Category Archives: A. W. Tozer

MAY 24 – FIND SOMETHING BETTER THAN SPIRITUAL CURIOSITY

…I am come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

JOHN 10:10

If the only interest we have in the deeper spiritual life is based on curiosity, it is not enough—regardless of our education or scholarship!

In our day we have seen a great revival of interest in mysticism, and supposedly a great interest in the deeper life. But I find that much of this interest is academic and is based on curiosity. We become interested in aspects of the deeper Christian life much as we become interested in mastering the yo-yo or folk songs or dabbling in Korean architecture or anything else that intrigues us. You can go anywhere now and buy a book about the deeper life because there are curious persons who are swelling the market.

It has been suggested that we should not “waste our time” in trying to help those who are merely curious. But I differ at this point, because it is Jesus’ blood that makes the difference and it is because of this hope by the blood of Jesus that any of us may be worthy to listen. We must leave the sorting out to God! The testing in the matters of spiritual life is by the Spirit of God, not by pastors and preachers. We dare not withhold the open secret of the victorious life because there are those who are merely curious and without true desire.[1]


10:10 The purpose of the thief is to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. He comes for purely selfish motives. In order to gain his own desires, he would even kill the sheep. But the Lord Jesus does not come to the human heart for any selfish reason. He comes to give, not to get. He comes that people may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. We receive life the moment we accept Him as our Savior. After we are saved, however, we find that there are various degrees of enjoyment of this life. The more we turn ourselves over to the Holy Spirit, the more we enjoy the life which has been given to us. We not only have life then, but we have it more abundantly.[2]


Life, More Life

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

I am pausing in our study of the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel to give particular attention to verse 10; for it contains an idea that has become popular in some Christian circles, and it is important that we understand it. The idea is that of the abundant life. Verse 10 suggests it: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

What is the full or abundant life? It is not necessarily a long life, although there are verses that promise a long life to some, such as to those who honor their father and mother (Exod. 20:12; cf. Eph. 6:2–3). It is not necessarily a life free from sorrow or sickness either, although God certainly does spare us many sorrows that we might otherwise have and often preserves us from sickness. It is not a life of sickly piety, where everything is “beautiful” or “precious” or “just wonderful.” The abundant life, as Scripture speaks of it, is, above all, the contented life, in which contentment comes from the confidence that God is equal to every emergency and does indeed supply all our genuine needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The contented life is the life of the sheep who finds himself in the hands of a good shepherd. There may be dangers; in fact, there will be dangers. There may be storms at times, even drought and famine. Still, in the hands of a good shepherd the sheep is content and life is bountiful.

Abundance

Contentment means satisfaction, and satisfaction means to have enough. This understanding is reinforced by the meaning of “abundance” in English and in most ancient languages.

Our English word “abundance” comes from the two Latin words ab and undare which mean “to rise in waves” or “to overflow.” The first translation gives a picture of the unceasing rise of the waves upon a seashore. There the waves rise again and again. One wave surges forward and exhausts its force on the sand, but another follows and another and another. Thus it will continue as long as time lasts. The other picture is of a flood. This makes us think of a river fed by heavy rains, rising irresistibly until it overflows its banks. The abundant life is, therefore, one in which we are content in the knowledge that God’s grace is more than sufficient for our needs, that nothing can suppress it, and that God’s favor toward us is unending.

The Greek word for “abundance,” perissos, has a mathematical meaning and generally denotes a surplus. In this sense it is used of the twelve baskets of food that remained after Christ’s feeding of the five thousand, as related in Matthew’s Gospel (14:20). It is translated “remains.” The comparative is used to say that John the Baptist excelled the Old Testament prophets in dignity and importance (Matt. 11:9) and that love is more important than all sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

Made Alive

Before one can know the abundant life, he must first know life. That is, he must first be made alive through faith in Christ. Christ is speaking of this when he says, “I have come that they may have life.” It is only after this that he adds, “and have it to the full.”

Are you aware that you have been made alive spiritually? You should be just as certain of this as you are that you have been made alive physically. In fact, one whole book of the Bible has been written so that Christians (who have been made alive through the new birth) might be certain of it and might grow in Christ on the basis of that assurance. The book is 1 John, and John tells us that this is his purpose in writing. He says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). A few verses earlier he tells us that God has given life to all who believe on Jesus as God’s Son and that they can be assured of this because God himself tells them that this is what he has done.

The Twenty-Third Psalm

This brings us to the abundant life itself, and in order to discuss it in its fullest biblical framework I want to take you to the Twenty-third Psalm. This psalm is, above all, the psalm of the contented life. When it begins by saying “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” this is precisely what it is talking about. Not to be in want is to be content, and this state can exist only when the sheep is in the care of a good shepherd. In the psalm David tells us that he is content in the Lord in reference to five things.

First, he does not lack rest. He indicates this by saying, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”

In the small but very rewarding book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,  author Phillip Keller, who was himself a shepherd, tells of the difficulty there is in getting a sheep to lie down. Sheep do not easily lie down, he says. In fact, “It is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met. Owing to their timidity they refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear. Because of the social behavior within a flock sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kind. If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. … Lastly, sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food. They must be free from hunger.” Freedom from fear, tension, aggravation, and hunger! These are the four necessities. And the important thing, as Keller points out, is that it is only the shepherd himself who can provide them.

This is an interesting picture. For when the psalm begins with the sheep at rest it begins with a picture of sheep who have found their shepherd to be a good shepherd, that is, one who is able to meet their physical needs and to provide them with release from anxiety. Moreover, it is interesting that it begins at this point. For the other advantages of the contented life—guidance, comfort, safety, provision, and a destiny—come only to one who has found the Lord adequate to his every need.

Guidance

Second, the psalmist tells us that he does not lack guidance. For “he leads me beside quiet waters” and “he guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Sheep are stupid creatures. In fact, they are probably the most stupid animals on earth. One aspect of their stupidity is seen in the fact that they so easily wander away. They can have a good shepherd who has brought them to the best grazing lands, near an abundant supply of water—still they will wander away over a hill to where the fields are barren and the water undrinkable. Or again, they are creatures of habit. They can have found good grazing land due to the diligence of the shepherd; but then having found it, they will continue to graze upon it until every blade of grass and even every root is eaten, the fields ruined, and themselves impoverished. This has actually happened to sheep and the land they graze on in many parts of the world—Spain, Greece, Mesopotamia, North Africa, parts of the western United States, and New Zealand.

No other class of livestock requires more careful handling and more detailed directions than do sheep. Therefore, a shepherd who is able to give good guidance is essential for their welfare. He will move the sheep from field to field (before deterioration sets in) and will always stay near water. He will chase strays. He will plan the grazing to fit the seasons of the year. In the same way, we too need the Good Shepherd. We do not lack guidance if we will but have it.

Safety

Third, David tells us that he does not lack safety, even in the presence of great danger. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This verse often has been taken as providing words of comfort for those who are dying; and it is not wrongly used in that way. God certainly is a source of comfort in death. Primarily, however, the verse speaks of the shepherd’s ability to protect the sheep in moments of danger. The picture in this verse is of the passage from the lowlands, where sheep spend the winter, through the valleys to the high pastures where they go in summer. The valleys are the places of richest pasture and of abundant water. But they also are places of danger. Wild animals lurk in the broken canyon walls to either side. Sudden storms may sweep down the valleys. There may be floods. The sun does not shine so well into the valleys. So there really is shadow, which at any moment might become death’s shadow. It is through such experiences that our Lord leads us in safety.

In the book that I referred to earlier, Keller notes how often Christians speak of their desire “to move on to higher ground with God,” wanting to move above the lowlands of life and yet not realizing that mountaintop experiences are entered into only by passing through the valleys. Strong faith comes from having faith tested. Patience comes from having lived through tribulations. This means that life will not necessarily be smooth under the direction of our Shepherd. He will sometimes lead us through rough places. Nevertheless, as we go through them we can know of his ability to keep us from falling and to present us before the presence of his Father with great joy.

Keller writes: “The basic question is not whether we have many or few valleys. It is not whether those valleys are dark or merely dim with shadows. The question is how do I react to them? How do I go through them? How do I cope with the calamities that come my way? With Christ I face them calmly. With His gracious Spirit to guide me I face them fearlessly. I know of a surety that only through them can I possibly travel on to higher ground with God.”

Provision

Fourth, Psalm 23 speaks of the shepherd’s provision for each physical need of the flock. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Keller thinks that the reference to preparing the table refers to the shepherd’s advance preparation of the high tablelands or mesas where the sheep graze in summer. If so, it refers to the elimination of hazards, the destruction of poisonous plants, and the driving away of predators—all before the sheep arrive. If it does not refer to this, it must be taken merely of God’s provision of peace and feeding even when enemies lurk nearby. In such a time, says David, God anoints him with oil and fills his cup of wine to overflowing.

In biblical imagery oil and wine speak of joy and prosperity; for the growing of olives and grapes and their transformation into oil and wine take time and gentle care. In times of domestic turmoil or war these tasks were forgotten.

Moreover, oil and wine well suited the inhabitants of a dry and barren land and were therefore highly valued. In Palestine, where the sun shines fiercely most of the year and the temperature continually soars up into the hundreds, the skin quickly becomes cracked and broken, and throats become dusty and parched. Oil soothes the skin, particularly the face. Wine clears the throat. Therefore, when a guest arrived at the home of a friend in Palestine in Christ’s or David’s day, hospitality demanded the provision of oil and wine so that the ravages of travel might be overcome and friends might make merry in each other’s company. David spoke of this elsewhere when he prayed, “O Lord … let your face shine on your servant” (Ps. 31:14, 16). A shining face was the face of a friend. In another passage he thanks God for “wine that gladdens the heart of man, [and] oil to make his face shine” (Ps. 104:15).

David knew of God’s great love and provision; his face shone, and his heart was made merry because of it. Oh for the shining face and the merry heart today! Far too many have scowling faces and gloomy hearts, but that is not what God intends for his children. Instead, if we will allow him to lead us to the high pastures of the Christian life we will find our table prepared, our heads anointed with purest oil, and our cups overflowing with the wine of joy.

A Heavenly Home

Finally, having spoken of all these provisions, David adds no less gladly that he does not lack for a heavenly home. He is blessed in this life, but it is not in this life only that he knows God’s goodness. He will know it forever. Thus he declares, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6).

To have a sure home is one of the great desires of the nomadic people who have generally occupied that area of the Near East bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the great Arabian desert. T. E. Lawrence, who gained fame as Lawrence of Arabia during World War I, has written of this eloquently in his classic Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He tells in the opening pages of that book how, because of the geography of this area, one tribe after another came out of the desert to fight for the lush Judean highlands, which contained the best trees, crops, and pastures. The Israelites in their conquest of Palestine under Joshua were just one of these peoples. When one group (like the Israelites) succeeded, the conquered people generally moved just a bit south into the Negev (which was also good land but not quite as good as that to the north) and displaced others. Those who were displaced in turn displaced others, and those displaced still others, with the result that there was always a constant movement around the entire area. The last of the peoples would be forced back into the desert with nothing before them but Damascus. At some point all the peoples of the Near East had this background. So, for most of them, Damascus with its ample rivers and fields became the symbol of true abundance at the end of life’s pilgrimage. It symbolized home.

For us who know the Good Shepherd there is also a similar longing; but the longing is not for Damascus or any other earthly home. Our longing is for that great and final home that the Lord Jesus Christ has himself gone to prepare for us. He has said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2–3). With such a promise we know that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Of our state in that home John the evangelist later wrote in the Book of Revelation: “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:16–17).

