Category Archives: Daily Devotional Guide

April 24, 2017: Verse of the day

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His Perfect Person

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (4:15)

At the end of verse 14 our great High Priest is again identified as Jesus, the Son of God. Here together are His human name, Jesus, and His divine title, Son of God. These two parts of His nature are also reflected in verse 15.

Jesus’ Humanity

Most people seem to think of God as being far removed from human life and concerns. Jesus was the very Son of God, yet His divinity did not prevent Him from experiencing our feelings, our emotions, our temptations, our pain. God became man, He became Jesus, to share triumphantly the temptation and the testing and the suffering of men, in order that He might be a sympathetic and understanding High Priest.

When we are troubled or hurt or despondent or strongly tempted, we want to share our feelings and needs with someone who understands. Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses. The phrase “No one understands like Jesus” in the well-known hymn is not only beautiful and encouraging but absolutely true. Our great High Priest not only is perfectly merciful and faithful but also perfectly understanding. He has an unequaled capacity for sympathizing with us in every danger, in every trial, in every situation that comes our way, because He has been through it all Himself. At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus’ body shook in grief. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest, He sweat drops of blood. He experienced every kind of temptation and testing, every kind of vicissitude, every kind of circumstance that any person will ever face. And He is at the right hand of the Father right now interceding for us.

Jesus not only had all the feelings of love, concern, disappointment, grief, and frustration that we have, but He had much greater love, infinitely more sensitive concerns, infinitely higher standards of righteousness, and perfect awareness of the evil and dangers of sin. Contrary, therefore, to what we are inclined to think, His divinity made His temptations and trials immeasurably harder for Him to endure than ours are for us.

Let me give an illustration to help explain how this can be true. We experience pain when we are injured, sometimes extreme pain. But if it becomes too severe, we will develop a temporary numbness, or we may even faint or go into shock. I remember that when I was thrown out of the car and skidded on my back on the highway, I felt pain for awhile and then felt nothing. Our bodies have ways of turning off pain when it becomes too much to endure. People vary a great deal in their pain thresholds, but we all have a breaking point. In other words, the amount of pain we can endure is not limitless. We can conclude, therefore, that there is a degree of pain we will never experience, because our bodies will turn off our sensitivity in one way or another—perhaps even by death—before we reach that point.

A similar principle operates in temptation. There is a degree of temptation that we may never experience simply because, no matter what our spirituality, we will succumb before we reach it. But Jesus Christ had no such limitation. Since He was sinless, He took the full extent of all that Satan could throw at Him. He had no shock system, no weakness limit, to turn off temptation at a certain point. Since He never succumbed, He experienced every temptation to the maximum. And He experienced it as a man, as a human being. In every way He was tempted as we are, and more. The only difference was that He never sinned. Therefore, when we come to Jesus Christ we can remember that He knows everything we know, and a great deal that we do not know, about temptation, and testing, and pain. We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.

This truth was especially amazing and unbelievable to Jews. They knew that God was holy, righteous, sinless, perfect, omnipotent. They knew His divine attributes and nature and could not comprehend His experiencing pain, much less temptation. Not only this, but under the Old Covenant God’s dealings with His people were more indirect, more distant. Except for special and rare instances, even faithful believers did not experience His closeness and intimacy in the way that all believers now can. Jews believed that God was incapable of sharing the feelings of men. He was too distant, too far removed in nature from man, to be able to identify with our feelings and temptations and problems.

If comprehending God’s sympathy was hard for Jews, it was even harder for most Gentiles of that day. The Stoics, whose philosophy dominated much Greek and Roman culture in New Testament times, believed that God’s primary attribute was apathy. Some believed that He was without feeling or emotions of any sort. The Epicureans claimed that the gods live intermundia, between the physical and spiritual worlds. They did not participate in either world, and so could hardly be expected to understand the feelings, problems, and needs of mortals. They were completely detached from mankind.

The idea that God could and would identify with men in their trials and temptations was revolutionary to Jew and Gentile alike. But the writer of Hebrews is saying that we have a God not only “who is there” but one “who has been here.”

Weaknesses does not refer directly to sin, but to feebleness or infirmity. It refers to all the natural limitations of humanity, which, however, include liability to sin. Jesus knew firsthand the drive of human nature toward sin. His humanity was His battleground. It is here that Jesus faced and fought sin. He was victorious, but not without the most intense temptation, grief, and anguish.

In all of this struggle, however, Jesus was without sin (chōris hamartia). He was completely apart from, separated from, sin. These two Greek words express the absolute absence of sin. Though He was mercilessly tempted to sin, not the slightest taint of it ever entered His mind or was expressed in His words or actions.

Some may wonder how Jesus can completely identify with us if He did not actually sin as we do. It was Jesus’ facing sin with His perfect righteousness and truth, however, that qualifies Him. Merely experiencing something does not give us understanding of it. A person can have many successful operations without understanding the least bit about surgery. On the other hand, a doctor may perform thousands of complicated and successful operations without ever having had the surgery himself. It is his knowledge of the disease or disorder and his surgical skill in treating it that qualifies him, not his having had the disease. He has great experience with the disease—much greater experience with it than any of his patients—having confronted it in all of its manifestations. Jesus never sinned, but He understands sin better than any man. He has seen it more clearly and fought it more diligently than any of us could ever be able to do.

Sinlessness alone can properly estimate sin. Jesus Christ did not sin, could not sin, had no capacity to sin. Yet His temptations were all the more terrible because He would not fall and endured them to the extreme. His sinlessness increased His sensitivity to sin. “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Heb. 12:3–4). If you want to talk to someone who knows what sin is about, talk to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ knows sin, and He knows and understands our weakness. Whatever Satan brings our way, there is victory in Jesus Christ. He understands; He has been here.

Dr. John Wilson often told the following story. Booth Tucker was conducting evangelistic meetings in the great Salvation Army Citadel in Chicago. One night, after he had preached on the sympathy of Jesus, a man came forward and asked Mr. Tucker how he could talk about a loving, understanding, sympathetic God. “If your wife had just died, like mine has,” the man said, “and your babies were crying for their mother who would never come back, you wouldn’t be saying what you’re saying.”

A few days later Mr. Tucker’s wife was killed in a train wreck. Her body was brought to Chicago and carried to the Citadel for the funeral. After the service the bereaved preacher looked down into the silent face of his wife and then turned to those who were attending. “The other day when I was here,” he said, “a man told me that, if my wife had just died and my children were crying for their mother, I would not be able to say that Christ was understanding and sympathetic, or that He was sufficient for every need. If that man is here, I want to tell him that Christ is sufficient. My heart is broken, it is crushed, but it has a song, and Christ put it there. I want to tell that man that Jesus Christ speaks comfort to me today.” The man was there, and he came and knelt beside the casket while Booth Tucker introduced him to Jesus Christ.

We have a sympathetic High Priest, whose priesthood is perfect and whose Person is perfect.[1]


4:15 Then too we must consider His experience. No one can truly sympathize with someone else unless he has been through a similar experience himself. As Man our Lord has shared our experiences and can therefore understand the testings which we endure. (He cannot sympathize with our wrongdoing because He never experienced it.)

In every pang that rends the heart,

The Man of Sorrows has a part.

He was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin. The Scriptures guard the sinless perfection of the Lord Jesus with jealous care, and we should too. He knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21), He committed no sin (1 Pet. 2:22), and there is no sin in Him (1 Jn. 3:5).

It was impossible for Him to sin, either as God or as Man. As the perfect Man, He could do nothing of His own accord; He was absolutely obedient to the Father (John 5:19), and certainly the Father would never lead Him to sin.

To argue that His temptation was not meaningful if He could not sin is fallacious. One purpose of the temptation was to demonstrate conclusively that He could not sin.

If you put gold to the test, the test is not less valid because the gold is pure. If there were impurity, the test would show it up. Similarly it is wrong to argue that if He could not sin, He was not perfectly human. Sin is not an essential element in humanity; rather it is a foreign intruder. Our humanity has been marred by sin; His is perfect humanity.

If Jesus could have sinned as a Man on earth, what is to prevent His sinning as a Man in heaven? He did not leave His humanity behind when He ascended to the Father’s right hand. He was impeccable on earth and He is impeccable in heaven.[2]


15 But can such a great high priest in heaven also care about our human concerns? As we have seen in ch. 2, his greatness derives paradoxically from the fact that he has shared our human condition to the full, including its “weaknesses.” As we noted at 2:18, those weaknesses include the experience of being “tested” or “tempted”; both are valid meanings of the verb peirazō (GK 4279), but the further comment here that Jesus remained “without sin” suggests the author is thinking particularly of “temptation” to do wrong. It is part of being truly human to feel the attraction of that which is wrong, but the uniqueness of Jesus is shown in that he knew the power of temptation without giving way to it. While there is never any doubt of Jesus’ full humanity, the NT writers express in a variety of ways the belief that he never actually sinned (7:26; Jn 8:46; 2 Co 5:21; 1 Pe 2:22; 1 Jn 3:5; etc.). Peterson, 188–90, usefully discusses how sinlessness is compatible with fully sharing our human condition. “In every way, just as we are” is a very comprehensive statement, covering both the hard circumstances of Jesus’ life and death and his experience of temptation throughout that period; our modern circumstances may be very different, but in principle we are assured Jesus has been here before. There is a great difference between an omniscient but detached awareness of what human beings face and a personal experience of the power of temptation. Only Jesus can “empathize” (TNIV) with us in that way.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 111–114). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2169–2170). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 72–73). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 24 – Christ Is Our Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

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Christ’s atonement made it possible for man to be at peace with God.

After World War II the United Nations was created to promote world peace. But since its inception in 1945 there has not been a single day of global peace. That’s a sad commentary on man’s inability to make peace. In fact, someone once quipped that Washington D.C., has so many peace monuments because they build one after every war!

It hasn’t always been that way. Prior to the fall of man, peace reigned on the earth because all creation was in perfect harmony with its Creator. But sin interrupted peace by alienating man from God and bringing a curse upon the earth. Man couldn’t know true peace because he had no peace in his heart. That’s why Jesus came to die.

I once read a story about a couple at a divorce hearing whose conflict couldn’t be resolved. They had a four-year-old boy who became distressed and teary-eyed over what was happening. While the couple was arguing, the boy reached for his father’s hand and his mother’s hand and pulled until he joined them.

In a sense that’s what Christ did. He provided the righteousness that allows man and God to join hands. Romans 5:1 says that those who are “justified by faith … have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.” Colossians 1:20 says that God reconciled all things to Himself through the blood of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Yet on the surface, the scene at the cross wasn’t peaceful at all. Pain, sorrow, humiliation, hatred, mockery, darkness, and death were oppressively pervasive. But through it all Christ was doing what He alone could do: making peace between man and God. He paid the supreme price to give us that precious gift.

In the future Jesus will return as Prince of Peace to establish a Kingdom that will usher us into an eternal age of peace. In the meantime He reigns over the hearts of all who love Him. Let His peace reign in your heart today!

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the peace of heart that comes from knowing Christ.

For Further Study: Read Philippians 4:6–9. What must a person do to know God’s peace?[1]


Happy Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (5:9)

The God of peace (Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9) has emphasized that cherished but elusive reality by making peace one of the dominant ideas of His Word. Scripture contains four hundred direct references to peace, and many more indirect ones. The Bible opens with peace in the Garden of Eden and closes with peace in eternity. The spiritual history of mankind can be charted based on the theme of peace. Although the peace on earth in the garden was interrupted when man sinned, at the cross Jesus Christ made peace a reality again, and He becomes the peace of all who place their faith in Him. Peace can now reign in the hearts of those who are His. Someday He will come as Prince of Peace and establish a worldwide kingdom of peace, which will eventuate in ultimate peace, the eternal age of peace.

But one of the most obvious facts of history and of human experience is that peace does not characterize man’s earthly existence. There is no peace now for two reasons: the opposition of Satan and the disobedience of man. The fall of the angels and the fall of man established a world without peace. Satan and man are engaged with the God of peace in a battle for sovereignty.

The scarcity of peace has prompted someone to suggest that “peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” In 1968 a major newspaper reported that there had been to that date 14,553 known wars since thirty-six years before Christ. Since 1945 there have been some seventy or so wars and nearly two hundred internationally significant outbreaks of violence. Since 1958 nearly one hundred nations have been involved in some form of armed conflict.

Some historians have claimed that the United States has had two generations of peace-one from 1815 to 1846 and the other from 1865 to 1898. But that claim can only be made if you exclude the Indian wars, during which our land was bathed in Indian blood.

With all the avowed and well-intentioned efforts for peace in modern times, few people would claim that the world or any significant part of it is more peaceful now than a hundred years ago. We do not have economic peace, religious peace, racial peace, social peace, family peace, or personal peace. There seems to be no end of marches, sit-ins, rallies, protests, demonstrations, riots, and wars. Disagreement and conflict are the order of the day. No day has had more need of peace than our own.

Nor does the world honor peace as much by its standards and actions as it does by its words. In almost every age of history the greatest heroes have been the greatest warriors. The world lauds the powerful and often exalts the destructive. The model man is not meek but macho. The model hero is not self-giving but self-seeking, not generous but selfish, not gentle but cruel, not submissive but aggressive, not meek but proud.

The popular philosophy of the world, bolstered by the teaching of many psychologists and counselors, is to put self first. But when self is first, peace is last. Self precipitates strife, division, hatred, resentment, and war. It is the great ally of sin and the great enemy of righteousness and, consequently, of peace.

The seventh beatitude calls God’s people to be peacemakers. He has called us to a special mission to help restore the peace lost at the Fall.

