The believer in Jesus Christ will have blessings now, blessings in the millennial kingdom, and blessings throughout all eternity. To be poor for the sake of Christ is to be rich indeed. Jim Elliot, a young missionary martyred by the Auca Indians of Ecuador whom he was seeking to reach for Christ, wrote shortly before his death, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”[1]


Matthew 19:29. And whosoever shall forsake. After having raised the expectation of his followers to the hope of a future life, he supports them by immediate consolations, and strengthens them for bearing the cross. For though God permit his people to be severely afflicted, he never abandons them, so as not to recompense their distresses by his assistance. And here he does not merely address the apostles, but takes occasion to direct his discourse generally to all the godly. The substance of it is this: Those who shall willingly lose all for the sake of Christ, will be more happy even in this life than if they had retained the full possession of them; but the chief reward is laid up for them in heaven.

But what he promises about recompensing them a hundred-fold appears not at all to agree with experience; for in the greater number of cases, those who have been deprived of their parents, or children, and other relatives—who have been reduced to widowhood, and stripped of their wealth, for the testimony of Christ—are so far from recovering their property, that in exile, solitude, and desertion, they have a hard struggle with severe poverty. I reply, if any man estimate aright the immediate grace of God, by which he relieves the sorrows of his people, he will acknowledge that it is justly preferred to all the riches of the world. For though unbelievers flourish, (Ps. 92:7,) yet as they know not what awaits them on the morrow, (James 4:14,) they must be always tossed about in perplexity and terror, and it is only by stupifying themselves in some sort that they can at all enjoy prosperity. Yet God gladdens his people, so that the small portion of good which they enjoy is more highly valued by them, and far sweeter, than if out of Christ they had enjoyed an unlimited abundance of good things. In this sense I interpret the expression used by Mark, with persecutions; as if Christ had said, Though persecutions always await the godly in this world, and though the cross, as it were, is attached to their back, yet so sweet is the seasoning of the grace of God, which gladdens them, that their condition is more desirable than the luxuries of kings.[2]


29–30 Jesus now extends his encouragement to all his self-sacrificing disciples (cf. Mk 10:30). The promise is not literal (one cannot have one hundred mothers). God is no man’s debtor. If one of Jesus’ disciples has, for Jesus’ sake, left, say, a father, he will find within the messianic community a hundred who will be as a father to him—in addition to inheriting eternal life (v. 29).

The proverbial saying (v. 30) is one Jesus repeats on various occasions. Here he immediately illustrates it by a parable (20:1–16), climaxed by the proverb in reverse form (20:16) as a closing bracket. It indicates something of the reversals under the king’s reign. Attempts to restrict the application of this parable to one setting are not successful.

  1. Some say the rich become poor at the consummation and the poor rich (cf. vv. 16–29), as in Luke 16:19–31 (the story of Lazarus and the beggar). But such reversals are not absolute. Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1–10) was a rich man to whose house salvation came; Abraham, to whose “bosom” the beggar went, had great wealth.
  2. Many of the Fathers hold that the first/last idea refers to Jews and Gentiles respectively. Doubtless it may, but this theme is not dominant in these chapters.
  3. Some think the proverb assumes that the disciples had been arguing about priority on the basis of who was first called, to which Jesus responds that “the last will be first …” But this better suits the situation in Matthew 18 than in ch. 19.
  4. It seems preferable, therefore, to take the proverb as a way of setting forth God’s grace over against all notions that the rich, powerful, great, and prominent will continue so in the kingdom. Those who approach God in childlike trust (vv. 13–15) will be received and advanced in the kingdom beyond those who, from the world’s perspective, enjoy prominence now.[3]

19:27–30 / Somewhat incongruously, Peter asks what reward there will be for the disciples who have given up everything in order to follow Jesus. The answer is that at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is enthroned, the twelve disciples will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The Greek word translated the renewal of all things (palingenesia) occurs only here and in Titus 3:5 in the New Testament. It is a technical term developed by the Stoics, who expected a periodic renewal of the universe following its destruction by fire. In Jewish thought, regeneration referred to the renewal of Israel that would accompany the establishment of God’s earthly kingdom. Christians linked the concept with the enthronement of the Son of Man.

The idea of judging (v. 28 has the participle krinontes) should be taken in the sense of ruling. The Hebrew judge was virtually the ruler of Israel. The symbolism of the twelve tribes is carried over into New Testament to represent the Christian church (cf. James 1:1). Everyone who has forsaken home and family will be rewarded a hundred times over and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first (those who have not made the sacrifice of family in order to follow Jesus) will be last, and many who are last (such as the disciples) will be first. That there are twelve followers is symbolic: it does not ensure a place in the New Age for Judas.[4]


19:28–29. Jesus underscored the faithfulness of the promise he was about to make with his words, I tell you the truth. His additional words, you who have followed me, included all the diligent hardship and sacrifice Jesus had predicted would be the lot of his true followers. We hear in Jesus’ words warmth and affirmation for his followers. And that includes everyone who sacrifices for my sake. There is not only eternal life, but enormous rewards (a hundred times as much).

The word renewal is from palingenesia (also Titus 3:5), meaning “rebirth” (palin, “again,” plus genao, “to give birth”). Jesus was referring to the future day when he would, after eliminating Satan and his influence, take over this earth and restore it to its original purpose (cf. Dan. 7:13–14; Rev. 3:21; 20:1–6).

Using his title Son of Man in all its messianic fullness, Jesus gave his disciples a glimpse of his future glory as the king on his glorious throne. Aside from his transfiguration before Peter, James, and John, this was the fullest revelation of his future glory that Jesus had given his disciples.

Jesus promised that the Twelve would share with him in ruling (this is the present meaning of judging) the twelve tribes of Israel. (This is the clearest statement in Matthew of at least one of Jesus’ reasons for choosing twelve disciples.) Part of the faithful disciple’s reward is authority in his kingdom (cf. believers’ future authority in Luke 22:30; 1 Cor. 6:2).

Jesus had already assured his followers that discipleship implies sacrifice. Now he promised that any sacrifice made for my sake would be more than repaid. In between houses and fields Jesus listed even greater sacrifices—members of one’s family, even children (cf. 10:21–22, 34–37).