The blessings of this life and heaven too! Nor can we forget that this was achieved for us by One who himself became a lamb in order to die for us so that we might be able to enter into the fullness of such a great salvation.[3]


10 Using vivid language, Jesus says that the Jewish establishment (the “thief”) has as its purpose “to steal and kill and destroy.” But this is not true of Jesus the shepherd—he has come so that his followers “may have life, and have it to the full.” The former are life denying, while Jesus is life affirming. The life that Jesus came to provide is not physical but spiritual. Yet that which is spiritual naturally overflows into every aspect of physical existence. Life embraces all that it means to be alive in this world and firmly attached by faith to the living Lord. Fullness of life is the reward of faith. It is by trusting Jesus and forgetting self that real life—physical and spiritual—breaks into one’s consciousness like the dawning of a new day (cf. Mk 8:35 par.).[4]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1525). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 747–752). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 502). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 24 – UNHOLY, UNRIGHTEOUS, UNHAPPY

And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

Romans 5:12

All of history and the daily newspaper testify that the human race lies in ruin—spiritually, morally and physically.

The long parade of gods, both virtuous and obscene, and a thousand varieties of vain and meaningless religious practices declare our spiritual degeneration, while disease, old age and death testify sadly to the completeness of our physical decay.

By nature, men and women are unholy; and by practice we are unrighteous. That we are also unhappy is of small consequence.

But it is of overwhelming importance to us that we should seek the favor of God while it is possible to find it, and that we should bring ourselves under the plenary authority of Jesus Christ in complete and voluntary obedience.

To do this is to invite trouble from a hostile world and to incur such unhappiness as may naturally follow. Add the temptation of the devil and a lifelong struggle with the flesh, and it will be obvious that we will need to defer most of our enjoyments to a more appropriate time!

Loving Father, there is nothing more important to do while we are alive than to accept You as our Savior. I pray especially today for believers in hostile countries, that their inner joy in knowing You will override any pain that is inflicted upon them or their families.[1]


5:12 The rest of chapter 5 serves as a bridge between the first part of the letter and the next three chapters. It is linked with the first part by picking up the subjects of condemnation through Adam and justification through Christ, and by showing that the work of Christ far outweighs in blessing what the work of Adam did in misery and loss. It is linked with chapters 6–8 by moving from justification to sanctification, and from acts of sin to the sin in human nature.

Adam is portrayed in these verses as the federal head or representative of all those who are in the old creation. Christ is presented as the Federal Head of all those who are in the new creation. A federal head acts for all those who are under him. For example, when the President of a country signs a bill into law, he is acting for all the citizens of that country.

That is what happened in Adam’s case. As a result of his sin, human death entered the world. Death became the common lot of all Adam’s descendants because they had all sinned in him. It is true that they all committed individual acts of sin as well, but that is not the thought here. Paul’s point is that Adam’s sin was a representative act, and all his posterity are reckoned as having sinned in him.

Someone might object that it was Eve and not Adam who committed the first sin on earth. That is true, but since Adam was the first to be created, headship was given to him. So he is seen as acting for all his descendants.

When the Apostle Paul says here that death spread to all men, he is referring to physical death, even though Adam’s sin brought spiritual death as well. (Vv. 13 and 14 show that physical death is in view.)

When we come to this passage of Scripture, certain questions inevitably arise. Is it fair that Adam’s posterity should be constituted sinners just because he sinned? Does God condemn men for being born sinners; or only for those sins which they have actually committed? If men are born with a sinful nature, and if they therefore sin because they are born sinners, how can God hold them responsible for what they do?

Bible scholars have wrestled with these and a host of similar problems and have come up with a surprising variety of conclusions. However, there are certain facts that we can be sure of.

First, the Bible does teach that all men are sinners, both by nature and by practice. Everyone born of human parents inherits Adam’s sin, and also sins by his own deliberate choice.

Second, we know that the wages of sin is death—both physical death and eternal separation from God.

But no one has to pay the penalty of sin unless he wants to. This is the important point. At enormous cost, God sent His Son to die as a Substitute for sinners. Salvation from sin and its wages is offered as a free gift through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Man is condemned on three grounds: He has a sinful nature, Adam’s sin is imputed to him, and he is a sinner by practice. But his crowning guilt is his rejection of the provision which God has made for his salvation (John 3:18, 19, 36).

But someone will ask, “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” This question is answered in part, at least, in chapter 1. Beyond that we can rest in the assurance that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Gen. 18:25). He will never act unjustly or unfairly. All His decisions are based on equity and righteousness. Although certain situations pose problems to our dim sight, they are not problems to Him. When the last case has been heard and the doors of the courtroom swing shut, no one will have a legitimate basis for appealing the verdict.[2]


  1. Wherefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, since all sinned, and then, instead of completing this statement, he first of all enlarges on one of its elements, namely the universality of sin. Not until he reaches verse 18 does he return to the sentence he started to write. He reproduces its thought in a modified form: “Consequently, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all,” and then he finally, in substance, completes the sentence as follows, “… so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life.”

Now it should be admitted that such a break in grammatical structure is in line with Paul’s style and personality. See N.T.C. on Luke, p. 6. Yet it is not today, nor has it been in the past, an unusual style phenomenon.

For example, a minister, making an announcement to his congregation, regarding a picnic, might start out as follows:

“Since tomorrow we’ll all be attending the church picnic.…”

He wishes to continue with, “We urge all to come early and to bring along food enough for your own family and, if possible, even something extra for poor people who may wish to join us.”

But before he can even say this he notices that his words about a church picnic tomorrow are being greeted with skepticism. So, instead, he continues as follows:

“I notice that some of you are shaking your heads, thinking that there can be no picnic tomorrow. Let me therefore assure you that the early morning prediction about a storm heading our way has been canceled. A new forecast was conveyed to me just minutes before I ascended the pulpit. According to it, the storm has changed its course and beautiful weather is expected for tomorrow. So we urge all to come early, etc.”

With all this in mind, the various elements of verse 12, and also the verse viewed as a unit, may be interpreted as follows:

Wherefore,” that is, in view of the fact that, through his sacrificial death and resurrection life, Jesus Christ has brought righteousness, reconciliation (peace), and life, etc. See 5:1–11.

“just as through one man sin entered the world …”

The one man is obviously Adam. See verse 14. Cf. Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:1–6. In what sense is it to be understood that through Adam’s fall sin entered the world? Only in this sense that gradually, over the course of the years and centuries, those who were born inherited their sinful nature from Adam, and therefore committed sins? Without denying that this indeed happened, we must nevertheless affirm that there was a far more direct way in which “through one man sin entered the world.” On this same third missionary journey, not very long before Paul composed Romans, he wrote letters to the Corinthians. In one of them (1 Cor. 15:22) he says, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” In Rom. 5:15 he writes, “By reason of the trespass of the one the many died.” He obviously means that the entire human race was included in Adam, so that when Adam sinned, all sinned; when the process of death began to ruin him, it immediately affected the entire race.

Scripture, in other words, in speaking about these matters, does not view people atomistically, as if each person were comparable to a grain of sand on the seashore. Especially in this present day and age, with its emphasis on the individual, it is well to be reminded of the truth expressed in the words which, in a former generation, were impressed even upon the minds of children:

In Adam’s Fall

We Sinned All

Moreover, when we bear in mind that this very chapter (5) teaches not only the inclusion of all those who belong to Adam—that is, of the entire human race—in Adam’s guilt, but also the inclusion of all who belong to Christ, in the salvation purchased by his blood (verses 18, 19; cf. 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:3–7; Phil. 3:9; Col. 3:1, 3), and that this salvation is God’s free gift to all who by faith are willing to accept it, we shall have nothing to complain about.

  1. “and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind …”

Solidarity in guilt implies solidarity in death, here, as in 1 Cor. 15:22, with emphasis on physical death. Sin and death cannot be separated, as is clear from Gen. 2:17; 3:17–19; Rom. 1:32; 1 Cor. 15:22. In Adam all sinned; in Adam all died. The process of dying, and this not only for Adam but for the race, began the moment Adam sinned.

“since all sinned.”

In all probability this refers to sins all people have themselves committed after they were born. Such personal sinning has been going on throughout the centuries. Paul is, as it were, saying, “I know that one man, and in him all men, sinned, for if this were not true how can we account for all the sinning that has been going on afterward?”

This interpretation gives to the word sinned the meaning it has everywhere else in Paul’s epistles. Why should “all sinned” mean one thing (actual, personal sins) in Rom. 3:23, but something else in 5:12? Besides if here in 5:12 we explain the words all sinned to refer to the fact that all sinned in Adam, would we not be making the apostle guilty of needless repetition, for the sinning of all “in Adam” is already implied in this same verse; note “through one man sin entered the world.”

To these two reasons for believing that this interpretation of the words “since all sinned” is the right one, a third can be added: it now becomes clear why Paul did not, at this point, complete the sentence beginning with “Wherefore,” but went off on a tangent. The statement “since all sinned” could easily arouse disbelief, especially in the minds of those who attached great importance to the proclamation of the law at Sinai. The question might be asked, “If to sin means to transgress the law, how can Paul say that since the time of Adam all sinned? Until the giving of the law at Sinai there was no law, and therefore no transgression of the law, no sin.” The apostle considers this possible objection to be of sufficient importance to justify the break in grammatical structure to which reference was made in the beginning of the explanation of verse 12 (see p. 176).[3]


Sin Entered The World Through One Man

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, (5:12a)

Therefore connects what follows with what has just been declared, namely, that as believers we have been reconciled to God by the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ (vv. 8–11). Now Paul begins the analogy of Christ with Adam, the common principle being that, in each case, a far-reaching effect on countless others was generated through one man.

In the case of Adam, it was through one man that sin entered into the world. It is important to note that Paul does not say that sin originated with Adam but only that sin in the world, that is, in the human realm, began with Adam. Sin originated with Satan, who “has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). John does not specify when that beginning was, but it obviously was before the creation of Adam and Eve, because they were tempted by Satan.

After He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, “the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die’ ” (Gen. 2:15–17). Adam was given but one, simple prohibition by God, yet the consequence for disobedience of that prohibition was severe.

After Eve was created from Adam and joined him in the garden as his wife and helper, Satan tempted her to doubt and to disobey the command of God. She, in turn, induced her husband to disobey, and they sinned together. But although Eve disobeyed first, the primary responsibility for the sin was Adam’s, first of all because it was to him that God had directly given the command, and second because he had headship over Eve and should have insisted on their mutual obedience to God rather than allow her to lead him into disobedience.

The one command was the only point of submission to God required of Adam. Except for that single restriction, Adam had been given authority to subjugate and rule the entire earth (Gen. 1:26–30). But when Adam disobeyed God, sin entered into his life and generated a constitutional change in his nature, from innocence to sinfulness, an innate sinfulness that would be transmitted to every one of his descendants.

Paul’s argument begins with the assertion that, through Adam, sin entered into the world. He does not speak of sins, plural, but of

sin, singular. In this sense, sin does not represent a particular unrighteous act but rather the inherent propensity to unrighteousness. It was not the many other sinful acts that Adam eventually committed, but the indwelling sin nature that he came to possess because of his first disobedience, that he passed on to his posterity. Just as Adam bequeathed his physical nature to his posterity, he also bequeathed to them his spiritual nature, which henceforth was characterized and dominated by sin.

God made men a procreative race, and when they procreate they pass on to their children, and to their children’s children, their own nature-physical, psychological, and spiritual.

John Donne wrote these well-known lines in his Meditation XVII,

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It toils for thee.

