Category Archives: Baker New Testament Commentary

November 17, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

img_1470

27 It is understandable, then, how Paul concludes vv. 12–27: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” This is how Paul began the discussion about the body in v. 12, and now he ends it in a similar manner. These two verses frame the entire discussion of the church as the body of Christ.[1]


12:27 / Verses 27–31a apply and explain the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ in relation to the Corinthians’ situation. Verse 27 begins with the bold declaration, you are the body of Christ. This statement means there is diversity among the Corinthian Christians in terms of their gifts, although they are united by God’s design and work among them. Despite the differences, each one … is a part of the body, and each and all are necessary for the good of the whole.[2]


Our individuality (27)

As the body of Christ operates in this way, so the individual members will find their real needs met. The need for security is met in the assurance that ‘I belong to the body’. The need for identity is met in recognizing and working at the fact that ‘I have a distinctive contribution to bring to the body’. The need for a proper sense of responsibility is met by assuming concern for others in the body: ‘I need you; I feel with you; I rejoice with you.’ So each individual grows as a person and as a Christian in direct relation to his finding his place as a member of the body. The Scriptures speak of individuality, not of individualism. The latter phenomenon is a perversion of our calling in Christ. It plagues the church of God, spoiling its witness and shrivelling individuals.

This discovery of our individuality within the life of the Christian community remains as revolutionary a message in today’s world as it was in that of Paul and his Corinthian readers. It is a radical alternative both to the tyranny of totalitarianism and to the empty dreams of personal fulfilment through individualism.

There is a further perspective in this chapter, one which prevents such a community turning in on itself and becoming a pious ghetto of religious fanatics. The body of Christ is placed in the world to serve. Ministry is its daily vocation. As the community is mobilized under the Holy Spirit within the real world, its throbbing vitality will be sustained. Gifts are to be used in practical, costly and often very ordinary service (cf. 12:5). The ministry of Jesus through his physical body on earth is continued in the ministry of his body, the church. It is the same ministry: he came, ‘not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ That is the purpose of the body of Christ now: ‘as the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’65[3]


12:27. Paul next applied the analogy of the human body to the church as the body of Christ. He began with the declaration, Now you are the body of Christ. Paul used this metaphor for the church many times in this letter and in other epistles (Rom. 12:5; Eph. 3:6). Here he focused on the diversity and honor of the various members of Christ’s body, starting with this general assertion and then pointing to each person in the church at Corinth. Each one is a part of the body. Without exception every person who has trusted Christ receives a place in the body of Christ.[4]


27. You are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

  1. “You are the body of Christ.” Paul addresses the members of the Corinthian church with the personal pronoun you. They are the people who have been made holy in Christ Jesus and are called to be holy (1:2). Yet these people quarreled, caused divisions, failed to expel an immoral brother, brought lawsuits against fellow brothers, criticized the apostles, and did not properly observe the Lord’s Supper. In spite of all these shortcomings, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are the body of Christ.

In the Greek text, Paul uses the noun body in the absolute sense of the word. That is, the word appears without the definite article which, for the sake of acceptable English, we have supplied. Paul does not say “a body” or “the body,” but merely “body” to indicate that this is the one and only, for there is no other body of Christ. He is not referring to Christ’s physical body but rather speaks figuratively about the church as Christ’s body (e.g., Eph. 1:23; Col. 1:24). To say it differently, Paul states that the church to which the Corinthians belong is one entity without division.

The church as Christ’s figurative body exists in him and belongs to him. It is genuinely united with Christ, for every individual member is by faith included in him. Each local congregation is a microcosm of the entire church, so that everyone who observes the congregation’s various functions knows that this body is the church in action. Here Paul states the principle of unity in multiplicity. In the next clause he notes multiplicity in unity.

  1. “And individually members of it.” We have no information about the size of the Corinthian church, but Paul avers that every individual member is part of Christ’s body. By saying this, Paul underscores the individuality of the members, for each has received a different gift from the Lord. With these gifts and functions at their disposal, all the members together contribute to the well-being of the Christian community.[5]

12:27 Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are the body of Christ. This cannot mean the Body of Christ in its totality. Neither can it mean a Body of Christ, since there is only one Body. It can only mean that they collectively formed a microcosm or miniature of the Body of Christ. Individually each one is a member of that great cooperative society. As such he should fulfill his function without any feeling of pride, independence, envy, or worthlessness.[6]


27 The Corinthians are the body of Christ and each one of them is part of it. Some felt superior and as a result others were made to feel inferior in their ministry. They were tempted to withdraw, or actually withdrew, from any active role in the Christian meeting. Just as some Corinthians failed to recognize the body in 11:29, so here they exercised their ministry in a way which had a negative effect on other members. They showed partiality in their response to others—something which clearly happened in secular society[7]


12:27 body of Christ Implies that the Church belongs to Christ. The Church must maintain the values of Christ (mutual love and concern) rather than the values of the nonbelieving Corinthians (self-sufficiency and arrogance).[8]


[1] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 369). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (p. 266). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Prior, D. (1985). The message of 1 Corinthians: life in the local church (p. 216). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 220). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, p. 440). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1794). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Winter, B. (1994). 1 Corinthians. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1181). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Co 12:27). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

 

Advertisements

November 15, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

img_1468-1

Encourage in Love

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (10:24–25)

The third mark of a positive response to the gospel is love. The particular expression of love mentioned here is fellowship love. The Jewish readers were having a hard time breaking with the Old Covenant, with the Temple and the sacrifices. They were still holding on to the legalism and ritual and ceremony, the outward things of Judaism. So the writer is telling them that one of the best ways to hold fast to the things of God—the real things of God that are found only in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ—is to be in the fellowship of His people, where they could love and be loved, serve and be served. There is no better place to come all the way to faith in Christ, or to hope continually in Him, than the church, His Body.