But the reward for such sacrifice will be the repayment of a hundred times as much in some form or another. In the church, the Lord gives us a foretaste of this payment. If a person is rejected by his family for being a Christian, he finds many more “fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters” in the family of God.

The true follower (in contrast to the rich young ruler) will inherit eternal life. The use of the term inherit here provides the sense of the new family (after one has been rejected by his old family). An heir is a son of the family from whom he inherits.

19:30. Jesus began to caution the disciples not to use a human yardstick when measuring eternal rewards. God’s estimation of worthiness is quite different from ours.

The chapter break here is unfortunate, for the flow of thought is continuous. Many people who seem to be deserving of reward will receive less than is expected (though no less than they deserve). And many whom we might judge as undeserving will prove, in God’s economy, to be first, receiving great reward.[5]


The general promise, the one intended for all true followers of the Lord, is found in verse 29. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my name’s sake shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. With this compare 10:37. This promise is for all who have in life chosen Christ above everybody and everything else, even above their nearest relatives and most cherished possessions. They have made the sacrifice, says Jesus, “for my name’s sake,” explained in Mark 10:29 as meaning “for my sake.” The “name” of Jesus indicates Jesus himself as he has revealed himself. See also on 6:9; 7:22; 10:22, 41, 42; 12:21.

These loyal followers of the Lord are going to receive “a hundredfold,” that is, they will be reimbursed “many times over” (Luke 18:30). For “hundredfold” see also Gen. 26:12 and Matt. 13:8. Even in the present day and age (note Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30), that is, before the great day of judgment, and for each believer before his death, these loyal followers receive the blessings indicated in such passages as Prov. 15:16; 16:8; Matt. 7:7; John 17:3; Rom. 8:26–39; Phil. 4:7; 1 Tim. 6:6; Heb. 6:19, 20; 10:34; 1 Peter 1:8. In spite of the persecutions which they will have to endure, they will even be able to enjoy their material possessions (“houses … lands,” Mark 10:30), far more than the ungodly enjoy theirs. Reason? See Isa. 26:3; contrast 48:22. For the sake of Christ has it become necessary for his followers to forsake close relatives? New “relatives” will now be theirs (Matt. 12:46–50; Rom. 16:13; 1 Cor. 4:15), for they now belong to “the family of God” (see N.T.C. on Eph. 3:15).

When Esau boasts about having “enough” or “much,” Jacob—rather “Israel”—answers that he has “all” or “everything” (Gen. 33:9–11 in the original Hebrew and in the Septuagint). With this compare Paul’s exuberant testimony (1 Cor. 3:22, 23). These treasures are real. Otherwise how shall we account for Paul’s triumphant outbursts of optimism (2 Cor. 4:7–18; 12:9; Phil. 4:10–13)?

Jesus adds, “and shall inherit everlasting life.” As meant here this blessing pertains to “the age to come” (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30). For the concept “everlasting life” see on verse 16. All the spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon God’s children in the present life “in principle” will be theirs “in full measure” in the hereafter. On and after the day of Christ’s return in glory material blessings will be added to the spiritual. They shall inherit them, in the present context implying that a. they are freely given to them, not earned by them; b. the gift is based upon justice: they were earned for them and are therefore theirs by right; and c. they are theirs forever.

To the apostles and to believers in general Jesus has given rich promises. Does this mean now that the pledged blessings will be theirs regardless of how they conduct themselves? Not at all. It is only in the way of trust and obedience that the promised goods are delivered to the children of God (Phil. 2:12, 13; 2 Thess. 2:13).

When Peter said, “Look, we have left everything and followed thee; what then shall we have?” (verse 27), was his question the product of holy curiosity, or, in whatever slight degree, of a mercantile spirit? The division of opinion among commentators in their attempt to answer this question is most interesting. Some, in their zeal to defend Peter against every charge, go so far as to say that those who distrust Peter’s motives are judging others by their own ethical standards. Others go to the opposite extreme and regard Christ’s sayings, the one reported in verse 30, as also the parable immediately following (20:1–16), to be inexplicable unless Peter’s worldly motivation be taken into account. May not the best procedure be the following: A man is innocent unless his guilt can be established beyond any reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we have no right to charge Peter with anything wrong. On the other hand, it is also true that his question, though purely motivated, may have occasioned the warning that is found in the verse we are about to consider. Jesus may well have meant something on this order: “Peter, your question, ‘What then shall we have?’ is right and proper. Nevertheless, since it is so easy to fall into the error of expecting a reward based on supposed merit, I must warn you, so that you may not be caught unawares.” Besides, is it not possible that the undoubtedly mercantile attitude of the rich young ruler (verse 16) may have caused Jesus to issue a needed warning?

It should not escape our attention that the words of verse 30. (as well as those of verses 28 and 29) are not addressed to Peter alone but to all the disciples: But many that are first shall be last, and (many) last first. We are reminded of the words of Jehovah addressed to Samuel, “Jehovah does not see as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). The “first” are those who because of their wealth, education, position, prestige, talents, etc., are highly regarded by men in general, sometimes even by God’s children. But since God sees and knows the heart many of these very people are by him assigned to a position behind the others; in fact, some may even be altogether excluded from the halls of glory. Cf. Matt. 7:21–23.

There does not seem to be any good reason for saying that Jesus meant that all of those who “shall be last” are going to be lost or outside the kingdom. Fact is: not only are there degrees of suffering in hell (Luke 12:47, 48), there are also degrees of glory in the restored universe (1 Cor. 15:41, 42). There will be surprises however. Not only will many of those who are now regarded as the very pillars of the church be last, but also many who never made the headlines—think of the poor widow who contributed “two mites” (Mark 12:42), and Mary of Bethany whose act of loving lavishness was roundly criticized by the disciples (Matt. 26:8)—shall be first on the day of judgment (Mark 12:43, 44; Matt. 26:10–13). The disciples, who were constantly quarreling about rank (18:1; 20:20; Luke 22:24) better take note![6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 3, pp. 203–206). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 407–408). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] 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. 481–482). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (p. 185). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 316–317). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 730–732). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

 

March 17 Victory in a Pig Pen

Scripture Reading: Luke 6:1–20

Key Verse: Luke 15:18

I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”

Imagine the prodigal son looking at the pigs he was feeding. As he dropped pods into their sty, his stomach growled, and he realized that the swine were eating better than he was. He was at such a low point that he was actually envying the hogs! The only alternative he could imagine was to return to his father in humility (Luke 15:18).

