Category Archives: Daily Devotional Guide

January 21, 2020 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 3:5–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.


The Cure for Divisions: Glorifying God

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (3:5–9)

The cure for division is turning away from self and setting our eyes on the one God whom we all glorify. When our attention is focused on our Lord, as it always should be, there will be no time and no occasion for division. When our attention is on Him it cannot be on ourselves or on human leaders or human factions.

Apollos and Paul were simply the servants through whom you believed. They were the instruments, not the source, of salvation. As Paul had reminded them earlier, he had not died for them and they were not baptized in his name (1:13). The same was true, of course, for Apollos and Peter, as it is true for all other ministers of the Lord of all time. All Christians, including even such men as those, whom the Lord used so mightily, are but His servants (diakonoi), or ministers (KJV). It is not the same word (doulos) often translated “servant, slave, or bond-servant” (7:21–23; Rom. 1:1; etc.), but simply meant a menial worker of any sort, free or slave. It was often used of a table waiter or what we would now call a busboy.

Paul was saying in effect, “No one builds a movement around a waiter or busboy, or erects monuments to them. Apollos and I are just waiters or busboys whom the Lord used as servants to bring you food. You do not please us by trying to honor us. Your honor, your glory, is misplaced. You are acting like the world, like mere men. Build your monuments, give your praise to the One who prepared the spiritual food we delivered.”

The world honors and tries to immortalize great men because men are the highest thing it knows. The world cannot see beyond itself. But Christians know God—the Creator, the Sustainer, the Savior, the Lord of the universe, and the Source of all things. He alone is worthy of honor. We are but His servants, His instruments. If an artist is to be honored, you do not make a statue of his brush or his palette. It makes no more sense for Christians to glorify men, even a Paul or an Apollos, who are only brushes or palettes in the Master’s hands. Such are to be esteemed and loved for their work (1 Thess. 5:12–13), but not revered or set against each other.

Those men had their God-appointed work to do. Using agricultural metaphors, Paul acknowledged that he had planted and that Apollos watered. They had done their work well and faithfully. But the real work was the Lord’s. God was causing the growth. No man, not even the best farmer or the best horticulturist, can give physical life or growth to a plant. How much less can anyone, even an apostle, give spiritual life or growth to a person. The most that men can do in either case is to prepare and water the soil and to plant the seeds. The rest is up to God. Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. The human instrument is not anything but a tool. All the honor for the accomplishment goes to God.

Paul here mentions only two types of ministry, represented by planting and watering. His principle, however, applies to every type of ministry. In our eyes, some Christian work is more glamorous, or seems more important or more significant than other work. But if God has called a person to a work, that is the most important ministry he can have. All of God’s work is important. To glorify one kind of Christian work above another is just as carnal and divisive as to glorify one leader above another.

Our Lord’s parable in Matthew 20:1–16 demonstrates the equality of our ministries in the day of rewards. Jesus gave the parable as a corrective to the disciples’ feeling that they were more worthy than others (19:27–30). We will all equally inherit the promised eternal life, with all its blessings. That is the sameness of future glory.

He who plants and he who waters are one. All of God’s workers are one in Him, and to Him all glory should go. Recognition of our oneness in the Lord is the sure and only remedy for divisiveness. It leaves no place for the flesh and its jealousy, strife, and division.

God does not fail to recognize the faithful work of His servants. Each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. God will “give their reward to [His] bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear [His] name, the small and the great” (Rev. 11:18). That is the uniqueness of future glory.

God rewards on the basis of labor, not success or results. A missionary may work faithfully for 40 years and see only a handful of converts. Another may work far fewer years and see far more converts. Jeremiah was one of God’s most faithful and dedicated prophets, yet he saw little result of his ministry. He was ridiculed, persecuted, and generally rejected along with the message he preached. Jonah, on the other hand, was petty and unwilling, yet through him God won the entire city of Nineveh in one brief campaign. Our usefulness and effectiveness are purely by God’s grace (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10).

It is appropriate that God’s faithful servants be appreciated and encouraged while they are on earth. But they are not to be glorified, set apart, or made the center of special groups or movements.

Paul and Apollos were but God’s fellow workers. It was not their own ministry that they worked in, but His. What divine companionship! It was God’s church in Corinth, not Paul’s or Apollos’s or Peter’s. The believers there were God’s field, God’s building, and His alone. And the glory for any good work done there, or anywhere, is also His alone.[1]


5–7 Paul begins by asking the question, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?” Note that the apostle here uses the neuter ti (“what”) rather than the masculine tis (“who”). What he is talking about is not the person of these two church workers but their task or function.

Both Paul and Apollos are “servants” (diakonoi, GK 1356) of the Lord through whom members of the church in Corinth became believers—some through Paul and some through Apollos. The word diakonos does not have the strong authoritative connotation that the synonym doulos (“slave,” GK 1528) has; diakonos emphasizes the voluntary service or ministry that one renders for another person or persons. This word eventually came to denote a “deacon” in the church. The ultimate diakonos, of course, is Jesus Christ, who “did not come to be served, but to serve [diakoneō, GK 1354], and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45).

But even though both Paul and Apollos are servants, this does not mean that they performed exactly the same ministry. Each had his own primary “task” or gift that he received from the Lord for his work (cf. Eph 2:12). Both, it is true, functioned in evangelism—in bringing people to salvation in Christ—but Paul’s main task was planting the seed of the gospel, while Apollos’s was to water that seed in order to help nurture the new Christians in the faith. Both, moreover, were successful in their individual tasks, yet the credit for the achievement was not to go to either of them but to the Lord, who “made [the seed/plant] grow” (v. 6; cf. v. 7).[2]


3:7 / Paul seeks to explain this seemingly clear image. Neither he nor Apollos is important. Only God matters. The Corinthians are so worldly that they cannot see beyond the human ministers, God’s servants, who labor among them in distinct but complementary and equally necessary ways. If there are differences between God’s servants, those differences exist because God has assigned different tasks to his workers. The tasks are important, but there is no reason to esteem one of God’s servants more than another. Rather, God is the one with whom the Corinthians are to be concerned and the one to whom the Corinthians are to give their devotion (only God … makes things grow).[3]


7. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who supplies the water is anything, but only God causes the increase.

Verse 7 supplies the conclusion to the preceding verse (v. 6): not man but God receives the honor and glory for the work performed in the church. Paul continues to use the imagery borrowed from agriculture by referring to “the one who plants” and “the one who supplies the water.” These two, however, do not receive credit, even though their labor is vital. God receives his full due. In the Greek, the word Theos (God) stands last in the sentence and thus receives emphasis.

Notice that in this conclusion, Paul does not mention any personal names. He is not interested in names but in results. The work of preaching and teaching the gospel that is performed everywhere can succeed only if God grants his blessing. The Corinthians must see the hand of God in the work accomplished by the ministers of the Word. The ministers are nothing in comparison to God. Should God desire to raise up a church without the aid of preachers, he could do so. But he employs ministers to effect the growth of the church (see Rom. 10:14). Paul is not deprecating the work to which preachers are called. Not at all! However, he purposely omits personal names to show the readers that not the preacher but God is important.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 73–75). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 283–284). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (p. 70). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, p. 106). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

January 21 The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible

January 21.—Morning. [Or February 10.]
“He giveth not account of any of his matters.”

WE omit some of the minor details of the history as contained in Genesis, and pass on to the birth of Isaac’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Let us see how the New Testament explains the Old. We shall read

Romans 9:1–13

In this chapter the apostle illustrates the doctrine of election by the history of the households of Abraham and Isaac, in which the will of the Lord made differences irrespective of merit. Here he brings us into a great deep; but if we only wish to know what God reveals and no more, we may safely follow where Scripture leads. Election is not a fit subject for idle curiosity, neither is it to be passed over in neglect, for whatever is taught us in the Word is profitable for some gracious purpose.

1, 2, 3 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

Paul did not write as he did because he hated the nation to which he belonged. Far from it. He would have sacrificed everything for their good; and he felt almost ready to be cast away himself, if by such a fate he could have rescued the Jewish people. Passionate love speaks a language which must not be weighed in the balances of cold reasoning. View the words as the outburst of a loving heart, and they are clear enough. O that all Christians had a like love for perishing sinners.

4, 5 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Paul pauses to adore the Lord whom he loved. Let us bow our heads and worship also.

6, 7 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Here was a difference made according to the divine will. God has a right to dispense his favours as he pleases, and it is not for us either to censure his actions or ask an account of them.

That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

10 And not only this; but when Rebekah also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

God passed by Esau, and gave Jacob the covenant blessing. This is a fact to be believed, and not to be made a matter for human judgment. Who are we that we should summon Jehovah to our bar? God is righteous in all his ways. We find that Esau despised his birthright, and sold it for a mess of pottage, and so by his actions abundantly justified, as well as fulfilled, the purpose of God.

How it ought to humble us when we remember that we have no claims upon God. If he should leave us to go on in sin and perish, we have no right to complain, for we deserve it. How earnestly and humbly should we implore him to look upon us in mercy, and save us with his great salvation. “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out,” is the voice of Jesus, and whether we see it or not, it is quite consistent with the predestination taught in this chapter. The Lord has a chosen people, and yet his gospel is to be preached to every creature. Believe, but do not cavil. When we believe on the Lord Jesus, we are in the way to make our calling and election sure. Only by faith can we be assured that the Lord has called and chosen us.

’Tis not that I did choose thee,

For, Lord, that could not be;

This heart would still refuse thee,

But thou hast chosen me:

Thou from the sin that stain’d me

Wash’d me and set me free,

And to this end ordain’d me,

That I should live to thee.

January 21.—Evening. [Or February 11.]
“Hold thou me up.”

Genesis 25:27–34

HAVING read of the purpose of God concerning Esau and Jacob, we will now follow their history.

27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.

Children of the same parents may differ greatly in disposition, in conduct, and in character. The sovereign grace of God creates grave distinctions when it begins to operate, and every year makes the differences more apparent. Esau was wild and Jacob gentle. The one was roving, unsteady, and proud, and the other domesticated, thoughtful, and sedate.

28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

This was bad on the part of both parents. Favouritism ought to be avoided, for nothing but discontent and ill feeling can come of it. Yet if Rebekah loved Jacob because of his quiet, pious disposition, she had good reason for it, which is more than can be said of Isaac’s love of the rough huntsman Esau, only because “he did eat of his venison.”

29 ¶ And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:

30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom (or Red).

31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright (This was unbrotherly and ungenerous of Jacob; the only good point about it is that he set a high value upon the birthright, and so showed his spiritual understanding. It is plain from this that Jacob’s salvation was due to the mercy of God, for his natural character was by no means commendable. The good points in him were of the Lord, the bargaining propensity was inherited from his mother’s family.)

32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?

33, 34 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

He valued it so little that a sorry mess of lentiles could buy it of him. Surely it was the dearest dish of meat man ever bought, though we remember a little fruit which cost us more. Many a worldling barters his soul for the pleasures of an hour, crying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” In order to be rich, to indulge in pleasure, or to have their own way, men have thrown aside all hope of heaven. This is to exchange pearls for pebbles, realities for shams, lasting bliss for fleeting mirth. May those who are just growing up into life take warning from this sad act of Esau, and choose earnestly the good part which shall not be taken from them. The apostle turns Esau’s story to good account in.

Hebrews 12:15–17

LOOKING diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; (We are to watch lest any of us who profess to be children of God should, fall short of grace, like an arrow which does not quite reach the target. To fail to possess grace in the heart is a fatal thing.) lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Sin is a bitter root, and brings forth sorrow and shame.)

16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. (It is a profane thing to compare the priceless blessing of God to a merely sensual enjoyment. It is an acted blasphemy.)

17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

The deed was done, the blessing had been given to Jacob, and Isaac could not withdraw it from him. If men sell their hope of heaven for the joys of earth they will in the world to come repent of their bargain, but there will be no repentance with God. He that is filthy must be filthy still.

Should I to gain the world’s applause,

Or to escape its harmless frown,

Refuse to countenance thy cause,

And make thy people’s lot my own;

I sell my birthright in that day,

And throw my precious soul away.

No! let the world cast out my name,

And vile account me if they will;

If to confess the Lord be shame,

I purpose to be viler still.

For thee, my God, I all resign,

Content if I can call thee mine.[1]

 

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1964). The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (pp. 41–42). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

January 21 The Missing Piece Is Christ

Colossians 2:9–10

In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him.

Insight into who you are and why you are here is available only from the Creator, because you were created for Him. The missing piece in your life is not more education or better therapy. The missing piece in your life, if you don’t know Christ, is to put Him at the center where He belongs. God created you uniquely for Himself. He put a vacuum within you that cannot be filled with anything else but Him. When you stuff in all the pleasure and all the madness of this age trying to find meaning to life, you will never discover it. But something happens when you say a simple prayer giving into God and receiving Him into your life.

Then Jesus comes to live within you. God loves you, He knows you, He has a plan for your life. He wants you to know who you are and why you are here, and if you will put your trust in Him, He will give you that perspective in your life. You were created in God’s image, so you are really only yourself in relationship to God. When you let God take control of your life through His Son, life begins to have some meaning.[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2002). Sanctuary: finding moments of refuge in the presence of God (p. 22). Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.

January 21 Thoughts for the quiet hour

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths

Ps. 25:4

There is a path in which every child of God is to walk, and in which alone God can accompany him.

Denham Smith[1]

 

[1] Hardman, S. G., & Moody, D. L. (1997). Thoughts for the quiet hour. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing.