The day drawing near could refer to the imminent destruction of the Temple, which brought all the sacrifices and rituals to a close. The Old Covenant simply could not function without the Temple, which, when the book of Hebrews was written, was about to be destroyed by Titus. But I believe the primary reference is to the coming of the Lord, which makes the passage apply to all of us. The only place where we can remain steadfast until He returns is with His people. We need each other. We need to be in fellowship with each other, as we mutually strengthen each other and encourage each other.

Some years ago, a young man sat next to me on a plane and we struck up a conversation. When he discovered I was a minister, he said, “I used to belong to a church, but it seems to me that a person’s relationship to Christ ought to be personal, not institutional. What do you think?” After thanking the Lord silently for providing such an open opportunity for witness, I said, “I certainly agree with you.” He then asked if I knew how he could have a personal relationship with Christ—to which I also answered in the affirmative. I thought to myself, “He certainly seems to feel his need for Christ,” and so I asked if he had studied the truth of the gospel and the evidence for Christ’s claims. He replied, “Yes, but I just don’t know how to get to Him.” “Are you ready to commit yourself to Him?” I asked. He said that he was, and as we prayed together he made the commitment. The next Sunday he was in our morning worship service, and afterward asked me if our church had anything going on during the week that he could become involved in. This young man gave every evidence of being a true believer. He felt his need, he studied the evidence, he made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and was showing every desire to hold fast to Christ and to have fellowship with His people.

The writer is saying very simply, “The door is open, the way is made available to enter into God’s presence. Come in and stay and fellowship with His people, and enjoy God’s company forever.”[1]


24–25 Verse 23 appealed to the readers corporately to stand firm, but in these verses the author takes up a theme he has already hinted at: the danger that some within the group might lose their commitment and thus endanger the others. We noted in 3:12–13; 4:1, 11; 6:11 that his concern for the whole group was more specifically focused on the need for “each of [them]” individually to maintain their stand, and the same individual focus will become even more prominent in 12:15–17. Here he indicates the basis of this concern in that some are apparently already in the habit of absenting themselves from the church’s meetings—perhaps under pressure from non-Christian Jews, perhaps through their own disillusionment and uncertainty. We do not know whether this particular group still tried to maintain the early Christian practice of daily meeting (Ac 2:42–47; Heb 3:13 might suggest this) or whether the Sunday gathering (Ac 20:7; 1 Co 16:2) had by now become the normal focus, but whatever the frequency, our author clearly understands regularly meeting together to be vital to their spiritual health.

So it is essential they “consider one another.” The verb is the same as “fix your thoughts on” in 3:1, where I suggested it might better be translated “take notice of”; perhaps here “keep an eye on one another” would get the sense. The purpose of this mutual concern is not negative, looking out for failings to criticize, but rather to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and to “encourage one another” in the recognition that all are fallible and that therefore each needs the support of the rest. “Spur on” translates the vivid noun paroxysmos (GK 4237), used of the “sharp disagreement” that separated Barnabas from Paul in Acts 15:39; here it has a more positive connotation, but it certainly shows that the author expected the “encouragement” to be bracing and even confrontational rather than merely comforting. For the sort of “love and good deeds” he may have had in mind, cf. vv. 32–34.

The last clause of v. 25 introduces a note that has not been prominent in Hebrews but that runs through most of the NT, namely, the sense of eschatological urgency. “The Day” is probably a technical term (shorthand for “the Day of the Lord”), as it seems to be also in 1 Corinthians 3:13 and 1 Thessalonians 5:4. There has so far been a single mention of Christ’s second coming to complete the work of salvation (9:28), but the quotation of Habakkuk 2:3–4, which follows in 10:37–39, will focus on the expectation of “the coming one,” and the two remaining warning passages (10:26–31; 12:25–29) will speak also of a coming time of judgment and of the “shaking” of earth and heaven. Whether their expectation of “the Day” was focused more on the element of salvation or on that of judgment, its approach was a clear incentive for the readers to take their discipleship seriously and to guard carefully their corporate hope. We do not know how soon the author expected “the Day” to come or in what way his readers might be expected to “see it approaching,” but the tone of this clause suggests that the early Christian expectation of an imminent parousia was still very much alive.[2]


10:24–25 / The third exhortation in this section directs the readers to be concerned with the welfare of others in the community of faith. There is a need to spur (or “stimulate”) one another on toward the basic Christian conduct of love (cf. 13:1) and good deeds. It is worth noting that we have encountered the three great virtues of faith (v. 22), hope (v. 23), and love in three successive verses (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). The mutual encouragement that our author has in mind can occur, of course, only in the context of Christian fellowship. But some, perhaps even in this community, had been neglecting to come together. The avoidance of public meetings on the part of Jewish Christians may have been caused by the understandable desire to escape persecution, whether from the Romans or from the non-Christian Jewish community. Perhaps in the light of past experiences (see vv. 32–34) as well as threats concerning the imminent future (12:4), it was deemed wise to avoid attracting attention. Despite the twofold let us (both are added by niv) in verse 25, no new exhortations are present; rather, the material in this verse supports the exhortation of verse 24. The way in which the readers can manifest their concern for one another is through active participation in fellowship, on the one hand, and through mutual encouragement, on the other. Christians need each other, and especially in trying circumstances. The whole matter, moreover, is to take on a special urgency with the increasing sense of the imminence of the eschaton, as you see the Day approaching (cf. the quotation of Hab. 2:3 in v. 37).[3]