When the prodigal son considered his options, he chose the last place he had experienced grace. Even though he was determined to offer himself to his father as a hired hand, he must have known in his heart that his father’s arms would be open to him. No matter how far you are from God, His arms are open to you. God’s grace is always available to you to lift you from sin and defeat back to victorious living.

Catherine of Genoa writes, “I clearly recognize that all good is in God alone, and that in me, without Divine Grace, there is nothing but deficiency.… The one sole thing in myself in which I glory, is that I see in myself nothing in which I can glory.”

You have not slipped too far away from Him, because the only good in you was from Him in the first place. Do not envy the pigs, but run back to the Father. He desires to restore you by His grace and fill you with all of His goodness.

Lord, show me the areas where I have been prodigal and call me back to the safety of Your love.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 80). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

March 17 Your True Identity

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:17–24

Key Verse: Ephesians 4:24

You put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Determining identity is a lifelong struggle for many people.

Teenagers look to peers and parents trying to discover their unique identity. Possessions and status are the criteria for the majority of their conclusions.

Adults tend to define their identity by their vocation, financial bracket, or social strata. Determining our identity greatly affects our behavior. We act like who we think we are.

One of the greatest assets of the Christian is that his identity is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. Because he is a child of God—an heir of God, a citizen of heaven as well as earth, a saint, and God’s workmanship—he can act accordingly.

Do you know who you are in Christ?

Your marriage, career, relationships, and ambitions all hinge upon your new relationship with God’s Son, Christ Jesus.

Your values, priorities, and perspectives are determined by this new relationship with Jesus. You are secure in Him. You are complete in Him. Your past, present, and future are bound up in the person of Jesus Christ.

Father, I am thankful that I am complete in Your Son, Jesus Christ. My past, present, and future are bound up in Him. Let my values, priorities, and perspectives always reflect this divine relationship.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 80). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

March 17 The Fabric of Your Life

Scripture reading: Psalm 119:69–76

Key verse: Hebrews 4:12

The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Amy Carmichael made a habit of collecting short prayers written throughout the Bible. When a need arose, she would pray God’s Word to Him. One of her favorites is found in Psalm 119:175: “Let my soul live, and it shall praise You; and let Your judgments help me.”

Two things immediately happen when you use God’s Word as a prayer source. First, you are strengthened within your soul. God’s Word is powerful (Heb. 4:12). It reveals the message of His heart written just for you. If you are weary from the battles of life, the Word of God is a minister of hope and truth. It is God breathed; therefore, it has the ability to refresh and renew the downtrodden.

Second, you experience intimate fellowship with the Lord by reading His Word. In picking it up, you are telling Him that you want to know more about Him, your life, and the situation at hand. He honors your devotion just as He honors the promises in His Word.

Too many people wait until desperation hits before they turn to God for guidance. But you don’t have to wait until the alarm sounds. God’s Word is a standard of truth. When you weave it into the fabric of your life through prayer, your trust level rises, and you can see clearly the hope that is given to you by a faithful, loving God.

Lord, help me weave the fabric of my life with prayer. Lift the level of my trust so I can see clearly the hope that You have given me.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 80). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

March 17, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

God’s Pardon

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (6:12)

Opheilēma (debts) is one of five New Testament Greek terms for sin. Hamartia is the most common and carries the root idea of missing the mark. Sin misses the mark of God’s standard of righteousness. Paraptōma, often rendered “trespass,” is the sin of slipping or falling, and results more from carelessness than from intentional disobedience. Parabasis refers to stepping across the line, going beyond the limits prescribed by God, and is often translated “transgression.” This sin is more conscious and intentional than hamartia and paraptoma. Anomia means lawlessness, and is a still more intentional and flagrant sin. It is direct and open rebellion against God and His ways.

The noun opheilēma is used only a few times in the New Testament, but its verb form is found often. Of the some thirty times it is used in its verb form, twenty-five times it refers to moral or spiritual debts. Sin is a moral and spiritual debt to God that must be paid. In his account of this prayer, Luke uses hamartia (“sins”; Luke 11:4), clearly indicating that the reference is to sin, not to a financial debt. Matthew probably used debts because it corresponded to the most common Aramaic term (hôbā) for sin used by Jews of that day, which also represented moral or spiritual debt to God.

the problem

Sin is that which separates man from God, and is therefore man’s greatest enemy and greatest problem. Sin dominates the mind and heart of man. It has contaminated every human being and is the degenerative power that makes man susceptible to disease, illness, and every conceivable form of evil and unhappiness, temporal and eternal. The ultimate effects of sin are death and damnation, and the present effects are misery, dissatisfaction, and guilt. Sin is the common denominator of every crime, every theft, lie, murder, immorality, sickness, pain, and sorrow of mankind. It is also the moral and spiritual disease for which man has no cure. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). The natural man does not want his sin cured, because he loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19).

Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have received God’s pardon for sin and are saved from eternal hell. And since, as we have seen, this prayer is given to believers, the debts referred to here are those incurred by Christians when they sin. Immeasurably more important than our need for daily bread is our need for continual forgiveness of sin.

Arthur Pink writes in An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), pp. 163–64:

As it is contrary to the holiness of God, sin is a defilement, a dishonor, and a reproach to us as it is a violation of His law. It is a crime, and as to the guilt which we contact thereby, it is a debt. As creatures we owe a debt of obedience unto our maker and governor, and through failure to render the same on account of our rank disobedience, we have incurred a debt of punishment; and it is for this that we implore a divine pardon.

the provision

Because man’s greatest problem is sin, his greatest need is forgiveness—and that is what God provides. Though we have been forgiven the ultimate penalty of sin, as Christians we need God’s constant forgiveness for the sins we continue to commit. We are to pray, therefore, forgive us. Forgiveness is the central theme of this entire passage (vv. 9–15), being mentioned six times in eight verses. Everything leads to or issues from forgiveness.