The peace of which Christ speaks in this beatitude, and about which the rest of Scripture speaks, is unlike that which the world knows and strives for. God’s peace has nothing to do with politics, armies and navies, forums of nations, or even councils of churches. It has nothing to do with statesmanship, no matter how great, or with arbitration, compromise, negotiated truces, or treaties. God’s peace, the peace of which the Bible speaks, never evades issues; it knows nothing of peace at any price. It does not gloss or hide, rationalize or excuse. It confronts problems and seeks to solve them, and after the problems are solved it builds a bridge between those who were separated by the problems. It often brings its own struggle, pain, hardship, and anguish, because such are often the price of healing. It is not a peace that will be brought by kings, presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, or international humanitarians. It is the inner personal peace that only He can give to the soul of man and that only His children can exemplify.

Four important realities about God’s peace are revealed: its meaning, its Maker, its messengers, and its merit.

The Meaning of Peace: Righteousness and Truth

The essential fact to comprehend is that the peace about which Jesus speaks is more than the absence of conflict and strife; it is the presence of righteousness. Only righteousness can produce the relationship that brings two parties together. Men can stop fighting without righteousness, but they cannot live peaceably without righteousness. Righteousness not only puts an end to harm, but it administers the healing of love.

God’s peace not only stops war but replaces it with the righteousness that brings harmony and true well-being. Peace is a creative, aggressive force for goodness. The Jewish greeting shalom wishes “peace” and expresses the desire that the one who is greeted will have all the righteousness and goodness God can give. The deepest meaning of the term is “God’s highest good to you.”

The most that man’s peace can offer is a truce, the temporary cessation of hostilities. But whether on an international scale or an individual scale, a truce is seldom more than a cold war. Until disagreements and hatreds are resolved, the conflicts merely go underground-where they tend to fester, grow, and break out again. God’s peace, however, not only stops the hostilities but settles the issues and brings the parties together in mutual love and harmony.

James confirms the nature of God’s peace when he writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17). God’s way to peace is through purity. Peace cannot be attained at the expense of righteousness. Two people cannot be at peace until they recognize and resolve the wrong attitudes and actions that caused the conflict between them, and then bring themselves to God for cleansing. Peace that ignores the cleansing that brings purity is not God’s peace.

The writer of Hebrews links peace with purity when he instructs believers to “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Peace cannot be divorced from holiness. “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” is the beautiful expression of the psalmist (Ps. 85:10). Biblically speaking, then, where there is true peace there is righteousness, holiness, and purity. Trying to bring harmony by compromising righteousness forfeits both.

Jesus’ saying “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) seems to be the antithesis of the seventh beatitude. His meaning, however, was that the peace He came to bring is not peace at any price. There will be opposition before there is harmony; there will be strife before there is peace. To be peacemakers on God’s terms requires being peacemakers on the terms of truth and righteousness-to which the world is in fierce opposition. When believers bring truth to bear on a world that loves falsehood, there will be strife. When believers set God’s standards of righteousness before a world that loves wickedness, there is an inevitable potential for conflict. Yet that is the only way.

Until unrighteousness is changed to righteousness there cannot be godly peace. And the process of resolution is difficult and costly. Truth will produce anger before it produces happiness; righteousness will produce antagonism before it produces harmony. The gospel brings bad feelings before it can bring good feelings. A person who does not first mourn over his own sin will never be satisfied with God’s righteousness. The sword that Christ brings is the sword of His Word, which is the sword of truth and righteousness. Like the surgeon’s scalpel, it must cut before it heals, because peace cannot come where sin remains.

The great enemy of peace is sin. Sin separates men from God and causes disharmony and enmity with Him. And men’s lack of harmony with God causes their lack of harmony with each other. The world is filled with strife and war because it is filled with sin. Peace does not rule the world because the enemy of peace rules the world. Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick [or wicked]” (Jer. 17:9). Peace cannot reign where wickedness reigns. Wicked hearts cannot produce a peaceful society. “ ‘There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 48:22).

To talk of peace without talking of repentance of sin is to talk foolishly and vainly. The corrupt religious leaders of ancient Israel proclaimed, “Peace, peace,” but there was no peace, because they and the rest of the people were not “ashamed of the abominations they had done” (Jer. 8:11–12).

“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21–23). Sinful men cannot create peace, either within themselves or among themselves. Sin can produce nothing but strife and conflict. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing,” James says. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:16–18).

Regardless of what the circumstances might be, where there is conflict it is because of sin. If you separate the conflicting parties from each other but do not separate them from sin, at best you will succeed only in making a truce. Peacemaking cannot come by circumventing sin, because sin is the source of every conflict.

The bad news of the gospel comes before the good news. Until a person confronts his sin, it makes no sense to offer him a Savior. Until a person faces his false notions, it makes no sense to offer him the truth. Until a person acknowledges his enmity with God, it makes no sense to offer him peace with God.

Believers cannot avoid facing truth, or avoid facing others with the truth, for the sake of harmony. If someone is in serious error about a part of God’s truth, he cannot have a right, peaceful relationship with others until the error is confronted and corrected. Jesus never evaded the issue of wrong doctrine or behavior. He treated the Samaritan woman from Sychar with great love and compassion, but He did not hesitate to confront her godless life. First He confronted her with her immoral living: “You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (John 4:18). Then He corrected her false ideas about worship: “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:21–22).

The person who is not willing to disrupt and disturb in God’s name cannot be a peacemaker. To come to terms on anything less than God’s truth and righteousness is to settle for a truce-which confirms sinners in their sin and may leave them even further from the kingdom. Those who in the name of love or kindness or compassion try to witness by appeasement and compromise of God’s Word will find that their witness leads away from Him, not to Him. God’s peacemakers will not let a sleeping dog lie if it is opposed to God’s truth; they will not protect the status quo if it is ungodly and unrighteous. They are not willing to make peace at any price. God’s peace comes only in God’s way. Being a peacemaker is essentially the result of a holy life and the call to others to embrace the gospel of holiness.

The Maker of Peace: God

Men are without peace because they are without God, the source of peace. Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with statements of God’s being the God of peace (Lev. 26:6; 1 Kings 2:33; Ps. 29:11; Isa. 9:6; Ezek. 34:25; Rom. 15:33; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Thess. 3:16). Since the Fall, the only peace that men have known is the peace they have received as the gift of God. Christ’s coming to earth was the peace of God coming to earth, because only Jesus Christ could remove sin, the great barrier to peace. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:13–14).

I once read the story of a couple at a divorce hearing who were arguing back and forth before the judge, accusing each other and refusing to take any blame themselves. Their little four-year-old boy was terribly distressed and confused. Not knowing what else to do, he took his father’s hand and his mother’s hand and kept tugging until he finally pulled the hands of his parents together.

In an infinitely greater way, Christ brings back together God and man, reconciling and bringing peace. “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19–20).

How could the cross bring peace? At the cross all of man’s hatred and anger was vented against God. On the cross the Son of God was mocked, cursed, spit upon, pierced, reviled, and killed. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear, the sky flashed lightning, the earth shook violently, and the veil of the Temple was torn in two. Yet through that violence God brought peace. God’s greatest righteousness confronted man’s greatest wickedness, and righteousness won. And because righteousness won, peace was won.

In his book Peace Child (Glendale, Calif.: Regal, 1979), Don Richardson tells of his long struggle to bring the gospel to the cannibalistic, headhunting Sawi tribe of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Try as he would, he could not find a way to make the people understand the gospel message, especially the significance of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.

Sawi villages were constantly fighting among themselves, and because treachery, revenge, and murder were highly honored there seemed no hope of peace. The tribe, however, had a legendary custom that if one village gave a baby boy to another village, peace would prevail between the two villages as long as the child lived. The baby was called a “peace child.”

The missionary seized on that story as an analogy of the reconciling work of Christ. Christ, he said, is God’s divine Peace Child that He has offered to man, and because Christ lives eternally His peace will never end. That analogy was the key that unlocked the gospel for the Sawis. In a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit many of them believed in Christ, and a strong, evangelistic church soon developed-and peace came to the Sawis.

If the Father is the source of peace, and the Son is the manifestation of that peace, then the Holy Spirit is the agent of that peace. One of the most beautiful fruits the Holy Spirit gives to those in whom He resides is the fruit of peace (Gal. 5:22). The God of peace sent the Prince of Peace who sends the Spirit of peace to give the fruit of peace. No wonder the Trinity is called Yahweh Shalom, “The Lord is Peace” (Judg. 6:24).

The God of peace intends peace for His world, and the world that He created in peace He will one day restore to peace. The Prince of Peace will establish His kingdom of peace, for a thousand years on earth and for all eternity in heaven. “ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ ” (Jer. 29:11). Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The one who does not belong to God through Jesus Christ can neither have peace nor be a peacemaker. God can work peace through us only if He has worked peace in us.

Some of the earth’s most violent weather occurs on the seas. But the deeper one goes the more serene and tranquil the water becomes. Oceanographers report that the deepest parts of the sea are absolutely still. When those areas are dredged they produce remnants of plant and animal life that have remained undisturbed for thousands of years.

That is a picture of the Christian’s peace. The world around him, including his own circumstances, may be in great turmoil and strife, but in his deepest being he has peace that passes understanding. Those who are in the best of circumstances but without God can never find peace, but those in the worst of circumstances but with God need never lack peace.

The Messengers of Peace: Believers

The messengers of peace are believers in Jesus Christ. Only they can be peacemakers. Only those who belong to the Maker of peace can be messengers of peace. Paul tells us that “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15) and that “now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). The ministry of reconciliation is the ministry of peacemaking. Those whom God has called to peace He also calls to make peace. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us” (2 Cor. 5:19–20).

At least four things characterize a peacemaker. First, he is one who himself has made peace with God. The gospel is all about peace. Before we came to Christ we were at war with God. No matter what we may consciously have thought about God, our hearts were against Him. It was “while we were enemies” of God that “we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). When we received Christ as Savior and He imputed His righteousness to us, our battle with God ended, and our peace with God began. Because he has made peace with God he can enjoy the peace of God (Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15). And because he has been given God’s peace he is called to share God’s peace. He is to have his very feet shod with “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

Because peace is always corrupted by sin, the peacemaking believer must be a holy believer, a believer whose life is continually cleansed by the Holy Spirit. Sin breaks our fellowship with God, and when fellowship with Him is broken, peace is broken. The disobedient, self-indulgent Christian is not suited to be an ambassador of peace.

Second, a peacemaker leads others to make peace with God. Christians are not an elite corps of those who have spiritually arrived and who look down on the rest of the world. They are a body of sinners cleansed by Jesus Christ and commissioned to carry His gospel of cleansing to the rest of the world.

The Pharisees were the embodiment of what peacemakers are not. They were smug, proud, complacent, and determined to have their own ways and defend their own rights. They had scant interest in making peace with Rome, with the Samaritans, or even with fellow Jews who did not follow their own party line. Consequently they created strife wherever they went. They cooperated with others only when it was to their own advantage, as they did with the Sadducees in opposing Jesus.

The peacemaking spirit is the opposite of that. It is built on humility, sorrow over its own sin, gentleness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, and purity of heart. G. Campbell Morgan commented that peacemaking is the propagated character of the man who, exemplifying all the rest of the beatitudes, thereby brings peace wherever he comes.

The peacemaker is a beggar who has been fed and who is called to help feed others. Having been brought to God, he is to bring others to God. The purpose of the church is to preach “peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). To preach Christ is to promote peace. To bring a person to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most peacemaking act a human being can perform. It is beyond what any diplomat or statesman can accomplish.

Third, a peacemaker helps others make peace with others. The moment a person comes to Christ he becomes at peace with God and with the church and becomes himself a peacemaker in the world. A peacemaker builds bridges between men and God and also between men and other men. The second kind of bridge building must begin, of course, between ourselves and others. Jesus said that if we are bringing a gift to God and a brother has something against us, we are to leave our gift at the altar and be reconciled to that brother before we offer the gift to God (Matt. 5:23–24). As far as it is possible, Paul says, “so far as it depends on [us],” we are to “be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). We are even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, “in order that [we] may be sons of [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).

By definition a bridge cannot be one-sided. It must extend between two sides or it can never function. Once built, it continues to need support on both sides or it will collapse. So in any relationship our first responsibility is to see that our own side has a solid base. But we also have a responsibility to help the one on the other side build his base well. Both sides must be built on righteousness and truth or the bridge will not stand. God’s peacemakers must first be righteous themselves, and then must be active in helping others become righteous.

The first step in that bridge-building process is often to rebuke others about their sin, which is the supreme barrier to peace. “If your brother sins,” Jesus says, “go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (Matt. 18:15–17). That is a difficult thing to do, but obeying that command is no more optional than obeying any of the Lord’s other commands. The fact that taking such action often stirs up controversy and resentment is no excuse for not doing it. If we do so in the way and in the spirit the Lord teaches, the consequences are His responsibility. Not to do so does not preserve peace but through disobedience establishes a truce with sin.

Obviously there is the possibility of a price to pay, but any sacrifice is small in order to obey God. Often confrontation will bring more turmoil instead of less-misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and resentment. But the only way to peace is the way of righteousness. Sin that is not dealt with is sin that will disrupt and destroy peace. Just as any price is worth paying to obey God, any price is worth paying to be rid of sin. “If your right eye makes you stumble,” Jesus said, “tear it out, and throw it from you; … And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:29–30). If we are unwilling to help others confront their sin, we will be unable to help them find peace.

Fourth, a peacemaker endeavors to find a point of agreement. God’s truth and righteousness must never be compromised or weakened, but there is hardly a person so ungodly, immoral, rebellious, pagan, or indifferent that we have absolutely no point of agreement with him. Wrong theology, wrong standards, wrong beliefs, and wrong attitudes must be faced and dealt with, but they are not usually the best places to start the process of witnessing or peacemaking.