Mankind is a single entity, constituting a divinely ordered solidarity. Adam represents the entire human race that is descended from him, no matter how many subgroups there may be. Therefore when Adam sinned, all mankind sinned, and because his first sin transformed his inner nature, that now depraved nature was also transmitted to his posterity. Because he became spiritually polluted, all his descendants would be polluted in the same way. That pollution has, in fact, accumulated and intensified throughout the ages of human history. Instead of evolving, as humanists insist, man has devolved, degenerating into greater and greater sinfulness.

Ancient Jews understood well the idea of corporate identity. They never thought of themselves as isolated personalities or as a mass of separate individuals who happened to have the same bloodline as their families and fellow Jews. They looked at all other races in the same way. A given Canaanite or Edomite or Egyptian was inextricably connected to all others of his race. What one of them did affected all the others, and what the others did affected him-in a way that is difficult for modern, individual-oriented man to comprehend.

It was on that basis that God frequently punished or blessed an entire tribe, city, or nation because of what a few, or even just one, of its members did. It was in light of that principle that Abraham asked the Lord to spare Sodom if only a few righteous people could be found there (Gen. 18:22–33). It was also on the basis of that principle that God held all Israel accountable and eventually destroyed Achan’s family along with him because of that one man’s disobedience in keeping for himself some of the booty from Jericho (see Josh. 7:1–26).

The writer of Hebrews knew that his Jewish readers would understand his statement about the tithes that Levi paid to Melchizedek. “Without any dispute,” he declared, “the lesser is blessed by the greater. And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him” (Heb. 7:7–10; cf. vv. 1–3; Gen. 14:18–20). In other words, although Melchizedek lived many years before Levi, the father of the priestly tribe, was born, along with all other descendants of Abraham, Levi, by being in the seed in Abraham’s loins, shared in the tithe paid to the ancient king.

In the same way, although with enormously greater consequences, the sin of Adam was passed on to all of his descendants. When he sinned in the Garden of Eden, he sinned not only as a man but as man. When he and his wife, who were one flesh (Gen. 2:24), sinned against God, all of their descendants-that is, the entire human race in their loins-would share in that sin and the alienation from God and subjection to death that were its consequence. “In Adam all die,” Paul explained to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:22). As far as guilt is concerned, every human being was present in the garden with Adam and shares in the sin he committed there.

The fact that Adam and Eve not only were actual historical figures but were the original human beings from whom all others have descended is absolutely critical to Paul’s argument here and is critical to the efficacy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If a historical Adam did not represent all mankind in sinfulness, a historical Christ could not represent all mankind in righteousness. If all men did not fall with the first Adam, all men could not be saved by Christ, the second and last Adam (see 1 Cor. 15:20–22, 45).

Death Entered the World Through Sin

and death through sin (5:12b)

The second element of Paul’s argument is that, because sin entered the world through one man, so also death, the consequence of sin, entered the world through that one man’s sin.

God did not create Adam as a mortal being, that is, as subject to death. But He explicitly warned Adam that disobedience by eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil would make him subject to death (Gen. 2:17). And, contrary to Satan’s lie (3:4), that was indeed the fate that Adam suffered for his disobedience. Even before human sin existed, God had ordained that its wages would be death (Rom. 6:23; cf. Ezek. 18:4). Death is the unfailing fruit of the poison that entered Adam’s heart and the heart of every one of his descendants.

Even tiny babies can die, not because they have committed sins but because they have a sin nature, the ultimate consequence of which is death. A person does not become a sinner by committing sins but rather commits sins because he is by nature a sinner. A person does not become a liar when he tells a lie; he tells a lie because his heart is already deceitful. A person does not become a murderer when he kills someone; he kills because his heart is already murderous. “For out of the heart,” Jesus said, “come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19).

Sin brings several kinds of death to men. Death is separation, and Adam’s first death was spiritual separation from God, which Adam experienced immediately after his disobedience.

“You were dead in your trespasses and sins,” Paul reminded the Ephesian believers, “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1–2). The unsaved are “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18). The unregenerate are very much alive to the world, but they are dead to God and to the things of God.

A second, and obvious, kind of death that sin brings is physical, separation from fellow human beings. Although Adam did not immediately lose his physical life, he became subject to physical death the moment he sinned.

A third kind of death that sin brings is eternal, an immeasurably worse extension of the first. Referred to in Scripture as the second death (Rev. 21:8), this death not only brings eternal separation from God but also eternal torment in hell.

The unbeliever has reason to fear all three deaths. Spiritual death prevents his earthly happiness; physical death will bring an end to opportunity for salvation; and eternal death will bring everlasting punishment. But no kind of death should be feared by believers. They are saved permanently by Christ from spiritual and eternal death, and their physical death (or rapture) will usher them into His divine presence. For believers Christ has removed the fear of death (Heb. 2:14, 15).

Death Spread to All Men Because All Sinned

and so death spread to all men, because all sinned- (5:12c)

A third element of Paul’s argument is that death was transmitted to all men, without exception. No human being has ever escaped death. Enoch and Elijah, who escaped physical and eternal death, nevertheless were spiritually dead before they trusted in the Lord. Even Jesus died, not because of His own sin but because of the world’s sin that He vicariously took upon Himself. And when He took sin upon Himself, He also took upon Himself sin’s penalty.

Sinned translates a Greek aorist tense, indicating that at one point in time all men sinned. That, of course, was the time that Adam first sinned. His sin became mankind’s sin, because all mankind were in his loins.

Men have learned to identify certain physical and mental characteristics in human genes, but we will never discover a way to identify the spiritual depravity that has been transmitted from generation to generation throughout man’s history. We know of that legacy only through the revelation of God’s Word.

Paul does not attempt to make his explanation wholly understandable to his readers, and he himself did not claim to have full comprehension of the significance of what the Lord revealed to and through him. He simply declared that Adam’s sin was transmitted to all his posterity because that truth was revealed to him by God.

Natural human depravity is not the result but the cause of man’s sinful acts. An infant does not have to be taught to disobey or be selfish. It is born that way. A young child does not have to be taught to lie or steal. Those are natural to his fallen nature, and he will express them as a matter of course unless prevented.

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,” David confessed, “and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). That condition was not unique to David, and in another psalm he testified that “the wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth” (Ps. 58:3). Jeremiah declared that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Eliphaz asked Job rhetorically: “What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” (Job 15:14).

Every person who is not spiritually reborn through Christ (John 3:3) is a child of Satan. Jesus told the unbelieving Jewish leaders: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

As already noted, although Eve disobeyed God’s command first, Adam was more accountable for his disobedience, because “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14). Adam had no excuse at all. Without being deceived, and fully aware of what he was doing, he deliberately disobeyed God.

Some object to the idea that they sinned in Adam, arguing that they not only were not there but did not even exist when he sinned. But by the same token, we were not physically at the crucifixion when Christ died, but as believers we willingly accept the truth that, by faith, we died with Him. We did not literally enter the grave with Christ and were not literally resurrected with Him, but by faith we are accounted to have been buried and raised with Him. If the principle were not true that all sinned in Adam, it would be impossible to make the point that all can be made righteous in Christ. That is the truth Paul makes explicit later in this letter (5:15–19) and in his first letter to Corinth: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

Others argue that it is not fair to be born guilty of Adam’s sin. “We did not asked to be born,” they argue, “nor did our parents or their parents or grandparents before them.” But neither was it “fair” that the sinless Son of God suffered the penalty of sin on behalf of all mankind. If God were only fair, Adam and Eve would have been destroyed immediately for their disobedience, and that would have been the end of the human race. It is only because God is gracious and forgiving, and not merely just, that men can be saved. The magnitude of Paul’s analogy is mind-boggling, and its significance cannot be fully comprehended but only accepted by faith.

Habakkuk had great difficulty understanding the Lord. At first he could not understand why God did not bring revival to His chosen people Israel. He cried out, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and Thou wilt not hear? I cry out to Thee, ‘Violence!’ Yet Thou dost not save” (Hab. 1:2). Even less could he understand why God would punish His own people through the hands of the Chaldeans, who were pagans and immeasurably more wicked than the Israelites. “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil,” the prophet reminded the Lord, “and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor. Why dost Thou look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why art Thou silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” (1:13).

Finally realizing that the Lord’s ways are beyond human comprehension, Habakkuk testifies, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength” (3:17–19).

Habakkuk learned that when we cannot understand the Lord’s ways, we must avoid the quicksand of human reason and stand in faith on the rock of God’s righteous character.

It may, however, help to understand something of God’s purpose for offering salvation to fallen mankind by considering the angels. Unlike man, they were not created in God’s image or as procreative beings (Matt. 22:30), and when they fell with Lucifer (Rev. 12:7–9), they fell individually and were immediately damned to hell forever, with no opportunity for redemption.

God created the angels to serve Him and give Him glory. Because they were created holy, they fully understood such things as God’s holiness, righteousness, and majesty. But they had no comprehension of His grace, mercy, compassion, or forgiveness, because those characteristics have meaning only where there is the guilt feeling of sin. It is perhaps for that reason that the holy angels long to look into the gospel of salvation (1 Pet. 1:12). It is impossible even for the holy angels to fully praise God, because they cannot fully comprehend His greatness.

For His own divine reasons, however, God created man to be procreative. And when Adam fell, and thereby brought his own condemnation and the condemnation of all his descendants, God in mercy provided a way of salvation in order that those who would experience His grace would then have cause to praise Him for it. Paul declares that it is through redeemed saints, saved human beings, “that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places,” that is, to His heavenly angels (Eph. 3:10).

Because the purpose of creation is to glorify God, it is fitting that God would fill heaven with creatures who have received His grace and His mercy, and have been restored to His divine likeness to give Him eternal praise.[4]


Union with Jesus Christ

Romans 5:12

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

The last ten verses of Romans 5 are a new section of the letter. They deal with mankind’s union with Adam on the one hand, a union which has led to death and condemnation, and with the believer’s union with the Lord Jesus Christ on the other. This latter union leads to life and righteousness. This is a difficult section of the letter, possibly the most difficult in all the Bible. But it is also very important.

Union with Christ! The Scottish pastor and theologian James S. Stewart called union with Christ “the heart of Paul’s religion,” adding that “this, more than any other conception—more than justification, more than sanctification, more even than reconciliation—is the key which unlocks the secrets of his soul.” John Murray went even further, saying, “Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.”2 Yet, strangely, this is a widely neglected theme even in many otherwise helpful expositions of theology. Arthur W. Pink states the situation fairly:

The subject of spiritual union is the most important, the most profound, and yet the most blessed of any that is set forth in the sacred Scriptures; and yet, sad to say, there is hardly any which is now more generally neglected. The very expression “spiritual union” is unknown in most professing Christian circles, and even where it is employed it is given such a protracted meaning as to take in only a fragment of this precious truth. Probably its very profundity is the reason why it is so largely ignored. …

Many preachers avoid such subjects, thinking it better to avoid matters that most of their hearers may be unable or unwilling to understand. But it is not wise to neglect anything God has seen fit to reveal to us, particularly something as important as this. And, in any case, union with Christ cannot be neglected in any faithful exposition of Romans.

The Theme in Context

Where are we in our exposition of this letter? How does Romans 5:12–21 fit into its context?

At this point it may be worth thinking back to what I said at the beginning of this volume when I introduced the very first words of chapter 5. I rejected the view that Romans 5 introduces an entirely new section of the letter in the sense that in chapters 1–4 Paul has been speaking about justification and that now, in chapters 5–8, he speaks about sanctification. He does speak about sanctification, of course, but not as a radically new theme. On the contrary, as I pointed out (the word therefore in Rom. 5:1 is a clue to this), Paul is carrying forward the argument begun earlier, showing that the work of justification, about which he has been speaking, is a sure thing and will inevitably carry through to the believer’s full glorification in heaven at the end of life.