Believers have experienced once-for-all God’s judicial forgiveness, which they received the moment Christ was trusted as Savior. We are no longer condemned, no longer under judgment, no longer destined for hell (Rom. 8:1). The eternal Judge has declared us pardoned, justified, righteous. No one, human or satanic, can condemn or bring any “charge against God’s elect” (Rom. 8:33–34).

But because we still fall into sin, we frequently require God’s gracious forgiveness, His forgiveness not now as Judge but as Father. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” John warns believers. But, he goes on to assure us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

During the Last Supper, Jesus began washing the disciples’ feet as a demonstration of the humble, serving spirit they should have as His followers. At first Peter refused, but when Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me,” Peter went to the other extreme, wanting to be bathed all over. Jesus replied, “ ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’ ” (John 13:5–11).

Jesus’ act of footwashing was therefore more than an example of humility; it was also a picture of the forgiveness God gives in His repeated cleansing of those who are already saved. Dirt on the feet symbolizes the daily surface contamination from sin that we experience as we walk through life. It does not, and cannot, make us entirely dirty, because we have been permanently cleansed from that. The positional purging of salvation that occurs at regeneration needs no repetition, but the practical purging is needed every day, because every day we fall short of God’s perfect holiness.

As Judge, God is eager to forgive sinners, and as Father He is even more eager to keep on forgiving His children. Hundreds of years before Christ, Nehemiah wrote, “Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness” (Neh. 9:17). As vast and pervasive as the sin of man is, God forgiveness is more vast and greater. Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds even more (Rom. 5:20).

the plea

Asking forgiveness implies confession. Feet that are not presented to Christ cannot be washed by Him. Sin that is not confessed cannot be forgiven. That is the condition John makes plain in the text just quoted above: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). To confess means basically to agree with, and when we confess our sins we agree with God about them that they are wicked, evil, defiling, and have no part in those who belong to Him.

It is difficult to confess sins, and both Satan and our prideful nature fight against it. But it is the only way to the free and joyful life. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Prov. 28:13). John Stott says, “One of the surest antidotes to the process of moral hardening is the disciplined practice of uncovering our sins of thought and outlook, as well as of word and of deed, and the repentant forsaking of them” (Confess Your Sins [Waco, Tex.: Word, 1974], p. 19).

The true Christian does not see God’s promise of forgiveness as a license to sin, a way to abuse His love and presume on His grace. Rather he sees God’s gracious forgiveness as the means of spiritual growth and sanctification and continually gives thanks to God for His great love and willingness to forgive and forgive and forgive. It is also important to realize that confessing sin gives God the glory when He chastens the disobedient Christian because it removes any complaint that God is unfair when He disciplines.

A Puritan saint of many generations ago prayed, “Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, and the exceeding wonder of grace.” At another time he prayed, “I am guilty but pardoned. I am lost but saved. I am wandering but found. I am sinning but cleansed. Give me perpetual broken-heartedness. Keep me always clinging to Thy cross” (Arthur Bennett, ed., The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1975], pp. 76, 83).

the prerequisite

Jesus gives the prerequisite for receiving forgiveness in the words, as we also have forgiven our debtors. The principle is simple but sobering: if we have forgiven, we will be forgiven; if we have not forgiven, we will not be forgiven.

We are to forgive because it is the character of righteousness, and therefore of the faithful Christian life, to forgive. Citizens of God’s kingdom are blessed and receive mercy because they themselves are merciful (Matt. 5:7). They love even their enemies because they have the nature of the loving heavenly Father within them (5:44–45, 48). Forgiveness is the mark of a truly regenerate heart. Still we fail to be consistent with that mark and need constant exhortation because of the strength of sinful flesh (Rom. 7:14–25).

We are also to be motivated to forgive because of Christ’s example. “Be kind to one another,” Paul says, “tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). John tells us, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

Because it reflects God’s own gracious forgiveness, the forgiving of another person’s sin expresses the highest virtue of man. “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Prov. 19:11).

Forgiving others also frees the conscience of guilt. Unforgiveness not only stands as a barrier to God’s forgiveness but also interferes with peace of mind, happiness, satisfaction, and even the proper functioning of the body.

Forgiving others is of great benefit to the whole congregation of believers. Probably few things have so short-circuited the power of the church as unresolved conflicts among its members. “If I regard wickedness in my heart,” the psalmist warns himself and every believer, “the Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66:18). The Holy Spirit cannot work freely among those who carry grudges and harbor resentment (see Matt. 5:23–24; 1 Cor. 1:10–13; 3:1–9).

Forgiving others also delivers us from God’s discipline. Where there is an unforgiving spirit, there is sin; and where there is sin, there will be chastening (Heb. 12:5–13). Unrepented sins in the church at Corinth caused many believers to be weak, sick, and even to die (1 Cor. 11:30).

But the most important reason for being forgiving is that it brings God’s forgiveness to the believer. That truth is so important that Jesus reinforces it after the close of the prayer (vv. 14–15). Nothing in the Christian life is more important than forgiveness—our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us.

In the matter of forgiveness, God deals with us as we deal with others. We are to forgive others as freely and graciously as God forgives us. The Puritan writer Thomas Manton said, “There is none so tender to others as they which have received mercy themselves, for they know how gently God hath dealt with them.”[1]


12. And forgive us our debts. Here it may be proper that we should be reminded of what I said a little before, that Christ, in arranging the prayers of his people, did not consider which was first or second in order. It is written, that our prayers are as it were a wall which hinders our approach to God, (Isa. 59:2,) or a cloud which prevents him from beholding us, (Isa. 44:22,) and that “he hath covered himself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through,” (Lam. 3:44.) We ought always, therefore, to begin with the forgiveness of sins: for the first hope of being heard by God beams upon us, when we obtain his favour; and there is no way in which he is “pacified toward us,” (Ezek. 16:63,) but by freely pardoning our sins. Christ has included in two petitions all that related to the eternal salvation of the soul, and to the spiritual life: for these are the two leading points of the divine covenant, in which all our salvation consists. He offers to us a free reconciliation by “not imputing our sins,” (2 Cor. 5:19,) and promises the Spirit, to engrave the righteousness of the law on our hearts. We are commanded to ask both, and the prayer for obtaining the forgiveness of sins is placed first.