10:24. The third exhortation calls us to responsibility to one another. The appeal to consider demands concentrated attention. The goal of this attention was to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. As Christians we have a corporate responsibility. We must help others who stumble and falter. We must concentrate on the needs of others and not on our individual salvation only.

We can spur people toward either good or bad works. Hebrews calls us to lead others to a practical expression of love and an attractive display of unselfish deeds.

The three important virtues of faith, hope, and love are mentioned in three consecutive verses (see 1 Cor. 13:13). Faith provides assurance. Hope promises an incentive to obedience. Love provides a foundation for prodding believers to godly living

10:25. To spur other believers forward in the Christian life, followers of Christ must meet together. Some of the readers of Hebrews were neglecting to meet together for worship, and this limited their ability to give and receive encouragement toward good works.

Christians who meet together with the aim of promoting godliness and love for one another can be remarkably successful in their ventures. Regular fellowship with believers is an essential ingredient in Christian growth. The readers of Hebrews knew that the Day of Christ’s return was drawing near. The closeness of this day compelled them to stimulate one another in an outburst of energy and concern.

Persecution may have led some believers to drop out of the fellowship. The remedy they needed was to begin meeting again. The verses following in 26–31 showed the final outcome of neglecting to meet with other believers. Such careless living could produce a contempt for Jesus and a renunciation of Christianity.[4]


Toward Expressing Love

10:24

  1. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

This is the third exhortation and the third virtue of the triad faith (v. 22), hope (v. 23), and love (v. 24). Earlier in the epistle the author elaborated on this triad (6:10–12). In harmony with the conclusion of Paul’s letter of love (1 Cor. 13:13) and other passages where he mentions the triad (Rom. 5:1–5; Gal. 5:5–6; Col. 1:4–5; 1 Thess. 1:3; 5:8; and see 1 Peter 1:21–22), the writer of Hebrews shows that love is the greatest because it reaches out to others. Love is communal. For man, love extends to God and one’s neighbor. Moreover, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Carefully consider how we may ardently incite one another to love and to do good works, says the writer. Put your mind to work to find ways to provoke—in the good sense of the word—each other to increase your expressions of love that result in doing noble works. Jesus’ summary of the law, that is, the royal law (James 2:8), “Love your neighbor as yourself,” often is abbreviated to “Love yourself.” But this royal law extends beyond the neighbor to God himself Deeds done in love for the neighbor honor God the Father. Therefore, keeping and fulfilling the second part of the summary, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39), actually constitute keeping and fulfilling the first part of the summary, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). And Paul calls the commandment to love one another a “continuing debt” (Rom. 13:8). “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law,” he concludes (v. 10).

In Attending the Worship Services

10:25

  1. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

One of the first indications of a lack of love toward God and the neighbor is for a Christian to stay away from the worship services. He forsakes the communal obligations of attending these meetings and displays the symptoms of selfishness and self-centeredness.

Apparently some members of the Hebrew congregation to whom the epistle originally was addressed showed a disregard for attending the religious services. They did so willfully by deserting the “communion of the saints.” From sources dating from the first century of the Christian era, we learn that a lack of interest in the worship services was rather common. The Didache, a church manual of religious instruction from the latter part of the first century, gives this exhortation: “But be frequently gathered together seeking the things which are profitable for your souls.”

In an earlier chapter the author of Hebrews warns the readers not to follow the example of the disobedient Israelites in the desert, and not to turn away from the living God (3:12). The author exhorts the readers to “encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (3:13). He realizes that among some of the members spiritual zeal has declined. Therefore once more he says, “But let us encourage one another” (10:25). Not only the writer of this epistle but also all the members of the church have the communal task of encouraging one another daily. Together we bear the responsibility, for we are the body of Christ.

As Christians we must look to the future, that is, to the day when Jesus returns. The closer we come to that day, the more active we should be in spurring one another on in showing love and doing deeds acceptable to God. We would have appreciated more information about “the Day,” but the author is as brief as other writers of the New Testament who mention it (see, for example, Matt. 25:13; 1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Thess. 5:4). Says Philip Edgcumbe Hughes: “When spoken of in this absolute manner, ‘the Day’ can mean only the last day, that ultimate eschatological day, which is the day of reckoning and judgment, known as the Day of the Lord.”[5]


24–25 The third appeal is a summons for the continued caring for one another that finds an expression in love, good works, and the mutual encouragement that active participation in the gatherings of the community makes possible. The note of Christian love completes the triad of faith (v 22), hope (v 23), and love (vv 24–25), which is developed by means of the coordinated cohortatives in vv 22–25 (cf. 6:10–12 for this same triad).