Thus far, Paul’s arguments have had to do with the nature of our justification:

  1. We can be assured of salvation because God has made peace with us through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
  2. We can be assured of salvation because, through that same work of Christ, we have been brought into a new relationship with God in which we continue to stand.
  3. We can be assured of salvation because of the sure and certain hope that we shall see God.
  4. We can be assured of salvation because of the way we are able to endure sufferings in this life.
  5. We can be assured of salvation because God sent Jesus Christ to die for us, not when we were saved people but when we were enemies.
  6. We can be assured of our salvation because, if God has justified us, which is a greater thing and demands more of God than glorification, he will surely do the lesser.

But now we have something new, as I said at the beginning of this study—and yet not new, because the apostle’s objective remains the same: to enhance our assurance. We have seen that Romans 5:1–11 argues the certainty and finality of salvation from the nature of justification by faith. Now Paul also argues that when God saved us through the work of Christ, justifying us by faith, justification was not the only thing involved. Justification is immensely important, of course. But in addition to justification, and in conjunction with it, we were also united to Christ in what theologians have come to call “the mystical union.” This union with Christ has been revealed to us, although we do not fully understand it.

In my opinion, Paul has anticipated this theme in the verses we have already studied, although I did not point it out at the time and the point is hidden in most of our translations. I am referring to verse 10, which says, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

In the Greek text the last three words are not “through his life,” as we have them in the New International Version (or “by his life,” as in most others), but literally “in his life.” Is this important? Yes, in my opinion. For, when we say “through” or “by” his life, the words seem to mean either or both of two things to us: (1) that we are saved through Christ, that is, by his work on the cross, and/or (2) that we are saved through faith in that atonement. But this is not the idea here. The first part of verse 10 does say this, but the second part goes beyond it, making a contrast. The argument is: If God has saved us through the death of Christ (through faith in his atonement), he will certainly save us by our being “in his life.” At this point of the letter we may not fully understand what that means. That is why verses 12–21 explain it. But I am making the point that union with Christ, which Paul develops in verses 12–21, is suggested earlier.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “The word ‘in’ means ‘in the sphere of,’ or ‘in the realm of,’ or ‘in connection with’ his life.”

This union with Jesus makes possible the sequence of deliverances from sin, death, and the law, and the resulting spiritual victories that Paul will unfold in the next three chapters of Romans.

Probing the Mystery

Union with Christ is difficult to understand, however, and the treatment of it in Romans 5:12–21 is particularly mind-stretching. So I want to probe this doctrine a bit before we actually get into the verses. There are two important points to keep in mind.

First, the union of the believer with Christ is one of three great unions in Scripture. The first is the union of the persons of the Godhead in the Trinity. Christians, as well as Jews, speak of one God. Yet, on the basis of the revelation of God in Scripture, we who are Christians say we also believe that this one God exists in three persons as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We cannot explain how these three persons of the Godhead are at the same time only one God, but the Bible teaches this and we believe it.

The second mystical union is that of the two natures of Christ in one person. The Lord Jesus Christ is one person. He is not a “multiple personality.” Nevertheless, he is also both God and man, possessing two natures. The theological formulation of this truth at the Council of Chalcedon (a.d. 451) said that Jesus is “to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into persons, but one and the same Son.” If you understand that completely, you are a better theologian than I am. But though I do not fully understand it, I believe it since it seems to be what the Bible teaches.

We have a similar situation in the case of the union of believers with Christ. Probably we are never going to be able to understand this union fully either. But it is important. Therefore we should hold to it and try to gain understanding.

The second important point to keep in mind as we study this doctrine is that the union of the believer with Christ is not a concept that was invented by Paul; rather, it was first taught by Jesus and then built upon by the apostle. True, Jesus did not use the term “mystical union.” But he taught it in other words and through analogies, which are frequent in Scripture, particularly in the later portions of the New Testament. Let me list a few examples.

  1. The vine and the branches. The most important passage on this theme is the teaching in John 15. It occurs in one of Jesus’ final discourses prior to his arrest and crucifixion. Jesus said, “I am the true vine. … Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1, 4–5).

The emphasis in this passage is upon the power of Christ nourishing and working itself out through his disciples. Paul touches on this image in Romans 11:17–21, where he speaks of Jewish “branches” being broken off an olive tree so that Gentile “branches” might for a time be grafted in. He is thinking along similar lines in Galatians when he speaks of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–23).

  1. The Lord’s Supper. On the same evening that Jesus spoke about himself as the vine and his disciples as the branches, he gave instructions for observing the Lord’s Supper in which he said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:26, 28). The sacrament clearly symbolizes our participation in the life of Christ. In the same way, Jesus discoursed on the bread of life (“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” [John 6:35]) and challenged the woman of Samaria (“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to everlasting life” [John 4:13–14]).

The emphasis in this image is on empowering (as in the analogy of the vine) and permanence. By faith, Jesus becomes a permanent part of us, just as surely as what we eat.

  1. A foundation and the structure built upon it. Jesus initiated this image when he spoke of himself as a solid foundation for building a successful life: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matt. 7:24–25).

Paul made ample use of this image. He told the Corinthians, “You are … God’s building. … For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:9b, 11). He told the Ephesians, “… you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19–20). In the next verse the building becomes a temple: “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord” (v. 21). Notice the words “in him.” It is only because we are “in Christ” that this is possible.

This image also shows that being joined to Christ means that we are at the same time joined to one another. We are part of the church.

  1. The head and members of the body. This was one of Paul’s favorite ways of speaking. “And God placed all things under [Christ’s] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:22–23). “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. … Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:11–12, 14–16).

In these verses (and others like them) the emphasis is upon two things: (1) growth and (2) the proper functioning of the church under Christ’s sure direction. In 1 Corinthians Paul uses this image to show that each Christian is needed if the church is to function properly (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12–27).

  1. Marriage. By far the greatest of all illustrations of the union of the believer with Christ and of Christ with the believer is marriage, in which a man and a woman are joined to form one flesh and one family. This image is in the Old Testament—Hosea, for example. There God compares himself to the faithful husband who is deserted by Israel, the unfaithful wife (Hosea 1–3). Jesus picked up on this theme when speaking of a marriage supper to which all who have faith are invited (Matt. 22:1–14). However, it is chiefly Paul who develops the theme in what is probably the best-known passage from Ephesians, mixing it with the image of the church as Christ’s body.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. … This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:22–28, 32

The emphasis in this image is upon a love-bonding. This is indeed the one true “marriage made in heaven.” It is a marriage not only for this life but for eternity.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

In the studies that follow we are going to be looking at the doctrine of our union with Christ in detail, comparing it initially with our corresponding but contrasting union with Adam. But I close here by trying to put our union with Christ in its widest possible setting, remembering that it is included at this point of the letter to assure us of our security. This is what we find as we look both backward and forward at this union.

Here I quote from the best statement of these themes I know: a chapter on “Union with Christ” in Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray:

  1. Election. “The fountain of salvation itself in the eternal election of the Father is ‘in Christ.’ Paul says: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:3, 4). The father elected from all eternity, but he elected in Christ. We are not able to understand all that is involved, but the fact is plain enough that there was no election of the Father in eternity apart from Christ. And that means that those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love apart from union with Christ—they were chosen in Christ. As far back as we can go in tracing salvation to its fountain we find ‘union with Christ’; it is not something tacked on; it is there from the outset.”
  2. Redemption. “It is also because the people of God were in Christ when he gave his life a ransom and redeemed them by his blood that salvation has been secured for them; they are represented as united to Christ in his death, resurrection, and exaltation to heaven (Rom. 6:2–11; Eph. 2:4–6; Col. 3:3, 4). … Hence we may never think of the work of redemption wrought once for all by Christ apart from the union with his people which was effected in the election of the Father before the foundation of the world. … This is but another way of saying that the church is the body of Christ and ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself for it’ (Eph. 5:25).”
  3. Regeneration. “It is in Christ that the people of God are created anew. ‘We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works’ (Eph. 2:10). … It should not surprise us that the beginning of salvation in actual possession should be in union with Christ because we have found already that it is in Christ that salvation had its origin in the eternal election of the Father and that it is in Christ salvation was once for all secured by Jesus’ ransom blood. We could not think of such union with Christ as suspended when the people of God become the actual partakers of redemption—they are created anew in Christ.”
  4. Glorification. “Finally, it is in Christ that the people of God will be resurrected and glorified. It is in Christ that they will be made alive when the last trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:22).”

This great scope of salvation from the electing counsels of God in eternity past to the glorification of the sons of God in eternity future is based on the union of the believer with Christ, and it is for this that the doctrine is so important for us. Assurance of salvation! Security in Christ! This is what we are dealing with in this doctrine, as also in the great middle chapters of Romans. While there are many things meant to encourage us in that security, the greatest of all is that we are “in Christ.”

The question you must ask yourself is: “Am I really in him? Am I a Christian?”

How can you know? You cannot look into eternity past to pry into God’s hidden counsels. You cannot look into eternity future to see yourself as one who has been glorified. All you have is the present. But if you probe the present, you can know. Do you remember the marriage illustration? Ask yourself: “Am I married to Jesus?” You are—if you have taken the vow, promising to “take Jesus to be your loving and faithful Savior, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, for this life and for eternity,” and if you are living for him. God has pronounced the marriage. And what God has joined together no one will ever put asunder.[5]


12 The one man through whom sin entered the world is not immediately named (reserved until v. 14). The same procedure is followed with the other man to be considered: he too is called a man before he is named (v. 15). Except for two non-theological references (Lk 3:38; Jude 14), every mention of Adam in the NT comes from the pen of Paul. In 1 Timothy 2:14, he makes the point that Adam, unlike Eve, was not deceived but sinned deliberately. In 1 Corinthians 15, as in the Romans passage, he institutes a comparison between the first and the last Adam but confines the treatment to the issue of death and resurrection, even though sin is dealt with somewhat incidentally (vv. 17, 56), whereas in Romans 5, both sin and death are named immediately and are woven into the texture of the argument throughout. In the earlier letter, Paul makes the significant statement, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Co 15:22), in line with Romans 5:12. Paul has already referred to the inevitable connection between sin and death in the only previous mention of death in Romans (1:32), except for reference to the death of Christ (5:10). But here in v. 12 he pictures sin and death as entering the world through one man, with the result that death permeated the whole of humankind. It was the opening in the dike that led to the inundation, the poison that entered at one point and penetrated every area of humanity’s corporate life.

If Paul had stopped with the observation that death came to all humanity because all sinned, we would be left with the impression that all sinned and deserved death because they followed the example of Adam. But subsequent statements in the passage make it abundantly clear that the connection between Adam’s sin and death and what has befallen the race is far closer than that. Paul says that the many died because of “the trespass of the one” (v. 15; cf. vv. 18–19). Clearly the gist of his teaching is that just as humankind has become involved in sin and death through Adam, it has the remedy of righteousness and life only in Christ.

What, then, is the precise relation of Adam in his fall to those who come after him? Paul does not say, unless he provides the information in the last clause of the verse. The NIV uses the word “because,” which is certainly the meaning of eph’ hō in 2 Corinthians 5:4 and probably also in Philippians 3:12. The Vulgate rendering of the Greek is in quo, which could be understood as meaning “in which” (i.e., death) or “in whom” (i.e., Adam). The former does not make sense and the latter is so far removed from the antecedent (“man”) as to be dubious, though this was Augustine’s conclusion (see Notes).