In Matthew, sins are called debts, because they expose us to condemnation at the tribunal of God, and make us debtors; nay more, they alienate us entirely from God, so that there is no hope of obtaining peace and favour except by pardon. And so is fulfilled what Paul tells us, that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23,) “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God,” (Rom. 3:19.) For, though the righteousness of God shines, to some extent, in the saints, yet, so long as they are surrounded by the flesh, they lie under the burden of sins. None will be found so pure as not to need the mercy of God, and if we wish to partake of it, we must feel our wretchedness. Those who dream of attaining such perfection in this world, as to be free from every spot and blemish, not only renounce their sins, but renounce Christ himself, from whose Church they banish themselves. For, when he commands all his disciples to betake themselves to him daily for the forgiveness of sins, every one, who thinks that he has no need of such a remedy, is struck out of the number of the disciples.

Now, the forgiveness, which we here ask to be bestowed on us, is inconsistent with satisfaction, by which the world endeavours to purchase its own deliverance. For that creditor is not said to forgive, who has received payment and asks nothing more,—but he who willingly and generously departs from his just claim, and frees the debtor. The ordinary distinction between crime and punishment has no place here: for debts unquestionably mean liability to punishment. If they are freely forgiven us, all compensations must disappear. And there is no other meaning than this in the passage of Luke, though he calls them sins: for in no other way does God grant the pardon of them, than by removing the condemnation which they deserve.

As we forgive our debtors. This condition is added, that no one may presume to approach God and ask forgiveness, who is not pure and free from all resentment. And yet the forgiveness, which we ask that God would give us, does not depend on the forgiveness which we grant to others: but the design of Christ was, to exhort us, in this manner, to forgive the offences which have been committed against us, and at the same time, to give, as it were, the impression of his seal, to ratify the confidence in our own forgiveness. Nor is any thing inconsistent with this in the phrase used by Luke, καὶ γὰρ, for we also. Christ did not intend to point out the cause, but only to remind us of the feelings which we ought to cherish towards brethren, when we desire to be reconciled to God. And certainly, if the Spirit of God reigns in our hearts, every description of ill-will and revenge ought to be banished. The Spirit is the witness of our adoption, (Rom. 8:16,) and therefore this is put down simply as a mark, to distinguish the children of God from strangers. The name debtors is here given, not to those who owe us money, or any other service, but to those who are indebted to us on account of offences which they have committed.[2]


12 The first three petitions stand independently from one another. The last three, however, are linked in Greek by “ands,” almost as if to say that life sustained by food is not enough. We also need forgiveness of sin and deliverance from temptation.

In Matthew, what we ask to be forgiven for is ta opheilēmata hēmōn (“our debts,” GK 4052); in Luke, it is our “sins.” Hill notes that the crucial word to opheilēma (“debt”) “means a literal ‘debt’ in the LXX and NT, except at this point.” And on this basis, S. T. Lachs (“On Matthew 6.12,” NovT 17 [1975]: 6–8) argues that in Matthew this petition of the Lord’s Prayer is not really dealing with sins but with loans in the sixth year, one year before the Jubilee. But the linguistic evidence can be read differently. The word opheilēma is rather rare in biblical Greek. It occurs only four times in the LXX (Dt 24:10 [2x]; 1 Esd 3:20; 1 Macc 15:8); and in Deuteronomy 24:10, where it occurs twice, it renders two different Hebrew words. In the NT, it appears only here and in Romans 4:4. On this basis it would be as accurate to say the word always means “sin” in the NT except at Romans 4:4 as to say it always means “debt” except at Matthew 6:12.

More important, the Aramaic word ḥôbā (“debt”) is often used (e.g., in the Targums) to mean “sin” or “transgression.” Deissmann (Bible Studies, 225) notes an instance of the cognate verb hamartian opheilō (lit., “I owe sin”). Probably Matthew has provided a literal rendering of the Aramaic Jesus most commonly used in preaching; and even Luke (Lk 11:4) uses the cognate participle in the second line, panti opheilonti hēmin (“everyone who sins against us”). There is therefore no reason to take “debts” to mean anything other than “sins,” here conceived as something owed God (whether sins of commission or omission).

Some have taken the second clause to mean that our forgiveness is the real cause of God’s forgiveness, i.e., that God’s forgiveness must be earned by our own. The problem is often judged more serious in Matthew than Luke, because the latter has the present “we forgive,” the former the aorist (not perfect, as many commentators assume) aphēkamen (“we have forgiven”; GK 918). Many follow the suggestion of Jeremias (Prayers of Jesus, 92–93), who says that Matthew has awkwardly rendered an Aramaic perfectum praesens (a “present perfect”): he renders the clause “as we also herewith forgive our debtors.”

The real solution is best expounded by C. F. D. Moule (“ ‘… As we forgive …’: a Note on the Distinction between Deserts and Capacity in the Understanding of Forgiveness,” in Donum Gentilicium [ed. E. Bammel et al.; Oxford: Clarendon 1978], 68–77), who, in addition to detailing the most important relevant Jewish literature, rightly insists on distinguishing “between, on the one hand, earning or meriting forgiveness, and, on the other hand, adopting an attitude which makes forgiveness possible—the distinction, that is, between deserts and capacity.… Real repentance, as contrasted with a merely self-regarding remorse, is certainly a sine qua non of receiving forgiveness—an indispensable condition” (pp. 71–72). “Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offense against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offenses of others, it proves that we have minimized our own” (Stott, Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 149–50; see comments at 5:5, 7; 18:23–35).[3]

12. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. In connection with this petition, which sounds so simple, a few questions are in order:

  • What is the difference between “debts” (verse 12) and “trespasses” (verses 14, 15)?

Answer: see on verse 14.