January 21, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

Proof of His Divine Love

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (14:28–31)

The fourth proof of Jesus’ deity was His demonstration of divine love. Although Mark and John report Jesus’ walking on the water, only Matthew tells of this incident concerning Peter.

Peter’s if did not reflect doubt that it was actually his Lord, because going out onto the water to join an unidentified ghost was the last thing Peter would have done. He was naturally impetuous and brash, and more than once his overconfidence got him into trouble—including trouble with the Lord. But it would have taken more than brashness for this life-long fisherman to have ventured out on the water without benefit of a boat, because no one on board better knew the dangers of Galilee storms than Peter. He had probably been thrown into the water at times by high winds or waves and had seen others experience the same trauma. He was no fool, and it is highly unlikely that impetuosity would have so easily overridden his reason and instinctive caution.

It seems much more probable that Peter was overjoyed to see Jesus and that his supreme concern was to be safely with Him. Mere impetuosity might have caused him to jump out of the boat, expecting Jesus somehow to come to his rescue. But he knew better, and he therefore asked the Lord, Command me to come to You on the water. He knew Jesus had the power to enable him to walk on the water, but he did not presume to attempt the feat without His express instruction. Peter’s request was an act of affection built on confident faith. He did not ask to walk on water for the sake of doing something spectacular, but because it was the way to get to Jesus.

Peter did many things for which he can be faulted. But he is sometimes faulted for things that reflect love, courage, and faith as much as brashness or cowardice. For instance, although he denied the Lord while in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial, he was nevertheless there, as close to Him as he could get. The rest of the disciples were nowhere to be found. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter’s suggestion was unwise but it was prompted by sincere devotion: “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matt. 17:4). He genuinely loved Jesus and sincerely wanted to serve and please Him. Peter did not resist Jesus’ washing his feet because of pride, but because, in his deep humility, he could not conceive of His Lord washing the feet of anyone so unworthy. And when Jesus explained the significance of what He was doing, Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9).

Peter was continually in the Lord’s shadow and footsteps. By reading between the lines of the gospel accounts it is not difficult to imagine that Peter sometimes followed so closely behind Jesus that he bumped into Him when He stopped. Peter sensed in Jesus’ presence a wonderful safety and comfort, and that is where Peter now wanted to be. It was safer to be with Jesus on the water than to be without Him in the boat.

Peter’s love for Jesus was imperfect and weak, but it was real. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, and each time Peter responded affirmatively. Jesus did not contradict Peter’s answer but reminded him of his obligation to care for his Master’s sheep and warned him of the great cost his love would demand (John 21:15–18). Tradition has it that when Peter was about to be crucified, he requested being put on the cross upside down, not feeling worthy to die in the same way as his Lord.

Jesus’ telling Peter to come confirms the disciple’s right motive. Jesus never invites, much less commands, a person to do anything sinful. Nor is He ever a party to pride or presumption. With the greatest of compassion, Jesus told Peter to come, highly pleased that he wanted to be with his Lord.

As much as anything else, it was Peter’s great love for Christ that made him the leader of the disciples. He appears to have been the closest to Christ, and is always named first in lists of the twelve. Just as the Lord never rejects weak faith, but accepts it and builds on it, He also never rejects weak and imperfect love. With great patience and care He takes the love of His children and, through trials and hardships as well as successes and victories, builds that love into greater conformity to His own love.

Jesus’ telling Peter, “Come!” was an act of love. John declared, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.” In fact, he goes on to say, “God is love” (1 John 4:16; cf. v. 8). It is God’s nature to be loving, just as it is water’s nature to be wet and the sun’s to be bright and hot. He loves his own with an infinite, uninfluenced, unqualified, unchanging, unending, and perfect love.

Christians most perfectly reflect their heavenly Father when they are loving, especially to each other. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar,” John continues to explain; “for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

Although Peter was sincere, he did not comprehend the reality or the extremity of what he was asking to do. From the relative safety of the boat the feat did not seem so terrifying; but once Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus, the situation appeared radically different. Peter temporarily took His eyes off the Lord and, seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” His faith was enough to get him out of the boat, but it was not enough to carry him across the water.

Faith is strengthened by its being taken to extremities it has never faced before. Such strengthening is basic to Christian growth and maturity. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial,” James says; “for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). The Lord takes us as far as our faith will go, and when it ends we begin to sink. It is then that we call out to Him and He again demonstrates His faithfulness and His power, and our faith learns to extend that much further. As we trust God in the faith we have, we discover its limitations; but we also discover what it can yet become.

When Peter was beginning to sink, he was probably fully clothed and would have had great difficulty swimming through the high waves. And in his fright he could think of nothing but drowning. But as soon as he cried out … “Lord, save me,” he was safe, because immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him.

When Jesus rebuked him, saying, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? Peter must have wondered at the question. The reason for his doubt seemed obvious. He was bone weary from rowing most of the night, scared to death by the storm and then by what he thought was a ghost, and now it seemed he was about to drown before he could reach the Lord. He had never been in such a situation before, and it may be that his actually walking a few feet on the water added to his shock.

But Peter’s weak faith was better than no faith; and, as in the courtyard when he denied the Lord, at least he was there and not holding back like the rest. He at least started toward Jesus, and when he faltered, the Lord took him the rest of the way.

Jesus had been interceding for Peter and the others while He was on the mountain, and now He came directly to their aid in the midst of the storm. The Lord goes before us and He goes with us. When we get frustrated, anxious, bewildered, and frightened, Satan tempts us to wonder why God allows such things to happen to his children. And if we keep our attention on those things we will begin to sink just as surely as Peter did. But if we cry out to the Lord for help, He will come to our rescue just as surely as He did to Peter’s.

Peter would one day write, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7).[1]


28–32 See introductory comments above on why Matthew may have added this rider to the story as told by the other evangelists. That Jesus has authority to share with someone else his miraculous ability to walk on the water adds a further dimension to the supernatural power he has already displayed. But the focus of this story is on Peter, who displays a characteristic mixture of attitudes: he will not attempt the walk without Jesus’ direct instruction, but given that instruction he is unable to carry it through because he lacks the necessary faith. Desire to emulate Jesus’ miracle conflicts with the experienced fisherman’s realistic assessment of the risk (“when he saw the strong wind”).

The text as printed above suggests that at first Peter was successful in walking on the water and had already reached Jesus when he ran into trouble. But the alternative reading (“to come” instead of “and came;” see p. 566, n. 4) would express intention rather than actual achievement. In that case it has been suggested that the preceding aorist verb “walked” might be taken not so much as a simple statement of fact but rather as an “inceptive aorist,” so that the whole clause would mean “stepped onto the water intending to come to Jesus.” On such a reading the attempt was a failure from the start, and Jesus had to rescue Peter as soon as he was in the water.15 But the “inceptive aorist” normally denotes the beginning of a continuing state rather than a failed attempt; the desired sense would have been better expressed by an imperfect, which often means “tried to.” Most interpreters, whichever reading they adopt in v. 29b, agree that we are intended to see Peter’s attempt as initially successful, until doubt overcame him.

The verb for “doubt” will recur in 28:17, its only other use in the NT. We shall note there that it denotes not so much a theological uncertainty or unbelief, but a practical hesitation, wavering, being in two minds. Peter’s problem was not so much lack of intellectual conviction as the conflict between the evidence of his senses and the invitation of Jesus. To be “faithless” is (as in 6:30; 8:26) to lack the practical confidence in God and/or Jesus which is required in those who seek his supernatural provision. But here, as in 8:26 (note the same urgent appeal, “Lord, save!”), Jesus overrides that lack of faith, and saves Peter as he had saved the “faithless” disciples in the previous storm.18 The sudden dropping of the wind echoes the conclusion of that previous story.[2]


Salvation (14:28–31)

These verses are peculiar to Matthew; i.e., they belong to ‘M.’ Recalling that discussion (pp. 86–90), we may note that the present material (i) is based on Matthew’s personal recollections (as one of the twelve, he was almost certainly in the boat), together with those of other disciples, notably Peter in this instance; and (ii) is included because it well serves the author’s theological and pastoral purpose (as we shall see).

Answering (the verb apokrinomai) Jesus, Peter says: ‘Lord [Kyrie], if it is you [ei sy ei], command me to come to you over the waters [epi ta hydata]’ (Matt. 14:28). What Peter means by Kyrie here and in 14:30, we reserve for comments on 14:32–33. What of the conditional clause ei sy ei? If, as is probable, Peter is already certain of the figure’s identity, the thought is ‘if it is you, and I know it is.’ But, possibly Peter’s being absolutely sure awaits the answer to his request. In any case, his faith is already overcoming his fear. Jesus has not yet issued a command; and there is no precedent for a disciple’s walking on the water. Yet Peter is confident that Jesus’ mighty word can supply what it commands.

In accord with Peter’s request—‘command me to come [elthein]’ (14:28b)—Jesus said, ‘Come [Elthe],’ an aorist imperative of command (from erchomai) to match the preceding aorist infinitive. Having climbed out (the verb katabainō) of the boat, Peter in exact obedience ‘walked [or began to walk] over the waters [epi ta hydata, as in 14:28b] and came [ēlthen] to Jesus’ (14:29b). ‘But seeing the [strong] wind, he was afraid [ephobēthē]; and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord [Kyrie], save me [sōson me]!” ’ (14:30). In trust and obedience Peter has walked from the boat over the waters into Jesus’ presence (when Peter starts to sink, Jesus is close enough to grasp him immediately; 14:31). The fear that then grips Peter is understandable. He not only hears the wind, he sees it (the verb blepō): i.e., he witnesses its effects on the waves. Even in the boat with the other disciples, he has reason to fear a storm at night; here on the heaving waters, he is more vulnerable than ever. The cause of his fear is the storm; its effect is that he begins to sink—whereupon he cries out (krazō, the verb used in 14:26b) for Jesus to save him (the verb sōzō).

‘Jesus immediately [eutheōs] stretched out [ekteinas] his hand, took hold of [epelabeto] him and said [legei] to him, “You of little faith [Oligopiste], why did you doubt [edistasas]?” ’ (14:31). Jesus’ words to Peter are dramatic: note the shift from the aorist verb epelabeto to the present legei. Jesus says Peter has little faith (oligopistos), not that he has no faith (apistos, an adjective Jesus uses in 17:17). He has just exercised remarkable faith, a faith not shared by the other disciples. Yet Peter’s faith is diminished by his doubt (the verb distazō); namely, doubts about the adequacy of Jesus to deal with frightening conditions beyond Peter’s control.

Has not Peter witnessed Jesus’ saving power in countless miracles heretofore? Has he forgotten what happened earlier on this lake in very similar circumstances (8:23–27)? Did not he and the other disciples, fearing for their lives amid a great storm, cry out (as here) ‘Lord, save [Kyrie sōson]!’? and did not Jesus there (as here) call them men of ‘little faith [oligopistoi],’ because they thought that crisis beyond his control? Given that antecedent revelation, Peter’s present doubt, while understandable, is inexcusable. But it is not unforgivable. Let it be emphasized that Peter exercises his ‘little faith’ by crying out to Jesus for salvation (as did the disciples earlier), and that Jesus saves Peter (as he did the disciples) even when aware of his ‘little faith.’

As noted (p. 766), this text well serves Matthew’s theological and pastoral purpose. 1. Let the church heed this portrait of Jesus, the mighty sovereign of the sea, who rules both church and world (16:18; 28:18). Let him be recognized as the faithful Lord who alone is worthy of one’s ultimate trust and obedience, and who both rebukes and saves doubtful and wavering disciples. 2. Let the church heed this portrait of Peter, the single disciple named here (14:28, 29) and the one who will become increasingly prominent in the chapters to follow. Let Christians take note of his fear and its causes (the storm and especially the figure on the sea); and let them, when beset by various terrors, emulate Peter by trusting and obeying Jesus. Let Peter’s failure be a sober warning, lest amid unrelenting trials and life-threatening persecutions they doubt Jesus’ ability and willingness to defend and save them. But, let Christians also remember that it is the doubting and failing Peter whom Jesus saves; and let them, taking heart from their own experience of such mercy, be strengthened in their resolve to persevere in trusting and obeying Jesus the Lord.47[3]


14:28–33 / The story of Peter’s attempt to walk to his Master on the water is recorded only by Matthew (vv. 28–31). It is sometimes taken as an acted parable of Peter’s career (i.e., in his pride he fell and had to be rescued and restored by Jesus). Christian elaborations on the theme would see the boat as the church, the water as the hostile world, and Jesus descending from the mountain as the ascended Lord coming to dispel the fears of the troubled church. Once again we are reminded that presuppositions control exegesis. Our understanding of the text is conditioned by allowing it to speak for itself. Filson reaches for middle ground, writing, “These miracle stories have grown in the telling, but they are nearer the truth than a gospel narrative stripped of miracles and high faith” (p. 174).