Now if the correct translation is “because all sinned,” why did not Paul go on to say specifically that all sinned in the first man? That he could have done so seems clear from v. 19: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Was it the sudden breaking off to follow another line of thought (vv. 13–14) that prevented the full statement? Or was it Paul’s reluctance to gloss over human responsibility, which he had already established in terms of universal sin and guilt (3:23)? Experience demonstrates that despite the inheritance of a sinful nature from Adam, people are convicted of guilt for the sins resulting from it, i.e., for the sins they themselves commit. Conscience is a factor in human life and the Holy Spirit does convict of sin (cf. Jn 16:8). Perhaps, then, as some hold, while the emphasis on original sin is primary in the light of the passage as a whole, there is a hint that personal choice and personal sin are not entirely excluded (cf. “many trespasses” in v. 16).

That we could have sinned in Adam may seem strange and unnatural to the Western mind. Nevertheless, it is congenial to biblical teaching on the solidarity of the human race. (For a famous example of corporate solidarity in the OT, see the story recorded in Jos 7:16–26.) When Adam sinned, the race sinned because the race was in him. Similar views are found in Jewish writings perhaps a half century after Paul: in 2 Esdras 7:118, “O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendants” (cf. 2 Esd 3:7, 21), and 2 Baruch 54:15, “Adam sinned first and has brought death upon all who were not in his own time” (cf. 2 Bar 17:3; 23:4). To put it boldly, Adam was the race. What he did, his descendants, who were still in him, did also. This principle is utilized in Hebrews 7:9–10: “One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.”

The doctrine of original sin and the punishment of Adam’s progeny for Adam’s sin would be an intolerable doctrine if any of his progeny had actually lived a life without sin. In fact, however, as Paul has made abundantly clear in 1:1–3:21, every human being is guilty of sin. The author of 2 Baruch, quoted above, also puts emphasis on our own responsibility: “each of us has become our own Adam” (2 Bar 54:19); all human beings consistently repeat for themselves the sin of their forefather. Sin is part of the natural makeup of the children of Adam, and they cannot escape living out their Adamic nature.

If one is still troubled by the seeming injustice of being born with a sinful nature because of what the father of the race did and being held accountable for the sins that result from that disability, one should weigh carefully the significance of reconciliation as stated by Paul: “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Co 5:19, emphasis added). The sins committed, which owe their original impetus to the sin of the first man, are not reckoned against those who have committed them, provided they put their trust in Christ crucified and risen. God takes their sins and gives them his righteousness.[6]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1697–1698). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 176–179). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 292–298). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 552–560). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[6] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 95–97). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 24 – THE SOURCE OF ALL POWER

O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?

—Deuteronomy 3:24

God is the source of all the power there is. There isn’t any power anywhere that doesn’t have God as its source, whether it be the power of the intellect, of the spirit, of the soul, of dynamite, of the storm or of magnetic attraction. Wherever there is any power at all, God is the author of it. And the source of anything has to be greater than that which flows out of it.

If you pour a quart of milk out of a can, that can has to be equal to or greater than a quart. The can has to be as big as or bigger than that which comes out of it. The can may contain several gallons, though you may pour out only a quart. The source has to be as big or bigger than that which comes out of it. So if all the power there is came from God—all the power—therefore, God’s power must be equal to or greater than all the power there is. AOGII074-075

Lord, why do we worry and fear so much when we are the dear children of the One who has such power? Strengthen me today with the promise of Your power. Amen. [1]


23–25 Although Moses was the great lawgiver and the ruler of Israel, he addresses his God as the “Sovereign Lord” and regards himself as his “servant.” Moses realized that he had only begun to comprehend his great God’s majesty because God had only begun to manifest himself to Moses and his people. The phrase “your greatness and your strong hand” refers to Yahweh’s awe-inspiring character and his impressive interventions in Israel’s behalf.

Moses breaks out in praise of his incomparable God because there were no gods like him. His question, “For what god is there in heaven or on earth …,” is a rhetorical question asked for emphasis. Moses was addressing the “marketplace of ideas” that existed in his day. He was referring to the conception of pagans (and certain Israelites) for the sake of argument. He was not granting the existence of other powerful gods and concluding that Yahweh is the winner out of many; rather, he was emphasizing that Yahweh is unique and unparalleled, the one and only true God (cf. 4:32–39). Moses pleaded (3:23) for God to allow him to witness personally the fulfillment of God’s promise to provide Israel with a land (Ge 12:1; 13:14–17; 15:18–21; 17:8; 26:3–4; 48:3–4).[2]


3:24 O Lord God: The Hebrew has the word for “Lord” or “Master” followed by the personal name of God, Yahweh. This phrase indicates the depth of Moses’ relationship with the Lord (9:26). what god is there … mighty deeds: Moses began his prayer with praise for God’s holiness and power (Ex. 15:11). God is incomparable; there was none like Him (Is. 40:25, 26).[3]


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

[2] Grisanti, M. A. (2012). Deuteronomy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, pp. 513–514). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 238). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

MAY 23 – GOD STANDS READY TO CONFIRM OUR FAITH IN HIM

This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses.

ACTS 2:32

The difference between faith as it is found in the New Testament and faith as it is found now, is that the faith in the New Testament actually produced something—there was a confirmation of it!

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and then he lifted up his voice. I would remind you that Peter here stands for the whole Church of God. Peter was the first man to get on his feet after the Holy Spirit had come. Peter had believed the Lord’s word and he had received confirmation in his own heart.

In our day faith is pretty much a beginning and an end. We have faith in faith—but nothing happens. There is no confirmation. Peter placed his faith in a risen Christ and something did happen. That’s the difference!

As in Peter’s case, it should be the business of the church to stand up and lift up. Peter became a witness on earth, as the church should be, to things in heaven. The church must be a witness to powers beyond the earthly and the human, and because I know this, it is a source of great grief to me that the church is trying to run on its human powers.

Peter testified to something beyond the earthly which he had experienced. He wanted to influence, urge and exhort those who had not yet experienced it to enter in, for the power from above turns out to be none other than the Spirit of God Himself![1]


2:32, 33 Now Peter repeats an announcement that must have shocked his Jewish audience. The Messiah of whom David prophesied was Jesus of Nazareth. God had raised Him from among the dead, as the apostles could all testify because they were eyewitnesses to His resurrection. Following His resurrection, the Lord Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God, and now the Holy Spirit had been sent as promised by the Father. This was the explanation of what had happened in Jerusalem earlier in the day.[2]


32. “This Jesus God raised up, and all of us are witnesses of it. 33. Therefore, having been exalted to God’s right hand, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you now both see and hear.”

In these two verses Peter notes the redemptive facts of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension in conjunction with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In fact, he refers to the three Persons of the Trinity: the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Three times in his Pentecost sermon he emphatically points to Jesus as this Jesus (see vv. 23, 32, 36) to recall for his audience their knowledge of and acquaintance with Jesus of Nazareth (v. 22). Once again Peter stresses the theme of the early Christian church: the resurrection from the dead (v. 24; and see 13:30, 33–34, 37; 17:31).

In verses 32 and 33, Peter makes a distinction between the apostolic witnesses (“all of us are witnesses”) who have seen the resurrected Jesus and the multitude who observe the phenomena of Pentecost (“what you now both see and hear”). In another context, Peter states that Jesus appeared only to those witnesses “who were appointed beforehand by God” (10:41). Conversely, the multitude at Pentecost did not see the resurrected Christ; they saw and heard the visible and audible tokens of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Because Peter’s audience had not seen Jesus in the forty-day period between his resurrection and ascension, they needed proof that what the eyewitnesses proclaimed was true. Therefore, they wanted to know the relationship between Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. To meet the questions of his audience, Peter alludes to Jesus’ ascension and mentions Christ’s place at the right hand of God (compare 5:31). Christians eventually formulated these truths in the Apostles’ Creed and confessed that Jesus Christ

ascended to heaven,

and sits at the right hand

of God the Father almighty.

From his exalted position, Jesus has fulfilled the promise that the Father would send the Holy Spirit (refer to John 7:39; 14:26; 15:26). On the day of Pentecost Jesus’ words concerning the coming of the Spirit are being fulfilled. Consequently, everyone present at the temple area in Jerusalem is able to see the evidence of the outpouring of the Spirit. The listeners must know, therefore, that Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, has the authority to commission the Spirit to come and live in the hearts of the believers.[3]


Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but he also was exalted to the place of honor, glory, and power (cf. Phil. 2:9–11) at the right hand of God (cf. Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 5:31; 7:55–56; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). From that exalted position, Peter says, Jesus, having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, has poured forth this which you both see and hear. Peter now brings his listeners full circle back to the phenomena of Pentecost. He tells them that what they had just seen resulted from God’s promise to send the Spirit to inaugurate the messianic age (Joel 2:28–29). Now that Christ was risen and glorified, God fulfilled that promise (cf. John 7:39).[4]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1586). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 100–101). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (p. 65). Chicago: Moody Press.

MAY 23 – BLAME SOMEONE ELSE

And the man said, The woman…gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

Genesis 3:12

In the earliest day of failure and tragedy in the garden of Eden, Adam came out of hiding, knowing full well his own guilt and shame.

Adam confessed: “We ate from the fruit of the tree that was forbidden—but it was the woman who enticed me!” (see Genesis 3:12).

When God said to Eve, “What did you do?” she said: “It was the serpent that beguiled me!” (see 3:13).

In that brief time our first parents had learned the art of laying the blame on someone else. That is one of the great, betraying evidences of sin—and we have learned it straight from our first parents. We do not accept the guilt of our sin and iniquity. We blame someone else.

If you are not the man you ought to be, you are likely to blame your wife or your ancestors. If you are not the young person you ought to be, you can always blame your parents. If you are not the wife you ought to be, you may blame your husband or perhaps the children.

Sin being what it is, we would rather lay the blame on others. We blame, blame, blame! That is why we are where we are.

Lord, help me to quickly acknowledge my sins and not try to hide them from You—which is actually impossible to do. I want to receive Your forgiveness and move on in my deepening relationship with You.[1]


3:12 The woman whom You gave. Adam pitifully put the responsibility on God for giving him Eve. That only magnified the tragedy in that Adam had knowingly transgressed God’s prohibition, but still would not be open and confess his sin, taking full responsibility for his action, which was not made under deception (1Ti 2:14).[2]


3:12 woman whom you gave Adam tries to pass responsibility to his wife—and perhaps even to God.[3]


3:12 A guilty man’s first line of defense is blame. Adam blamed the woman, and then he blamed God for having given her to him (for David’s contrasting response to Nathan, read 2 Sam. 12:13).[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ge 3:12). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 3:12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 12). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

MAY 23 – OMNIPOTENT AND ALMIGHTY

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude… and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

—Revelation 19:6

I suppose the first thing to do would be to define omnipotence. It comes, of course, from omni, meaning “all,” and potent, meaning “able to do and to have power.” And so omnipotent means “able to do all and to have all power.” It means having all the potency there is.

Then we come to a second word, Almighty…. Now that means exactly the same thing as omnipotent…. Almighty means “having an infinite and absolute plenitude of power.” When you use the words infinite and absolute you can only be talking about one person—God.

There is only one infinite Being, because infinite means without limit. And it is impossible that there should be two beings in the universe without limit. So if there is only one, you are referring to God. Even philosophy and human reason, as little as I think of them, have to admit this….

God has power and whatever God has is without limit; therefore, God is omnipotent. God is absolute and whatever touches God or whatever God touches is absolute; therefore, God’s power is infinite; God is Almighty. AOGII072, 074

What assurance to know I rest in the arms of an all-powerful God. Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns! Amen. [1]


19:6 Now another song breaks out in heaven, as “loud as many water’s noise, loud as thunders to the ear.” A great “Alleluia” swells in celebration of the reign of the Lord God Omnipotent![2]


6. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude and as it were the sound of many waters and as it were the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah, because our Lord God Almighty rules.”