The exhortation κατανοῶμεν ἀλλήλους εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης καὶ καλῶν ἔργων, “let us keep on caring for one another for the stimulation of love and good works,” centers on the responsibility of Christians to exhibit practical concern for one another. By considerateness and example, they are to spur one another on to the love and good works that had distinguished them as a community in the past (see Comment on 6:10). Exemplary service of fellow Christians had once been the hallmark of the congregation (cf. vv 33–34) and seems to have persisted in some measure. But the writer urges that the expression of love within the fellowship be deepened and extended. In this context ἀγάπη is not a technical term for the meal at which the Eucharist was celebrated (as urged by Glombitza, NovT 9 [1967] 143–46), but a caring response to need in the lives of other Christians. “Good works” are tangible expressions of caring love, as in 6:10. Active support and concern for the welfare of one another are matters of critical urgency in the life of a community exposed to testing and disappointment (cf. F. F. Bruce, 253; Peterson, “Examination,” 271).

The appeal in v 24 is supplemented by two participial phrases in the present tense, μὴ ἐγκαταλείποντες τὴν ἐπισυναγωγὴν ἑαυτῶν, “not discontinuing our meeting together” and ἀλλὰ παρακαλοῦντες, “but rather encouraging one another” (v 25). These contrasting phrases indicate the importance of the regular gathering of the local assembly for worship and fellowship. The contrast serves to define the specific character of the term ἐπισυναγωγή, “meeting together”: it is the place or occasion for mutual encouragement and exhortation (cf. P. E. Hughes, 417–18; Mora, La Carta a los Hebreos, 49–50; Schrage, TDNT 7:841–43). The present tense of the participles expresses the common responsibility for these mandates (Michel, 347).

The failure of the writer to specify why some members of the community had stopped taking an active part in the meetings of the house church has invited a wide range of conjectures (see Schrage, TDNT 7:843, nn. 11–15). The reference to “custom” or “habit” (ἔθος) implies a situation of indifference and apathy, which is consistent with other indications throughout the sermon (2:1–3; 3:7–15; 4:1; 5:11–14; 10:23) (cf. Mora, La Carta a los Hebreos, 50). It is natural to think that the neglect of the meetings was motivated by fear of recognition by outsiders in a time of persecution, or by disappointment in the delay of the parousia, or by some other acute concern. It is sobering to discover that in the early second century in Rome it was simply preoccupation with business affairs that accounted for the neglect of the meetings of a house church (Herm. Sim. 8.8.1; 9.20.1). Whatever the motivation, the writer regarded the desertion of the communal meetings as utterly serious. It threatened the corporate life of the congregation and almost certainly was a prelude to apostasy on the part of those who were separating themselves from the assembly (so H. Montefiore, 177–78; Williamson, Philo, 261; Thompson, Beginnings of Christian Philosophy, 34). The neglect of worship and fellowship was symptomatic of a catastrophic failure to appreciate the significance of Christ’s priestly ministry and the access to God it provided.

The reason the meetings of the assembly are not to be neglected is that they provide a communal setting where mutual encouragement and admonition may occur. The parallel passage in 3:13 (ἀλλὰ παρακαλεῖτε ἑαυτοὺς καθʼ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν, “but encourage one another every day”) may actually presuppose a daily gathering of the house church for mutual encouragement. The verb παρακαλεῖν includes the notions of warning and reproof as well as encouragement, with the implication that reproof should be given in a loving way (cf. Forkman, Limits of the Religious Community, 47–50). The entire community must assume responsibility to watch that no one grows weary or becomes apostate. This is possible only when Christians continue to exercise care for one another personally (Dahl, Int 5 [1951] 411–12).

The urgency for encouragement and reproof is that the community experiences an unresolved tension between peril and promise so long as it lives in the world. The neglect of the meetings of the assembly by some of the members sufficiently attests the reality of spiritual peril. The promise is indicated by the approaching “Day of the Lord” (v 25b), when God’s plan for his covenant people will be brought to realization. The sober reminder that the Day of the Lord is drawing near offers a further incentive for continued active participation in the life of the community. It indicates that the tension between peril and promise will ultimately be resolved eschatologically. The description of the parousia in 9:28 as the return of the heavenly high priest with salvation to those who wait for him is supplemented here with a complementary OT formulation implying judgment as well as salvation (cf. Marshall, Kept by the Power, 144; A. L. Moore, The Parousia in the New Testament [Leiden: Brill, 1966] 148–49).[6]


10:24 We should also be discovering ways of encouraging fellow believers to manifest love and to engage in good works. In the NT sense, love is not an emotion but an act of the will. We are commanded to love, therefore it is something we can and must do. Love is the root; good works are the fruit. By our example and by our teaching, we should stir up other believers to this kind of life.

Loving hearts are gardens,

Loving thoughts are roots,

Loving words are flowers,

And good works their fruits.

Adapted

10:25 Then we should continue to meet together and not desert the local fellowship, as some do. This may be considered as a general exhortation for all believers to be faithful in their church attendance. Without question we find strength, comfort, nourishment, and joy in collective worship and service.

It may also be looked on as a special encouragement for Christians going through times of persecution. There is always the temptation to isolate oneself in order to avoid arrest, reproach, and suffering, and thus to be a secret disciple.