Peter asks the Lord that if it is really he, to command him to come to him across the water (note: epi with the accusative; cf. v. 25, where it was suggested by some that epi with the accusative meant “toward the sea”—hardly possible in vv. 28 and 29). In response to Jesus’ word of command, Peter got down out of the boat (v. 29) and started toward Jesus. When he saw how strong the wind was, he lost his courage. Beginning to sink, he called out, Lord, save me. Jesus immediately reached out and caught him, saying, You of little faith, “What made you lose your nerve like that?” (Phillips). When both Peter and Jesus climbed into the boat, the wind died down (v. 32). Matthew records the worshiping response of the disciples, who exclaimed, Truly you are the Son of God. This profession of faith in Jesus anticipates Peter’s great confession at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:16). It is often pointed out that Mark ends his account noting that the disciples were astounded because they had not gained any insight from the feeding of the five thousand and their minds were closed (Mark 6:51–52). It is incorrect to compare this with Matthew’s account of the disciples who responded by confessing that Jesus was the Son of God. Mark’s words attach directly to the disciples’ terrified response to seeing Jesus walking on the water. Matthew records the disciples’ response to Christ’s rescue of Peter (the account of which is not included in Mark’s narrative).[4]


30. However, when he saw the wind he got scared, and as he began to sink he cried out, Lord save me. Peter “saw the wind,” that is, he saw the effect of the wind upon the billows. As long as he concentrated his attention on Jesus all went well. But the moment he took notice of the boisterous winds and the surging waters he became frightened. Had he been somewhat over confident? However that may be, his faith, though “little,” was not “lost,” for as he began to sink he cried to Jesus for help.

A most interesting person, this Peter. He seems to do nothing by halves. When he is good he is very good, when he is bad he is very bad, and when he repents he weeps bitterly. He turns from trust to doubt (14:28, 30), from clear and open profession of Jesus as the Christ to rebuking that very Christ (16:16, 22), from a vehement declaration of loyalty to base denial (26:33–35, 74), from “By no means shalt thou wash my feet ever” to “Not my feet only but also my hands and my head” (John 13:8, 9). See also John 20:4, 6; Gal. 2:11, 12. Nevertheless, by the grace and power of the Lord this “Simon” was transformed into a true “Peter.”

The Lord does not disappoint his wavering disciple, who in his distress has cried to him for help: 31. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, grabbed him, and said to him, O man of little faith, why did you waver?

Strictly speaking it would not have been necessary for Jesus to reach out his hand to rescue Peter. A simple command would have sufficed. But was not the method which the Lord actually used reassuring? Jesus wanted Peter to feel his love as well as to experience his power. See also on 8:3 and 9:25.

The Lord calls Peter a “man of little faith.” For this expression see on 6:30. Doubt or wavering had entered Peter’s heart because for a moment he had looked away from Jesus, that is, he had failed to rest the eye of his faith upon the Master. He had not sufficiently taken to heart the comfort he should have derived from the presence, promises, power, and love of Christ.[5]


14:30–31. But only a moment later, what Peter could see with his physical eyes (the violent, stormy sea) became larger in his mind than what can be seen only through the “eyes” of a faith-filled heart. There is a healthy, respectful fear we need to have before the Lord (Prov. 1:7), but the fear we feel toward anything that seems bigger than the Lord is a sign of small faith. Peter’s underdeveloped faith feared the storm more than the Lord, so the Lord allowed him to sink into a dark, angry sea. Jesus was always teaching his disciples. Every moment, every conversation, and every demonstration were intended to develop his church’s foundational leaders.

In that moment of terror, Peter called out with the most basic expression of faith possible: Lord, save me! (cf. 8:25). The Lord loves that kind of cry, because it is a sign that the person has come to the end of self-reliance and realizes there is nowhere else to turn but to the Lord. Whether from the unbeliever who knows he is helpless on his own or from the believer who has been self-striving for years and has only met with frustration and failure the simple cry, “Save me!” is music to the Father’s ears (cf. Pss. 18:16; 69:1–3; 144:7).

The Messiah answered Peter’s cry immediately by reaching out and grabbing him. Then Jesus said calmly, You of little faith … why did you doubt? The issue here was not the amount of Peter’s faith, but Peter’s culpability. The smallest faith in the right object is effective. Jesus was chiding Peter, not his faith. The problem was that his faith was supplanted by doubt. In all this time, even Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, had not learned to trust the king fully.

Jesus had also used the phrase you of little faith to address the disciples when he calmed the storm in 8:23–27 (also in 6:30; 16:8; Luke 12:28). Two important tests of faith for Jesus’ disciples have now happened on a stormy sea. Given the awe with which most cultures view the power of nature, Jesus knew that if they could see him as greater than nature, they would be closer to mature faith.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 2, pp. 442–444). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 570–571). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[3] Chamblin, J. K. (2010). Matthew: A Mentor Commentary (pp. 766–768). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (pp. 145–146). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 602–603). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 222–223). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

January 21 It’s Their Backyard

“Lord, and what about this man?” “… what is that to you? You follow Me!”
(John 21:21–22, NASB)

Learn to identify who owns what. That’s what Jesus was trying to teach Peter and us! It’s their backyard—let them mow it, or live with the weeds. If they play the martyr or get what they want by guilt-tripping or manipulating others, that’s their issue; don’t make it yours! If they’re living with consequences, it’s their consequence—not yours!

If they deny their problems or can’t think clearly on a particular issue, the confusion is theirs! It’s not your job to change them. If they don’t seem to be capable of loving, or showing appreciation, or even apologizing when they’re wrong—that’s their property. When you can admit you’re wrong, it means you’re wiser today than you were yesterday. Maybe tomorrow they’ll be wiser, too, but for today—it’s their backyard—stop trying to mow it!

If your hopes, your peace, and your joy are dependent on them, then you need to learn how to “detach.” You’re not a joint tenant with them, you are a joint-heir with Christ! (See Romans 8:17.) Has it occurred to you that God could be waiting for you to get out of the way so that He can go to work in their situation? The truth is, you are powerless over them—but God’s not!

 

He may let them fall before He lifts them, but He’ll do what’s right and what’s best. So just follow Him and learn to mow your own backyard.[1]

 

[1] Gass, B. (1998). A Fresh Word For Today : 365 Insights For Daily Living (p. 21). Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

January 21 The Poor Man’s Morning Portion

21.—But for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.—Gen. 2:20.

My soul! mark what is here said, for sure it is a sweet Scripture. Amidst all the works of God, there was not one that could be found an help meet for man. The inferior creatures could indeed minister to his bodily comfort, but not to his soul. Eve herself, with all her loveliness, must have failed in this particular. Both the woman and her husband alike needed this help to the soul. How refreshing is the thought, and what a lovely view doth it give us of God’s grace and mercy, that in the seed of the woman an help, in the fullest sense of the word, was found, both for time and eternity. Yes; blessed Jesus! in thee we trace this wonderous gift of God. Pause then, my soul! and add this thought to the vast account: The same love which fitted thee with an help meet in a Saviour, hath fitted thee, and will continue to fit thee, with the supply of all thy need. It were to be wished that every child of God would never lose sight of this certain truth—that he must have the fittest station in life, the fittest frame of mind and of body, the fittest yoke-fellow, the fittest circumstances; in short, the fittest mercies and the fittest trials; because every thing is made subservient to the divine glory in Jesus. Sweet thought! He that spared not his own Son, will, with him, freely give all things.[1]

 

[1] Hawker, R. (1845). The Poor Man’s Morning Portion (pp. 17–18). New York; Pittsburg: Robert Carter.

January 20 Life-Changing Moments With God

His name will be called Wonderful.

Mighty God, Your Word became flesh and dwelt among people, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. You have magnified Your name above all.

I call His name “Immanuel,” … “God with us.” I call His name “Jesus,” for He saves me from my sins.

I honor the Son just as I honor You, Father. You have highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And You put all things under His feet. As for You, Almighty God, we cannot find You.… What is Your name, and what is Your Son’s name? Jesus … a name written that no one knew except Himself: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Jesus, my wonderful Savior and Friend, enable me to live this day—and every day—in a way that honors You as King of kings and Lord of lords!

Isaiah 9:6; John 1:14; Psalm 138:2; Matthew 1:23; Matthew 1:21; John 5:23; Philippians 2:9; Ephesians 1:21–22; Proverbs 30:4; Revelation 19:12, 16[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2007). Life-Changing Moments With God (p. 29). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

January 20, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (v. 7). Without trusting in the Lord the use of horses and chariots was useless. There was a constant temptation for God’s people to trust in human might or agencies to give deliverance. Even Moses had to learn the lesson in this respect (see Exod. 2:11–14, and Stephen’s comment in Acts 7:23–29). There could be no trusting in horses, chariots, bows, or swords (Ps. 44:5–7), but only in the Lord himself (see the use of ‘name’ already in verses 1 and 5) who was their God. Also, since the ideal condition of God’s kingdom was to be peace, consequently this was meant to be the condition of Israel as a theocracy at all times. Some in Israel clearly followed the untheocratic principle of trust in human might, against which prophets and psalmists warned.[1]


7. Now again the Church breaks out in her confidences, because of her Redeemer’s victory. And is it not so now? Do not some go down to the chariots of Egypt, and trust the reeds there found, rather than the Rock of ages? Reader, doth not every one do this, who is looking to an arm of flesh, instead of the Lord Jesus and his righteousness? See that solemn scripture, Jer. 17:5–8.[2]


7. The word boast (or ‘trust’, av, rv) is a translator’s inference, though a reasonable one; the only verb in the sentence is ‘we will make mention’ (rv). This verb is thought to have had the special meaning of proclaiming the name of God in worship, bringing his power into the midst (see on verse 1), rather as Christians invoke the name of Christ for protection or victory. But the preposition in this phrase brings it more into line with Old Testament expressions of allegiance or regard (e.g. Isa. 48:1, ‘confess’). In Joshua 23:7 it is coupled with ‘swear by’, and in our colloquial use this comes very near the sense of the opening of our verse, as when we say that a person ‘swears by’ some favourite remedy or device. Chariots and horses were the most formidable force of ancient times, but they brought memories to Israel of miraculous victories, e.g. at the Red Sea and the river Kishon (Exod. 14; Judg. 4).[3]


Ver. 7. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.Remember the name of the Lord our God:

By the name of God is meant the various properties and attributes of God. Now, whilst some trusted in earthly power, the Psalmist confides in “the name of the Lord our God.” It would seem to an ordinary observer, if he were ignorant of the Gospel, that the name of the Lord would excite terror rather than confidence. If there be good in the moral government of God, how much of suffering, evil and sorrow there are, notwithstanding. How then can confidence arise from remembering the Divine name? We distinctly admit that there are attributes of God which, because they seem arrayed against sinful beings, can hardly be supposed to be subjects of encouraging remembrance. “The name of the Lord our God” includes justice and holiness; and these are qualities from which we seem instinctively to shrink, as though we felt that they must necessarily be opposed to rebellious and polluted creatures. And so they must be. If there be certain Divine properties, the remembering of which might be comforting even to the disciple of natural religion, undoubtedly there are others which can furnish nothing but cause of disquietude, unless there be full acquaintance with the scheme of redemption. It is in respects such as these that natural theology, if it would keep its disciples at peace, must forbid their recollecting the name of the Lord their God. These are points which must be slurred over, for to examine them deeply would be to destroy all foundation of hope. But it is not so with the disciple of revealed religion. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” there is no property involved in the Divine name from which we need shrink, none which is not actually ranged on our side, if we believe on Him who gave His life a ransom for the world. Did you ever consider what emphasis there is in St. Paul’s answer to his own question, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” His answer is, “It is God that justifieth.” What is there in the fact that “it is God that justifieth,” which proves that earth, and sea, and air might be ransacked for an accuser, but that none could be found who could make good any charge against “God’s elect”? Is it not because God is the justifying agent; not this property, not that attribute of God, but God Himself—God the combination of all possible perfections? If it be God that justifieth, the justification must be that in the effecting which holiness and justice concur. And therefore is it that all accusation is silenced; for if the satisfaction made to God on our behalf hath met every attribute of God, it is not possible that there should remain place for any charge. Justice as well as love demands our acceptance. Who can condemn when the Divine Judge Himself acquits, nay, pronounces approval? You should not fail to observe that our text furnishes a great criterion, and that we ought to test by it our spiritual condition. Is it, or is it not, our habit to “remember the name of the Lord our God,” whilst others, either neglectful of religion or adopting false systems, turn bewildered to “chariots and horses”? It is, if with David we have “entered into covenant with God,” through the Mediator: it cannot be, if we are still virtually aliens, living in the darkness and rebellion of nature. Oh, we too well know that there must be some amongst you whose only happiness is in keeping God out of their thoughts, and who are glad of any excuse for not considering His nature and attributes. Any “chariot,” any “horse,” which may bear them away from the contemplation of their Maker! What a state! To be afraid of meditating on that Being before whom they must inevitably appear, and who “has power to destroy both body and soul in hell”! If the banishing Him from your thoughts could finally keep you from contact with Him in His awfulness; if there were a “chariot,” if there were a “horse,” which would bear you away from His “everlasting wrath,” we might not wonder at your perseverance in forgetting Him to the utmost of your power. Try for one hour to “remember God’s name”—“God’s name” as traced by natural theology, and yet more vividly by revealed. I know that you will be disturbed and appalled, I know that as one property after another of the Divine nature passes before you, you will shrink back, and be tempted to exclaim—Oh! for the “chariot,” oh! for the “horse,” to bear us away from this terrible God! But this is what we wish. We wish you to see in God “a consuming fire,”—a Being of terrors, and those terrors all armed to strike down and to crush you. But we do not wish you to be left in dismay; neither will you be. When “remembering the name of the Lord” has made you feel yourselves lost, you will hear with unspeakable gratitude how God laid your iniquities on His own well-beloved Son. If God out of Christ appeared to you “a consuming fire,” God in Christ should appear to you as a “reconciled Father.” (H. Melvill, B.D.)