God’s people are to contend without being contentious, to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being abusive. The peacemaker speaks the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). To start with love is to start toward peace. We begin peacemaking by starting with whatever peaceful point of agreement we can find. Peace helps beget peace. The peacemaker always gives others the benefit of the doubt. He never assumes they will resist the gospel or reject his testimony. When he does meet opposition, he tries to be patient with other people’s blindness and stubbornness just as he knows the Lord was, and continues to be, patient with his own blindness and stubbornness.

God’s most effective peacemakers are often the simplest and least noticed people. They do not try to attract attention to themselves. They seldom win headlines or prizes for their peacemaking, because, by its very nature, true peacemaking is unobtrusive and prefers to go unnoticed. Because they bring righteousness and truth wherever they go, peacemakers are frequently accused of being troublemakers and disturbers of the peace-as Ahab accused Elijah of being (1 Kings 18:17) and the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being (Luke 23:2, 5). But God knows their hearts, and He honors their work because they are working for His peace in His power. God’s peacemakers are never unfruitful or unrewarded. This is a mark of a true kingdom citizen: he not only hungers for righteousness and holiness in his own life but has a passionate desire to see those virtues in the lives of others.

The Merit Of Peace: Eternal Sonship In The Kingdom

The merit, or result, of peacemaking is eternal blessing as God’s children in God’s kingdom. Peacemakers shall be called sons of God.

Most of us are thankful for our heritage, our ancestors, our parents, and our family name. It is especially gratifying to have been influenced by godly grandparents and to have been raised by godly parents. But the greatest human heritage cannot match the believer’s heritage in Jesus Christ, because we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Nothing compares to being a child of God.

Both huios and teknon are used in the New Testament to speak of believers’ relationship to God. Teknon (child) is a term of tender affection and endearment as well as of relationship (see John 1:12; Eph. 5:8; 1 Pet. 1:14; etc.). Sons, however, is from huios, which expresses the dignity and honor of the relationship of a child to his parents. As God’s peacemakers we are promised the glorious blessing of eternal sonship in His eternal kingdom.

Peacemaking is a hallmark of God’s children. A person who is not a peacemaker either is not a Christian or is a disobedient Christian. The person who is continually disruptive, divisive, and quarrelsome has good reason to doubt his relationship to God altogether. God’s sons-that is, all of His children, both male and female-are peacemakers. Only God determines who His children are, and He has determined that they are the humble, the penitent over sin, the gentle, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

Shall be called is in a continuous future passive tense. Throughout eternity peacemakers will go by the name “children of God.” The passive form indicates that all heaven will call peacemakers sons of God, because God Himself has declared them to be His children.

Jacob loved Benjamin so much that his whole life came to be bound up in the life of that son (Gen. 44:30). Any parent worthy of the name loves his children more than his own life, and immeasurably more than all of his possessions together. God loves His children today as He loved Israel of old, as “the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8; cf. Ps. 17:8). The Hebrew expression “apple of the eye” referred to the cornea, the most exposed and sensitive part of the eye, the part we are the most careful to protect. That is what God’s children are to Him: those whom He is most sensitive about and most desires to protect. To attack God’s children is to poke a finger in God’s eye. Offense against Christians is offense against God, because they are His very own children.

God puts the tears of His children in a bottle (Ps. 56:8), a figure reflecting the Hebrew custom of placing into a bottle the tears shed over a loved one. God cares for us so much that He stores up His remembrances of our sorrows and afflictions. God’s children matter greatly to Him, and it is no little thing that we can call Him Father.

God’s peacemakers will not always have peace in the world. As Jesus makes clear by the last beatitude, persecution follows peacemaking. In Christ we have forsaken the false peace of the world, and consequently we often will not have peace with the world. But as God’s children we may always have peace even while we are in the world-the peace of God, which the world cannot give and the world cannot take away.[2]


5:9 A blessing is pronounced on the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Notice that the Lord is not speaking about people with a peaceful disposition or those who love peace. He is referring to those who actively intervene to make peace. The natural approach is to watch strife from the sidelines. The divine approach is to take positive action toward creating peace, even if it means taking abuse and invective.

Peacemakers are called sons of God. This is not how they become sons of God—that can only happen by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12). By making peace, believers manifest themselves as sons of God, and God will one day acknowledge them as people who bear the family likeness.[3]


9 Jesus’ concern in this beatitude is not with the peaceful but with the peacemakers. Peace is of constant concern in both Testaments (e.g., Pr 15:1; Isa 52:7; Lk 24:36; Ro 10:15; 12:18; 1 Co 7:15; Eph 2:11–22; Heb 12:14; 1 Pe 3:11). But as some of these and other passages show, the making of peace can itself have messianic overtones. The Promised Son is called the “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6); and Isaiah 52:7—“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ ”—linking as it does peace, salvation, and God’s reign, was interpreted messianically in the Judaism of Jesus’ day.

Jesus does not limit the peacemaking to only one kind, and neither will his disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus himself is the supreme peacemaker, making peace between God and man, and man and man. Our peacemaking will include the promulgation of that gospel. It must also extend to seeking all kinds of reconciliation. Instead of delighting in division, bitterness, strife, or some petty “divide and conquer” mentality, disciples of Jesus delight to make peace wherever possible. Making peace is not appeasement. The true model is God’s costly peacemaking (Eph 2:15–17; Col 1:20). Those who undertake this work are acknowledged as God’s sons. In the OT, Israel has the title “sons” (Dt 14:1; Hos 1:10; cf. Pss. Sol. 17:30; Wis 2:13–18). Now it belongs to the heirs of the kingdom, who, meek and poor in spirit, loving righteousness yet merciful, are especially equipped for peacemaking and so reflect something of their heavenly Father’s character. “There is no more godlike work to be done in this world than peacemaking” (Broadus). This beatitude must have been shocking to Zealots when Jesus preached it, when political passions were inflamed (Morison).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 127). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 209–218). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1217). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 165). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 24 – CONFESSING OUR LOVE

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

Song of Solomon 2:4

Consider with me the appealing Old Testament story of the beautiful young woman in the Song of Solomon. Deeply in love with the young shepherd, she is also actively sought out by the king, who demands her favor. She remains loyal to the simple shepherd, who gathers lilies and comes to seek her and calls to her through the lattice.

In many ways, this is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus, of His love and care for His Bride, the Church. In the scriptural account, she does turn her loved one away with simple excuses. But condemned in heart, she rises to go out and search for him. As she seeks, she is asked: “What is he above others that you should seek him?” (see 5:9).

“Oh, he is altogether lovely,” she replies. “He came and called for me, and I had not the heart to go!” (see 5:16).

But at last she is able to confess, “I have found him whom my soul loveth!” (3:4).

He had been grieved but He was not far away. So it is with our Beloved—He is very near to us and He awaits our seeking!

Lord, You are “altogether lovely.” Thank You for pursuing the human race even in our state of unloveliness.[1]


4 The movement towards consummation intensifies. He has brought her to the “house of wine,” another identification of love with alcohol (and the vineyard of the previous vignette). The “banner” is a military standard that signals the identity of an encampment. Pope, 2, glosses, “His intent toward me Love.” The unmistakable design of the boy when he brought her to the house of wine, she says, was concupiscence. A literal banquet hall is as unnecessary to postulate as the houses of 1:16–17; perhaps the “wine-house” is part of the fantasy.[2]


2:4 banquet hall. The scene continues in the outdoors. This “house of wine” symbolizes the vineyard, just as the beams and rafters of 1:17 refer to the forest. his banner. As a military flag indicates location or possession, so Solomon’s love flew over his beloved one (cf. Nu 1:52; Ps 20:5).[3]


2:4 banqueting house (ESV footnote, “house of wine”). This is the only occurrence of this phrase in the OT (although there are similar expressions in Est. 7:8; Eccles. 7:2; Jer. 16:8). The exact location of this house is not critical. Rather, it is a place where wine is drunk and thus a place of love (see note on Song 1:2). This Hebrew term for banner is used elsewhere in the OT only in Numbers (Num. 2:2), where it is a standard flown at camps and carried into battle. Its use here would thus seem to indicate a public display of the lovers’ identity, namely, that they belong to and are committed to each other.[4]


2:4 the house of the wine The Hebrew phrase used here, beth hayyayin (meaning “the house of wine”), may describe a vineyard where grapes for wine are grown, or a banquet room in a palace (Esth 7:8).

his intention Banners were used for military purposes. Each unit would gather under their banner (Song 6:4; Num 1:52), which represented the army and often included the name or image of a deity (Exod 17:15). Here, the man’s banner represents a declaration of his love.[5]


2:4 banqueting house. Lit. “house of wine” (text note). The setting is outdoors (1:12 note). The lover’s “house” to this point has been the forest (1:16, 17). Now they move to a different “house,” namely, the young man’s vineyard, his “house” of wine. The expression continues the royal imagery from 1:4, 12 (the shepherd is a king) and the comparison of love and wine from 1:2.

his banner. An emblem typically used to mark out one tribe from another (Num. 2:3, 10, 18, 25). Banners were also used to muster troops for battle. It has been suggested that the word is used here for something like a sign for an inn. The young man is unabashedly advertising his love for the young woman.[6]


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

[2] Schwab, G. M. (2008). Song of Songs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 385–386). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1218). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1099). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

APRIL 24 – LETTING THE WILL BE THE MASTER OF THE HEART

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

COLOSSIANS 3:1

Because the will is master of the heart, it is important to realize that the root of all evil in human nature is the corruption of the will!

The thoughts and intents of the heart are wrong and as a consequence the whole life is wrong. Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction.

The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.” As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return.

To love God with all our heart we must first of all will to do so. We should repent our lack of love and determine from this moment on to make God the object of our devotion. We should read the Scriptures devotionally and set our affections on things above and aim our hearts toward Christ and heavenly things!

If we do these things we may be sure that we shall experience a wonderful change in our whole inward life. Our emotions will become disciplined and directed. We shall begin to taste the “piercing sweetness” of the love of Christ. The whole life, like a delicate instrument, will be tuned to sing the praises of Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood![1]


The Reminder

If then you have been raised up with Christ (3:1a)

If denotes reality, as in 2:20, and is better translated “since.” Believers having been raised up with Christ is not in doubt. The verb actually means “to be co-resurrected.” It is an accomplished fact.  Believers spiritually are entered into Christ’s death and resurrection at the moment of their salvation. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” In that verse, the apostle shows the union of the believer with the Lord, so that they have a shared life. Romans 6:3–4 teaches the same truth: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

The “baptism” here is not into water, but an immersing into the Savior’s death and resurrection. Through their union with Christ, believers have died, have been buried, and have risen with Him. By saving faith they have entered into a new dimension. They possess divine and eternal life, which is not merely endless existence, but a heavenly quality of life brought to them by the indwelling Lord. They are thus alive in Christ to the realities of the divine realm.

Consequently, Christians have an obligation to live consistently with those realities. Paul delineates the specifics of that obligation in Romans 6:11–19:

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

This new life is real and powerful, but so is remaining sin. Though it no longer is our master, it can still overpower us if we are not presenting ourselves to God as servants of righteousness. (For a fuller  treatment of this rich teaching, see my comments on Romans 6–8 in Romans 1–8, MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1991].)

Spirituality, as Paul says in Philippians 2:12, is working that inner life out, the process of living the reality of our union with Christ. In Him we have all the resources necessary for living the Christian life (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3). Paul emphasizes the centrality of Christ throughout Colossians 3:1–4. By using such phrases as with Christ (3:1); where Christ (3:1); with Christ (3:3); when Christ (3:4); and with Him (3:4), he stresses again Christ’s total sufficiency (cf. 2:10). Unfortunately, many Christians fail to understand and pursue the fullness of Christ. Consequently, because of not knowing what Scripture says, or not applying it properly, they are intimidated into thinking they need something more than Him alone to live the Christian life. They fall prey to false philosophy, legalism, mysticism, or asceticism.

Paul reminds the Colossians that they have risen with Christ. This is the path to holiness, not self-denial, angelic experience, or ceremony. They are no longer living the old life they lived before their salvation, but possess the eternal life of Christ and have been raised to live on another plane. They must not be ignorant or forgetful of who they are and how they are to live. All sinful passion is controlled and conquered by the power of the indwelling Christ and our union with Him.

The Responsibility

keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (3:1b, 2)

The present tense of zēteō (keep seeking) indicates continuous action. Preoccupation with the eternal realities that are ours in Christ is to be the pattern of the believer’s life. Jesus put it this way: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Paul is not advocating a form of mysticism. Rather, he desires that the Colossians’ preoccupation with heaven govern their earthly responses. To be preoccupied with heaven is to be preoccupied with the One who reigns there and His purposes, plans, provisions, and power. It is also to view the things, people, and events of this world through His eyes and with an eternal perspective.

The things above refers to the heavenly realm and hones in on the spiritual values that characterize Christ, such as tenderness, kindness, meekness, patience, wisdom, forgiveness, strength, purity, and love.

When believers focus on the realities of heaven, they can then truly enjoy the world their heavenly Father has created. As the writer of the hymn “I Am His, and He Is Mine” expressed it,

Heav’n above is softer blue

Earth around is sweeter green!

Something lives in every hue

Christless eyes have never seen:

Birds with gladder songs o’erflow

Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,

Since I know, as now I know,

I am His, and He is mine.

When Christians begin to live in the heavenlies, when they commit themselves to the riches of “the Jerusalem above” (Gal. 4:26), they will live out their heavenly values in this world to the glory of God.

In 3:2, Paul gives instruction on how to seek the things above. He says, Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. Set your mind is from phroneō and could simply be translated, “think,” or more thoroughly, “have this inner disposition.” Once again, the present tense indicates continuous action. Lightfoot paraphrases Paul’s thought: “You must not only seek heaven, you must also think heaven” (St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon [1879; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959], p. 209; italics in the original). The believer’s whole disposition should orient itself toward heaven, where Christ is, just as a compass needle orients itself toward the north.