But basically the verse is a warning against apostasy. To forsake the local assembly here means to turn one’s back on Christianity and revert to Judaism. Some were doing this when this Letter was written. There was need to exhort one another, especially in view of the nearness of Christ’s Return. When He comes, the persecuted, ostracized, despised believers will be seen to be on the winning side. Until then, there is need for steadfastness.[7]


10:24, 25 Consider means “to observe,” “to contemplate,” or “to have an intelligent insight into.” Note that love and good works need to be stirred up; they do not just occur. The Greek word translated stir up has come into English as paroxysm, which means a “convulsion.” In this context the Greek word speaks forcefully of the tremendous impact believers can have on each other. That is why the author exhorts the Hebrews to gather together. Evidently some believers had stopped attending the worship services of the church, perhaps because they feared persecution. The author does not use the usual Greek word for church, perhaps because the term had come to mean the spiritual, invisible body of believers. Instead he uses a compound form of the word synagogue, which specifically means the local, physical gathering of believers (Ps. 40:9, 10; 42:4). Exhorting means coming alongside and inspiring another with the truth. The local assembly is where the gospel message is preached, but also where the Word of God is applied to the circumstances of our lives. Approaching may also be translated “at hand” (Rom. 13:12; Phil. 4:5; James 5:8; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 1:3). Knowing that Christ’s return is imminent, the believers were to encourage each other even more to remain faithful to Him (3:13).[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 267–268). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 136–137). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (pp. 165–166). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, p. 187). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of Hebrews (Vol. 15, pp. 289–291). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] Lane, W. L. (1998). Hebrews 9–13 (Vol. 47B, pp. 289–290). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2191–2192). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1652). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

November 13, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

A prospering love

and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; (3:12)

The apostle Paul knew that genuine believers would always exhibit love (cf. John 13:34–35), therefore he prayed that the Thessalonians’ growing faith would be accompanied by a prospering love. That Paul asked the Lord to cause the Thessalonians’ love to grow indicates he depended on God for the development of spiritual virtues. Whether it was the beginning of the Christian life (justification—Rom. 3:30; 8:30, 33; cf. Isa. 50:8; Jonah 2:9; John 1:12–13) or the process of spiritual growth (sanctification—John 17:17; 1 Thess. 5:23; Jude 1; cf. Ezek. 37:28; Eph. 5:26), God revealed that He ultimately deserves the credit for believers’ maturity (1 Cor. 3:6–7; cf. 2 Cor. 3:5; 9:8; Gal. 2:20).

Paul’s statements in 1:3, “constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love,” and 3:6, “good news of your faith and love,” are clear evidence of the Thessalonians’ love. Here he prayed they would increase and abound in love (agapē), in that love which is the purest and noblest (Rom. 13:8–10; 1 Cor. 13:4, 13; 16:14; Gal. 5:13–14, 22; Eph. 1:15; 4:2; 5:2, 25, 28, 33; Phil. 1:9; Col. 3:19; 1 John 3:16–17). Paul asked first that their love would increase and abound … for one another, that is, within the church (cf. Eph. 1:15; 4:16; Phil. 2:2; Col. 2:2; 3:14; 1 Thess. 4:9; 2 Thess. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8). There are more than thirty positive and negative “one anothers” in the New Testament, and love appears by far the most often (1 Thess. 4:9; Rom. 12:10; 13:8; 2 Thess. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11; 2 John 5). Second, the apostle prayed that their love for all people would increase. He wanted them to have a greater love for the lost and for those who persecuted them, as Jesus commanded His disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44; cf. Deut. 10:19; Rom. 12:14, 20; 1 Tim. 2:1–4). Other New Testament injunctions concerning all people include pursuing peace (Rom. 12:18), doing good (Gal. 6:10), being patient (Eph. 4:2), praying (1 Tim. 2:1), showing consideration (Titus 3:2), and honoring (1 Peter 2:17).

To provide them a practical example to understand that love, Paul told the Thessalonians they should love just as he also loved them. He loved them when they were strangers, in the greatest spiritual need by sacrificially bringing the gospel to them (1 Thess. 1:9; 2:1–2). Then, after they received justification, he loved them by the living sacrifice of his life for their sanctification (2:10–12).[1]


12 Paul’s second petition pertains to “what is lacking in [their] faith” (cf. v. 10), specifically the outworking of that faith in a growing love. Since “Lord” refers to Jesus in vv. 11 and 13 (likewise in all of Paul’s writings for the most part), it is best interpreted that way here. In other words, Paul offers his petition to the Lord Jesus alone as he seeks the enlargement (pleonazō, “increase,” GK 4429) and abundance (perisseuō, “overflow,” GK 4355) of the Thessalonians. Combined, these two words have the force of “increase you to overflowing.” Paul prays such for them, not because they lack love (cf. 4:1, 9–10a), but because continual increase in selfless devotion to others (cf. “do … more and more” in 4:1, 10) is always a need for Christians.

In line with a consistent NT emphasis, the prime objects of love are fellow Christians (“each other”; cf. Jn 13:34–35; Ro 13:8; 1 Th 4:9; 1 Pe 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11, 23). But love also reaches beyond the circle of Christians to all people. Jesus warned against a narrow conception of one’s “neighbor” (Mt 5:43–48; Lk 10:25–37; cf. Mt 19:19; 22:39; Mk 12:31). Daringly, Paul sets himself as a standard of love to be emulated (“just as ours does for you”), a step he could take only because of his imitation of Jesus (cf. 1:6), who is the ultimate standard (Jn 13:34; 15:12).[2]


May the Lord Jesus make your love increase (v. 12)

Whether or not Paul was permitted by God to return to Thessalonica, he nevertheless expresses his desire for them. He not only wants them to grow in the grace of love for other Christians, for non-believers, and even for their persecutors, but he wants that love to ‘overflow’. They should be so full of love for others that they cannot contain it. It must seep out of every part of their lives and be touching those with whom they come into contact.