Divine and human trust contrasted:

  1. The charge brought against those whose trust is merely human. There have been such always. Now, the guilt of such trust lies in the oversight of God,—regarding chariots and horses as sufficient in themselves. And we are inexcusable in this, because God, though invisible, is ever perceptible to the understanding. And all such trust is irrational. It has no solid foundation in reason or conscience.
  2. The purpose. “We will remember,” &c. The trust of the Christian begins in memory. It acts as a stimulant to the believer, and loosens every other bond and makes it easy to let go all which the world gives.

III. The consequences. “They are brought down, … but we,” &c. Now, the results of trust in human power are sad and unexpected. It was so with Pharaoh and his army. But they are in accordance with the natural course of things. If we sow to the flesh we shall of the flesh reap corruption. But the Christian trust issues in this—“We are risen, and stand upright.” (W. D. Horwood.)

Chariots and horses:

  1. The vanity and the variety of earthly dependences. “Some trust in chariots and horses.” They were the appendages of war; hence were forbidden to Israel, for war was not their trade. They had no standing army. They were always to be conscious of the inadequacy of their own resources, and thus to be taught to trust implicitly in God. Nor were they to be exposed to the temptation of conquest. They were never so triumphant as when trusting in God alone. But the text points to the tendency which men have to trust in the creature rather than in the Creator (Jer. 17:5–8).
  2. The foundation of Christian peace and courage. “But we will remember,” &c. The name of the Lord is perpetually recurring in Scripture and has ever a deep and portentous meaning. The name of Jesus has now the same energy. “The Lord our God”—all the best blessings of time and eternity belong to the covenant of grace which is in Jesus. Is God our God? Can we adopt the words of the text? (W. G. Lewis.)

Trust in chariots and horses vain:

France, in the Revolution, hung up her motto—“Liberty, equality, fraternity.” Napoleon changed it to “Infantry, cavalry, artillery,” says Punch.

Christian loyalty:

Every good Christian is necessarily a loyal man. The subject now considered is, the insufficiency of all human expedients to secure happiness for a people unless God be honoured in the councils of their rulers, and His name be remembered by themselves. Human policy, if separated from Divine wisdom, leads to ruin and disgrace; but they rise and stand upright who “remember the name of the Lord our God.” In what manner is a nation called upon to remember the name of the Lord our God? The right administration of justice and the true worship of God are the only sufficient securities for the permanent happiness of a state. It is the peculiar province of the law of God to instill a hatred of sin. Human laws may bind the hand, fetter the foot, and imprison the body, but nothing can control the heart, and curb the thoughts, and purify the motives by which we are influenced except the Spirit of God. He alone can subjugate the whole man. (A. Watson, M.A.)[4]


7. Contrasts frequently bring out the truth vividly, and here the church sets forth the creature-confidences of carnal men in contrast with her reliance upon the Prince Immanuel and the invisible Jehovah. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses.” Chariots and horses make an imposing show, and with their rattling, and dust, and fine caparisons, make so great a figure that vain man is much taken with them; yet the discerning eye of faith sees more in an invisible God than in all these. The most dreaded war-engine of David’s day was the war-chariot, armed with scythes, which mowed down men like grass: this was the boast and glory of the neighbouring nations; but the saints considered the name of Jehovah to be a far better defence. As the Israelites might not keep horses, it was natural for them to regard the enemy’s cavalry with more than usual dread. It is, therefore, all the greater evidence of faith that the bold songster can here disdain even the horse of Egypt in comparison with the Lord of hosts. Alas, how many in our day who profess to be the Lord’s are as abjectly dependent upon their fellow-men or upon an arm of flesh in some shape or other, as if they had never known the name of Jehovah at all. Jesus, be thou alone our rock and refuge, and never may we mar the simplicity of our faith. “We will remember the name of the Lord our God.” “Our God” in covenant, who has chosen us and whom we have chosen; this God is our God. The name of our God is Jehovah, and this should never be forgotten; the self-existent, independent, immutable, ever-present, all-filling I AM. Let us adore that matchless name, and never dishonour it by distrust or creature-confidence. Reader, you must know it before you can remember it. May the blessed Spirit reveal it graciously to your soul![5]


[1] Harman, A. (2011). Psalms: A Mentor Commentary (Vol. 1–2, pp. 209–210). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[2] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Job–Psalms (Vol. 4, p. 223). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, p. 120). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Exell, J. S. (1909). The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 400–402). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.

[5] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, pp. 302–303). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

January—20 The Poor Man’s Evening Portion

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.—Romans 8:23.

It is blessed to receive from the Holy Ghost such gracious interpretations of his own most holy word as bear a correspondence with what we feel in a life of grace. We know that our adorable Jesus is the Saviour of the body as well as the soul; but we know also that these vile bodies of ours are not regenerated, as the souls of his redeemed are. In this tabernacle, therefore, we groan, being burdened. I know, saith Paul, that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. And I too often know, to my sorrow, the same. Pause, my soul, this evening, over this solemn scripture, and look up to the great Author of it, to unfold its sacred truth to thy comfort. I hope I can humbly adopt the language, and say, that I have “the first fruits of the Spirit.” I know what it is to enjoy the first dawnings and leadings of grace. I know what it is to have been once afar off, living without God and without Christ in the world, an enemy to God by wicked works. And I know what it is to have been brought nigh by the blood of Christ: Jesus, by his Holy Spirit, hath come nigh to me, and brought my soul nigh to God. I know also what it is at times to have sweet seasons of communion. I am as sensible of the reviving, comforting, strengthening, refreshing graces of the Spirit, as the earth is of the falling showers, or the sweet return of light. I know no less what it is to have an enlargement of soul, in the going forth of the exercises of faith and grace upon the person and work of the Lord Jesus. When the Redeemer is pleased to call forth into lively actings upon himself the graces he hath planted, I can then find a blessed season in contemplating his glories, his beauties, his fulness, suitableness, and all-sufficiency. I then sit down as the Church of old did, under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. The Lord hath then brought me into his banqueting house, and my whole soul, under the banner of love, is delighted with fatness. But amidst these first fruits of the Spirit, these blessed earnests and pledges of the glory that shall be revealed, I know no less also what it is to groan within myself, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of my poor, polluted, sinful body. I find the partner of my heart, this earthly half of myself, at times the greatest opposer of my better dispositions. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit; the soul is straitened, shut up, so as to say nothing, and do nothing, when appearing before the Lord. I dare not neglect prayer; I dare not absent myself from going to court. The King will know and mark my neglect. But if I go I am cold, dead and lifeless; I hear as though I heard not; I pray as though I prayed not. Can I do otherwise than groan? Can I help at times being deeply affected, although I have the first fruits of the Spirit? Lord Jesus, undertake for me, and let all the sanctified blessings, intended by thy love and wisdom from these painful exercises of the soul, be accomplished. Let this thorn in the flesh make me humble; root out the very existence of spiritual pride; reconcile my whole heart to the humiliation of the grave; and above all, endear thee, thou precious Emmanuel, the Lord our righteousness, more and more to my affections, since it is thou, and thou alone, that canst be our peace here, and our salvation for ever.[1]

 

[1] Hawker, R. (1845). The Poor Man’s Evening Portion (A New Edition, pp. 23–24). Philadelphia: Thomas Wardle.

January 20 Streams in the Desert

Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Eccles. 7:3.)

WHEN sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. Gay, trifling people are always shallow, and never suspect the little meannesses in their nature. Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force to open up all our souls’ capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.

Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions. It is sorrow that opens up within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it is sorrow that makes us willing to launch our capacities on a boundless sea of service for God and our fellows.

We may suppose a class of indolent people living at the base of a great mountain range, who had never ventured to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains; and some day, when a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, it turns the hidden glens into echoing trumpets, and reveals the inner recesses of the valley, like the convolutions of a monster shell, and then the dwellers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and unexplored recesses of a region so near by, and yet so little known. So it is with many souls who indolently live on the outer edge of their own natures until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within that were never hitherto suspected.

God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one all to pieces. Joseph had more sorrow than all the other sons of Jacob, and it led him out into a ministry of bread for all nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, “Joseph is a fruitful bough … by a well, whose branches run over the wall” (Gen. 49:22). It takes sorrow to widen the soul.—The Heavenly Life.

The dark brown mould’s upturned

By the sharp-pointed plow;

And I’ve a lesson learned.

My life is but a field,

Stretched out beneath God’s sky,

Some harvest rich to yield.

Where grows the golden grain?

Where faith? Where sympathy?

In a furrow cut by pain.

Maltbie D. Babcock.

Every person and every nation must take lessons in God’s school of adversity. “We can say, ‘Blessed is night, for it reveals to us the stars.’ In the same way we can say, ‘Blessed is sorrow, for it reveals God’s comfort.’ The floods washed away home and mill, all the poor man had in the world. But as he stood on the scene of his loss, after the water had subsided, broken-hearted and discouraged, he saw something shining in the bank which the waters had washed bare. ‘It looks like gold,’ he said. It was gold. The flood which had beggared him made him rich. So it is ofttimes in life.”—H. C. Trumbull.[1]

 

[1] Cowman, L. B. (1925). Streams in the Desert (pp. 22–23). Los Angeles, CA: The Oriental Missionary Society.

January 20th The D. L. Moody Year Book

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not: for God took him.—Genesis 5:24.

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.—Hebrews 11:5.

A GREAT deal is being said about holiness. Every true child of God desires to be holy, as His Father in heaven is holy. And holiness is walking with God. Enoch had only one object. How simple life becomes when we have only one object to seek, one purpose to fulfill—to walk with God, to please God! It has been said that the utmost many Christians get to is that they are pardoned criminals. How short they fall of the joy and blessedness of walking with God![1]

 

[1] Moody, D. L. (1900). The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody. (E. M. Fitt, Ed.) (pp. 19–20). East Northfield, MA: The Bookstore.

January 20, 2020 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

18:31 For who is God besides the Lord? This is not a rhetorical question, because David answers it in military language with a description of what God does (18:32–36).[1]


31. The confident monotheism and the recurrent use of the word rock (ṣûr; cf. verses 2, 46) point to the Song of Moses as part of David’s inspiration for this psalm. With verse 30 compare Moses’ words ‘The Rock, his work is perfect’, and with verse 31, ‘Their rock is not as our Rock’ (Deut. 32:4, 31). [2]


31. Having mentioned his God, the Psalmist’s heart burns, and his words sparkle; he challenges heaven and earth to find another being worthy of adoration or trust in comparison with Jehovah. His God, as Matthew Henry says, is a None-such. The idols of the heathen he scorns to mention, snuffing them all out as mere nothings when Deity is spoken of. “Who is God save the Lord?” Who else creates, sustains, foresees, and overrules? Who but he is perfect in every attribute, and glorious in every act? To whom but Jehovah should creatures bow? Who else can claim their service and their love? “Who is a rock save our God?” Where can lasting hopes be fixed? Where can the soul find rest? Where is stability to be found? Where is strength to be discovered? Surely in the Lord Jehovah alone can we find rest and refuge.[3]


[1] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 129–130). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, p. 112). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, p. 245). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

January 20 The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible

January 20.—Morning. [Or February 8.]
“Follow thou Me.”

Genesis 24:50–67

LABAN, having heard Eliezer’s story and seen the jewels, which were no doubt great arguments with his mercenary mind, consented that Rebekah should go with him to Isaac.

50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.

51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the Lord hath spoken. (It is always right for young people to seek the consent of parents and natural guardians in such an important business.)

52 And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth. (He was too devout a man to fail to adore ingratitude; too many, however, only pray in need, but forget to worship in thanksgiving.)

53 And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things. (He was a wise steward, and knew what arguments weighed most with Laban.)

54 And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master. (God’s servants should imitate this steward, and never be loiterers.)

55 And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.

56 And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master. (We ought not easily to be delayed from duty. To loiter is to disobey. When God speeds us we should speed indeed.)

57 And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth.

58 And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. (How happy would ministers be if all young people could be as readily led to the great Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus. He accepts the willing mind. He asks for the heart. Alas, how many deny their consent to his loving claims.)

59 And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, and his men.

60 And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them. (The blessing of parents is a precious dowry.)

61 ¶ And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

62 And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahai-roi; for he dwelt in the south country.

63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; (This good man, in his choice of a suitable place and time for one of the most heavenly of occupations, is an example to us all. If we meditated more we should be far more gracious than we are;) and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and behold, the camels were coming.

64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.

65 For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.

66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. (Happy is that servant of God who dare tell his Master in heaven all that he has done. What a sad account would some have to render; for, “who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”)

67 And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

In all my Lord’s appointed ways,

My journey I’ll pursue;

“Hinder me not,” ye much-loved saints,

For I must go with you.

Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead,

I’ll follow where he goes;

“Hinder me not,” shall be my cry,

Though earth and hell oppose.

 

My spirit looks to God alone;

My rock and refuge is his throne;

In all my fears, in all my straits,

My soul on his salvation waits.

Trust him, ye saints, in all your ways,

Pour out your hearts before his face;

When helpers fail, and foes invade,

God is our all-sufficient aid.

January 20.—Evening. [Or February 9.]
“Love not the world.”

Hebrews 11:8–19

THE portion of Scripture we shall now read gives us a retrospect of our former reading, and shows us what it was which sustained the patriarchs in their wandering and separated life.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. (Faith is a better guide than mere reason, if it be faith in God, Our knowledge is partial and may mislead us, but trust in the omniscient Lord gives us an infallible guide.)