Obviously, the thoughts of heaven that are to fill the believer’s mind must derive from Scripture. The Bible is the only reliable source of knowledge about the character of God and the values of heaven. Paul describes that preoccupation as being “transformed by the renewing of [your] mind” (Rom. 12:2). In it we learn the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and praiseworthy things our minds are to dwell on (cf. Phil. 4:8).

Such heavenly values dominating the mind produce godly behavior. Sin will be conquered and humility, a sacrificial spirit, and assurance will result.

The Resource

where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (3:1c)

The believer’s resource is none other than the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge: the risen and glorified Christ, seated at the right hand of God in the place of honor and majesty. The Bible speaks often of Christ’s exalted position. Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.’ ” Jesus told the accusers at His trial that “from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69). In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter told the crowd that Jesus had been “exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33). Peter and the other apostles described Jesus to the Sanhedrin as “the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior” (Acts 5:31). As he was being martyred, Stephen cried out, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Paul describes Jesus as He “who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34), because God “raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20). The writer of Hebrews says of Christ, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). Because of that, “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1). He is the One “who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22).

Because of Christ’s coronation and exaltation to the Father’s right hand, He is the fountain of blessing for His people. Jesus told the disciples, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14; cf. 15:16; 16:23–24, 26). Believers can be assured that what they seek is there, “for as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor. 1:20).[2]


3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. The If of this verse does not express any doubt in the mind of the Apostle Paul. It is what has been called the “If” of argument, and may be translated since: “Since then you were raised together with Christ.…

As mentioned in chapter 2, the believer is seen as having died with Christ, having been buried with Him, and having risen with Him from among the dead. The spiritual meaning of all this is that we have said goodbye to the former way of life, and have entered upon a completely new type of life, that is, the life of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Because we have been raised with Christ, we should seek those things which are above. We are still on earth, but we should be cultivating heavenly ways.

3:2 The Christian should not be earth-bound in his outlook. He should view things not as they appear to the natural eye but in reference to their importance to God and to eternity. Vincent suggests that “seek” in verse 1 marks the practical striving and that set your mind in verse 2 describes the inward impulse and disposition. The expression set your mind is the same as that in Philippians 3:19: “who set their mind on earthly things.” A. T. Robertson writes: “The baptized life means that the Christian is seeking heaven and is thinking heaven. His feet are upon the earth, but his head is with the stars. He is living like a citizen of heaven here on earth.”

During World War II, a young Christian enthusiastically reported to a mature servant of Christ, “I understand our bombers were over the enemy’s cities again last night.” To this, the older believer replied, “I did not know that the church of God had bombers.” He obviously was looking at things from the divine standpoint, rather than taking pleasure in the destruction of women and children.

F. B. Hole explains our position clearly:

The counterpart to our identification with Christ in His death is our identification with Him in His resurrection. The effect of the first is to disconnect us from man’s world, man’s religion, man’s wisdom. The effect of the other is to put us into touch with God’s world and with all that is there. The first four verses of chapter 3 unfold the blessedness into which we are introduced.[3]


1 Having reminded the Colossians that they have died with Christ (2:20; cf. 2:12), Paul now reiterates that they have been “raised with Christ” (cf. 2:12). Unlike Christ, they have not been raised bodily. Nevertheless, Paul insists that they have been raised (synēgerthēte, GK 5283, is a liquid aorist passive compound verb [second person plural]) spiritually with Christ by God. Their baptisms served as vivid, tangible reminders of this vital theological principle. If they truly have been raised with Christ via conversion as imaged in baptism, then they should seek “the things above.” They should not devote their attention to the earthly things that characterized the “philosophy”; conversely, they should quest after (“set [their] hearts on”) heavenly things. (“The things above” is synonymous with heaven [so, rightly, Lincoln, 637].)

Why does Paul counsel the Colossians to keep seeking the things above? Is this not dangerous advice with which the promoters of the “philosophy” would agree? Paul does not employ such spatial imagery to affirm the “philosophy” or to encourage visionary activity among the assembly; rather, he commands the Colossians to pursue the things of heaven precisely because this is where Christ is. He is not one among a panoply of heavenly dignitaries; Christ occupies a place of primacy and sovereignty. The resurrected Christ is the ascended Christ who is “seated at the right hand of God.” This depiction of Christ’s session is drawn from Psalm 110:1 (cf. Ro 8:34; Eph 1:20). (To take this metaphoric description literally is a misconstrual of the text.) In enjoining the church to seek the things above and thereby Christ, Paul is encouraging them “to give Christ [who reigns as Lord] an allegiance that takes precedence over all earthly loyalties. His ends are to be their ends; and it follows that the means by which those ends are attained must be his means” (Caird, 202).[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 125–128). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2007). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 322). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 24 – Jesus on Genuine Truthfulness

But let your statement be, “Yes, yes” or “No, no”; anything beyond these is of evil.—Matt. 5:37

Keeping your word is the mark of a genuine worshiper and demonstrates that you, as a child of God, hate lies. Everything in God’s kingdom is sacred and all truth is His truth, so truth has no degrees or shades. Thus even what seems to be the most minor false statement dishonors God’s name.

The Lord has never had any standard other than absolute truthfulness. He wants every one of us to possess “truth in the innermost being” (Ps. 51:6). And it follows that “lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 12:22; cf. 6:16–17; Ps. 58:3–4).

Because God has the ultimate criterion of complete truthfulness, even our most routine conversations should be truthful and dependable in every detail. Our everyday talk ought to be plain and straightforward, uncluttered by qualifiers, exaggerations, or hedges on the truth. Our word must be as good as our bond or as any vow or oath we ever make. James’s admonishment agrees with Jesus’ teaching, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment” (James 5:12).

ASK YOURSELF
Truth and honesty will never be your default setting until you pursue it deliberately—spending your words carefully and keeping your word completely. In what particular areas of your life is it hardest for you to keep your promises?[1]

God’s absolute, unchanging standard is truth and sincerity in everything. Not only should oaths be totally truthful and dependable, but even the most routine conversations should be truthful in every detail. Let your statement be, “Yes, yes” or “No, no”; anything beyond these is of evil. Statement is from logos, the basic meaning of which is simply “word.” Every normal word in the course of daily speech should be a truthful word, unadorned and unqualified in regard to its truthfulness. A person’s words, message, or speech (as logos is used in Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 2:1; 4:19; and Titus 2:8) should be as good as his bond and as good as his oath or vow. “But above all, my brethren,” James counsels, “do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment” (James 5:12).

God is a holy God, His kingdom is a holy kingdom, and the people of His kingdom are to be a holy people. His righteousness is to be their righteousness, and anything less than His righteousness, including anything less than absolute truth, is unacceptable to Him, because it is of evil. So our Lord shatters the fragile glass of their hypocritical oaths, which they used to cover lies.[2]


5:37 For the Christian, an oath is unnecessary. His Yes should mean Yes, and his No should mean No. To use stronger language is to admit that Satan—the evil one—rules our lives. There are no circumstances under which it is proper for a Christian to lie.

This passage also forbids any shading of the truth or deception. It does not, however, forbid taking an oath in a court of law. Jesus Himself testified under oath before the High Priest (Matt. 26:63ff). Paul also used an oath to call God as his witness that what he was writing was true (2 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 1:20).[3]


37 The Greek might more plausibly be translated “But let your word be, ‘Yes, Yes; No, No.’ ” The doubling has raised questions. According to some rabbinic opinion, a doubled “yes” or “no” constitutes an oath; Broadus suggests this is an appropriate way to strengthen an assertion. This sounds like casuistry every bit as tortuous as that which Jesus condemns. The doubling is probably no more than preacher’s rhetoric, the point made clear by the NIV (cf. Jas 5:12). Tou ponērou could be rendered either “of evil” or “of the evil one” (“the father of lies,” Jn 8:44). The same ambiguity recurs at 5:39; 6:13; 13:38.

Many groups (e.g., Anabaptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses) have understood these verses absolutely literally and have therefore refused even to take court oaths. Their zeal to conform to Scripture is commendable, but they have probably not interpreted the text very well.

  1. The contextual purpose of this passage is to stress the true direction in which the OT points—namely, the importance of truthfulness. Where oaths are not being used evasively and truthfulness is not being threatened, it is not immediately obvious they require such unqualified abolition.
  2. In the Scriptures God himself “swears” (e.g., Ge 9:9–11; Lk 1:72–75; cf. Ps 16:10 and Ac 2:27–31), not because he sometimes lies, but in order to help people believe (Heb 6:17). The earliest Christians still took oaths, if we may judge from Paul’s example (Ro 1:9; 2 Co 1:23; 1 Th 2:5, 10; cf. Php 1:8), for much the same reason. Jesus himself testified under oath (26:63–64).
  3. Again we need to remember the antithetical nature of Jesus’ preaching (see comments at vv. 27–30; 6:5–8).

It must be frankly admitted that here Jesus formally contravenes OT law. What it permits or commands (Dt 6:13), he forbids. But if his interpretation of the direction in which the law points is authoritative, then his teaching fulfills it.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 123). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 326). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1222). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] 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. 187–188). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 24 – GRACE ABOUNDS

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

—Romans 5:20

Grace is God’s goodness, the kindness of God’s heart, the good will, the cordial benevolence. It is what God is like. God is like that all the time. You’ll never run into a stratum in God that is hard. You’ll always find God gracious, at all times and toward all peoples forever. You’ll never run into any meanness in God, never any resentment or rancor or ill will, for there is none there. God has no ill will toward any being. God is a God of utter kindness and cordiality and good will and benevolence. And yet all of these work in perfect harmony with God’s justice and God’s judgment. I believe in hell and I believe in judgment. But I also believe that there are those whom God must reject because of their impenitence, yet there will be grace. God will still feel gracious toward all of His universe. He is God and He can’t do anything else….

What God is, God is! When Scripture says grace does “much more abound,” it means not that grace does much more abound than anything else in God but much more than anything in us. No matter how much sin a man has done, literally and truly grace abounds unto that man. AOG103-105

Lord, I am so horribly rebellious and sinful in the light of Your perfect holiness. Thank You that where sin abounds, Your grace abounds even more! Amen. [1]


As Paul explains more fully in chapter 7, the energizing force behind man’s sin is the Law, which came in that the transgression might increase. Knowing that he would be charged with being antinomian and with speaking evil of something God Himself had divinely revealed through Moses, Paul states unequivocally that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Nevertheless, God’s own Law had the effect of causing man’s transgression to increase.

It should be noted here that God’s law-ceremonial, moral, or spiritual-has never been a means of salvation during any age or dispensation. The divinely-ordained place it had in God’s plan was temporary. As the biblical scholar F. F. Bruce has stated, “The law has no permanent significance in the history of redemption” (The Letter of Paul to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985], p. 121). Paul has already declared that Abraham was justified by God solely on the basis of his faith-completely apart from any good works he accomplished and several years before he was circumcised and many centuries before the law was given (4:1–13).

The Law was a corollary element in God’s plan of redemption, serving a temporary purpose that was never in itself redemptive. Disobedience to the law has never damned a soul to hell, and obedience to the law has never brought a soul to God. Sin and its condemnation were in the world long before the law, and so was the way of escape from sin and condemnation.

God gave the Law through Moses as a pattern for righteousness but not as a means of righteousness. The law has no power to produce righteousness, but for the person who belongs to God and sincerely desires to do His will, it is a guide to righteous living.

The law identifies particular transgressions, so that those acts can more easily be seen as sinful and thereby cause men to see themselves more easily as sinners. For that reason the Law also has power to incite men to unrighteousness, not because the Law is evil but because men are evil.

The person who reads a sign in the park that forbids the picking of flowers and then proceeds to pick one demonstrates his natural, reflexive rebellion against authority. There is nothing wrong with the sign; its message is perfectly legitimate and good. But because it places a restriction on people’s freedom to do as they please, it causes resentment and has the effect of leading some people to do what they otherwise might not even think of doing.

The Law is therefore a corollary both to righteousness and to unrighteousness. For the lawless person it stimulates him to the disobedience and unrighteousness he already is inclined to do. For the person who trusts in God, the law stimulates obedience anti righteousness.

Again focusing on the truth that Christ’s one act of redemption is far greater than Adam’s one act of condemnation, Paul exults, But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. God’s grace not only surpasses Adam’s one sin but all the sins of mankind.[2]


5:20 What Paul has been saying would come as a jolt to the Jewish objector who felt that everything revolved around the law. Now this objector learns that sin and salvation center not in the law but in two federal heads. That being the case, he might be tempted to ask, “Why then was the law given?” The apostle answers, The law entered that the offense might abound. It did not originate sin, but it revealed sin as an offense against God. It did not save from sin but revealed sin in all its awful character.

But God’s grace proves to be greater than all man’s sin. Where sin abounded, God’s grace at Calvary abounded much more![3]


20 At the conclusion of the chapter, Adam as a figure fades from view. Yet his influence is still present in the mention of sin and death. Paul now introduces another factor—the Mosaic law—to show its bearing on the great issues of sin and righteousness. There is scarcely a subject treated by Paul in Romans that does not call for some consideration of the law. The closest affinity to the thought in v. 20 is found in 3:20: “through the law we become conscious of sin.” Also, ch. 7 traces the relationship between the law and sin in rather elaborate fashion.