  1. Why should we pray for forgiveness, since we no longer sin?

Answer: We do, indeed, sin daily. See p. 317.

  1. Granted that we sin, why must we still daily pray for forgiveness, since through Christ’s atonement we are already cleansed (justified) from every sin?

Answer: It is true that the basis of our daily forgiveness has been established once for all by means of Christ’s atonement. Nothing need be and nothing can be added to that. But this total, objective cleansing needs daily application for the simple reason that we sin every day. A father may have bequeathed a large inheritance to his son. It now very definitely belongs to the son. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the latter is immediately allowed to withdraw the entire huge amount from the bank and spend it all within one week. Very wisely the father included a stipulation limiting the withdrawal privilege to a certain generous amount each month. So also when a person receives the grace of regeneration, this does not mean that all of that which Christ merited for him is immediately experienced by him. If it were, would it not overwhelm and crush his capacities? Rather, “He [God] giveth and giveth and giveth again.” See also John 13:10.

The prayer for forgiveness implies that the supplicant recognizes that there is no other method by which his debt can be wiped out. It is, therefore, a plea for grace.

However, a totally different difficulty arises in connection with “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This certainly cannot mean that our forgiving disposition earns God’s pardon. The forgiveness of our debts is based not on our merits—how could we have any?—but on Christ’s, applied to us. Consequently, from our point of view, forgiveness is based on God’s unmerited (not merited by us) favor, that is, on divine grace (Eph. 1:7), compassion (Matt. 18:27), and mercy (Luke 18:13). Nevertheless, our own forgiving disposition is very important. In fact, without it we ourselves cannot be forgiven. For us it is the indispensable condition of receiving the forgiveness of sins. That fact is stated clearly in verses 14 and 15, which, together with 18:21–35, is the best and simplest explanation of 6:12 one could ask for. It is with this as it is with salvation in general. We are not saved on the basis of our faith, as if faith had earning power. We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). Yet faith must be present if we are to be saved (hence, “by grace through faith”). Faith and one of its manifestations, namely, the disposition to forgive, are conditions that must be met and exercised if salvation and its component, pardon, are to be received. We must believe, we must forgive. God does not do these things for us. Nevertheless, it is God who plants in our hearts the seed of faith and of the forgiving disposition. Moreover, the power to believe and the power to forgive are from God. At every step—beginning, middle, and end, all along the way—God is both present and active. “With fear and trembling continue to work out your own salvation; for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13). See also N.T.C. on Eph. 2:8 and on Phil. 2:12, 13. It is exactly as Greijdanus observes, in commenting on the parallel passage, Luke 11:4 (“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive every one indebted to us”). He writes, “In spite of for, this clause does not indicate the ground upon which God bestows forgiveness, but that which must be complied with for us to enjoy God’s forgiveness of our own sins.”

To be genuine, this forgiveness that we ourselves bestow upon our fellow men must be given gladly, generously, and with finality; not in the spirit of, “I’ll forgive, but I’m telling you that I’ll never forget.” Lord’s Day 51 of the Heidelberg Catechism gives a correct, succinct, and beautiful explanation of the fifth petition: “Be pleased, for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to impute to us, miserable sinners, any of our transgressions, nor the evil which always cleaves to us; as we also find this witness of thy grace in us that it is our full purpose heartily to forgive our neighbor.”

A possible objection to the explanation given must be briefly answered: “Does not this mean, then, that our act of kindness toward the one who has injured us precedes Christ’s act of kindness toward us?”

Answer. In the circle of salvation the beginning is always with God, never with us. See 1 John 4:19; cf. John 13:15; Eph. 4:32; and 1 Peter 2:21. Nevertheless, the forgiving love of Christ not only precedes but also accompanies and even follows the love with which we love him and the neighbor.

Our sincere purpose to forgive those who have injured us, and thus also our experience of the pardoning love and grace of God in Christ, can be enhanced by the following considerations:

Extend forgiveness to others, for

  1. God so commands. Vengeance belongs to him, not to us (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19).
  2. We should follow the example Christ himself has given us (Luke 23:34; John 13:12–15; Eph. 4:32; 5:1, 2; Col. 3:13).
  3. We cannot be forgiven unless we forgive, as has been shown.
  4. The man who injured us needs our sympathy and love. We owe him this love (Rom. 13:8).
  5. Harboring a grudge and planning revenge is not only wicked but also foolish, for it deprives us of the strength we need to do effective work. We should have the forward look (Phil. 2:13).
  6. Forgiving others will impart peace of heart and mind to us, the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7, 9).
  7. Thus, thus alone, will God be glorified, which should be our aim in all we do (1 Cor. 10:31).

The fourth petition is linked to the fifth, and the fifth to the sixth, by the conjunction and. All three represent human needs, and are closely connected. The connection between the fourth and fifth has already been indicated. Very close is also the relation between the fifth and the sixth, and this in at least the following respect: we are in need not only of forgiveness of past sins, but also of God’s protecting care so that in the future we may not fall into the clutches of Satan.

Between “And lead us not into temptation” and “deliver us from the evil one” there is no conjunction and. On the contrary, the conjunction but shows that the petition simply continues, the negative request being balanced by the positive in one petition. These two are, as it were, the two sides of the same coin. Accordingly, I am in agreement with all those who accept six, not seven, petitions.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 391–395). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 325–327). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] 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. 206–207). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 334–336). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

March 17 Crisis or Opportunity?

scripture reading: Psalm 18:29–33
key verse: Habakkuk 3:19

The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

The Chinese character for crisis and opportunity is identical. Literally translated, it reads, “Crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous winds.”

When crises arise, and they do so quite frequently, they appear foreboding—a pink slip at work; a somber look on the face of your physician after seeing test results; an unexpected call with the sad news of a family death.

Although you cannot diminish their gravity (the Bible never ignores or attempts to explain away pain), you can take realistic stock of your dilemma and then turn to the ultimate Realist, Jesus Christ.

The danger in facing life’s crises is withdrawing into the valley of despair or seeking to surmount it with feeble self–resolve. Both tactics will end in ruin.