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

His eye saw into the far off future, and his hope was set upon eternal things. Are we also looking beyond this world for our portion? Shame will one day cover our faces if it be not so, for all the things which are seen will melt away like the mist of the morning. Heaven has a foundation, earth has none, for Job tells us concerning the Great Creator, “he hangeth the world upon nothing.”

11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. (Abraham himself was so aged as to be long past the years in which children could naturally be born to him; and therefore his body was as dead. Yet the father of the faithful staggered not at the promise of the Almighty God.

There is no exaggeration in the description of the patriarch’s descendants, for not only the Jews, but all believers, are reckoned as the seed of Abraham. The spiritual seed are countless and glorious as the stars; and the natural or earthly seed are a great host like the sand of the sea shore.)

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. (Even thus at this day we are here as strangers and foreigners, and we seek a city out of sight. “Jerusalem the golden” is the desire of our hearts, but here we have no continuing city. This is to walk by faith.)

15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

Correspondence with the old country was easy, and the temptation to seek their fatherland was a strong one, but they persevered in the pilgrim life, and so must we. Opportunities to return to sin are legion, but we must by the power of the Holy Spirit continue to walk with God.

16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Isaac lived as if he had been raised from the dead, for he was dead in Abraham’s intent and expectation. In this way he became to the patriarch a living type of the resurrection.

The faith of Abraham was tried in many fires, and so must ours be. Will it stand the test? Are we resting upon the faithfulness and omnipotence of God? Any pillars less strong than these will give way beneath us. The faith of God’s elect, which is the gift of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit, will endure and overcome and land us safely in the promised inheritance. Have we this faith or no? May the Lord grant us this most precious grace.)

My rest is in heaven, my rest is not here,

Then why should I tremble when trials are near?

Be hush’d my dark spirit, the worst that can come

But shortens thy journey, and hastens thee home.

It is not for me to be seeking my bliss,

Or building my hopes in a region like this;

I look for a city that hands have not piled,

I pant for a country by sin undefiled.[1]

 

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1964). The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (pp. 39–40). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

January 20 God’s Family

John 19:26–27

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing by, He said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” And he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”

Our Lord emphasized the human family, but even more He emphasized the spiritual family of God. The genuine and abiding relationship is not that of the flesh, but of the Spirit. As wonderful as earthly relationships are, there is a more intimate relationship between the children of God. John, as a believer, was a better choice to care for Jesus’ mother than His brothers and sisters who did not believe.

Jesus brought into being the brotherhood of believers. He created a new society that is not segregated by race or nationality, nor predicated upon social standing or economic power. It consists of those whose faith meets at the cross and whose experience of forgiveness flows from it. Jesus commended His own mother into the hands of a brother. At Golgotha that terrible day, Christ called upon a brother in the family of faith to minister to someone in need. That is still part of His call to those in God’s family.[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2002). Sanctuary: finding moments of refuge in the presence of God (p. 21). Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.

January 20 Thoughts for the quiet hour

My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct My prayer unto thee, and will look up

Ps. 5:3

The morning is the gate of the day, and should be well guarded with prayer. It is one end of the thread on which the day’s actions are strung, and should be well knotted with devotion. If we felt more the majesty of life we should be more careful of its mornings. He who rushes from his bed to his business and waiteth not to worship is as foolish as though he had not put on his clothes, or cleansed his face, and as unwise as though he dashed into battle without arms or armor. Be it ours to bathe in the softly flowing river of communion with God, before the heat of the wilderness and the burden of the way begin to oppress us.

Spurgeon[1]

 

[1] Hardman, S. G., & Moody, D. L. (1997). Thoughts for the quiet hour. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing.

January 20, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

The Lord’s Glory

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (3:20–21)

In culmination of all he has been declaring about God’s limitless provision for His children, Paul gives this great doxology, a paean of praise and glory, introduced by Now unto Him.

When the Holy Spirit has empowered us, Christ has indwelt us, love has mastered us, and God has filled us with His own fullness, then He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. Until those conditions are met, God’s working in us is limited. When they are met, His working in us is unlimited. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And 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 14:12–14).

There is no situation in which the Lord cannot use us, provided we are submitted to Him. As is frequently pointed out, verse 20 is a pyramid progression of God’s enablement: He is able; He is able to do; He is able to do exceeding abundantly; He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask; He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. There is no question in the minds of believers that God is able to do more than we can conceive, but too few Christians enjoy the privilege of seeing Him do that in their lives, because they fail to follow the pattern of enablement presented in these verses.

Paul declared that the effectiveness of his own ministry was that “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4), because “the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power” (4:20). Throughout his ministry the apostle was concerned about “giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God” (2 Cor. 6:3–7). Everything Paul did was in the power of God, and in the power of God there was nothing within the Lord’s will that he could not see accomplished. That same power works within us by the presence of the Spirit (Acts 1:8).

When by our yieldedness God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, only then are we truly effective and only then is He truly glorified. And He deserves glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, not only now, but to all generations forever and ever. The Amen confirms that worthy goal.[1]


A Great Doxology

Ephesians 3:20–21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Bible study is a kaleidoscopic experience. The lessons we learn and the experiences we have are multiple. At times the Bible humbles us, making us conscious of our sin. At other times it thrills us as we think of all God has done in Christ for our salvation. Some Bible passages instruct us. Some rebuke us. Some stir us up to great action. In some passages we seem to gain a glimpse into hell. In others, a door is opened into heaven.

The last is the case as we come to the closing verses of Ephesians 3. They are a great doxology, perhaps the greatest in the Bible. In the verses just before this Paul has reached a height beyond which neither reason nor imagination can go. He had been speaking of God’s purposes for his redeemed people, and he had expressed the wish that we should “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (v. 19).

This is beyond comprehension; we cannot even begin to imagine how we can be filled with God’s own fullness. We stand on the edge of the infinite. And yet, Paul is still not satisfied. He has prayed that God will do something we cannot even imagine; and now, having exhausted his ability to speak and write along that line, he bursts out in praise to God who, he says, “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (v. 20).

What an amazing doxology! In the last study I spoke of Paul’s ascending requests for the Ephesians as a “prayer staircase.” But here is another staircase, a “doxology staircase.” Ruth Paxson makes this vivid by arranging the doxology as a pyramid (kjv).

Unto him

That is able to do

All that we ask or think

Above all that we ask or think

Abundantly above all that we ask or think

Exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think

According to the power that worketh in us

A verse of this scope deserves careful consideration.

The first thing the apostle says about God is that he is able to do something. The word for “do” is poieō, which actually means “to make, cause, effect, bring about, accomplish, perform, provide, or create,” as one Greek dictionary has it. It points to God as a worker, which means, as John Stott says, that “he is neither idle, nor inactive, nor dead.”

What a contrast then between this God, the true God, and the so-called gods of the heathen! In Isaiah’s day the people of Israel had fallen away from the worship of the true God and were worshiping idols, and God gave Isaiah words for that situation. He described the idols. They are, he said, nothing but pieces of lumber carved up by the worshiper. “They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand” (Isa. 44:18). God calls an idol just “a block of wood” (v. 19). He issues this challenge:

“Present your case,” says the Lord.

“Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.

“Bring in your idols to tell us

what is going to happen.

Tell us what the former things were,

so that we may consider them

and know their final outcome.

Or declare to us the things to come,

tell us what the future holds,

so we may know that you are gods.

Do something, whether good or bad,

so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.

But you are less than nothing

and your works are utterly worthless.”

Isaiah 41:21–24

According to these verses, the proof of the true God’s existence is that he is able to do things. The idols can do nothing, not even evil.

Ask and Receive

The second thing Paul says about God is that he is able to do what we ask. That is, the ability of God to work is not related merely to his own concerns and interests but extends to the concerns and interests of his people. It is a statement about prayer.

Most of us are probably quite cautious in our prayers, unless we have learned to pray through a lifetime of growing in this discipline. So often we hold back in asking, afraid of embarrassing either God or ourselves. But that is not the kind of prayer God commands in the Bible.

To be sure, we do often pray wrongly. James says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). But for every verse that warns us about wrong prayers there are others which by example and precept teach us to pray frequently and with confidence. A favorite of mine is 1 John 3:21–22: “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”

That verse is a great prayer promise. It says that (1) if we are praying with a clear conscience, that is, if we are being honest and open before God, and (2) if we are doing what God in his Word has commanded us to do, and (3) if we are seeking to please God in every possible way, then we can know that what we ask of God we will receive. We can know, to use Paul’s words, that God “is able to (and will) do … [what] we ask.”

What about our thoughts? Have you ever had the experience of thinking about something you would like to ask God for, but not asking him because you had no real confidence that the thing was God’s will for you? I have. There are things I pray for with great confidence. I know it is God’s will for me to conquer sin, to bless my preaching of his Word, and many such things. There are other things that I would like to see happen—the type of things God blesses and that I think would please him—but I do not always pray for them, because I have no real confidence that God wants to do them through my life and ministry or that he wants to do them now. So I hold back, only thinking about them and only occasionally mentioning them as possibilities in my prayers.

I do not know whether I am right in this. I may be wrong. I should probably be much bolder in what I pray for. But whether that is the case or not, it is a comfort to come to a verse like this and read that “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. It says that God is able to do those things that I only think about but am afraid to ask for.

All We Can Ask or Think

Paul’s doxology would have been great if he had stopped at this point, for it would be wonderful to know that God is able to do what we imagine (or think) as well as what we explicitly ask for. But at this point we are only halfway up this great ascending staircase. The next thing Paul tells us is that God is able to do all we can ask or think. It is not a question of God being only fifty percent or even ninety-nine percent able. God “is able to do … all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

It is God’s ability to do all we can ask or imagine that encourages us to stretch forward spiritually and ask for more. My father-in-law was a banker in New York City, and he frequently passed on to me the kind of jokes bankers tell one another. One was about a loan officer who tried to run a gas station in his retirement years. He had been a successful banker, but failed at running a gas station. Whenever a customer came in and asked for ten gallons of gas, he would respond, “Can you get by with five?” Paul tells us that God is not like that. He does not give half of what we ask for (if we ask rightly), but all. Indeed, it is his ability to give all we ask or imagine that encourages us to come with big petitions.

More Than We Ask

It is greater even than this, for Paul has amplified his doxology to say that God is able to do even more than all we might ask or imagine. I put it to you: Is that not your experience of God? Have you not found it to be true that whatever you ask of God (assuming you ask rightly and not with wrong motives, as James warns), God always has something bigger and greater for you—something more than you asked for? It is generally something different, something you would not have anticipated.

That would have been the testimony of all the great biblical characters. I think of Abraham. God called Abraham when he was a pagan living in Ur of the Chaldeans. He told him that he would make him into a great nation, that he would bless him and that he would make him to be a source of blessing to others. I do not know what Abraham would have understood by that at first. In time he probably came to see that the blessing to others would come as a result of the work of the Messiah who would be born in his life. But I suppose that at the beginning he just thought about having a large family which would eventually become a nation similar to those around it. Through most of his life his prayers would have focused on his lack of even one son, and he would have repeatedly asked God to give him children.

How did God answer? We know the story. We know that God did eventually give him a son, a son born to him and Sarah in their old age. And we know that Abraham had other children after that—Genesis 25:2 lists six—and that Abraham’s immediate clan grew substantially so that, at the time of the battle against the four kings of the East, Abraham was able to muster 318 trained men of war to pursue them.

But that is only the most obvious of Abraham’s blessings. In Abraham’s case the “much more” would have included the fact that Isaac, the son of promise, became a type of Jesus Christ and was used to teach Abraham about the future work of Christ, and that the nation promised to Abraham was not limited to his natural descendants, the Jews, but included the entire family of God collected from among all nations throughout all human history. These are the people who have become “as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17).

Certainly Abraham would testify that God is able to do more than we can ever ask or think.

Moses would say the same thing. God told Moses that he was going to cause Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave Egypt, where they had been slaves for four centuries. Moses did not want to go. He had failed once, and did not want to fail again. But when God insisted and when he showed Moses that he would work miracles through him, changing his staff into a serpent and then back again and making his hand leprous and then healing it again, Moses went.

Could Moses have anticipated the full extent of the plagues God brought on Egypt: the turning of the water of the land to blood, the multiplication of frogs, gnats, and flies, the plague on the livestock, the boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and eventually the death of the firstborn? Could he have anticipated the miracles of the Exodus: the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, the cloud that accompanied the people during their years of wandering and protected them, the manna, the water from the rock, and other miracles? Could Moses have guessed that God would appear to him again and give him the law or that he would work through him to give us the first five books of the Bible?

Moses would not even have dreamed of these things. He would have testified freely that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.

David would speak along the same lines. God called him from following after the sheep. He made him the first great king of Israel, replacing Saul. He blessed him beyond his greatest dreams. At the end of his long and favored life God announced that through his descendant, the Messiah, his house and kingdom would be established forever. David replied, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant.… What more can David say to you?… How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears” (2 Sam. 7:18–20, 22).

David would have joined others in confessing that God is able to do more than any of us can possibly ask or think, and that he does do it.

Is this not your experience? Life may not have gone exactly as you would have planned it for yourself; you may have had many disappointments. But if you are really trying to obey God and follow after him, can you not say that God’s fulfillment of his promises toward you has been more than you have asked?