Love in action is the outward evidence and expression of a living faith. James asks, ‘What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

‘But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

‘Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do’ (James 2:14–18).

Jesus made it abundantly clear that we are to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. In our own strength such commands are impossible to obey, but Paul and his colleagues knew that the Lord is the source of love, which is why they pointed to themselves as a demonstration of divine love. The Thessalonians had seen the love that the Lord produces in action in the lives of the three missionaries, and therefore they had personal examples to follow.

Many years ago the Princess Alice collided with another boat in dense fog on the River Thames and about 600 people drowned in the dark waters. Nearby two ferrymen were mooring their boats for the night. Both heard the noise of the collision and the screams of the stranded but they reacted differently. The first ferryman said to himself, ‘I am tired after a long hard day and I am going home; no one will see me in the fog. It will be an impossible task to save anyone.’ At the coroner’s inquest the ferryman was asked, ‘Did you hear the cries?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘What did you do?’

‘Nothing, sir.’

‘Are you an Englishman? Aren’t you ashamed?’

‘Sir, the shame will never leave me till I die.’

The second ferryman, as soon as he heard the cries for help, jumped back into his boat and rowed as hard as he could towards the wreck. He found numerous survivors floundering in the water, and crammed as many women and children as he could into his boat. When it became too dangerous for him to take anyone else he rowed to shore with the cry, ‘O God, for a bigger boat!’

Are we more like the first or second ferryman? When we hear cries for help, do we make excuses as to why we cannot assist, or do we jump into our boat and row to the rescue? Love is very practical, and yet it is so easy to find reasons not to exercise practical love when others are in need.

There are times when we must stop and examine our lives in the light of the Scriptures and ask ourselves some poignant questions. Is our faith expressed in our love for others? Do we love with actions and in truth as the apostle John commands? In what ways do we love our fellow believers? Would our non-Christian neighbours or work colleagues say that our lives are characterized by love? How do we respond if someone criticizes our faith? How do we demonstrate the love of God to those people who are openly antagonistic towards us? It is possible to march on in the Christian life without ever closely inspecting our lives to see if they measure up to the word of God.[3]


3:12 / The second petition, for the Thessalonians, is as follows: May the Lord make your love increase and overflow. The two petitions of verses 11 and 12 are united by “but” (de), and the Greek word order in the second has “you” (the direct object of the verbs) at the beginning for emphasis. This shows that whatever God has in store for the missionaries—whether to clear the way for them or not (cf. “not what I will, but what you will,” Mark 14:36)—the Thessalonians are foremost in their mind, and this remains their prayer for them. Because Jesus is called “Lord” in verse 11, we must assume that he is the Lord of this verse (see note on 1:1). Thus the prayer is now addressed to him alone. It is for the enlargement of the Thessalonians’ love, love being the hallmark of true Christianity (pleonazō, “to abound,” or “to make to abound,” cf. 2 Thess. 1:3; perisseuō, “to abound,” “to excel,” or “to make to excel,” cf. 1 Thess. 4:1, 10, also 2 Cor. 6:11, 13). The prayer is that it might extend beyond the love that they have for each other (church members) to everyone else (those outside the church; jb, “the whole human race”; cf. 5:15 and Luke 6:32–36, Gal. 6:10, etc. for the same universality). That Paul so prays reminds us that love is a gift of God: he gives both the motive and the model in his own love for us, and he provides the means—the ability to love—by his Spirit. Since God loves everyone (John 3:16), his gift of love to us is to the same end. That end (in some measure at least) had been realized in Paul’s own and his colleagues’ lives, for he adds, just as ours i.e., our love, overflows for you. Paul not only practiced what he preached, but he practiced what he prayed![4]


12. Paul, however, also realizes that the spiritual progress of the Thessalonians can be considered even apart from any visit which he (or he and his companions) might make. Hence, there follows: and as for you, may the Lord cause you to abound and overflow in love toward one another and toward all, just as also we (do) toward you.

As for ourselves, we ardently hope that God may direct our way to you; and (or but) as for you, whether or not God permits us to revisit you, may the Lord (that is, the Lord Jesus in closest possible connection with our God and Father; see on verse 11) cause you to abound and overflow in love.” That expresses the sense of the passage in the light of its preceding context. Note the emphatic position of “as for you” at the very beginning of the sentence. The verbs to abound and (to)overflow are close synonyms. Together they express one idea, namely, that the Thessalonian believers may not merely increase in that most eminent virtue, namely, love—as the outward evidence of their living faith—, but may actually abound (also used by Paul in 2 Thess. 1:3; then Rom. 5:20; 6:1; 2 Cor. 4:15; 8:15; Phil. 4:17); yes, that they may abound in such a manner that this ocean of love, being full, reaches to the top edge of its borders round about (περισσεύσαι, a very descriptive verb of which Paul is fond, using it also in 4:1, 10; and frequently elsewhere), and even overflows (for the sense of περισσεύω is probably not far removed from that of ὑπερπερισσεύω, as in Rom. 5:20; 2 Cor. 7:4), so that it reaches not only fellow-Christians, in fulfilment of Christ’s “new commandment” (see N.T.C. on John 13:34), but even outsiders (5:15; cf. Gal. 6:10; cf. Matt. 5:43–48), being a love “toward one another and toward all.”