The apostle is not maintaining that the purpose of the giving of the law is exclusively “so that the trespass might increase,” because he makes room for the law as a revelation of the will of God and therefore a positive benefit (7:12). The law also serves to restrain evil in the world (implied in 6:15; stated in 1 Ti 1:9–11). Paul uses the unusual verb pareiserchomai (GK 4209) at the beginning of v. 20 (“added”; NASB, “came in”). It has the idea of “slipping in between” (cf. its use in Gal 2:4), as though to say that the law had a limited and temporary role to perform. Similar language is used in Galatians 3:19 (“added”), where the law is regarded as something temporary, designed to disclose the “trespass” aspect of sin and prepare the way for the coming of Christ by demonstrating the dire need for his saving work. Stuhlmacher, 88, writes, “Just as it did between Abraham and Christ (cf. Gal. 3:19ff.), so too the law also ‘came in between’ Adam and Christ (at Sinai).” The function of the law to increase trespass was not recognized in rabbinic Judaism (cf. H.-J. Schoeps, Paul [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961], 174). From the Sermon on the Mount, however, it appears that Jesus sought to apply the law in just this way, i.e., to awaken a sense of sin in those who fancied they were keeping the law tolerably well but who had underestimated its searching demands and the sinfulness of their own hearts. The law thus finally leads to an understanding of the necessity of grace: “If it had looked as if the law worked hand in hand with sin, it is now made clear that it works hand in hand with grace” (Nygren, 227).

The bad news of this negative influence of the law is countered by good news announced with the words, “grace increased all the more.” The apostle waxes almost ecstatic as he revels in the superlative excellence of the divine overruling that makes sin ultimately serve a gracious purpose. The statement is akin to Paul’s repeated “how much more” argument (cf. vv. 15, 17). The saving grace of God far exceeds the damning sin of Adam’s offspring.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 308–309). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1699–1700). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 100–101). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 24 – The Resurrection: A Belief that Matters

“How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”

1 Corinthians 15:12

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Without the truth of bodily resurrection, the Christian faith would not make sense.

Even though Paul and the other apostles made the resurrection of Christ and His followers from the dead a central part of the gospel message, some new Gentile converts (the Corinthians especially) had difficulty accepting the idea of bodily resurrection. That struggle resulted mainly from the effects of Greek dualism, which viewed the spiritual as inherently good and the physical as inherently bad. Under that belief, a physical resurrection was considered quite repulsive.

The only way for the doubting Gentiles to accommodate their dualism was to say that Jesus was divine but not truly human. Therefore, He only appeared to die, and His appearances between the crucifixion and ascension were manifestations that merely seemed to be bodily. But Paul knew that was bad doctrine. He wrote to the Romans, “Concerning His Son … born of the seed of David according to the flesh … declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3–4).

To deny the actual, bodily resurrection of Christ creates some very significant doctrinal problems. Without His resurrection, the gospel is an empty message that doesn’t make sense. Without the Resurrection, Jesus could not have conquered sin and death, and thus we could not have followed in that victory either.

Without physical resurrection, a life of faith centered on the Lord Jesus is worthless. A dead savior cannot provide any kind of life. If the dead do not rise bodily, Christ did not rise, and neither will we. If all that were true, we could not do much more than conclude with Isaiah’s Servant, “I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity” (49:4). But the glorious reality is that we can affirm with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and … .without my flesh [after death] I shall see God” (Job 19:25–26).

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Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that the truth of the Resurrection makes our theology credible and the gospel powerful.

For Further Study: Sometimes Jesus’ closest followers have doubts about the Resurrection. Read John 20:19–29. How did Jesus prove to the disciples that it was really Him? ✧ What else did Jesus implicitly appeal to when He confronted Thomas’s doubts?[1]


His first argument is simple and logical: Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? The construction here (ei with the indicative) implies a condition that is true. The Corinthians believed in Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1, 11) and that He was presently alive (emphasized by the perfect tense of egeirō, has been raised). How then could they logically deny the general truth of resurrection? If Christ has been raised, resurrection obviously is possible.[2]


15:12 In verses 12–19, Paul lists the consequences of the denial of bodily resurrection. First of all, it would mean that Christ Himself has not risen. Paul’s logic here is unanswerable. Some were saying that there is no such thing as bodily resurrection. All right, Paul says, if that is the case, then Christ has not risen. Are you Corinthians willing to admit this? Of course they were not. In order to prove the possibility of any fact, all you have to do is to demonstrate that it has already taken place once. To prove the fact of bodily resurrection, Paul is willing to base his case upon the simple fact that Christ has already been raised from the dead.[3]


12 Having established historically the truth of the resurrection of Christ and the fact that this is the tradition that all the apostles endorsed and were preaching, Paul is now ready to move to the next step in his argument. He shows how wrong that element in the Corinthian church is who say, “There is no resurrection of the dead.” As noted above, these erroneous people were not denying the resurrection of Christ per se, only the future resurrection of believers. But as Paul will soon point out, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t believe in the resurrection of Christ and deny the eventual resurrection of believers, for resurrection is a single package.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (p. 409). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1804–1805). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 394). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 24 – A Real Death

Being put to death in the flesh.

1 Peter 3:18

Today’s verse indicates that Jesus Christ’s physical life ceased. Some dispute the resurrection of Christ from the dead by claiming that He never died but only fainted. Supposedly He was revived by the coolness of His tomb, got up, and walked out. But Peter is clear: Jesus was dead—the victim of a judicial murder.

Christ’s Roman executioners made sure He was dead. They broke the legs of the thieves crucified alongside Him to hasten their deaths. (A victim of crucifixion could postpone death as long as he could elevate himself on his legs.) However, they didn’t bother to break Christ’s legs since they could see He was already dead. To verify His death, they pierced His side, out of which came a flow of blood and water—only blood, not water, would have come out if Jesus had been alive (John 19:31–37). Christ was surely dead. And that means His resurrection was real.[1]


Some critics have disputed Christ’s resurrection from the dead by claiming He never died in the first place. According to such skeptical reasoning, He merely fainted into a semi-coma on the cross, was revived in the coolness of the tomb, unwrapped Himself, and walked out. But the phrase having been put to death in the flesh leaves no doubt that on the cross Jesus’ physical life ceased. To hasten the deaths of the two thieves at Calvary crucified on either side of Christ, the Roman executioners broke their legs (John 19:31–32). (Crucifixion victims postponed their deaths as long as possible by pushing themselves up on their legs, which allowed them to gasp for another breath.) However, the soldiers did not bother to break Christ’s legs because they could see He was already dead. Confirming that reality, one of them pierced His side with a spear, causing blood and water to flow out, a physiological sign He was certainly dead (19:33–37).

The phrase made alive in the spirit is a reference to Jesus’ eternal inner person. The Greek text omits the definite article, which suggests Peter was not referring to the Holy Spirit, but that the Lord was spiritually alive, contrasting the condition of Christ’s flesh (body) with that of His spirit. His eternal spirit has always been alive, although His earthly body was then dead; but three days later His body was resurrected in a transformed and eternal state.

Some interpreters think the aforementioned phrase describes Jesus’ resurrection. But if the apostle had intended to make such a reference he would have used an expression such as, “He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the flesh.” The resurrection was not merely a spiritual reality—it was physical (cf. Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27). Thus Peter’s point here must be that though Jesus’ body was dead, He remained alive in His spirit (cf. Luke 23:46).

Although Christ is the One who is eternal life itself (1 John 5:20), He did experience a kind of spiritual death—defined not as cessation of existence but an experience of separation from God. While on the cross, Jesus was fully conscious as He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). That utterance reflected His temporary and humanly incomprehensible sense of alienation from the Father while God’s full wrath and the burden of sinners’ iniquities were placed on Him and judged (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:10–13; Heb. 9:28). For that brief time, Christ’s experience paralleled the condition of unbelievers who live, paradoxically, in spiritual death (separation from God) in this life and face divine judgment in physical death (cf. Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43–48; John 3:36; Rev. 20:15). In His death for sin and resurrection to eternal glory, Christ conquered death; however, unregenerate sinners die their own deaths for their unrepented sins and go to eternal shame and punishment.[2]


3:18 The rest of chapter 3 presents Christ as the classic example of One who suffered for righteousness’ sake, and reminds us that for Him, suffering was the pathway to glory.

Notice the six features of His sufferings: (1) They were expiatory, that is, they freed believing sinners from the punishment of their sins. (2) They were eternally effectual. He died once for all and settled the sin question. The work of redemption was completed. (3) They were substitutionary. The just died for the unjust. “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6b). (4) They were reconciling. Through His death we have been brought to God. The sin which caused alienation has been removed. (5) They were violent. His death was by execution. (6) Finally, they were climaxed by resurrection. He was raised from the dead on the third day. The expression made alive by the Spirit means that His resurrection was through the power of the Holy Spirit.[3]


18 Immediately preceding this verse, the writer stresses the Christian response to persecution. Believers are thus to look to their Lord: “For Christ suffered …” (NIV, “died”; paschō,GK 4248, used twelve times in 1 Peter, roughly one-third of all its occurrences in the NT). This suffering, moreover, was vicarious, for the sins of others; it was substitutionary atonement—“the righteous for the unrighteous,” unique and once-for-all (hapax, GK 562) in character (Heb 7:27; 9:28; 10:11–12; cf. Jude 5). This was done, writes Peter, “to bring [prosagō, GK 4642] you to God.” Accessibility to the divine throne, where Peter ends in this parenthetical insertion (3:22), is of critical importance to the readers psychologically if they are enduring considerable hardship in the present cultural context.

That Christ was “put to death [thanatoō, GK 2506] in the body” establishes immediate and crucial identification with the readers. Both share a common existential experience (lit.) “in the flesh”: both suffer. But this is not the end; the story progresses. While Christ was put to death in the flesh, on the one hand, he was also and subsequently “made alive by the Spirit” (zōopoieō pneumati). This flesh-Spirit contrast serves several purposes. At one level, it counters any divorce or dichotomizing of the two that would have typified Hellenistic thinking (cf. 1 Jn 4:2). The scandal of the early church’s preaching was its Christology: Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine (cf. Col 1:19). At another level, it reminds the audience that, while “the body is weak,” indeed, the Spirit is willing (cf. Mt 26:41). The same Spirit who sanctifies (1:2), grants revelation (1:11), makes us holy (1:15–16), and raised Jesus from the dead (3:18) also quickens the believer. The Spirit helps us transcend our earthly limitations.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 129). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 208–209). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2271–2272). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 338). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 23, 2017: Verse of the day

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96:11–13 All creation is invited to join in the festal joy as the Lord (Jehovah, or Yahweh) arrives to rule the world. The heavens will be happy. The earth will be glad. “The sea and all within it will thunder praise” (Gelineau). No field will be silent, and “no tree in the forest but will rejoice to greet its Lord’s coming” (Knox). For He is coming to rule over the world. He will rule in perfect righteousness and in absolute honesty.

“Now therefore, why do you say nothing about bringing back the king?” (2 Sam. 19:10).[1]


96:11, 12 This is what even inanimate creation awaits (cf. Ro 8:19–22).[2]


96:10–13 Let All Nations Know that the Lord Will Judge in Righteousness. The Gentiles addressed throughout this psalm (cf. vv. 1, 7) are to spread the news among all their fellow Gentiles (among the nations, v. 10; cf. v. 3), namely, that the Lord reigns! The universal rule of the one true God (who is above all other gods, who are worthless anyway, vv. 4–5) is good news to those who will acknowledge his kingship. These verses describe a time when God will judge (i.e., rule justly; see note on Psalm 96) the peoples with equity (v. 10; cf. v. 13). When all kinds of people gladly receive God’s rule, worshiping him according to his gracious character, the rest of the creation (the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the field with all their inhabitants, and the trees of the forest) will all celebrate (be glad, rejoice, roar, exult, and sing for joy). The creation suffers from the curse upon mankind, and from God’s discipline of wayward human beings, and from the evil that people do; but when they genuinely come under the rule of the true God, the blessings will spread throughout the world. Cf. note on Rom. 8:20–21.[3]


96:11–13 The psalmist describes personified creation as looking forward to Yahweh’s judgment, which will be right and fair. As Yahweh’s reign is fully established over everything in the way that it should be—with justice and equality (righteousness)—everything on heaven and earth that knows Yahweh will rejoice.[4]


96:11–13 These verses call us to sing to the Lord as the judge of the earth.

96:11 heavens be glad … earth rejoice. This verse and the one that follows personify the whole creation.

96:13 comes to judge. The sense is that He comes to put everything back into proper order, which is why the creation is rejoicing in vv. 11, 12.[5]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 696). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 96:11). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1060). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 96:11–13). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 944). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

April 23 – Hindrances to Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

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Sin and falsehood hinder true peace.

Just as righteousness and truth are the noble companions of peace, so sin and falsehood are its great hindrances. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately [evil]; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21–23).

People with sinful hearts create a sinful society that resists true peace. Ironically, many who talk of peace will also pay huge sums of money to watch two men beat the daylights out of each other in a boxing ring! Our society’s heroes tend to be the macho, hard-nosed, tough guys. Our heroines tend to be free-spirited women who lead marches and stir up contention. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us to stand up for our rights and get everything we can for ourselves. That breeds strife and conditions people to reject the peace of the gospel.

Furthermore, the unbelieving world has never tolerated God’s peacemakers. Christ Himself often met with violent resistance. His accusers said, “He stirs up the people” (Luke 23:5). Paul’s preaching frequently created conflict as well. He spent much time under house arrest and in filthy Roman prisons. On one occasion his enemies described him as “a real pest … who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world” (Acts 24:5).

All who proclaim the gospel will eventually meet with opposition because sin and falsehood have blinded people’s hearts to true peace. That’s why Paul warned us that all who desire to be godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). You can avoid strife by remaining silent about the Lord, but a faithful peacemaker is willing to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Let that be true of you.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for Christ, who is the solution for the world’s problem of sin and falsehood. ✧ Follow Paul’s example by praying for boldness to proclaim God’s truth at every opportunity (Eph. 6:19).