John listened to a hymn that sounded as if it were sung by a vast multitude. He does not identify this throng, but because the wording is the same as in verse 1, it appears that the multitude has the same identity. They sing both the opening and the concluding hymns in this chapter; in both they sing the same notes of praise and adulation. Here are inconspicuous echoes of the hymns the multitudes sang in both chapters 5 and 7.

The voice that John hears he compares with sounds taken from nature: the sounds of many waters and of mighty peals of thunder. John describes the voice of Jesus’ appearance on the isle of Patmos as a rushing sound coming from many waters (1:15; see 14:2; Ezek. 1:24; 43:2). And the phrase mighty peals of thunder conveys the idea of loudness that can be heard everywhere (Rev. 6:1; 14:2). These two phrases indeed point to God’s power, majesty, and glory. And the mighty voice of the countless multitude attests to expressions of joy and thankfulness for the privilege of being the bride of Christ.

This voice, conveying the sound of a multitude of people talking at the same time, rises from the pleasing tones of bubbling water and then swells to the crashing crescendo of thunderclaps. These sounds are like people who begin singing softly but then culminate their hymn in resounding overtones. The first word of the song is Hallelujah, which has now occurred four times in these hymns. It is followed by a clause that gives the reason for this note of jubilation, “because our Lord God Almighty rules.” The verb in this clause can be interpreted to read that the Lord “has begun to rule.” The Lord God, as the descriptive label Almighty indicates, has always been the ruler over his great creation. But now the kingdom of the Antichrist has come to its anticipated end, and the Lord God is the supreme ruler in the vast universe he has created. In Revelation, the term the Lord God Almighty appears seven times and characterizes God’s sovereignty. While on earth Domitian was honored as dominus et deus (Lord and God), the heavenly chorus sings in triumph that God occupies the true seat of power in the world (see Ps. 93:1; 97:1; 99:1; 1 Chron. 16:31; Zech. 14:9). Last, the possessive personal pronoun our in “our Lord God Almighty rules” makes the chorus inclusive: the saints in heaven and on earth are one.[3]


6 Finally the cycle of praise is completed with the reverberating sounds of another great multitude. If the multitude in v. 1 was angelic, then this one would most certainly be the great redeemed throngs (cf. 7:9). They utter the final Hallel in words reminiscent of the great kingship psalms (93:1; 97:1; 99:1). The first of these psalms is used in the synagogue in Sabbath morning and evening services and also in the Armenian church liturgy for Easter Sunday (Werner, Sacred Bridge, 153). It is also the prelude to the messianic Psalms 95–99 and has as its theme the eternal sovereignty of God, who will conquer all his enemies (cf. Hertz, Daily Prayer Book, 362). The Greek verb ebasileusen (“reigns”), an ingressive aorist, may better be rendered, “has begun to reign.”[4]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2376). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 512–513). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 755). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MAY 22 – HOPE IN ETHICS: UTTERLY UNREALISTIC AND NAIVE

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

MATTHEW 25:34

The hope being voiced by many that the nations will “accept the ethics of Jesus, disarm and live like brothers,” is utterly unrealistic and naive.

In the first place, the teachings of Jesus were never intended for the nations of the world. Our Lord sent His followers into all the world to make and baptize disciples. These disciples were to be taught to observe the commandments of Christ.

They would thus become a minority group, a peculiar people, in the world but not of it, sometimes tolerated but more often despised and persecuted. And history demonstrates that this is exactly what happened wherever groups of people took the gospel seriously.

To expect of once-born nations conduct possible only to the regenerated, purified, Spirit-led followers of Christ is to confuse the truth of Christianity and hope for the impossible. In the Scriptures, the nations of the earth are symbolized by the lion, the bear and the leopard.

Christians, in sharp contrast, are likened to peaceful sheep in the midst of wolves, who manage to stay alive only by keeping close to the Shepherd. If the sheep will not act like the bear why should we expect the bear to act like the sheep?

It might be well for us Christians to listen less to the news commentators and more to the voice of the Spirit![1]


Jesus here reveals unequivocally that the Son of Man who sits on the glorious throne (v. 31) is also the Son of God, the divine King. After his subjects are separated, the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Those will be the believers who have survived the holocaust of the Tribulation, and they will be ushered alive into the millennial kingdom, which has been prepared for them from the foundation of the world.

Doubtlessly anticipating the salvation-by-works interpretations that would be made of verses 35–45, the Lord made clear that believers will not inherit the kingdom based on good deeds they will have or will not have performed on earth. Their inheritance was determined countless ages ago, even from the foundation of the world. Those who enter the kingdom will not do so on the basis of the service they have performed for Christ but on the basis of their being blessed by the Father because of their trust in His Son. They will in no way earn a place in the kingdom. A child does not earn an inheritance but receives it on the basis of his being in the family. In exactly the same way, a believer does not earn his way into the kingdom of God but receives it as his rightful inheritance as a child of God and a fellow heir with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:16–17).

Prepared for you accentuates the selectivity of salvation. From before the time the world was created, God sovereignly chose those who will belong to Him. And “whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). The source of salvation is the Father’s blessing, the reception of salvation is through faith, and the selectivity of salvation is in the advance preparation of the Father made in ages past. Stressing the same truth, Peter declared, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3–5).[2]


  1. Then the king shall say to those at his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the founding of the world.… Since the Son of man is clothed with “all authority” (11:27; 28:18; cf. Eph. 1:22), he is called “the King” (cf. John 18:36; Rev. 19:16). To be at the King’s right means to hear from his lips, “Come.” They are welcomed to close, loving, and abiding fellowship with their Savior, the Judge and King. No greater blessing can be imagined (Ps. 17:15; 73:23–25). They are those who have been and, as the tense of the original implies, are abidingly the blessed of—or: those blessed by—the Father, who bestowed upon them salvation, that is, who delivered them from the greatest evil, sin and all its consequences, and placed them in possession of the greatest good, right standing before him and all it implies.

They hear the joyful words, “inherit the kingdom.” For “kingdom” see on 4:23, 13:43. Since this is the judgment day, the kingdom in its final phase is meant here. These blessed ones, who were already heirs by right now also become heirs in fact, and this in the full sense of the term. All the promises of salvation full and free are now about to be fulfilled in them everlastingly and ever progressively; all this in and through Christ (Rom. 8:17). For the implications of the term “inherit” see on 5:5.

It is surely wonderful and comforting to observe that before the good deeds of these “sheep” are mentioned (verses 35, 36) emphasis is first of all placed on the fact that the basis of their salvation, hence also of these good deeds, is their having been chosen from eternity: the kingdom had been prepared for them, and this not just recently, but “from the founding (or: foundation) of the world.” Whether this phrase (from, etc.) is used or before, etc. (Eph. 1:4), the result is the same: “from eternity.” The good pleasure of God Triune, his sovereign grace, is the foundation of their salvation. Their good works are the fruit, not the root, of grace. This must be borne in mind throughout the study of verses 35, 36. To God alone be the glory![3]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 25:34). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 887–888). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

MAY 22 – GOD IS SOVEREIGN

We are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:20

Oh, how I wish that I could adequately set forth the glory of the One who is worthy to be the object of our worship!

I do believe that if our new converts—the babes in Christ—could be made to see His thousand attributes and even partially comprehend His being, they would become faint with a yearning desire to worship and honor and acknowledge Him, now and forever!

I know that many discouraged Christians do not truly believe in God’s sovereignty. In that case, we are not filling our role as the humble and trusting followers of God and His Christ.

And yet, that is why Christ came into our world. The old theologians called it “theanthropism”—the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. This is a great mystery, and I stand in awe before it!

The theanthropy is the mystery of God and man united in one Person—not two persons but two natures. So, the nature of God and the nature of man are united in this One who is our Lord Jesus Christ!

Lord Jesus, You are the only hope for this world. You provided the perfect plan for our redemption. Though Your supernatural being may be beyond our human comprehension, Your grace and mercy and love are worthy of all our praise.[1]


That Christ Is the True God

And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (5:20–21)

These closing verses finally bring the epistle full circle. John began with the coming of the Word of Life (1:1–4); now he closes with the certainty that the Son of God has come. The present tense of the verb hēkō (come) indicates that Jesus has come and is still present. The Christian faith is not theoretical or abstract; it is rooted in the practical truth that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ.

Because no one can know “who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22), Jesus has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true. But beyond mere knowledge, Christians have a personal union with Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Peter 5:14). The Bible teaches that the only way to know the true and living God is through Jesus Christ. No one can be saved who does not believe in Christ, for there is no salvation apart from Him (cf. 2:1–2; 4:10, 14; 5:1; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

John’s threefold use of the word alēthinos (true) in this verse stresses the importance of understanding the truth in a world filled with Satan’s lies. The last use of the term points to the most significant truth of all—that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life. The deity of Jesus Christ is an essential element of the Christian faith, and no one who rejects it can be saved. (For a detailed biblical defense of Christ’s deity, see John 1–11, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 2006], chapter 1).

John’s concluding warning, Little children, guard yourselves from idols, reflects the crucial significance of worshiping the true God exclusively. The danger of idolatry was especially serious in Ephesus (where John likely wrote this epistle), center of the worship of the goddess Artemis (Diana). A few decades earlier, the ministry of the apostle Paul had sparked a riot by her zealous worshipers (Acts 19:23–41). But the danger was not confined to Ephesus, as Paul’s warning to the Corinthians, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Cor. 10:21), indicates. Though few in our contemporary culture worship physical idols, idolatry is widespread nonetheless. Anything that people elevate above God is an idol of the heart. Every “lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5) must be smashed, and only Christ exalted.

In a dark world filled with uncertainty, Christians have the glorious certainty based on divine revelation—“the prophetic word made more sure … a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). While the world stumbles blindly in the darkness (Jer. 13:16), God’s Word is for saints “a lamp to [their] feet and a light to [their] path” (Ps. 119:105), because “the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light” (Prov. 6:23).[2]


The Third Affirmation (v. 20)

This leads to the third of John’s affirmations, which is, as Stott notes, “the most fundamental of the three.” This strikes at the very root of the heretical Gnostic theology, for it is the affirmation that the Son of God, even Jesus, has come into this world to give us knowledge of both God and salvation. In other words, it is the assurance that he and nothing else is at the heart of Christianity; he and only he provides what all men desperately need. The need is not for philosophical enlightenment, as valuable as that may be in some areas. The need is, first, to know God, and second, for a Savior.

Knowledge of God

The first gift Jesus has brought us is the capacity of knowing God. This suggests not only that Jesus is God and that we see God in him, as he said to Philip (John 14:9), but also that we are incapable of spiritual sight until he gives it to us. Indeed, we are like the blind man of John 9 who could not see Christ and did not even seek him until Jesus first of all sought him out and healed him. After that we grow in knowledge, as the blind man grew (cf. John 9:11, 17, 33, 36, 38).

Moreover, the knowledge of God that Christ gives is knowledge, not just of any God, but of the true or genuine God. The word translated “true” in this verse is the word alēthinos, which is a popular one with John. In the Gospel he uses it of true or genuine worshipers (4:23), the true or genuine bread (6:32), and the true vine (15:1). In this first letter he has already used it of the true light that is dispersing the darkness (2:8). “True” refers to that which is authentic as opposed to that which is false, the ultimate reality as opposed to that which is merely its shadow. In John’s day the Gnostic teachers had made much of their supposed knowledge of God, but it is John’s contention that apart from the work of the Christ of history, who reveals God, such knowledge is not knowledge at all. At least it is not knowledge of the real God. Only through the real Son of God is the real God known.