Immeasurably More

There is one more statement in Paul’s doxology in which he says that God is not only able to do more than all we can think but that he is able to do immeasurably more than we can contemplate. The word translated “immeasurably” (niv) is another of Paul’s coined words: hyperekperissou. It occurs only here and in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 in Greek literature. It can be rendered “exceeding abundantly” (kjv), “infinitely more” (Phillips), “far more abundantly” (rsv), “exceeding abundantly beyond” (nasb), and so on.

How can this be? Even though Abraham, Moses, David, and others may not have anticipated the full measure of what God was going to do in their lives, what they experienced is measurable. It may take time, but it can be spelled out. Was Paul just carried away in this passage? Was he exaggerating for effect? I do not think so. After all, in the previous chapter, in a complementary passage, Paul wrote that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6–7). In this verse Paul uses the word “incomparable” rather than “immeasurable” but his thought is much the same and indicates to my mind how the word in Ephesians 3:20 should be taken. Paul is not thinking of earthly blessings here. He is going beyond these to think of the blessings of God’s inexhaustible kindness toward us through Christ in eternity. Since eternity is immeasurable, so also are the works that God will do for us in the life to come.

In this sense the doxology ends as the prayer ended just a verse before, with reference to our being filled forever to the measure of all the fullness of God, which is immeasurable.

Power and Glory

After a doxology like this we may be so overwhelmed by the promises implied in it that we find ourselves thinking that it cannot possibly apply to us—for others maybe, for Abraham (he was a giant in faith) or Moses or David—but not for normal people like ourselves. Paul does not allow this. He ties it down to our experience by showing that the power of God which is able to do these things is the same power that is already at work in all who are God’s children. It is “according to his power that is at work within us.”

In other words, although we have not realized the full extent of God’s working—and never will, precisely because God is infinite in his workings—what we are yet to experience is nevertheless of the same substance as what we have already known, if we are genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our salvation in Christ is a resurrection from the dead, for we were “dead in … transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1), and it is precisely that resurrecting power of God that we are to go on experiencing. It is by that power and not by our own that these great promises are to be accomplished.

What can be added to this? Nothing but the final, direct ascription of praise to God, which is what Paul does. “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” John Stott says, “The power comes from him; the glory must go to him.” And so it shall![2]


20 Paul concludes the first half of his letter in grand style—with an exalted doxology that both exalts God (it may even be part of the prayer, though the conjunction de clearly signals a break from what preceded) and assures the readers that God is completely able to answer his elevated prayer for them. In the event that anybody, wondering whether Paul’s request has been too expansive, should ask whether God can really grant to his people this “fullness,” Paul answers in no uncertain terms: “Yes, he can! Nothing limits God’s ability.” Power language dominates what follows: “him who is able” (dynamenos, GK 1538), “power” (dynamis, GK 1539), and “at work” (energoumenēn, GK 1919). God can perform the unthinkable in his people because of his invincible potency and his indwelling presence. Paul directs his praise to the one “who is able to do [above all] immeasurably more” (hyper panta poiēsai hyperekperissou). The adverb hyperekperissou (GK 5655) conveys something “quite beyond all measure (highest form of comparison imaginable)” (BDAG, 1033). With this hyperbolic expression (note the two uses of hyper), Paul pushes the boundaries beyond limits.

Paul then extends what God is able to do beyond what humans may ask of him or what they are capable even of imagining. Paul used the common verb noeō (GK 3783) in v. 4 with the sense of “understand”; here it has the extended sense of “imagine, think” (BDAG, 674). Paul explains that beyond the boundaries of our asking or even imagining for ourselves, God is able to do according to (kata; the basis or norm of his operation) his power (dynamis) that keeps on working (present tense and middle voice of energoumenēn) within or among us. In other words, it is well within God’s ability to accomplish far beyond what his people can ask for, or even imagine as possible, because God keeps working in ways that are in keeping with his mighty power. Recall, this power raised Christ from the dead, seated him in the heavenly realms, and made him head over all things “for the church” (1:19–22). Paul has made an incredibly audacious claim. As Lincoln, 216, affirms, “Neither the boldest human prayer nor the greatest power of human imagination could circumscribe God’s ability to act.”

We may translate the last phrase, en hēmin, as either “within us” or “among us.” Does Paul pray for this power to work inside individual Christians, or in the framework of the body? The answer must be, “Both.” The love Paul has requested for his readers must be demonstrated in the body of Christ, the local church. This requires God’s powerful working “among us.” This, I believe, is the primary focus here, as we’ve seen corporate emphases throughout. For this to happen, however, it requires the work of God’s power within each individual believer. It would diminish Paul’s request in this context to ignore either of these components—individual or corporate.

21 With the use of the personal pronoun “to him,” Paul picks up the thought that began v. 20: “Now to him who is able …” To or for this one (i.e., God) there is “glory” (doxa, GK 1518). We must insert the verb “be,” as Greek often assumes its presence. Paul has pointed to the praise of God’s glory above (1:12, 14; see comments there). Here doxa refers to “honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance, fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige” (BDAG, 257). God receives the kind of recognition he well deserves “in the church” and “in Christ Jesus,” where in both cases the preposition “in” (en) has a locative intent. Both phrases pick up the central themes in the broader context of chs. 1–3. “In the church”—its very existence, identity, and godly activities—God’s fame and honor are proclaimed. But, as Paul has made clear, the church is the corporate Christ, and so “in Christ” God receives glory. The church’s glory derives from its head, Christ (cf. 5:26–27). Christ and what he has done in constituting the church—Jews and Gentiles together in one glorious body—manifest the glory of God. Who could imagine what God was up to? In fact, it was a mystery! How glorious is the God who could accomplish this!

How long will God receive this glory? Forever! Paul concludes the doxology with a complex and unique prepositional phrase that reads, literally, “to all the generations of the ages of the ages. Amen.” Paul employs a similar expression of praise in Galatians 1:5, but it lacks “all the generations.” The plural “generations” speaks of ongoing progressions of generations of people. What of the “ages” (aiōnōn)? Paul spoke of this age and the age to come (1:21), of coming ages (2:7), and the purpose of the ages (3:11). Again, the point is an unending passage of time into the future. This praise to God will know no limits: as far as time and eternity take us—forever—God receives the glory he deserves. God’s glory never ends. Amen! With this solemn final word, Paul exclaims, “This is true!”[3]


DOXOLOGY (3:20–21)

20   Now to him who can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power that operates in us—

21   to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all the generations of eternity. Amen.

20  Has Paul sought too much from God for his fellow-believers—praying that they may be filled up to the level of the divine fullness? They might think so as they heard this letter read aloud, but Paul reassures them: it is impossible to ask God for too much. His capacity for giving far exceeds his people’s capacity for asking—or even imagining.

The contemplation of God’s eternal purpose and its fulfilment in the gospel calls forth a doxology. A doxology takes the basic form, “To God be the glory,” but it may be variously expanded as the immediate occasion for ascribing glory to God is elaborated. Other doxologies of this pattern in the Pauline writings are found in Rom. 11:36; 16:25–27; Gal. 1:5; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18. Such ascriptions, together with such utterances as “Praise God!” or “Blessed be God!” were common in temple and synagogue worship and were taken over into the liturgy of the church.112

Here, in the light of the far-reaching prayer which has just been offered, God is described as the one “who can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” The power by which he can do this is the power which he has implanted in his people—“the surpassing greatness of his power in us who believe” which, as has been said in Eph. 1:19–20, is nothing less than “the operation of his mighty strength” exerted in the resurrection of Christ. By the Spirit who imparts this power to believers the full realization of God’s gracious purpose for them and in them becomes possible.

21  The wording “to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” is unusual. It does not imply that “the church” and “Christ Jesus” are placed on a level with each other. God is to be glorified in the church because the church, comprising Jews and Gentiles, is his masterpiece of grace. It is through the church that his wisdom is made known to the spiritual forces of the heavenly realm. “The heavens declare the glory of God” but even greater glory is shown by his handiwork in the community of reconciliation. This community, moreover, consists of human beings who are united in Christ, members of his body, in whom Christ dwells: the glory of God “in the church” cannot be divorced from his glory “in Christ Jesus.” The “glory of God in the face of Christ” has illuminated the hearts of his people (2 Cor. 4:6) and is reflected in the glory which, in life as well as in word, they ascribe to God through Christ.

This ascription of glory will have no end: not only now but “in the ages to come the surpassing wealth of his grace” continues to be shown “in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7), and provides occasion for eternal praise.

The “Amen” which follows the doxology would be the congregation’s response as it was read in their hearing. It is through Christ, as Paul says in another letter, that his people “utter the Amen … to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). With this loud “Amen” the first half of the present letter is concluded.[4]


He Is Able

Ephesians 3:20–21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:20–21)

Some time ago, I needed to make a difficult financial announcement about our seminary because stock market dynamics were creating serious pressures on our finances. I was stewing about the announcement during my early morning jog around a neighborhood lake. Deep in thought, I came to the top of a hill just as some Canadian geese were approaching the lake from the other side of the rise. The result was that for a split second I found myself face-to-face with a flying goose. I ducked to my right but he dodged to his left so that we were still on a collision course. I froze anticipating the crash of our noggins. But then, in one of those sequences that seem to unfold in slow motion, he tweaked his tail and lifted a leg so that his body twisted, and he went by my shoulder with an outstretched wing grazing the top of my head.

Once I realized that I had been spared, I could not help being a little philosophical. “Oh great,” I thought, “wouldn’t that have been a sad way to go out!” I could imagine the headlines: “Seminary President Taken to Heaven on the Wings of a Goose.” Though it may seem a bit silly, in a strange way being saved by that little flick of a goose’s tail gave me a great deal of peace that day.

My peace came from considering the protection God provided for me on that day I was so worried about dear friends, the place I serve, and many months of pressure to come. I began to consider what God had to arrange in order to make that split-second event of reassurance happen. What kind of planning did it take for a person—raised in Tennessee over fifty years ago—and a goose—probably hatched in Canada three years ago—to simultaneously approach a rise in Missouri and come within two feet of one another on the very day that I needed encouragement because of a difficult announcement that I had to make as a result of stock market dynamics that had taken years to develop in a worldwide economy?

The sequence of plans needed to make all of those events and entities converge so precisely is truly mind-boggling. The wisdom and power of God that made that goose’s tail twitch at the precise moment needed to fan into flame a flicker of hope in me were beyond anything I could ask or even imagine. In a world that whirls in an endless procession of unpredictable events and personal challenges, we lose track of what God does moment by moment to preserve us and his purposes for our lives. We know that our God loves us, but amidst the pressures of rents to pay, jobs to perform, medical results to await, tests to take, and transitions to make, we wonder still, “Is our God able to help me here today?” The Bible’s message of a sovereign God who rules over all things in all places among all people and for eternity calms our hearts and stimulates our prayers with the simple affirmation: “He is able.”

But how can we be assured that he is able? Paul unfolds the answer by “singing” this little doxology in the midst of his epistle (Eph. 3:20–21). Paul also breaks into similar doxology in Romans 11:33–36; 16:25–27; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17. Shorter outbursts of apostolic praise such as “to God be the glory” appear throughout the New Testament (e.g., Gal. 1:5; 1 Tim. 6:16; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11; 5:11; 2 Peter 3:18) and especially occur repeatedly in the Apocalypse (e.g., Rev. 1:6; 4:11; etc.). Such doxologies draw on themes reminiscent of many Old Testament hymns of praise. This doxology, focusing initially on the ability of God, opens in a manner quite similar to Jude 24–25 and to Romans 16:25–27. The term in Ephesians 3:20 for “able” (from Greek dynamai) is related to the strength vocabulary (e.g., dynamis) found later in this same verse (and elsewhere in Ephesians). Paul intends for this doxology to begin with the answer to a simple question related to God’s power:

How Much Can God Do? (3:20a–b)

The answer is, more—“immeasurably” more than we can ask, and more than we can even imagine. The Greek word for “immeasurably” (hyperekperissou) is the “highest form of comparison imaginable” and could even be translated as “infinitely more than.”

More Than We Can Ask (3:20a)

For children of all ages, Christmas is the asking time of year. While we may not be asking for “mutant turbo-blaster robo-dinosaurs” or “Diamond Dancing Barbies,” we adults still have our “asks.” The adult requests are more in the form of secure jobs, incomes adequate to pay for the turbo-blasters, good health, diplomas, peaceable families, and a world without war. There is no reproach in the apostle’s words for asking. That we would ask is, in fact, a natural outgrowth of Paul’s earlier conclusion that we have confident and free access to the Father by virtue of Christ’s work on our behalf (Eph. 2:18; 3:12). We come to a Father who is able to do what we ask, and invites us to come to him (Phil. 4:6).

But the apostle does not limit the Father’s care or ability to what we ask. There is too much of our humanity in our requests for them to govern God’s responses. Because we are human our requests are feeble and finite. We want dessert when we need meat, success when we need humility, and safety when we need godly courage—or Christlike sacrifice. We ask within the limits of human vision, but he is able to do more. He sees into eternity what is needful for our soul and for the souls of those whom our lives will touch across geography and across generations; and, seeing this, he is able to do more than we ask.

In 1983 a childless woman named Mary Nelson was working in her garden in St. Louis, praying while she worked. She asked God to help not only in her grief for the absence of children in her life, but also in her bitter awareness of women who could have children but choose to abort them. The absence of a child in her home created such a longing for life in her heart that Mary asked God, there in the garden, to help her give life to children in whatever way he would lead. Nine months later, Mary “gave birth” to the first Pregnancy Resource Center in St. Louis, and since that time literally thousands of children have been spared due to the prayers and labors of Mary Nelson and others who have followed her. She, who once asked to be a life-giving mother to one, has become life-saving mother to thousands.