For Further Study: Read Matthew 10:16–25, noting the kind of reception the disciples were to expect from unbelievers.[1]


Happy Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (5:9)

The God of peace (Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9) has emphasized that cherished but elusive reality by making peace one of the dominant ideas of His Word. Scripture contains four hundred direct references to peace, and many more indirect ones. The Bible opens with peace in the Garden of Eden and closes with peace in eternity. The spiritual history of mankind can be charted based on the theme of peace. Although the peace on earth in the garden was interrupted when man sinned, at the cross Jesus Christ made peace a reality again, and He becomes the peace of all who place their faith in Him. Peace can now reign in the hearts of those who are His. Someday He will come as Prince of Peace and establish a worldwide kingdom of peace, which will eventuate in ultimate peace, the eternal age of peace.

But one of the most obvious facts of history and of human experience is that peace does not characterize man’s earthly existence. There is no peace now for two reasons: the opposition of Satan and the disobedience of man. The fall of the angels and the fall of man established a world without peace. Satan and man are engaged with the God of peace in a battle for sovereignty.

The scarcity of peace has prompted someone to suggest that “peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” In 1968 a major newspaper reported that there had been to that date 14,553 known wars since thirty-six years before Christ. Since 1945 there have been some seventy or so wars and nearly two hundred internationally significant outbreaks of violence. Since 1958 nearly one hundred nations have been involved in some form of armed conflict.

Some historians have claimed that the United States has had two generations of peace-one from 1815 to 1846 and the other from 1865 to 1898. But that claim can only be made if you exclude the Indian wars, during which our land was bathed in Indian blood.

With all the avowed and well-intentioned efforts for peace in modern times, few people would claim that the world or any significant part of it is more peaceful now than a hundred years ago. We do not have economic peace, religious peace, racial peace, social peace, family peace, or personal peace. There seems to be no end of marches, sit-ins, rallies, protests, demonstrations, riots, and wars. Disagreement and conflict are the order of the day. No day has had more need of peace than our own.

Nor does the world honor peace as much by its standards and actions as it does by its words. In almost every age of history the greatest heroes have been the greatest warriors. The world lauds the powerful and often exalts the destructive. The model man is not meek but macho. The model hero is not self-giving but self-seeking, not generous but selfish, not gentle but cruel, not submissive but aggressive, not meek but proud.

The popular philosophy of the world, bolstered by the teaching of many psychologists and counselors, is to put self first. But when self is first, peace is last. Self precipitates strife, division, hatred, resentment, and war. It is the great ally of sin and the great enemy of righteousness and, consequently, of peace.

The seventh beatitude calls God’s people to be peacemakers. He has called us to a special mission to help restore the peace lost at the Fall.

The peace of which Christ speaks in this beatitude, and about which the rest of Scripture speaks, is unlike that which the world knows and strives for. God’s peace has nothing to do with politics, armies and navies, forums of nations, or even councils of churches. It has nothing to do with statesmanship, no matter how great, or with arbitration, compromise, negotiated truces, or treaties. God’s peace, the peace of which the Bible speaks, never evades issues; it knows nothing of peace at any price. It does not gloss or hide, rationalize or excuse. It confronts problems and seeks to solve them, and after the problems are solved it builds a bridge between those who were separated by the problems. It often brings its own struggle, pain, hardship, and anguish, because such are often the price of healing. It is not a peace that will be brought by kings, presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, or international humanitarians. It is the inner personal peace that only He can give to the soul of man and that only His children can exemplify.

Four important realities about God’s peace are revealed: its meaning, its Maker, its messengers, and its merit.

The Meaning of Peace: Righteousness and Truth

The essential fact to comprehend is that the peace about which Jesus speaks is more than the absence of conflict and strife; it is the presence of righteousness. Only righteousness can produce the relationship that brings two parties together. Men can stop fighting without righteousness, but they cannot live peaceably without righteousness. Righteousness not only puts an end to harm, but it administers the healing of love.

God’s peace not only stops war but replaces it with the righteousness that brings harmony and true well-being. Peace is a creative, aggressive force for goodness. The Jewish greeting shalom wishes “peace” and expresses the desire that the one who is greeted will have all the righteousness and goodness God can give. The deepest meaning of the term is “God’s highest good to you.”

The most that man’s peace can offer is a truce, the temporary cessation of hostilities. But whether on an international scale or an individual scale, a truce is seldom more than a cold war. Until disagreements and hatreds are resolved, the conflicts merely go underground-where they tend to fester, grow, and break out again. God’s peace, however, not only stops the hostilities but settles the issues and brings the parties together in mutual love and harmony.

James confirms the nature of God’s peace when he writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17). God’s way to peace is through purity. Peace cannot be attained at the expense of righteousness. Two people cannot be at peace until they recognize and resolve the wrong attitudes and actions that caused the conflict between them, and then bring themselves to God for cleansing. Peace that ignores the cleansing that brings purity is not God’s peace.

The writer of Hebrews links peace with purity when he instructs believers to “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Peace cannot be divorced from holiness. “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” is the beautiful expression of the psalmist (Ps. 85:10). Biblically speaking, then, where there is true peace there is righteousness, holiness, and purity. Trying to bring harmony by compromising righteousness forfeits both.

Jesus’ saying “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) seems to be the antithesis of the seventh beatitude. His meaning, however, was that the peace He came to bring is not peace at any price. There will be opposition before there is harmony; there will be strife before there is peace. To be peacemakers on God’s terms requires being peacemakers on the terms of truth and righteousness-to which the world is in fierce opposition. When believers bring truth to bear on a world that loves falsehood, there will be strife. When believers set God’s standards of righteousness before a world that loves wickedness, there is an inevitable potential for conflict. Yet that is the only way.

Until unrighteousness is changed to righteousness there cannot be godly peace. And the process of resolution is difficult and costly. Truth will produce anger before it produces happiness; righteousness will produce antagonism before it produces harmony. The gospel brings bad feelings before it can bring good feelings. A person who does not first mourn over his own sin will never be satisfied with God’s righteousness. The sword that Christ brings is the sword of His Word, which is the sword of truth and righteousness. Like the surgeon’s scalpel, it must cut before it heals, because peace cannot come where sin remains.

The great enemy of peace is sin. Sin separates men from God and causes disharmony and enmity with Him. And men’s lack of harmony with God causes their lack of harmony with each other. The world is filled with strife and war because it is filled with sin. Peace does not rule the world because the enemy of peace rules the world. Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick [or wicked]” (Jer. 17:9). Peace cannot reign where wickedness reigns. Wicked hearts cannot produce a peaceful society. “ ‘There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 48:22).

To talk of peace without talking of repentance of sin is to talk foolishly and vainly. The corrupt religious leaders of ancient Israel proclaimed, “Peace, peace,” but there was no peace, because they and the rest of the people were not “ashamed of the abominations they had done” (Jer. 8:11–12).

“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21–23). Sinful men cannot create peace, either within themselves or among themselves. Sin can produce nothing but strife and conflict. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing,” James says. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:16–18).

Regardless of what the circumstances might be, where there is conflict it is because of sin. If you separate the conflicting parties from each other but do not separate them from sin, at best you will succeed only in making a truce. Peacemaking cannot come by circumventing sin, because sin is the source of every conflict.

The bad news of the gospel comes before the good news. Until a person confronts his sin, it makes no sense to offer him a Savior. Until a person faces his false notions, it makes no sense to offer him the truth. Until a person acknowledges his enmity with God, it makes no sense to offer him peace with God.

Believers cannot avoid facing truth, or avoid facing others with the truth, for the sake of harmony. If someone is in serious error about a part of God’s truth, he cannot have a right, peaceful relationship with others until the error is confronted and corrected. Jesus never evaded the issue of wrong doctrine or behavior. He treated the Samaritan woman from Sychar with great love and compassion, but He did not hesitate to confront her godless life. First He confronted her with her immoral living: “You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (John 4:18). Then He corrected her false ideas about worship: “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:21–22).

The person who is not willing to disrupt and disturb in God’s name cannot be a peacemaker. To come to terms on anything less than God’s truth and righteousness is to settle for a truce-which confirms sinners in their sin and may leave them even further from the kingdom. Those who in the name of love or kindness or compassion try to witness by appeasement and compromise of God’s Word will find that their witness leads away from Him, not to Him. God’s peacemakers will not let a sleeping dog lie if it is opposed to God’s truth; they will not protect the status quo if it is ungodly and unrighteous. They are not willing to make peace at any price. God’s peace comes only in God’s way. Being a peacemaker is essentially the result of a holy life and the call to others to embrace the gospel of holiness.

The Maker of Peace: God

Men are without peace because they are without God, the source of peace. Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with statements of God’s being the God of peace (Lev. 26:6; 1 Kings 2:33; Ps. 29:11; Isa. 9:6; Ezek. 34:25; Rom. 15:33; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Thess. 3:16). Since the Fall, the only peace that men have known is the peace they have received as the gift of God. Christ’s coming to earth was the peace of God coming to earth, because only Jesus Christ could remove sin, the great barrier to peace. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:13–14).

I once read the story of a couple at a divorce hearing who were arguing back and forth before the judge, accusing each other and refusing to take any blame themselves. Their little four-year-old boy was terribly distressed and confused. Not knowing what else to do, he took his father’s hand and his mother’s hand and kept tugging until he finally pulled the hands of his parents together.

In an infinitely greater way, Christ brings back together God and man, reconciling and bringing peace. “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19–20).

How could the cross bring peace? At the cross all of man’s hatred and anger was vented against God. On the cross the Son of God was mocked, cursed, spit upon, pierced, reviled, and killed. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear, the sky flashed lightning, the earth shook violently, and the veil of the Temple was torn in two. Yet through that violence God brought peace. God’s greatest righteousness confronted man’s greatest wickedness, and righteousness won. And because righteousness won, peace was won.

In his book Peace Child (Glendale, Calif.: Regal, 1979), Don Richardson tells of his long struggle to bring the gospel to the cannibalistic, headhunting Sawi tribe of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Try as he would, he could not find a way to make the people understand the gospel message, especially the significance of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.

Sawi villages were constantly fighting among themselves, and because treachery, revenge, and murder were highly honored there seemed no hope of peace. The tribe, however, had a legendary custom that if one village gave a baby boy to another village, peace would prevail between the two villages as long as the child lived. The baby was called a “peace child.”

The missionary seized on that story as an analogy of the reconciling work of Christ. Christ, he said, is God’s divine Peace Child that He has offered to man, and because Christ lives eternally His peace will never end. That analogy was the key that unlocked the gospel for the Sawis. In a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit many of them believed in Christ, and a strong, evangelistic church soon developed-and peace came to the Sawis.

If the Father is the source of peace, and the Son is the manifestation of that peace, then the Holy Spirit is the agent of that peace. One of the most beautiful fruits the Holy Spirit gives to those in whom He resides is the fruit of peace (Gal. 5:22). The God of peace sent the Prince of Peace who sends the Spirit of peace to give the fruit of peace. No wonder the Trinity is called Yahweh Shalom, “The Lord is Peace” (Judg. 6:24).

The God of peace intends peace for His world, and the world that He created in peace He will one day restore to peace. The Prince of Peace will establish His kingdom of peace, for a thousand years on earth and for all eternity in heaven. “ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ ” (Jer. 29:11). Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The one who does not belong to God through Jesus Christ can neither have peace nor be a peacemaker. God can work peace through us only if He has worked peace in us.

Some of the earth’s most violent weather occurs on the seas. But the deeper one goes the more serene and tranquil the water becomes. Oceanographers report that the deepest parts of the sea are absolutely still. When those areas are dredged they produce remnants of plant and animal life that have remained undisturbed for thousands of years.

That is a picture of the Christian’s peace. The world around him, including his own circumstances, may be in great turmoil and strife, but in his deepest being he has peace that passes understanding. Those who are in the best of circumstances but without God can never find peace, but those in the worst of circumstances but with God need never lack peace.

The Messengers of Peace: Believers

The messengers of peace are believers in Jesus Christ. Only they can be peacemakers. Only those who belong to the Maker of peace can be messengers of peace. Paul tells us that “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15) and that “now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). The ministry of reconciliation is the ministry of peacemaking. Those whom God has called to peace He also calls to make peace. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us” (2 Cor. 5:19–20).

At least four things characterize a peacemaker. First, he is one who himself has made peace with God. The gospel is all about peace. Before we came to Christ we were at war with God. No matter what we may consciously have thought about God, our hearts were against Him. It was “while we were enemies” of God that “we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). When we received Christ as Savior and He imputed His righteousness to us, our battle with God ended, and our peace with God began. Because he has made peace with God he can enjoy the peace of God (Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15). And because he has been given God’s peace he is called to share God’s peace. He is to have his very feet shod with “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

Because peace is always corrupted by sin, the peacemaking believer must be a holy believer, a believer whose life is continually cleansed by the Holy Spirit. Sin breaks our fellowship with God, and when fellowship with Him is broken, peace is broken. The disobedient, self-indulgent Christian is not suited to be an ambassador of peace.

Second, a peacemaker leads others to make peace with God. Christians are not an elite corps of those who have spiritually arrived and who look down on the rest of the world. They are a body of sinners cleansed by Jesus Christ and commissioned to carry His gospel of cleansing to the rest of the world.

The Pharisees were the embodiment of what peacemakers are not. They were smug, proud, complacent, and determined to have their own ways and defend their own rights. They had scant interest in making peace with Rome, with the Samaritans, or even with fellow Jews who did not follow their own party line. Consequently they created strife wherever they went. They cooperated with others only when it was to their own advantage, as they did with the Sadducees in opposing Jesus.