Salvation

The second gift of Jesus is salvation, which John suggests by one of his favorite terms: “eternal life.” Elsewhere he has indicated that the basis on which we enjoy such life is the atoning death of Jesus Christ through which God’s just wrath against sin is turned away and a new relationship is established between God and the sinner. He has also indicated that the channel through which this life is received is faith, that is, believing in what God has said concerning the work of his Son and committing oneself to him as Savior. Here, however, John dwells once more on the idea of “eternal life,” indicating that the knowledge of God and union with him is life, in the sense of a complete salvation.

When John writes, “He is the true God and eternal life,” it is possible that the word “He” refers to an antecedent immediately preceding, namely, Jesus Christ. If this is so, then this is an exceptionally clear statement of the deity of Christ. Indeed, many of the church fathers took the text in this manner. On the other hand, we must also say in all honesty that “He” can also refer to “him who is true,” in which case all three uses of the word “true” refer to the same person, even the Father. This seems preferable. In view of the scope of biblical theology, there is little difference, however, for Jesus is said to be the “true” one elsewhere, and we are also said to abide in him as we are said to abide in the Father.

Conclusion

The proper contrast to the true or genuine God is that which is a false god or idol. Consequently, John concludes with the otherwise unexpected warning, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” In the context of this book we are probably not to think of the various carved idols of antiquity, though the admonition must include these as well. Rather, we are to think of the false god of the schismatics, who, though he was presented under the name of the Christian God, was not the true God, just as his apostles were not true teachers.

The application of this truth to today is in the fact that the mere names of Jesus Christ or God or Christianity do not authenticate the message or religion of the one proclaiming them. On the contrary, the profession must be tested by the basic doctrines of apostolic Christianity. What does the one speaking really believe about Jesus? Is he God incarnate or just a teacher? Did he die a real, atoning, vicarious death for sinners? Or is his death merely exemplary? Did he rise from the dead? Is the teaching of Jesus true, complete, and authoritative? Or is his teaching partial, thereby needing the teaching of others to bring us to a higher and indeed needed form of “Christianity”? According to John’s book, and indeed to the entire Word of God, anything that detracts from Christ is idolatrous, for he is the true God, the true revelation of the Father, the true atonement for sin, the true bread, the true vine. He is the beginning and end of all true religion. Consequently, to know him is to know the true God and eternal life.

Once we know him, what then? Then we must keep ourselves from idols. In verse 18 John has written that the Son of God will keep the Christian, but this does not relieve the Christian from his own responsibility to persevere in God’s service. Rather than drifting, he must draw near to God and grow in the knowledge of him. For only then will he be truly kept from idols. An anonymous Keswick hymn puts it like this:

Draw and win and fill completely,

’Till the cup o’erflow the brim;

What have we to do with idols

Who have companied with Him?[3]


Son of God

  1. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

For the last time, John writes “we know” (3:2, 14; 5:18, 19, 20). This time, however, he reminds us of the coming of the Son of God and our understanding of Jesus. Even though we see corruption in every sphere and sector of the world, we know that Jesus Christ has come to give us insight into his true nature. In a world of deceit and falsehood, God has revealed himself in the Son of God as the one who is true. God has not forsaken us to the powers of darkness, but has endowed us with the ability to discern truth from error.

God sent his Son “so that we may know him who is true.” The verb to know in this clause denotes knowledge we acquire by close association. In the fellowship we have with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ (1:3), we come to know his truth. We learn to know what belongs to God and what comes from Satan. God is true. “By true God [John] does not mean one who tells the truth, but him who is really God.” The adjective true is descriptive, for it reveals God’s nature (see John 17:3; Rev. 3:7).

John says that in addition to learning to know God, “we are in him who is true.” That is, we have intimate fellowship with him through his Son Jesus Christ, who is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). We are in the Father and the Son. In his high-priestly prayer Jesus prayed, “Just as you are in me and I am in you[,] may they also be in us” (John 17:21).

And last, having woven the golden thread of Jesus’ divinity and sonship through the cloth of his epistle, John completes this verse with the following words: “Even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” The Gnostic teachers denied that Jesus was the Christ, Son of God. Therefore, in this last verse John summarizes the basic teaching of the Christian faith: Jesus Christ is the Son of God, is truly divine, and is eternal life.

The translators of the New International Version have adopted the reading “He is the true God” instead of “This is the true God.” Some scholars say that the pronoun he refers to the nearest noun, Christ. Others vigorously dispute this view and claim that the pronoun refers to God the Father. They point to the wording in John 17:3, “the only true God,” and see the parallel in 5:20. They have to admit, however, that their reading of verse 20 is redundant: “And we are in [God] who is true … he is the true God.”

Proponents of the first view argue, quite rightly, that John ascribes eternal life to Jesus (1:2; also see John 11:25; 14:6). They also show that the entire epistle expounds the identity of Jesus, the Son of God. Therefore, a conclusive statement on the divinity of Jesus at the end of the letter is most effective. I believe that the supporters of this view, namely, that the pronoun he or this is a reference to Jesus and not to God, have the stronger argument.[4]


20 John’s third statement of what believers “know” summarizes the two major themes of the epistle: the identity of Jesus and the difference between true believers and the world/Antichrists. Jesus is the Christ, the Son, and the “true God” in contrast to the false “idols” (v. 21) promoted by the Antichrists. Jesus “has come” for the purpose of giving those who accept him a true understanding of God. The perfect tense indicates that this understanding was not only for those who witnessed the human Jesus but also extends to those who now accept authentic testimony about him. The same point is made at John 1:18, where it is stressed that no human being, not even Moses, has ever seen God, so that only Christ, “who is at the Father’s side,” can reveal God to the world. Of course the “understanding” (dianoia, GK 1379) God gives is synonymous with John’s witness about Jesus, so that knowing God means accepting John’s Christology. As a consequence, anyone who denies Jesus has a distorted view of God.

In what sense has the Son “given us understanding”? If v. 20 parallels verses such as John 14:26 and 16:13, one might conclude that John is thinking of a supernatural revelation of religious truth through the work of the Spirit. However, the focus of 1 John 5:18–20 is not on a mystical ascent to knowledge of God but rather on the knowledge of God that came through the descent of Christ to earth. Most likely, then, “the moment of the giving of the dianoia (understanding) or revelatory insight is surely the moment when the author’s readers became Christians” (Brown, 639). In conjunction with John’s teaching on the “anointing” at 2:27, 5:20 suggests that those who accept John’s witness already have a complete and full knowledge of God, which the world and the Antichrists cannot enjoy.[5]


5:20 The third great truth is that of the Incarnation. We know that the Son of God has come. This is the theme with which John opened his Epistle and with which he is now about to close it. The coming of the Lord Jesus revealed to us Him who is true, that is, the true God. God the Father can only be known through the Lord Jesus Christ. “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Then John adds: and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. Again the emphasis is that it is only as we are in Jesus Christ that we can be in God. “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This is the true God and eternal life. In other words, John is teaching what the Gnostics denied, namely, that Jesus Christ is God, and that eternal life is found only in Him.[6]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (pp. 209–210). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2004). The Epistles of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 147–149). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 366–368). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 504–505). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2325–2326). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

MAY 22 – GOD IS HERE; GOD IS NOW

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

—Psalm 90:12

It is a wonderful thought that God has already lived all of our tomorrows. God has no yesterdays and no tomorrows. The Scriptures say, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8), but it’s not His yesterday—it’s yours and mine. Jesus Christ the Lord is the One who came out of Bethlehem, out of Judea, whose goings forth have been even from everlasting. He can’t have yesterdays and tomorrows, because yesterday is time and tomorrow is time, but God surrounds it all and God has already lived tomorrow. The great God who was present at the beginning when He said, “Let there be” and there was, is also now present at the end, when the worlds are on fire and all creation has dissolved and gone back into chaos—and only God and His redeemed saints remain. Remember that God has already lived our tomorrows….

The Scripture says in Psalm 90:12 that because God is eternal, we must learn “to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” God is in our today because God was in our yesterday and will be in our tomorrow…. God is! And because God is, then God is here and God is now. God dwells in an everlasting and eternal now. AOGII059-060

Lord, You are eternal, but I am of now. Teach me to number my time-oriented days, so I might use them wisely. Amen. [1]


Proper Response to God’s Wrath (90:11–12)

Commentary

11–12 The two previous motifs of “wrath” and “days” lead into a prayer for wisdom as the only legitimate and wise response to the human condition. People generally do not pay attention to the divine law of sin and retribution. One reason is that the full brunt of God’s anger is withheld and unknown to people. The frustrations in life are explained away or accepted as long as there are not too many problems. The greatness of God’s wrath should evoke fear, and that fear should be commensurate with God’s wrath (v. 11). Thus the psalmist calls for a wise response to the previous teaching on the nature of God in contradistinction to the nature of humans. His question “Who knows the power of your anger?” is to be understood as a strong affirmation: “Nobody knows the power of your anger!”

Though no one knows how God’s full anger will affect human existence, those who fear the Lord are more aware of the fierceness of his anger. The wise pray for “a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). Since no one “knows” (yôdēaʿ GK 3359, v. 11) how great God’s rage may be, the wise are receptive to divine revelation/instruction: “teach us” (hôdaʿ GK 3359, v. 12). The prayer consists of two parts. First, the wise ask to apprehend the brevity of life. The numbering of “days” (v. 12) is an act of recognition of the vast difference between God and finite human beings. Though life may have many pleasant surprises, God’s anger may come at any time; and the wise reckon continually with God’s existence and humankind’s accountability. Second, the wise apply themselves to obtaining a “heart of wisdom” (cf. Dt 5:29; 32:29). Brueggemann (Message of the Psalms, 113) observes that this heart “attends to the persistent reality of Yahweh’s Lordship.” Wisdom begins and ends with the Lord, as the wise seek the Lord in all of their ways (cf. Pr 1:7), and true wisdom begins with the petition for revelation and illumination: “Teach us.”[2]


90:11, 12 The man of God stands in awe of the power of God that has been awakened in anger. Who, he wonders, can reverence Him adequately when one considers the immensity of His wrath? This much is sure: it should make us value every day of our lives and spend each one in obedience to Him, and in such a way that it will count for eternity.[3]


90:11 Your fury … fear … due You? Instead of explaining away life’s curses, a wise person will recognize God’s wrath toward sin as the ultimate cause of all afflictions and consequently learn to fear God.

90:12 number our days. Evaluate the use of time in light of the brevity of life. heart of wisdom. Wisdom repudiates autonomy and focuses on the Lord’s sovereignty and revelation.[4]


90:12 teach us to number our days. In view of the theme of the psalm, this refers especially to the ability to make the most of one’s days, since they are so few. The heart of wisdom would enable the faithful to live by the right priorities (cf. the “fear” of God, v. 11).[5]


90:11 the fear due Fearing God means placing all other potential objects of fear or reverence in perspective and revering Him above else. Fearing God can be described as giving Him respect or honor. Verse 12 advocates a response to God’s power and wrath.

The fear of God is a pervasive concept throughout the Bible (Prov 1:7; 8:13; 9:10; compare Psa 111:10), including the Prophets (Isa 11:2; Jer 5:24), and the Psalms (Ps 2:11; 5:7; 15:4; 19:9; 33:8).

90:12 teach us to number our days A response to God’s power and wrath—emphasizing that people should pay attention to God’s ways each day and appreciate the life given to them.

a heart of wisdom Wisdom starts with being properly oriented to God.[6]


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

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 693–694). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 688–689). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 90:11–12). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1053). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 90:11–12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

MAY 21 – NO TASK IS TOO BIG IF GOD IS IN IT

But Jesus beheld them, and said…With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible…

MATTHEW 19:26

Young people are concerned and some people are worried, they say, about whether we have the infallible Word of God.