Our God is able to do immeasurably above what we ask. I know to ask only what I think is good for my immediate family; he knows what is good for my children’s children, and what will bring multitudes into his kingdom from places I cannot name or imagine.

More Than We Can Imagine (3:20b)

The ways of our Lord cannot be limited to what we ask, because his wisdom and power—and, therefore, his intentions—are beyond our imagining. Earlier in this chapter of Ephesians we were told that his love is so wide and long and high and deep that it surpasses our knowledge (Eph. 3:18–19), but now we are told that this is not a passive or powerless love. His loving surpasses our knowledge, but his doing surpasses our requests and even our imagination. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9; Isa. 64:4). For those in Christ, T. S. Eliot says, “the impossible union of spheres of existence is actual. Here the past and future are conquered, and reconciled.”

He who loved us so much that he spared not his own Son to make us his children (Rom. 8:32) invites us to come to him freely and confidently, but he also promises to bring the full measure of the wisdom and powers of his Godhead to answer us. How do we measure what he can do? He holds the whole earth in his hand; he created the universe but continues to control the light in your room and the decay of an atom in the most distant galaxy; he makes the flowers grow and the snow fall; he rides on the wings of a storm and holds a butterfly in the air; and he who was before the beginning of all we know still uses time as his tool of healing, restoration, and retribution. Our thoughts are as a window to him; generations to come from us are already known fully to him who loves our family more than we do. He looks at the length of our life as a handbreadth, and makes our soul, though sinful, his treasure forever. Such is the God who hears our prayers and is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or can even imagine.

God’s greatness allows me to believe in his good will even when something I ask for is not answered when I desire or how I imagine. At this year’s Thanksgiving service in my church I listened in fresh-found awe as believers gave their reasons for thanksgiving. One gave thanks for a child soon to be born after three different doctors said a child for this couple was impossible. But this thanksgiving came just after the words of a mother thanking the church for its ministry to her during the year that her husband had been dying of liver cancer. And while the one rejoiced in the coming of a child, I watched the eyes of another couple turn red and their eyes brim with tears because no such miracle child had come to them in their years of marriage. Days later I learned that one of our alumni families, who had just suffered their fourth miscarriage, yet prepared a meal in their home for college students to celebrate the coming of the Christ child.

If the world or any cynic were to look on all of these accounts at once, I can only imagine that the response would be: “Now wait a minute. This one gives thanks when a prayer for new life is answered. That one gives thanks when a prayer for continued life seems unanswered. Then this other couple grieves because a child does not come to them but also gives thanks to God because he let his Son come for us. Does all of this make sense?” No. It does not make earthly sense. But if the God of all things earthly and eternal were at work, would you expect him to be limited by our wisdom and perceptions? No, you would expect him to be at work in ways beyond our imagining. And that is just what he is promising: to do immeasurably above all that you would ask or even imagine.

It must be this way, for inevitably that for which we pray is limited by our human perspective. We think that we shall be happy if we see the perfect sunset, meet the right person, get the right job, or get relief from the person or disease that troubles us. But the One who sees beyond the sunrise, into the heart and after the disease, knows that in a fallen world perfect solutions do not exist and their dim reflections may only distract us from dependence upon him who must redeem us from all that falsely promises fulfillment. J. R. R. Tolkien wrote that our ultimate joy “lies beyond the walls of the world.” Ultimate satisfaction is not in a lover, a landscape, or a livelihood; although they may rightly please us, they will pass. That which is eternal and on which the soul must rest is “higher up” and “further back” (as Cornelius Plantinga puts it) than those things we presently relish, and it can be provided only by the One who is able to do more than we would ask or even think. But how will he do such things?

How Will God Do More? (3:20c–d)

Sovereignly (3:20c)

Paul says that our Lord is able to do immeasurably more than all we would ask or imagine, “according to his power.” These words already have a rich history in this epistle. Paul uses “according to” as a way of indicating that something will be expressed to its full extent. In the first chapter we are told that we have forgiveness “in accordance with” the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:7). That is to say, God pours out his mercy from the fullness of his storehouses; he is not budgeting a meager supply for us and saving more till later. We have the fullness of his forgiveness and love. “Power” is the expression of God’s sovereign force of creation. By his power he brought the world into being, brought us from death to life, and will transform this world into a new creation (Eph. 1:4, 10, 18, 19–23). He is the One who made our lovers, landscapes, and livelihoods, along with the universe and the eternity that contain them. Thus, when Paul says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine, “according to his power,” the apostle urges us to believe that God can do more than we can imagine because he is God, and will use his sovereign power—the creative power of the physical and spiritual universe—in our behalf.

Personally (3:20d)

But how will God apply this sovereign power? The answer to that question will truly stretch our imagination—and our faith. For what the apostle claims is that God will work sovereignly according to his power that is “at work in us.” God works in us personally. This is a return to the theme that Paul began at the end of chapter 1 where he identified the church as the means by which God would fill and transform creation with his own fullness. Now Paul speaks to those in the church, and he says that God will do more than we can imagine through his power (yes, I can get my mind around this, so far) and that this power will be expressed through “us” (now that is a lot for a mind to handle). You and I are the instruments by which God is going to accomplish more than we can ask or even imagine.

This sounds more than a little far-fetched and perhaps rings a bit idealistic. After all, some of us enjoy places of security and esteem, while others endure great difficulty and depressing obscurity. Some see the effects of their lives in great brush strokes of glory and accomplishment. Others look back on the last twenty or thirty years of their lives and honestly question, “Did I do anything?” How can we honestly affirm that God is doing more than we ask or imagine through us? How could Paul say it while chained to a guard in prison at Rome while he is writing to the few people in the crude and simple house churches of Ephesus?

In a photograph displayed at Auschwitz, a Nazi guard points a pistol at the head of a child. Beneath the picture there is a caption: “He who saves one soul saves the world.” Our temptation is to look for heroism, significance, and success in noteworthy deeds and great accomplishments. But faith accepts that God is working out his plan—for the world and for eternity—one moment, one act, one life at a time. Our finite wisdom in a mortal existence makes it hard to act with unnoticed integrity, to persevere without apparent results, to show courage when there is no gain and no one to cheer the sacrifice. But by such integrity, perseverance, and courage among his people in a church worldwide, God is changing the world.

Consider a woman who teaches prostitutes alternative employment as hairdressers in Thailand; a man who teaches a mentally handicapped adult to paint; a woman who offers comfort to a newlywed distressed by the unfaithfulness of her husband; a woman who gives up a holiday to spend an evening with high school girls needing a friend; a woman who changes the diaper of a disadvantaged infant saved from the uncertainties of the foster care system; a man who lingers over a catechism with an African in a remote village so that the man will be an effective elder in a church of ten; a man who refuses to pay a bribe from mission funds to a rebel leader in India; and a secretary in a government office who encourages her boss with a promise to pray for him today. None of these acts of persons I know can be counted on to make any difference in the eyes of the world, but collectively the power of God is at work in these Christians to change this world. In ways unseen, unheralded, and unknown, God is transforming the world according to his power through us even now.

It is beyond our imagining but necessary for our endurance to remember often that it is God’s way to work his infinite wisdom and divine power through us. This is something that we will need to remember when we face obscurity while serving in a small church, when God chooses others for recognition, when failure knocks at our door, when we face anger or ridicule from foes or friends, when our envy of others in more prestigious or lucrative positions threatens to rob us of our commitment to our calling, or when we wonder if the spouse that God gave us is the right one. Because God is working sovereignly and personally we know that for the purposes of our own Christlikeness and his own glory he gives us the spouse he intends, the church he intends, the position he intends, and the challenges he intends. God’s provision may not always be what we would ask, and often stretches what we can imagine. But God gives us what he does in order to prepare us, to strengthen us, to humble us, to bless us, and to grow in us a greater dependency on himself and a lesser attraction to this world, according to his power in us.

When God put his Son in a stable, it must have been hard to imagine that there was “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). But what may be harder yet to imagine is that we too “are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). In each activity of the Spirit, in each transition of our lives and in each challenge that makes us question how something so humble, difficult, or unnoticed could be significant, there is a new advent of the glory of God, a new incarnation of his presence and power. Think of that: no matter how obscure or insignificant the act, when we serve the purposes of the Savior, the glory of the Son of God shines in us with increasing glory because of his power that is at work in us.

How shall we treat a God who so dignifies and empowers the humble offerings of service that we give to him? If what we do is, in reality, the result of his power at work in us, then there is only one thing to do: give him glory.

What, Then, Is His Due? (3:21)

God does more—more than we can ask or imagine; and he does this according to his power—sovereignly and personally. Our response must be praise. He is deserving of more glory than we can offer. More glory is due him. Glory in the church, glory in Christ, and glory in perpetuity are due the One who is so able and so loving.

In the Church (3:21a)

Glory is due God “in the church” because he has chosen to use her as the instrument of his purposes on this earth and for eternity. Here his gospel is proclaimed, his law taught, and his people are nurtured in his grace and equipped for his service of world transformation. Thus, when Paul earlier pictured the temple of living stones rising to heaven where the angels sing glory, the apostle also pictured the Spirit indwelling as a Shekinah glory—the presence of God’s power and glory.

Whatever is accomplished by us in the church, it is done because our God is able and has enabled us, and therefore the glory belongs to him. Thus the church throughout all time proclaims along with Paul that God is indeed “the glorious Father” (Eph. 1:17). This fits with the concept Paul began earlier in the epistle that God’s grace and our redemption are to “the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). And from God’s “riches of glory” flow his inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18) and the Spirit’s strengthening of our inner man (Eph. 3:16). There will be glory in the church because God is working his power through each of us.

In Christ (3:21b)

The church that has been in Paul’s mind since the first chapter—that temple made of living stones that rises to heaven with the Spirit indwelling—is a natural place for giving glory to the enabling God. We readily understand what it means for there to be glory to God in the church. But what does it mean for there to be glory to God “in Christ” (Eph. 3:21b)? The answer involves understanding our position and our God’s passion.

If there is glory in the church, then the thought naturally follows that there is glory in Christ. After all, we have learned in the first chapter of this epistle that the church is Christ’s body (Eph. 1:23). So if there is glory in the church, there is glory in Christ. This is not merely an abstraction but, yet again, an affirmation of our union with Christ. Those who are in the church are recognized by God as having the identity of Christ. As his body, we have his attributes accounted to us: his righteousness, his holiness, his life. We may approach the Father who is able to help us, and we may approach him with confidence, because we are recognized as having the privileged position in and of his own Son. Because we are his body, we have his position, and, conversely, whatever we do is to his glory. But there is more than a tie of words between glory being given in the church and in Christ; there is also progression of thought.

We need both of these truths—that we represent him and he represents us. Since his glory is reflected in what we do as his body, we must always consider if our actions actually are bringing him glory, and repent if they do not. At the same time, the realization that we have his position answers a question that has been hanging in the air since the outset of this chapter. Early on, as the apostle’s thought unfolds, we may be willing to agree with him that our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. The question that remains is whether “he who is able” is willing to do such things. The answer is, yes. Because we are in Christ Jesus, he is willing to do more in our behalf than we would ask or even imagine. We have Christ’s position, and thus we have our God’s love.

Yet there is something even more than love, and perhaps even stronger than God’s love, that assures me that he is willing to do what he is sovereignly and personally able to do for those who are in Christ Jesus. The immediate subject of the apostle is not the love of our Savior but the glory of our Savior. The reason that I rest assured that my God is willing to use his power for those who are in Christ Jesus is that he is passionate for the glory of the Son who represents the wonders of his love and the beauty of his own nature.

We sometimes mistakenly think of grace as some material blessing or privileged circumstance that God provides to us. But grace is simply an expression of his character. His grace is evident in the glory that is in Christ Jesus. The One who loved us and gave himself for us is an expression of the character of the Father. The fact that there is glory to the Father in him means that the love that Jesus possesses and reflects is the nature of the Father. The glory that is in Christ is also in the Father. Thus the mercy, love, and compassion of the Son are the glory of the Father; they are the expression of the glory that is his chief passion.

Recently I received a letter from a good friend of mine, a pastor who had just resigned from a very difficult church situation. He had endured years of stress, financial sacrifice, family strain, and career jeopardy. Yet, through it all, this man has been one of my chief encouragers. However great his difficulties have been, he has always taken the time to write to me, to encourage me, and to remind me of the eternal promises of the gospel. In the letter in which he told me that he had submitted his resignation, he did so again. He wrote, “I rest in God’s passion for his own glory.” Whatever happens, whatever is required of sacrifice or success, this wonderful pastor trusts and teaches that God is not only able to do more than we can ask or imagine, but is also willing to do so because we are the body of Christ and our God is passionate for his glory.

Sometimes this is all that can make sense of things in the world. Today I worry about funds; my readers may be worrying about their jobs or relationships; but in many parts of the world there are faithful Christians in far worse circumstances. A Christian mother in the Sudan will hold a child dying of starvation, and she will remain faithful. While you read this, somewhere in this world a Christian is being tortured and is crying out to God for help. While we enjoy Christmas celebrations to commemorate the Savior coming to a stable two thousand years ago, other Christians will depart this life at the hands of persecutors and will see Jesus face to face. How does it all work together? I don’t know. It’s beyond what I would ask or even imagine. God’s sovereign and good intent is more than I could believe were it not for the coming of the Savior to suffer and die in my behalf.