For the meaning of the noun love and of the verb to love see N.T.C. on John 13:35 and 21:15–17. The addition “just as we also (do) toward you” (that is, “just as we also abound and overflow in love toward you”) finds its commentary in preceding passages (see on 2:7–12; 2:17–3:1; 3:7–11; see also on 1:6).[5]


12. ὑμᾶς δὲ ὁ κύριος πλεονάσαι καὶ περισσεύσαι τῇ ἀγάπῃ, “and may the Lord enlarge you and make you abound in love.” The wish-prayer is continued with two further optatives. By ὁ κύριος we are probably to understand Jesus: he is the one κύριος as the Father is the one θεός (1 Cor 8:6). The enlargement prayed for may be spiritual (cf. the sense of πλατύνειν in 2 Cor 6:11, 13) rather than numerical. Cf. 2 Thess 1:3 (πλεονάζει ἡ ἀγάπη), where the active verb has intransitive force, unlike the transitive force of πλεονάσαι here. For Paul’s desire to see his converts abounding in love cf. Phil 1:9 (ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον περισσεύῃ, “that your love may abound yet more and more,” where also the active verb (unlike περισσεύσαι here) has intransitive force.

εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας, “to one another and to all.” The same expression recurs in 5:15. It is doubtful if, for all its emphasis, it should be related to Harnack’s hypothesis that there were two distinct groups in the Thessalonian church—a Jewish Christian and a Gentile Christian (as suggested by Lake, Epistles, 89–90). Certainly it conveys the writers’ concern for the unity of all the believers in Thessalonica, but εἰς πάντας does not mean merely “all the brethren” (5:26, 27) but all mankind. The love of God poured into the believers’ hearts by the Holy Spirit could not be reserved for members of their own fellowship; it must overflow to others without restriction.

καθάπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς (sc. περισσεύομεν τῇ ἀγάπῃ) “just as we (abound in love) towards you.” Cf. the καθάπερ clause (similarly with verb to be supplied from the preceding clause) at the end of v 6.[6]


3:12 The Thessalonians had actually been commendable in manifesting true Christian love, but there is always room for development. And so he prays for a deeper measure: may the Lord make you increase and abound in love. Their love should embrace their fellow believers and all men, including their enemies. Its model or pattern should be the love of the apostles: just as we do to you.[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2002). 1 & 2 Thessalonians (pp. 89–90). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Thomas, R. L. (2006). 1 Thessalonians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 405). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Shenton, T. (2006). Opening up 1 Thessalonians (pp. 70–72). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] Williams, D. J. (2011). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (p. 66). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of I-II Thessalonians (Vol. 3, p. 91). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] Bruce, F. F. (1998). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Vol. 45, pp. 71–72). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2034). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

November 10, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

img_1463

we are identified in Christ’s death and resurrection

have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, (6:3b-5)

The second principle Paul emphasizes is an extension of the first. All Christians not only are identified with Christ but are identified with Him specifically in His death and resurrection.

The initial element of the second principle is that all true believers have been baptized into His [Christ’s] death. That is a historical fact looking back to our union with Him on the cross. And the reason we have been buried with Him through baptism into death is that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. That is a historical fact looking back to our union with Him in resurrection.

That truth is far too wondrous for us to understand fully, but the basic and obvious reality of it is that we died with Christ in order that we might have life through Him and live like Him. Again Paul emphasizes not so much the immorality but the impossibility of our continuing to live the way we did before we were saved. By trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we were, by an unfathomable divine miracle, taken back 2,000 years, as it were, and made to participate in our Savior’s death and to be buried with Him, burial being the proof of death. The purpose of that divine act of bringing us through death (which paid the penalty for our sin) and resurrection with Christ was to enable us henceforth to walk in newness of life.

The noble theologian Charles Hodge summarized, “There can be no participation in Christ’s life without a participation in his death, and we cannot enjoy the benefits of his death unless we are par takers of the power of his life. We must be reconciled to God in order to be holy, and we cannot be reconciled without thereby becoming holy” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.], p. 195).

As Christ’s resurrection life was the certain consequence of His death as the sacrifice for our sin, so the believer’s holy life in Christ is the certain consequence of his death to sin in Christ.

Newness translates kairos, which refers to newness of quality and character, not neos, which refers merely to newness in point of time. Just as sin characterized our old life, so righteousness now characterizes our new life. Scripture is filled with descriptions of the believer’s new spiritual life. We are said to receive a new heart (Ezek. 36:26), a new spirit (Ezek. 18:31), a new song (Ps. 40:3), and a new name (Rev. 2:17). We are called a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a new creature (Gal. 6:15), and a new self (Eph. 4:24).

Continuing to affirm the truth that this union with Christ in His death brings new life and also inevitably brings a new way of living, Paul says, For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. In other words, as an old life died, so a new one was necessarily born.