The opportunity is to trust God to make your feet as “deer’s feet” so that through Him, you may see God at work in your problems. Faith in God and His care for you will stabilize your footing and give you a confident grip in His ability.

As God strengthens and equips you, you can ride on the divine winds of faith that help you seize the opportunity for faith in your crises and give you renewed hope in God’s active presence in your life.

Dear Lord, stabilize my spiritual footing. I do not want to withdraw to the valley of despair, and I cannot survive through self–resolve. Enable me to ride the divine winds of faith in the midst of my storms.[1]


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

17 march (1861) 365 Days with Spurgeon

Humility

“Serving the Lord with all humility.” Acts 20:19

suggested further reading: Philippians 2:3–11

Pride can shut the door in the face of Christ. Only let us take out our tablets and write down “God is for me, therefore let me be proud;” only let us say with Jehu, “Come, and I will show thee my zeal for the Lord of Hosts,” and God’s presence will soon depart from us, and Ichabod be written on the front of the house. And let me say to those of you who have already done much for Christ as evangelists, ministers, teachers, or what not, do not sit down and congratulate yourselves upon the past. Let us go home and think of all the mistakes we have made; all the errors we have committed, and all the follies into which we have been betrayed, and I think instead of self-congratulation we shall say, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Let us humble ourselves before God. You know there is a deal of difference between being humble and being humbled. He that will not be humble shall be humbled. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God and he shall lift you up, lest he leave you because you hold your head so high. And should I be addressing any here this morning who are very much exalted by the nobility of rank, who have what the poet calls “The pride of heraldry, the pomp of power,” be humble, I pray you. If any man would have friends, let him be humble. Humility never did any man any hurt. If you stoop down when you pass through a doorway, if it should be a high one, you will not be hurt by stooping; but if it should be a low one, you might have knocked your head if you had held it up.

for meditation: We have no end of sins to be ashamed of. Let us be proud only of the Gospel of our Saviour, who so humbled himself for our sakes. We ought to boast only of the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17), otherwise boasting is groundless (Romans 3:27).

sermon no. 365[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 83). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

17 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Grateful in Danger

Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron. Psalm 107:10

suggested further reading: Matthew 14:22–33

The Spirit of God mentions many dangers in which God shows his power and grace in protecting and delivering people. The world calls these vicissitudes the sport of fortune; hardly one in a hundred people ascribe them to the superintending providence of God.

But God expects a very different kind of practical wisdom from us, namely, that we should meditate on his judgments in a time of adversity and on his goodness in delivering us from danger. For surely it is not by mere chance that a person falls into the hands of enemies or robbers; neither is it by chance that a person is rescued from them. But what we must constantly keep in mind is that all afflictions are God’s rod, and therefore there is no remedy for them other than God’s grace.

If a person falls into the hands of robbers or thieves and is not instantly murdered, but, giving up all hope of life, expects death at any moment, surely his deliverance is striking proof of the grace of God. This grace is even more illustrious considering the few who escape from such danger. Such circumstances, then, ought not to diminish our praises of God.

The prophet charges people with ingratitude who, after they have been wonderfully saved, very soon lose sight of the deliverance granted to them. To strengthen the charge, he brings forward their sighs and cries as a testimony against them. For when they are in dangerous straits, they confess in good earnest that God is their deliverer. Why then do these confessions disappear when they enjoy peace and quietness?

for meditation: Cries to God for deliverance come so easily and so naturally to our lips when we are unable to help ourselves. Why then does praise feel so difficult when things are going well? Are we so foolish to think that we can take care of ourselves in the good times, as if we are any less dependent on God?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 95). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

March 17, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

10  I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11  For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 61:10–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.


10. Rejoicing I shall rejoice in Jehovah. He represents the Church as giving thanks to God, in order to convince them more fully of the truth of what he formerly said. It may be regarded as (ὑποτύτωσις) a lively description, by which the thing is, as it were, painted and laid before the eyes of men, so as to remove all doubt; for by nature we are prone to distrust, and so fickle, that we place confidence rather in the inventions of men than in the word of God. As to this form of confirmation, we have spoken at chap. 12:1; 26:1, and at other passages.

For he hath clothed me. These things were still, indeed, at a great distance, but must have been seen and understood by the eyes of faith; as the eyes should undoubtedly be raised to heaven, when the Prophet discourses concerning salvation and righteousness. Nothing is visible here, and much less could so great happiness have been perceived by the senses, while everything tended to destruction. But because even now we do not see any such beauty of the Church, which is even contemptible in the eyes of the world under the revolting dress of the cross, we need faith, which comprehends heavenly and invisible things.

With the garments of salvation. He connects “righteousness” with “salvation,” because the one cannot be separated from the other. “Garments” and “mantles” are well-known metaphors. It is as if he had said, that righteousness and salvation had been bestowed upon them. Since the Lord bestows these benefits, it follows that from him alone we should seek and expect them.

He hath adorned me. The metaphor is supposed to be drawn from priestly ornament; and accordingly there are some who speculate here about the priesthood of Christ. But I do not think that the Prophet spoke so ingeniously; for he brings forward the comparison of the bridegroom and the bride. Formerly the Church lay in filth and rags, and was universally despised, as a forsaken woman; but now, having been received into favour with her husband, she shines with amazing lustre. A parallel passage occurs in Hos. 2:20. This was accomplished at the coming of Christ; but it is also bestowed upon us daily, when the Lord adorns his people with righteousness and salvation. But all these things, as we have often said already, shall be accomplished at Christ’s last coming.[1]


61:10–11 / The prophet’s second response to the promises of chapter 60 is to praise. In line with the intended relationship between prophet and people, the Preacher begins now to behave in accordance with the whole people’s destiny as verses 1–9 describe it. The Preacher thus models a response to which the whole people is called. They are to offer this response before the event actually happens, in accordance with the summons that chapters 40–55 often made to their audience. The symbolism of the words, with their reference to the adornment of bride or groom, suggests that the response also has the resonances of a sign, an act which expresses and effects that which it signifies.[2]