When tragedy and heartache come to believers, what evidence is there that God is truly sovereign and loving? The answer will not be found in our circumstances, but rather in the character of God revealed in Christ. Cancers do come; tragedies do strike; one baby of a faithful couple lives and another dies; capable people serve in difficult and obscure places all of their lives. There may be no evidence of the sovereign, personal love of God since what he is doing is beyond our asking or imagining, but there is yet glory to give to Christ in these situations. He is the One whose very life and ministry make evident that what God is able to do on an eternal plane, beyond what we can ask or imagine, is for his glory and for the eternal blessing of those who love him.

As I write these words, the longtime chairman of our board of trustees is fighting a very aggressive cancer that has already claimed one of his lungs. He once said this to me: “We are praying for God to heal, but I know that whatever he does will bring glory to God. God will reserve the glory to himself.” That is a mature faith, and it is a sustaining faith: “My God is working beyond my asking or imagining according to his power at work in me, because he is zealous for his own glory.”

I remember a pastor who told me of a man who, having just come to faith, said, “I always thought it would be great if God were like Jesus.” He is. God’s glory is in Christ, and that is the reason that we know that our God is able and willing to help us.

In Perpetuity (3:21c)

How long will God keep this zeal for his own glory? Forever. We should never limit God’s glory to the time of our finite measurement. Perhaps that is why the apostle says that the glory due our God is throughout generations and throughout time. The expression “for ever and ever” (a Greek metaphor, literally “unto the age of ages”) is often found in Paul’s expressions of praise (Gal. 1:5; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18) and elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., Heb. 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11; often in Revelation). This is not merely a redundancy. There is an intended emphasis that our hearts are meant to endorse.

With saints of old we thus proclaim, “Amen!” (Eph. 3:21). This word is frequently used in the New Testament to signal a wholehearted corporate endorsement of a prayer or praise (especially 1 Cor. 14:16; 2 Cor. 1:20; see for examples in Paul: Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:27; Gal. 1:5; 6:18; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; 2 Tim. 4:18). Paul invites us to join our hearts with his in this reminder that God will continue working throughout this generation. He is not simply the God of a former people. There is still work for this generation and every generation to do, and he is able for this generation, even as he was able for the generations of the past.

And he is able for ever and ever. There will never be a moment that glory is not due him, and therefore there will never be a moment that he is not working through you to do immeasurably more than you would ask or even imagine. In your moments of great success, he is able. In your moment of greatest fear, he is able. When you have failed, he is still able. When the challenge ahead is too great, he is able. For ever and ever glory is due him, for he is always able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, and continues to be at work for the purposes of eternity.

At this year’s Thanksgiving service I listened as the wife of one of our pastors gave glory to God. She spoke in the light of the recent murder of her brother. For some years this brother had lived in rebellion against God but, through the witness of his family and others, a glorious transformation had occurred. She reported how her brother had one day come to her father and said, “Now I know where I am going and Whom I trust.” After that, the brother changed and the circumstances surrounding that change were already more than the family could ask or imagine; God had worked sovereignly and personally to bring the young man to himself. After so much pain before knowing the joy of his salvation, one would think that the murder of this young man would totally devastate this loving family. Of course, in many ways, it did. But this dear sister reported how, after her brother’s death, and even while her father held his dead son in his arms, the father said that he was at peace. He knew that God had preserved the son until the time that his eternity was secure with the Lord. But even this promise of eternity was not all that caused the sister to rise to her feet to give glory to God.

She rose to her feet to give the glory to God that her family was now praying for the salvation of the man who had murdered her brother. The Lord is using the family of a man recently saved to pray for the eternity of the man who killed him. Is this senseless? To the world, yes, it is. It is even more than I would normally ask or imagine could be right. But in the church, and for those who are in Christ Jesus, such amazing love is but another reason to give glory to God, for we know it is more evidence that he is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work in us. We give him glory not only because he is able to work immeasurably above all that we would ask or even imagine, but also because in Jesus Christ we know that our God is willing to give supernatural blessing so that there will be glory due him in the church and in Christ, through all generations for ever and ever. Amen.[5]


Praising Through Doxology (Eph. 3:20–21)

3:20 / The apostle has prayed earnestly for certain things, but he realizes that even his requests fall far short of what God is able to do. Thus he concludes this doctrinal section with an appeal to the infinite wealth and understanding of God: To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. He has opened to his readers the marvels of God’s secret and how they have been incorporated into the body of Christ. But in spite of this vast and eternal plan of God, he reminds them that God has the resources to do much more according to his power that is at work within us. “Our experience of his power, as it is brought to bear within us, is a limited but true index to the nature of the power that governs the universe and brings all things to their appointed end” (Beare, p. 680).

3:21 / Most of the doxologies in the nt connect the glory of God to Christ in some way (Rom. 11:36; 16:27; Gal. 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Pet. 4:11; Jude 24, 25); this is the only passage that refers to glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. Some commentators take this as part of the author’s liturgical language, which should not be pressed for any kind of theological precision (see Houlden, p. 305). However, given the teaching about the church in Ephesians, the relationship of the church as the body to its head, Christ, and the occurrence of so much liturgical language, it seems more likely that this statement is chosen deliberately. Christ (head) and his church (body) form the entire sphere of God’s glory as well as provide the means by which that glory is proclaimed to all humanity. This praising of God’s glory is to go on throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. This amen is a final liturgical declaration that everything the apostle has written may indeed be so.[6]


Doxology

20, 21. When the apostle surveyed God’s marvelous mercies whereby, through the supreme sacrifice of his beloved Son, he brought those who were at one time children of wrath into his own family, and gave them “the courage of confident access,” the privilege of contemplating in all its glorious dimensions the love of Christ, and the inspiring task of instructing the angels in the mysteries of God’s kaleidoscopic wisdom, his soul, lost in wonder, love, and praise, uttered the following sublime doxology: Now to him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever; Amen. It is immediately clear that this doxology is not only a fitting conclusion to the prayer but also a very appropriate expression of gratitude and praise for all the blessings so generously poured out upon the church, as described in the entire preceding contents of this letter. Besides, it is Paul’s way of making known his firm conviction that although in his prayer he has asked much, God is able to grant far more. On this point the apostle, who relished superlatives (see N.T.C. on I and II Timothy and Titus, p. 75), speaks very strongly. Literally he says, “Now to him—that is, to God Triune—who is able to do super-abundantly above all that we ask or imagine (or: think, conceive),” etc. In order to appreciate fully what is implied in these words it should be noted that Paul’s reasoning has taken the following steps: a. God is able to do all we ask him to do; b. he is even able to do all that we dare not ask but merely imagine; c. he can do more than this; d. far more; e. very far more. Moreover, the apostle immediately adds that he is not dealing with abstractions. The omnipotence which God reveals in answering prayer is not a figment of the imagination but is in line with (“according to”) that mighty operation of his power that is already at work “within us.” It called us out of darkness and brought us into the light, changed children of wrath into dearly beloved sons and daughters, brought about reconciliation between God and man, and between Jew and Gentile. It is God’s infinite might which he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead, and which is now operative in our own, parallel, spiritual resurrection.

Therefore to the One who does not need to over-exert himself in order to fulfil our desires but can do it with ease, “be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.” In other words, may homage and adoration be rendered to God because of the splendor of his amazing attributes—power (1:19, 2:20), wisdom (3:10), mercy (2:4), love (2:4), grace (2:5–8); etc.—manifested in the church, which is the body, and in Christ Jesus, its exalted head. (On the concept glory see N.T.C. on Philippians, pp. 62, 63, footnote 43.)

The apostle’s ardent desire is that this praise may endure “to all generations.” The word generation, in addition to other meanings, has especially two connotations that should be considered in the present connection: a. the sum-total of contemporaries (Matt. 17:17); and b. the duration of their life on earth; that is, the span of time intervening between the birth of the parents and that of their children. In the present case, as well as in verse 5 above, the latter or chronological sense is indicated, for the phrase “to all generations” is reinforced by “forever and ever.” The latter expression means exactly what it says. It refers to the flow of moments from past to present to future, continuing on and on without ever coming to an end. Rather strangely it has been defined by some as indicating “the opposite of time,” “time without progress,” “timeless existence,” etc. But as far as creatures and their activities are concerned, the Bible nowhere teaches such timeless existence. The popular notion, also found in some commentaries and in religious poetry, namely, that at death—or according to others, at the moment of Christ’s return—believers will enter upon a timeless existence, finds no support in Scripture, not even in Rev. 10:6 when properly interpreted. If in the hereafter believers will acquire one divine “incommunicable” attribute, namely, eternity, why not the others also, for example “omnipresence”? For more on this see the work mentioned on p. 174, footnote 97.

The blessed activity of which believers have a foretaste even now but which in unalloyed and superabundant grandeur will be their portion in the intermediate state, and far more emphatically in the day of the great consummation, an activity with which the apostle is deeply concerned and for which he yearns in prayer, consists, therefore, in this, that forever and ever the members of the Father’s Family ascribe praise and honor to their Maker-Redeemer, whose love, supported by the illimitable power which raised Christ from the dead, will lift their hearts to higher and higher plateaus of inexpressible delight and reverent gratitude. Arrived in glory, their minds unobscured by sin, advance from one pinnacle of spiritual discovery to the next, and then to the next, in an ever ascending series. Their wills, then fully delivered from all the enslaving shackles of willfulness, and invigorated with a constantly growing supply of power, find more and more avenues of rewarding expression. In brief, the salvation in store for God’s children resembles the Healing Waters of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 47:1–5), which, though when one enters them they are ankle-deep, soon become knee-deep, then come up to the loins, and are finally impassable except by swimming. And because of this constant progress in bliss, the answering progress in praise to God also never ceases, for

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.”

(John Newton)

When the Holy Spirit inspired the prisoner Paul to write this overpowering doxology, Paul’s heart was moved by that same Spirit to express hearty approval by means of the solemn “Amen.”[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 112–113). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 113–119). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

[3] 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. 101–102). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 330–331). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] Chapell, B. (2009). Ephesians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 167–180). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[6] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 227). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 175–177). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

January 20 You’ve Got to Have Vision

Where there is no vision, the people perish.
(Proverbs 29:18)

We’re not called to be relevant, we’re called to be prophetic! We’re supposed to meet today’s needs and be ahead of tomorrow’s. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world; a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). The original word for “hidden” is “ignored.” If the world is ignoring us, something’s wrong! Pastor Ray Bevin said that in a recent survey, 70% of the pastors in his part of the country said they were not interested in growing. How can that be? Look at the New Testament church: “They went out and preached everywhere … And the Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved” (Mark 16:20). (See also Acts 2:47.)

God is not against small churches, but He does have trouble with small-minded churches! He condemned the Church of Laodicea because they boasted, “We have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:16–18). Without direction we die! Without vision we decay on the inside. Instead of praying for a move of God, start praying for a move of the Church! God’s already moving; it’s time to get in step with Him. Head for the nearest school or hospital or old folks home and begin to minister, and you’ll see a move of God. When God gives you a vision, you’ll be able to look beyond the hardness and see the harvest.

 

You won’t just see the ruins, you’ll see the rebuilding, and He will do something else too—He’ll make you part of it![1]

 

[1] Gass, B. (1998). A Fresh Word For Today : 365 Insights For Daily Living (p. 20). Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

January 20 The Poor Man’s Morning Portion

20.—What shall be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour?—Esther 6:6.

Nay, my soul, ask thine own heart what shall be done to the God-man whom Jehovah, the King of kings, delighteth to honour? Oh! for the view of what John saw, and to hear what John heard, when he beheld heaven opened, and heard the innumerable multitude chanting Salvation to God and the Lamb! Lord, I would say, let every knee bow before him, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And oh! most gracious Father, dost thou take delight that Jesus should be honoured? Is it thine honour when Jesus is honoured; thy glory when Jesus is glorified? Oh! what wonderful encouragement is this to the faith and belief of a poor sinner; that I not only praise my adorable Redeemer when I come to him for all things, and trust him for all things; but these exercises of grace are as acceptable to God my Father, as they are honourable to God the Son. And this is the only way, and a blessed way it is indeed, by which a poor sinner can give glory to the Father, in believing the record which he hath given of his Son. Here, then, my soul, do thou daily be found in honouring the Glory-man, the God-man Christ Jesus, whom God the Father delighteth to honour.[1]

 

[1] Hawker, R. (1845). The Poor Man’s Morning Portion (p. 17). New York; Pittsburg: Robert Carter.

January 19 Life-Changing Moments With God

Serving the Lord with all humility.

Jesus, You teach that whoever desires to become great, let him be a servant. And whoever desires to be first, let him be a slave—just as You, the Son of Man, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give Your life a ransom for many.

If I think myself to be something, when I am nothing, I deceive myself. Through Your grace to me … I am not to think of myself more highly than I ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to me a measure of faith. When I have done all those things which I am commanded, I say, “I am an unprofitable servant. I have done what was my duty.…” My boasting is this: I conducted myself in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God. I have this treasure in an earthen vessel, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of me.

Jesus, help me to live according to Your kingdom values: to serve rather than seeking to be served; to find my value in Your steadfast love rather than in the affirmation of fickle people.

Acts 20:19; Matthew 20:26–28; Galatians 6:3; Romans 12:3; Luke 17:10; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 4:7[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2007). Life-Changing Moments With God (p. 28). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.