As far as I am concerned, grant me God Himself, and I am not worried about His writing a book. Grant me the Being and Presence of God, and that settles it!

Whenever I find men running to science to find support for the Bible, I know they are rationalists and not true believers!

If God said that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, then the whale swallowed Jonah, and we do not need a scientist to measure the gullet of the whale.

Why are we fussing around finding out the collar size of a whale, or how big his neck is? Grant me God and miracles take care of themselves!

“Is healing for us today?” someone asks. My reply to that: “Is God still alive?”

And the answer is, “Yes, God is still alive!”

All right, then, healing is for us today. Whatever God did and was able to do and willing to do at any time, God is able and willing to do again, within the framework of His will.

It is not whether we can understand it or not it is whether God said it or not. If God said “I AM,” I respectfully bow and say, “O God, Thou art!”

Letting God prove Himself through the channels of our lives is the answer. Grant me God, and the task will not be too big![1]


And looking upon them Jesus said to them explicitly what the Mosaic law said implicitly: “With men this is impossible.” Just as it is not merely difficult but impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, it is not merely difficult but impossible for men to please the Lord and come into His kingdom on their own terms and by their own efforts. In one simple declaration, Jesus utterly destroyed the current perspective in the religion of Israel and, at the same time, all hope in works-righteousness. Whatever his material possessions and earthly accomplishments, every person stands totally helpless and powerless before God. He stands condemned before a righteous God, and in his depraved nature he can do nothing to make himself holy and worthy of God’s forgiveness and acceptance. With that statement Jesus swept all religions of human achievement and works-righteousness into hell. Left to any work of man, salvation is impossible.

“But with God all things are possible,” Jesus went on to say. Because God is able to change sinful hearts, it is possible for Him to save helpless men. God can do what men cannot do. The rich young ruler went away without eternal life because he sought it on the impossible basis of his own human resources and goodness. Salvation is entirely a gracious and sovereign work of God, and the work of His human witnesses is simply to proclaim the full truth of the gospel as clearly and lovingly as possible and to rely on God to apply that truth to an unbeliever’s heart and bring him to recognize his spiritual bankruptcy and come to repentance and obedient faith. Although repentance and faith require an act of human will, they are prompted by the power of God.

“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” Jesus said (John 6:44). That is why Paul admonished that “the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24–26).[2]


The beautiful and reassuring answer is found in verse 26. Fastening his eyes on them Jesus said, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. In this dramatic moment the eyes of Jesus, as he fixed them on his disciples, must have been filled with deep earnestness and tender love. When he now tells them, “With men this is impossible,” he means exactly that. At every point, beginning, middle, end, man is completely dependent on God for salvation. Of himself man can do nothing. If he is to be saved at all he must be born again or “from above” (John 3:3, 5). Even when by faith—God-given faith! (Eph. 2:8)—he reaches out to God, yet in order to do this he must be enabled and supported every day, hour, minute, and second by God’s omnipotent grace. For the religion of the rich young ruler (see verses 16, 20), which was the religion current among the Jews of that day and age, there is no room here. Not only Pelagianism but even Arminianism stands condemned.

Glory be to God, however: there is a way out. What is impossible with men is possible with God, with whom all things are possible. It is he who, through Christ, is able to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25). His grace extends even to the determined and relentless persecutor Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1; 26:9–11; 1 Cor. 15:8–10; Gal. 1:15, 16; 1 Tim. 1:15). Just how, through the Mediator, this salvation is brought about, Jesus has already begun to reveal (Matt. 16:21; 17:22, 23). He will continue to do so with increasing clarity (see 20:17–19; especially 20:28; 26:26–29).

Peter is still thinking about the words which the Master had addressed to the rich young ruler (see verse 21). Jesus had asked him to sell all he had and give the proceeds to the poor, promising that if he did this he would have treasure in heaven. So Peter “answers,” that is, he reacts to that statement (that demand plus promise) of Jesus, as follows:[3]


19:26 The Lord replied, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Humanly speaking, it is impossible for anyone to be saved; only God can save a soul. But it is more difficult for a wealthy man to surrender his will to Christ than for a poor man, as evidenced by the fact that few rich men are converted. They find it almost impossible to replace trust in visible means of support for faith in an unseen Savior. Only God can effect such a change.

Commentators and preachers invariably inject here that it is perfectly all right for Christians to be rich. It is strange that they use a passage in which the Lord denounces wealth as a hindrance to man’s eternal welfare, to justify the accumulation of earthly treasures! And it is difficult to see how a Christian can cling to riches in view of the appalling need everywhere, the imminence of Christ’s Return, and the Lord’s clear prohibition against laying up treasures on earth. Hoarded wealth condemns us as not loving our neighbors as ourselves.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 19:23). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 728–729). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1277). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

MAY 21 – GEARED INTO THINGS ETERNAL

Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God.

Hebrews 9:14

The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a gracious experience of fulfillment and blessing and direction for the Christian church.

It was the continuing emphasis for believers that we must live to gear ourselves into things eternal and to live the life of heaven here upon earth. We must yield our first obedience and loyalty to Jesus Christ, at any cost!

Anything we try to offer God that is less than that really is a degradation of the Christian church.

Frankly, I would rather be a member of a group that meets in a little room on a side street than to be part of a great activity that is not New Testament in its doctrine, in its spirit, in its living, in its holiness, in all of its texture and tenor. The Spirit-filled and Spirit-led congregation will be a joyful people. Beyond that, it will be useful and caring and compassionate! I do believe that the Christian church ought to be a helpful influence to the whole community!

Lord, empower the local churches in this community to reach out in Your name with love and compassion to those who are spiritually needy.[1]


The New Significance

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (9:13–14)

If the Old Covenant, weak and imperfect as it was, served its purpose, how much better will Christ’s New Covenant, powerful and perfect, serve its purpose. The new not only has a better purpose, but accomplishes its purpose in a better way, a perfect way. The purpose of the old sacrifice was to symbolize, externally, the cleansing of sin. It accomplished this purpose. The purpose of the new sacrifice, however, was to cleanse actually, internally (where sin really exists). It accomplished its superior purpose in a superior way.

Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain,

Could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.

Christ the heavenly Lamb takes all our sins away,

A sacrifice of nobler name and richer big than they.

Isaac Watts

Jesus did everything He did on earth in obedience to the Father through the Spirit. Even, in fact especially, in His supreme sacrifice He through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God. In doing so, He provided the cleansing of our consciences from dead works to serve the living God. He frees our consciences from guilt, a joy and a blessing that no Old Testament saint ever had or could have had. In Christ we can “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

The former priests cleaned up the outside, and even that only symbolically, imperfectly, and temporarily. But Christ cleanses from the inside, where the real problem is. He does more than cleanse the old man; He replaces it with a new man. He cleanses our conscience, but He recreates our person. In Christ, we are not cleaned-up old creatures but redeemed new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17).

An evangelist tells a story from the days when he held tent meetings many years ago. One day, after a series of meetings was over, he was pulling up tent stakes. A young man approached him and asked what he had to do to be saved. The evangelist answered, “Sorry, it’s too late.” “Oh no,” was the response. “You mean it’s too late because the services are over?” “No,” the evangelist said, “I mean it’s too late because it’s already been done. Everything that could be done for your salvation has already been done.” After explaining Christ’s finished work to the young man, he led him to saving faith.

Our salvation is based on the covenant whose redeeming work is finished—on a sacrifice that has been offered once and for all, that is complete and perfect and eternal.[2]


14 With Christ all is different. This is no unwilling animal but rather the voluntary self-offering of the Son of God; his offering is not according to human routine but “through the eternal Spirit”; whereas OT sacrifices had to be physically “unblemished” (e.g., the red heifer, Nu 19:2), Christ was spiritually perfect, without sin (4:15; 7:26); and whereas OT sacrifices cleansed the flesh, this one cleanses the conscience and sets us free from a round of “dead works” to serve the living God.

The mention of the Holy Spirit in connection with Christ’s self-offering serves to locate it in the spiritual realm as opposed to that of earthly ritual, and in the process affords one of those intriguing NT pointers toward the doctrine of the Trinity, in that all three Persons are involved in the work of atonement. “Conscience” recalls the comment in v. 9 that the OT sacrifices were unable to “perfect the conscience”; but Christ’s offering can cleanse the conscience from “dead works.” This is the same phrase as in 6:1 (see note there), and here, as there, it may be understood either morally as “works that bring death” (so the NIV and many commentators) or religiously as “useless rituals” (NIV footnote), which therefore cannot bring eternal life. Here the latter sense seems to me not only the natural sense of the Greek phrase but also more relevant to the immediate context. The “dead works” here stand over against the worship of “the living God” (see on 3:12), and the sense of “lifeless” (rather than “fatal”) makes a more appropriate contrast with “living”: it is when we are set free from the round of ineffective sacrifices offering only external cleansing that we can offer the spiritual service appropriate to the living God.[3]


9:14 If the ashes of a heifer had such power to cleanse from one of the most serious forms of outward defilement, how much more powerful is the blood of Christ to cleanse from inward sins of the deepest dye!

His offering was through the eternal Spirit. There is some difference of opinion as to the meaning of this expression. Some interpret it to mean, “through an eternal spirit,” meaning the willing spirit in which He made His sacrifice in contrast to the involuntary character of animal offerings. Others understand it to mean, “through His eternal spirit.” We rather believe that the Holy Spirit is in view; He made His sacrifice in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It was an offering made to God. He was the spotless, sinless Lamb of God whose moral perfection qualified Him to be our Sin-bearer. The animal sacrifices had to be physically spotless; He was without blemish morally.

His blood cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. It is not merely a physical purging or a ceremonial cleansing but a moral renewal that purifies the conscience. It cleanses from those dead works which unbelievers produce in an effort to earn their own cleansing. It frees men from these lifeless works to serve the living God.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 230–231). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 118). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2185–2186). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

MAY 21 – AN EVERLASTING NOW

But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

—Psalm 102:27

Time cannot apply to God. C.S. Lewis gave us an illustration which I’d like to pass on to you. If you can, think of eternity, of infinitude, as a pure white sheet of paper extending infinitely in all directions. Then think about a man taking a pencil and drawing a line, one inch long, on that infinitely extended sheet of paper. And that little line is time. It begins and it moves an inch and ends. It begins on the paper and it ends on the paper. So time began in God and will end in God. And it doesn’t affect God at all. God dwells in an everlasting now….

You and I are creatures of time and change. It is in “now” and “was” and “will be” and “yesterday” and “today” and “tomorrow” that we live. That’s why we get nervous breakdowns, because we’re always just one jump ahead of the clock. We get up in the morning, look at the clock and let out a gasp of dismay. We rush for the bathroom, brush our teeth, tear downstairs for breakfast, eat a half-cooked egg and rush out to catch the commuter bus. That’s time, you see—time is after us! But God Almighty sits in His eternal now. And all the time that ever was is only a tiny mark upon the infinitely extended bosom of eternity. AOGII058

No beginning, no ending, no time limitations, no start, no finish…. I am so small, Lord, and yet You care for me. Thank You, Loving Father. Amen. [1]


27 In contrast to all created existence, the Lord “remains the same” (cf. Heb 13:8). He is the “first and last” (Dt 32:39; Isa 41:4; 46:4; 48:12). The phrase “but you” is an emphatic contrast to “they” (v. 26), i.e., all created existence (v. 25). He remains the same and undergoes no change over the “years” (cf. v. 24). He is the Creator (v. 25; cf. Heb 1:10–12), who remains forever.[2]


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

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 754). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.