The prophet speaks (Isa. 61:10–11). Isaiah is speaking on behalf of the remnant who are praising God for all He has done. They rejoice that He has cleansed them and clothed them and turned their desert into a fruitful garden (55:10). They have gone from a funeral to a wedding![3]


61:10–11 The song of the justified. With this outburst of joy, cf. 12:1–6 and the songs in chs. 24–27. Note the two metaphors for righteousness: first as the robe, on which the perfect comment is ‘the best robe’ of Lk. 15:22, festive and wholly undeserved; secondly as shoots of plant life, products of what is sown, whose inherent vitality issues in growth and form. The former depicts righteousness as conferred from outside (cf. Rom. 3:22); the latter as springing from within (cf. Rom. 8:10); both make it the gift of God. On its shades of meaning cf. on 46:12–13.[4]


61:10–11. In these verses the prophet seems to be speaking for the redeemed remnant who will rejoice (cf. comments on 9:3) in response to God’s blessings mentioned in 61:1–9. Salvation and righteousness are pictured as clothes worn by the people (cf. God’s “clothes,” 59:17). In other words the Israelites are characterized by salvation (God’s redeemed people) and righteousness (those who are living by God’s standards; cf. 58:8; 60:21). To picture their joy and blessing a bridegroom wore a fancy headgear, like a priest’s turban, and the bride wore costly jewelry. God will cause Israel’s righteousness to spring up in (be known by) other nations (cf. 61:11; 62:1–2) much as the soil sustains the growth of plants.[5]


61:10, 11 The Messiah leads the praises of His redeemed remnant. He celebrates the glorious garments of salvation and righteousness with which God has decked them, and the sprouting forth of practical righteousness and praise in Israel before the nations during the Millennium. (The speaker in vv. 10, 11 is variously identified as Isaiah, Zion, or the Messiah Himself. We prefer the last, the same speaker as in vv. 1–3.)[6]


61:10 I and the parallel My soul refer to personified Zion. Rejoice is translated “joy” in v. 3 (65:18). Clothed signifies the Servant’s new glorified status or condition (47:2; 52:1; 59:17). Ornaments is translated “beauty” in v. 3. bride: For a similar image, see 49:18.

61:11 spring forth: This phrase is also found in 42:9; 43:19; 45:8 to describe the coming of God’s salvation. Righteousness here means “deliverance” (54:17). before all the nations: For related passages, see 52:10; 60:2, 3.[7]


61:10 clothed me … wrapped me. Here is the OT picture of imputed righteousness, the essential heart of the New Covenant. When a penitent sinner recognizes he can’t achieve his own righteousness by works (see notes on Ro 3:19–22; 2Co 5:21; Php 3:8, 9), and repents and calls on the mercy of God, the Lord covers him with His own divine righteousness by grace through his faith.[8]


61:10 The church as Christ’s bride is given beautiful clothing (Rev. 19:8; see Eph. 5:25–27).[9]


61:10 I will rejoice greatly in Yahweh The speaker shifts from Yahweh to either Zion or the Servant. If it is Zion, it is rejoicing in the salvation Yahweh has brought. If the Servant, he is rejoicing over the salvation made possible through him.

as a bridegroom adorns himself with a head wrap like a priest The bridegroom and bride imagery is later used to describe Christ and the Church. Here, the speaker identifies with both bride and bridegroom; the analogy focuses on the care and attention that went into the adornment.

61:11 makes its plants sprout An allusion to the messianic title of “branch,” “shoot,” or “sprout.” See 4:2; 11:1.[10]


61:10 I. Zion is represented here as having received the blessings described in v. 3, for example, joy and the garments of praise. To be “clothed” with something is a common figure for a change in status or condition (52:1; Zech. 3:3–5; Matt. 22:11).[11]


61:10 Isaiah broke out in a hymn of praise in response to the pronouncement he had just delivered. He used the theme of clothing to describe his taking on God’s salvation and righteousness. These were not just any clothes but the clothes of a bride. This image implies the metaphor of God as husband of his people.[12]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 4, pp. 315–317). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Goldingay, J. (2012). Isaiah. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 348–349). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (p. 157). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Kidner, F. D. (1994). Isaiah. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 667). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[5] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1116). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 986). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 870). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 61:10). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[9] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1353). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 61:10–11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[11] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1039). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[12] Longman, T., III. (2017). Isaiah. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1129). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

March 17 For the love of God (Vol. 2)

Exodus 28; John 7; Proverbs 4; Galatians 3

 

“above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

(1) In contemporary Western symbolism, the heart is the seat of emotions: e.g., “I love you with all my heart.” But in the symbol-world of Scripture, the heart is the seat of the whole person. It is closer to what we mean by “mind,” though in English “mind” is perhaps a little too restrictively cerebral.

(2) So “guard your heart” means more than “be careful what, or whom, you love”—though it cannot easily mean less than that. It means something like, “Be careful what you treasure; be careful what you set your affections and thoughts on.”

(3) For the “heart,” in this usage, “is the wellspring of life.” It directs the rest of life. What you set your mind and emotions on determines where you go and what you do. It may easily pollute all of life. The imagery is perhaps all the clearer in this section of Proverbs because the ensuing verses mention other organs: “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead.… Make level paths for your feet” (4:24–26, italics added). But above all, guard your heart, “for it is the wellspring of life.” It is the source of everything in a way that, say, the feet are not. Jesus picks up much the same imagery. “You brood of vipers,” he says to one group, “how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matt. 12:34–35, italics added). So guard your heart.

(4) Make this duty of paramount importance: “Above all else, guard your heart.” One can see why. If the heart is nothing other than the center of your entire personality, that is what must be preserved. If your religion is merely external, while your “heart” is a seething mass of self-interest, what good is the religion? If your heart is ardently pursuing peripheral things (not necessarily prurient things), then from a Christian perspective you soon come to be occupied with the merely peripheral. If what you dream of is possessing a certain thing, if what you pant for is a certain salary or reputation, that shapes your life. But if above all else you see it to be your duty to guard your heart, that resolve will translate itself into choices of what you read, how you pray, what you linger over. It will prompt self-examination and confession, repentance, and faith, and will transform the rest of your life.[1]


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