The peacemaking spirit is the opposite of that. It is built on humility, sorrow over its own sin, gentleness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, and purity of heart. G. Campbell Morgan commented that peacemaking is the propagated character of the man who, exemplifying all the rest of the beatitudes, thereby brings peace wherever he comes.

The peacemaker is a beggar who has been fed and who is called to help feed others. Having been brought to God, he is to bring others to God. The purpose of the church is to preach “peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). To preach Christ is to promote peace. To bring a person to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most peacemaking act a human being can perform. It is beyond what any diplomat or statesman can accomplish.

Third, a peacemaker helps others make peace with others. The moment a person comes to Christ he becomes at peace with God and with the church and becomes himself a peacemaker in the world. A peacemaker builds bridges between men and God and also between men and other men. The second kind of bridge building must begin, of course, between ourselves and others. Jesus said that if we are bringing a gift to God and a brother has something against us, we are to leave our gift at the altar and be reconciled to that brother before we offer the gift to God (Matt. 5:23–24). As far as it is possible, Paul says, “so far as it depends on [us],” we are to “be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). We are even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, “in order that [we] may be sons of [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).

By definition a bridge cannot be one-sided. It must extend between two sides or it can never function. Once built, it continues to need support on both sides or it will collapse. So in any relationship our first responsibility is to see that our own side has a solid base. But we also have a responsibility to help the one on the other side build his base well. Both sides must be built on righteousness and truth or the bridge will not stand. God’s peacemakers must first be righteous themselves, and then must be active in helping others become righteous.

The first step in that bridge-building process is often to rebuke others about their sin, which is the supreme barrier to peace. “If your brother sins,” Jesus says, “go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (Matt. 18:15–17). That is a difficult thing to do, but obeying that command is no more optional than obeying any of the Lord’s other commands. The fact that taking such action often stirs up controversy and resentment is no excuse for not doing it. If we do so in the way and in the spirit the Lord teaches, the consequences are His responsibility. Not to do so does not preserve peace but through disobedience establishes a truce with sin.

Obviously there is the possibility of a price to pay, but any sacrifice is small in order to obey God. Often confrontation will bring more turmoil instead of less-misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and resentment. But the only way to peace is the way of righteousness. Sin that is not dealt with is sin that will disrupt and destroy peace. Just as any price is worth paying to obey God, any price is worth paying to be rid of sin. “If your right eye makes you stumble,” Jesus said, “tear it out, and throw it from you; … And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:29–30). If we are unwilling to help others confront their sin, we will be unable to help them find peace.

Fourth, a peacemaker endeavors to find a point of agreement. God’s truth and righteousness must never be compromised or weakened, but there is hardly a person so ungodly, immoral, rebellious, pagan, or indifferent that we have absolutely no point of agreement with him. Wrong theology, wrong standards, wrong beliefs, and wrong attitudes must be faced and dealt with, but they are not usually the best places to start the process of witnessing or peacemaking.

God’s people are to contend without being contentious, to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being abusive. The peacemaker speaks the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). To start with love is to start toward peace. We begin peacemaking by starting with whatever peaceful point of agreement we can find. Peace helps beget peace. The peacemaker always gives others the benefit of the doubt. He never assumes they will resist the gospel or reject his testimony. When he does meet opposition, he tries to be patient with other people’s blindness and stubbornness just as he knows the Lord was, and continues to be, patient with his own blindness and stubbornness.

God’s most effective peacemakers are often the simplest and least noticed people. They do not try to attract attention to themselves. They seldom win headlines or prizes for their peacemaking, because, by its very nature, true peacemaking is unobtrusive and prefers to go unnoticed. Because they bring righteousness and truth wherever they go, peacemakers are frequently accused of being troublemakers and disturbers of the peace-as Ahab accused Elijah of being (1 Kings 18:17) and the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being (Luke 23:2, 5). But God knows their hearts, and He honors their work because they are working for His peace in His power. God’s peacemakers are never unfruitful or unrewarded. This is a mark of a true kingdom citizen: he not only hungers for righteousness and holiness in his own life but has a passionate desire to see those virtues in the lives of others.

The Merit Of Peace: Eternal Sonship In The Kingdom

The merit, or result, of peacemaking is eternal blessing as God’s children in God’s kingdom. Peacemakers shall be called sons of God.

Most of us are thankful for our heritage, our ancestors, our parents, and our family name. It is especially gratifying to have been influenced by godly grandparents and to have been raised by godly parents. But the greatest human heritage cannot match the believer’s heritage in Jesus Christ, because we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Nothing compares to being a child of God.

Both huios and teknon are used in the New Testament to speak of believers’ relationship to God. Teknon (child) is a term of tender affection and endearment as well as of relationship (see John 1:12; Eph. 5:8; 1 Pet. 1:14; etc.). Sons, however, is from huios, which expresses the dignity and honor of the relationship of a child to his parents. As God’s peacemakers we are promised the glorious blessing of eternal sonship in His eternal kingdom.

Peacemaking is a hallmark of God’s children. A person who is not a peacemaker either is not a Christian or is a disobedient Christian. The person who is continually disruptive, divisive, and quarrelsome has good reason to doubt his relationship to God altogether. God’s sons-that is, all of His children, both male and female-are peacemakers. Only God determines who His children are, and He has determined that they are the humble, the penitent over sin, the gentle, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

Shall be called is in a continuous future passive tense. Throughout eternity peacemakers will go by the name “children of God.” The passive form indicates that all heaven will call peacemakers sons of God, because God Himself has declared them to be His children.

Jacob loved Benjamin so much that his whole life came to be bound up in the life of that son (Gen. 44:30). Any parent worthy of the name loves his children more than his own life, and immeasurably more than all of his possessions together. God loves His children today as He loved Israel of old, as “the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8; cf. Ps. 17:8). The Hebrew expression “apple of the eye” referred to the cornea, the most exposed and sensitive part of the eye, the part we are the most careful to protect. That is what God’s children are to Him: those whom He is most sensitive about and most desires to protect. To attack God’s children is to poke a finger in God’s eye. Offense against Christians is offense against God, because they are His very own children.

God puts the tears of His children in a bottle (Ps. 56:8), a figure reflecting the Hebrew custom of placing into a bottle the tears shed over a loved one. God cares for us so much that He stores up His remembrances of our sorrows and afflictions. God’s children matter greatly to Him, and it is no little thing that we can call Him Father.

God’s peacemakers will not always have peace in the world. As Jesus makes clear by the last beatitude, persecution follows peacemaking. In Christ we have forsaken the false peace of the world, and consequently we often will not have peace with the world. But as God’s children we may always have peace even while we are in the world-the peace of God, which the world cannot give and the world cannot take away.[2]


5:9 A blessing is pronounced on the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Notice that the Lord is not speaking about people with a peaceful disposition or those who love peace. He is referring to those who actively intervene to make peace. The natural approach is to watch strife from the sidelines. The divine approach is to take positive action toward creating peace, even if it means taking abuse and invective.

Peacemakers are called sons of God. This is not how they become sons of God—that can only happen by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12). By making peace, believers manifest themselves as sons of God, and God will one day acknowledge them as people who bear the family likeness.[3]


9 Jesus’ concern in this beatitude is not with the peaceful but with the peacemakers. Peace is of constant concern in both Testaments (e.g., Pr 15:1; Isa 52:7; Lk 24:36; Ro 10:15; 12:18; 1 Co 7:15; Eph 2:11–22; Heb 12:14; 1 Pe 3:11). But as some of these and other passages show, the making of peace can itself have messianic overtones. The Promised Son is called the “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6); and Isaiah 52:7—“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ ”—linking as it does peace, salvation, and God’s reign, was interpreted messianically in the Judaism of Jesus’ day.

Jesus does not limit the peacemaking to only one kind, and neither will his disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus himself is the supreme peacemaker, making peace between God and man, and man and man. Our peacemaking will include the promulgation of that gospel. It must also extend to seeking all kinds of reconciliation. Instead of delighting in division, bitterness, strife, or some petty “divide and conquer” mentality, disciples of Jesus delight to make peace wherever possible. Making peace is not appeasement. The true model is God’s costly peacemaking (Eph 2:15–17; Col 1:20). Those who undertake this work are acknowledged as God’s sons. In the OT, Israel has the title “sons” (Dt 14:1; Hos 1:10; cf. Pss. Sol. 17:30; Wis 2:13–18). Now it belongs to the heirs of the kingdom, who, meek and poor in spirit, loving righteousness yet merciful, are especially equipped for peacemaking and so reflect something of their heavenly Father’s character. “There is no more godlike work to be done in this world than peacemaking” (Broadus). This beatitude must have been shocking to Zealots when Jesus preached it, when political passions were inflamed (Morison).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 126). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 209–218). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1217). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 165). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 23 – REJOICING IN TRIALS

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.

1 Peter 4:13

The Apostle Peter stated a great Christian truth in the form of an amazing paradox: The obedient Christian believer will continue to rejoice and praise God even in the midst of continuing trials and suffering in this earthly life!

God’s people know that things here on this earth are not all they ought to be, but they refuse to join the worry brigade. They are too busy rejoicing in the gracious prospect of all that will take place when God fulfills His promises to His redeemed children.

This ability to rejoice is demonstrated throughout the Bible, and in the New Testament it rings forth like a silver bell!

The life of the normal believing child of God can never become a life of gloom and pessimism, for it is the Holy Spirit of God who keeps us above the kind of gloomy resignation that marks the secularism of the day.

We are still able to love the unlovely and to weep with those who weep, for in Peter’s words, “When Christ’s glory shall be revealed, you may be glad with exceeding joy!” (see 1 Peter 4:13).

 

Lord, thank You for helping me not just to cope but to rise above the difficult situations that face me at work, at home, and at church.[1]


Exult in Suffering

but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (4:13–14)

To the degree is a generous way to translate katho (“as,” “according to which”) and thus to show that Christians’ eternal reward is proportionate to their earthly suffering (cf. Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16–18; Heb. 11:26; 2 John 8; Rev. 2:10). That is a reasonable relationship since suffering reveals faithfulness to their Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself noted this relationship between suffering and reward, saying,

Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (Luke 6:22–23)

Peter further enriches the endurance of those who are persecuted by stating that they share the sufferings of Christ. That is not in any redemptive sense; neither does it refer only to spiritual union with Him, as Paul describes in Romans 6. But it refers to believers experiencing the same kind of sufferings He endured—suffering for what is right. R. C. H. Lenski rightly elaborates the meaning of Peter’s expression:

The readers [of 1 Peter] are only in fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. This is a thought that is prominent and fully carried out by Paul in Rom. 8:17; II Cor. 1:7; 4:10; Phil. 1:29; 3:10; Col. 1:24. It goes back to Christ’s word (John 15:20, 21).

We fellowship Christ’s sufferings when we suffer for his name’s sake, when the hatred that struck him strikes us because of him. Never is there a thought of fellowshiping in the expiation of Christ’s suffering, our suffering also being expiatory. In Matt. 5:12 persecution places us in the company of the persecuted prophets (high exaltation indeed); here it places us in the company of Christ himself, into an even greater communion or [koinōnia]. Is that “a strange thing” or to be deemed strange? It is what we should deem proper, natural, to be expected, yea, as Peter says (following Matt. 5:12), a cause for joy. (The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude [reprint; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966], 203)

Christ who suffered at the hands of wicked men even though He was without sin (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 26:67; 27:12, 26, 29–31, 39–44; John 10:31, 33; 11:8; Acts 2:23) promised believers it would be their privilege to suffer in the same way when He said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

To the degree that believers suffer unjustly, they should, as their Lord did, keep on rejoicing, a sentiment completely unacceptable to those who have no hope of heavenly reward, but affirmed by the Lord when He declared,

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:10–12)

The revelation of His glory will come in “the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:30), which refers to Christ’s return. The Lord resumed the full exercise of His glory after He ascended to heaven, but He has not yet revealed it on earth for everyone to see (cf. Matt. 24:30; Phil. 2:9–11; Rev. 19:11–16). (Peter, James, and John did get a preview of that glory when they witnessed Christ’s transfiguration [Mark 9:2–3; cf. 2 Peter 1:16–18].)

Peter’s second use of rejoice (chairō) in verse 13 is qualified by exultation (agalliaō), a reference to rapturous joy. When Christ returns, believers will rejoice with exultation (cf. the discussion of joy in chapter 3 of this volume), and do so in proportion to their share in His sufferings in this life. Those who share His sufferings will also share His glory (5:1; cf. Matt. 20:20–23). The saints’ suffering for righteousness proves them, refines them, and earns for them “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17) so that the greater their suffering the stronger their hope, and the richer their joy (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16–18; James 1:2).

The name of Christ is the cause of evil hatred directed toward believers (Matt. 10:22; 24:9). In the early days of the church, His name first became synonymous with the Savior Himself and all that He represents (cf. Luke 24:47; John 1:12; Acts 2:38; 4:17, 30; 9:15; 19:17). In Peter’s sermon before the Sanhedrin, he asserted, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Later the apostles “went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (5:41). In His vision concerning the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and his subsequent preaching as Paul the apostle, Christ told Ananias of Damascus, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (9:16). It is not the name “Christ” that offends the ungodly, but rather who He is and what He said and did that causes hostility from them.

That animosity is summed up in the word reviled (oneidizō), meaning “to denounce,” or “to heap insults upon.” In the Septuagint it described hostility heaped at God and His people by the godless (Pss. 42:10; 44:16; 74:10, 18; cf. Isa. 51:7; Zeph. 2:8). In the New Testament it refers to the indignities and mistreatments Christ endured from sinners (Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32; Rom. 15:3). In the first century, unbelievers were often exasperated and infuriated that believers were so frequently speaking of Christ, whose indictment of sinners they despised (cf. Acts 4:17–18; 17:1–7).

However, all the hatred and violence of the world against Christians does not diminish their blessedness. Actually they are more blessed for such suffering, not only for the eternal reward they will receive but for the present blessing, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on them. It is not merely because of suffering that the Holy Spirit will rest on believers, as when He came on and departed from an Old Testament prophet, but rather that He, already being in believers permanently (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19–20; 12:13), gives them supernatural relief in the midst of their suffering. Because the Spirit is God, divine glory defines His nature (cf. Pss. 93:1; 104:1; 138:5). Glory recalls the Shekinah, which in the Old Testament symbolized God’s earthly presence (Ex. 24:16–17; 34:5–8; 40:34–38; Hab. 3:3–4). When the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant were brought to Solomon’s newly dedicated temple, “the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:11). As the brilliant cloud of the Shekinah rested in the tabernacle and the temple, so the Holy Spirit lives in and ministers to believers today. Rests (from the present tense of anapauō) means “to give relief, refreshment, intermission from toil” (cf. Matt. 11:28–29; Mark 6:31), and describes one of His ministries. “Refreshment” comes on those believers who suffer for the sake of the Savior and the gospel. The Spirit gives them grace by imparting endurance, understanding, and all the fruit that comes in the panoply of His goodness: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).

That kind of refreshment and divine power came upon Stephen, a leader in the Jerusalem church and its first recorded martyr. As he began to defend his faith before the Jewish leaders, they “saw his face like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). His demeanor signified serenity, tranquility, and joy—all the fruit of the Spirit—undiminished and even expanded by his suffering and the Holy Comforter’s grace to him. The Sanhedrin became enraged as Stephen rehearsed redemptive history to them from the Old Testament, an account that culminated in the atoning work of Jesus the Messiah. Stephen’s Spirit-controlled rest was evident as “he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ ” (Acts 7:55–56). As his enemies stoned him to death, Stephen “called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep” (vv. 59–60). Truly the Spirit of glory elevated him above his suffering to sweet relief. That powerful work of the Spirit was the cause of Paul’s later testimony in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”[2]


4:13 The privilege of sharing Christ’s sufferings should cause us great rejoicing. We cannot of course share His atoning sufferings; He is the only Sin-Bearer. But we can share the same kind of sufferings He endured as a Man. We can share His rejection and reproach. We can receive the wounds and scars in our bodies which unbelievers would still like to inflict on Him.

If the child of God can rejoice today in the midst of suffering, how much more will he rejoice and be glad when Christ’s glory is revealed. When the Savior comes back to earth as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, He will be revealed as the Almighty Son of God. Those who suffer now for His sake will be honored then with Him.[3]


13 Rather than be shocked or surprised at suffering, the readers are told to rejoice. The writer is not hereby glibly suggesting that one rejoices in suffering qua suffering. It is rather “in the Lord” (Php 4:4) that one rejoices. Believers “participate in the sufferings of Christ” (cf. Php 3:10, which speaks of “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”), based on the believer’s union with Christ, and therefore can emit a response of “rejoicing.” The believer is united with Christ in his death as well as his resurrection (Ro 6:5–14), not in the sense of paying for our sins, as only the Son of God could do, but in the sense that “our old self was crucified with him … that we should no longer be slaves to sin … but alive to God” (Ro 6:6, 11). Rejoicing and shock stand at opposite ends, and a deep awareness of our union with Christ—and all that it entails—preserves the Christian from surprise that metastasizes into disenchantment and disillusionment. To expect suffering, it should be emphasized, is not to welcome it in some blindly fatalistic way; it is, however, to be realistic about our union with Christ.

The attitude of rejoicing in the context of suffering is further magnified by the cognizance of the coming revelation of Christ’s glory. Peter writes, “so that you may be overjoyed [lit., ‘that you may rejoice exultingly’] when his glory is revealed,” using the same strengthened form of “rejoice” (agalliaō, GK 22) as earlier (1:6, 8), and in the same context (Christ’s return). His theological rationale squares with that of Paul: “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Ro 8:17); “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Ti 2:12). Suffering for Christ is a privilege and not a penalty (so Barclay, 258). In Petrine thinking, eschatology informs Christian ethics.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 251–254). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2278). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 349–350). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 23 – THE WORD OF GOD: SHORTEST ROUTE TO SPIRITUAL PEACE

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

EPHESIANS 4:13

The work of God is not finished in the heart and life of the new believer when the first act of inward adjustment has given him a sense of cleansing and forgiveness, peace and rest for the first time in his life!

The Spirit would go on from there to bring the total life into harmony with that blissful “center.” This is wrought in the believer by the Word and by prayer and discipline and suffering.

It could be done by a short course in things spiritual if we were more pliable, less self-willed and stubborn; but it usually takes some time before we learn the hard lessons of faith and obedience sufficiently well to permit the work to be done within us with anything near to perfection.

In bringing many sons unto glory God works with whatever He has in whatever way He can and by whatever means He can, respecting always His own gift to us, the freedom of our wills. But of all means He uses, the Bible is the best.

The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection, and we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Any tinkering with the truth, any liberties taken with the Scriptures, and we throw ourselves out of symmetry and invite stiff discipline and severe chastisement from that loving Father who wills for us nothing less than full restoration to the image of God in Christ![1]


The building up of the redeemed involves a two–fold ultimate objective, which Paul identifies as the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, out of which flow spiritual maturity, sound doctrine, and loving testimony.

Some commentators advocate the view that such an ultimate objective is only attainable at glorification, believing that Paul is describing our final heavenly unity and knowledge. But that idea does not fit the context at all, because the apostle is not describing the final work of Christ on behalf of the church in heaven but the work of gifted men in the church on earth. These results could only apply to the church in its earthly dimension.

Unity of the Faith

The ultimate spiritual target for the church begins with the unity of the faith (cf. v. 3). As in verse 5, faith does not here refer to the act of belief or of obedience but to the body of Christian truth, to Christian doctrine. The faith is the content of the gospel in its most complete form. As the church at Corinth so clearly illustrates, disunity in the church comes from doctrinal ignorance and spiritual immaturity. When believers are properly taught, when they faithfully do the work of service, and when the body is thereby built up in spiritual maturity, unity of the faith is an inevitable result. Oneness in fellowship is impossible unless it is built on the foundation of commonly believed truth. The solution to the divisions in Corinth was for everyone to hold the same understandings and opinions and to speak the same truths (1 Cor. 1:10).

God’s truth is not fragmented and divided against itself, and when His people are fragmented and divided it simply means they are to that degree apart from His truth, apart from the faith of right knowledge and understanding. Only a biblically equipped, faithfully serving, and spiritually maturing church can attain to the unity the faith. Any other unity will be on a purely human level and not only will be apart from but in constant conflict with the unity of the faith. There can never be unity in the church apart from doctrinal integrity.

Knowledge of Christ

The second result of following God’s pattern for building His church is attaining the knowledge of the Son of God. Paul is not talking about salvation knowledge but about the deep knowledge (epignōsis, full knowledge that is correct and accurate) through a relationship with Christ that comes only from prayer and faithful study of and obedience to God’s Word. After many years of devoted apostleship Paul still could say, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, … that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. … Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8–10, 12). Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have that “knowledge of Him” (1:17; cf. Phil. 1:4; Col. 1:9–10; 2:2). Growing in the deeper knowledge of the Son of God is a life–long process that will not be complete until we see our Lord face–to–face. That is the knowing of which Jesus spoke when He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them” (John 10:27). He was not speaking of knowing their identities but of knowing them intimately, and that is the way He wants His people also to know Him.

Spiritual Maturity

The third result of following God’s pattern for His church is spiritual maturity, a maturity to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. God’s great desire for His church is that every believer, without exception, come to be like His Son (Rom. 8:29), manifesting the character qualities of the One who is the only measure of the full–grown, perfect, mature man. The church in the world is Jesus Christ in the world, because the church is now the fullness of His incarnate Body in the world (cf. 1:23). We are to radiate and reflect Christ’s perfections. Christians are therefore called to “walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6; cf. Col. 4:12), and He walked in complete and continual fellowship with and obedience to His Father. To walk as our Lord walked flows from a life of prayer and of obedience to God’s Word. “We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). As we grow into deeper fellowship with Christ, the process of divine sanctification through His Holy Spirit changes us more and more into His image, from one level of glory to the next. The agent of spiritual maturity, as well as of every other aspect of godly living, is God’s own Spirit—apart from whom the sincerest prayer has no effectiveness (Rom. 8:26) and even God’s own Word has no power (John 14:26; 16:13–14; 1 John 2:20).

It is obvious that believers, all of whom have unredeemed flesh (Rom. 7:14; 8:23), cannot in this life fully and perfectly attain the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. But they must and can reach a degree of maturity that pleases and glorifies the Lord. The goal of Paul’s ministry to believers was their maturity, as indicated by his labors to “present every man complete (teleios, mature) in Christ” (Col. 1:28–29; cf. Phil. 3:14–15).[2]


4:13 Verse 13 answers the question, “How long will this growth process continue?” The answer is till we all come to a state of unity, maturity, and conformity.

Unity. When the Lord takes His church home to heaven, we will all arrive at the unity of the faith. “Now we see in a mirror dimly” with regard to many matters. We have differences of opinion on a host of subjects. Then we will all be fully agreed. And we will reach the unity of … the knowledge of the Son of God. Here we have individual views of the Lord, of what He is like, of the implications of His teachings. Then we will see Him as He is, and know as we are known.

Maturity. At the Rapture we will also reach full growth or maturity. Both as individuals and as the Body of Christ, we will achieve perfection of spiritual development.

Conformity. And we will be conformed to Him. Everyone will be morally like Christ. And the universal church will be a full-grown Body, perfectly suited to its glorious Head. “The fulness of Christ is the Church itself, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (FWG). The measure of the stature of the church means its complete development, the fulfillment of God’s plan for its growth.[3]


13 Here we encounter three goals that Paul specifies “we all” (hoi pantes) ought to reach or attain. Paul includes himself in this collective goal for all Christians (recall v. 7: “to each one of us grace has been given”), not just the gifted leaders. This also confirms that “works of service” (v. 12) refers to the congregation, not the leaders. The conjunction “until” (mechri) specifies both the time frame and the purpose of the leaders’ work: they labor until. Though the church already is the fullness of Christ—its identity (1:23)—its members strive until they achieve “the whole measure of the fullness” (cf. 3:19). The first goal is unity in two dimensions: “in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.” Unity in the faith (Greek objective genitive) points to a common trust in and assent to the “one faith” (recall v. 5). Since there is only one (body of) faith and one Jesus, faith in whom secures salvation, church members need to embrace it in common. Whatever differences of opinion we possess on various matters, on the central core issues of the faith we must strive for unity.

Unity in knowledge (again, an objective genitive) has an intriguing object: “of the Son of God” (the Son being the object of believers’ knowledge). Probably this second phrase unpacks the meaning of the “unity in the faith.” For the first time in Ephesians, Paul calls Jesus by this title (he uses it elsewhere only in Ro 1:4; 2 Co 1:19; Gal 2:20; cf. Ac 9:20). There are both relational and informational dimensions to our knowledge of Christ (see commentary on 1:17). Unity centers in Jesus, and the goal for Christian learning is to “know [Christ] better,” personally and intimately (1:17; cf. Php 3:10; Col 2:20; 2 Pe 3:18), as the one who loves us and gave himself for us. Knowing God and his Son Jesus is the very essence of eternal life (Jn 17:3; Eph 4:20; cf. 2 Pe 1:8; 2:20). Jesus’ parting instructions stressed the need to teach followers of Jesus to obey everything he commanded (Mt 28:20). Having listed the unshakable realities in vv. 4–6, now Paul stresses the need for a unified knowledge or understanding of the central Christian truths. We see their opposite in v. 14—immature people flummoxed by various teachings and wily deceivers. Leaders must equip the saints to secure unity in their beliefs and knowledge. Christians ought to espouse unequivocally a common worldview instructed by the one faith centered in the knowledge of Christ and true beliefs about him.

A second objective is to “become mature,” literally, “to a mature man,” taking the church as a corporate whole. “Man” translates anēr (GK 467), the gender-specific term for adult male (or husband, as in 5:22–33), here modified by “mature” (or “perfect”), denoting a full-grown, mature person (cf. BDAG, 79). Paul’s point here is not that the individual men of the church become mature (requiring the plural “men”), but that the corporate body of Christ does (cf. Best, 401; Lincoln, 256; Schnackenburg, 85; O’Brien, 307). Paul’s goal is a perfect church, as the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ” implies. So leaders have the task of promoting maturity, and all members have the responsibility to ensure that the body of Christ grows up spiritually. The failure to work at this leaves people as spiritual “infants” (v. 14). In v. 16 Paul spells out what maturity entails; in v. 17 he starts delineating its results in the life of the body.

This passion for the church’s maturity underlies Paul’s third goal for the body: to attain, literally, “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” On “fullness,” see commentary at 1:23. In referring to “stature” (hēlikias [GK 2461], NASB; not in the NIV), Paul introduces the metaphor of a physical body—one he will develop in vv. 15–16. Recall that at 3:19 Paul prayed that the readers would be filled “to the measure of all the fullness of God.” What might the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” imply here? “Stature” refers to either a person’s age or physical size. It implies maturity, full growth in size or age. We find a general depiction of the metaphor in vv. 15b–16 and the specific traits in the remainder of the letter. Christ is the standard for maturity. Christ seeks to give the church his fullness. Measuring up to Christ is the church’s ideal and target—the goal of knowing him. Maturity as a church derives only through its integral relationship to Christ as it comes to know him more and more. Leaders in their equipping and the church in its growing must strive for nothing less than full Christlikeness.[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 156–158). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1936). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 119–120). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.