Bishop Handley Moule graphically asserted,

We have “received the reconciliation” that we may now walk, not away from God, as if released from a prison, but with God, as His children in His Son. Because we are justified, we are to be holy, separated from sin, separated to God; not as a mere indication that our faith is real, and that therefore we are legally safe, but because we were justified for this very purpose, that we might be holy. …

The grapes upon a vine are not merely a living token that the tree is a vine and is alive; they are the product for which the vine exists. It is a thing not to be thought of that the sinner should accept justification-and live to himself. It is a moral contradiction of the very deepest kind, and cannot be entertained without betraying an initial error in the man’s whole spiritual creed. (The Epistle to the Romans [London: Picketing & Inglis, n.d.], pp. 160–61)[1]


Baptized into Jesus Christ

Romans 6:3–4

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

After I had first preached the sermon that constitutes the previous study, a member of the congregation at Tenth Presbyterian Church said, “That message was so important and yet so hard to understand that you ought to preach it all over again next week.” I felt that way myself, and that is what I did. However, I did it as Paul himself did it: by going on to Romans 6:3–4, which is what this study is. These two verses are a restatement of the principle for living a godly life laid down in verse 2.

I remind you of where we are. Paul has asked a question that must have been asked of him a thousand times in the course of his ministry: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” He answered by saying: “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

The key words in this answer are “we died to sin.” We saw in the last study that there have been many ways of interpreting those words: that the Christian is no longer responsive to sin; that Christians should die to sin; that the Christian is dying to sin day by day; that Christians cannot continue in sin, because they have renounced it; that the Christian has died to sin’s guilt. But we saw, too, that the real meaning of the phrase is that we died to our old life when God saved us. I used John Stott’s illustrations of John Jones before his conversion and John Jones after his conversion, and of volumes one and two of “our biography.”

The bottom line of this discussion has been that the key to a holy life is not our experiences or emotions, however meaningful or intense these may be, but rather our knowledge of what has happened to us. I stressed the word knowledge because the most important and basic reason for going forward in the Christian life is that we cannot go back.

Knowing and Growing

When you hear this for the first time, you may think that it is just too simple or even that it is a novel (and therefore questionable) interpretation of Romans 6:2. But I would argue that it is neither novel nor questionable, and in proof of this I refer to the very next words Paul writes: “Don’t you know … ?” These words are the start of the question by which Paul reminds us of our identity with Jesus Christ.

Do not pass over those words lightly. Remember that Paul had never been to Rome, though he was planning to visit Rome on a proposed trip to Spain (Rom. 15:24). He had not taught the Christians in Rome personally. Moreover, so far as we know, the church had never had the benefit of any apostolic teaching. Yet, although the Christians in Rome had never had such teaching, Paul assumes their knowledge of this doctrine by these words. In other words, what he is referring to here was common Christian knowledge. Christians have died to sin! Or, to put it in the words he is going to use next, they have been “baptized into Christ Jesus … into his death.” The apostle assumes that this was known to believers everywhere, and he appeals to our knowledge of it as the key to our growth in holiness.

So I say it again: The secret of sanctification is not some neat set of experiences or emotions, however meaningful or intense they may be. It is knowing what has happened to you.

The Meaning of “Baptism”

What Paul says we are to know in verses 3 and 4 also supports my interpretation of verse 2. But before we plunge into that we need to think about the meaning of the word baptism, since it is the key term he uses.

The reason we need to do this is that for the vast majority of today’s people, the mere mention of baptism immediately sets them thinking about the sacrament of water baptism and blinds them to what any text that mentions baptism may actually be saying. It has blinded commentators, too, of course. They also think of the sacrament, and because they do they have produced many wrong interpretations of these verses based on their assumption. Some have taught that the sacrament joins us to Christ and is therefore necessary for salvation. This view is called “baptismal regeneration.” Some assume that Paul is thinking of our baptismal vows, others that it is a matter of coming under Christ’s influence, still others that what is important is our public testimony to our faith in Christ. The last three of these actually do have something to do with water baptism. But Paul is not thinking along these lines at all in these verses, and therefore any approach to them with the idea of the sacrament of water baptism uppermost in our minds will be misleading.

What is “baptism”? A good answer starts by recognizing that there are two closely related words for baptism in the Greek language and that they do not necessarily have the same meaning. One word is baptō, which means “dip” or “immerse.” The other word is baptizō, which may mean “immerse” but may have other meanings as well. This is a normal situation with Greek words. The simpler word usually conveys the most straightforward meaning. The longer word adds specialized and sometimes metaphorical meanings.

It is the longer word that is used for “baptism” in the New Testament. So we need to ask next what the precise meaning of the longer word is.

We gain help from classical literature. The Greeks used the word baptizō from about 400 b.c. to about the second century after Christ, and in their literature baptizō always pointed to a change having taken place by some means. Josephus used it of the crowds that flooded into Jerusalem and “wrecked the city.” Other examples are the dyeing of cloth and the drinking of too much wine. In each of these cases there is a liquid or something like it—the crowds were like a human “wave,” a dye and wine are liquids—but the essential idea is actually that of a change. Jerusalem was wrecked. The dyed cloth changes color. The drinker becomes different; he misbehaves.

The clearest example I know that shows this meaning of baptizō is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 b.c. It is a recipe for making pickles, and it is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be “dipped” (baptō) into boiling water and then “baptized” (baptizō) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern immersing the vegetable in a solution, but the first is temporary. The second, the act of “baptizing” the vegetable, produces a permanent change.

To get this distinction in mind is of enormous help in understanding the New Testament verses that refer to baptism, including our text in Romans, for which thoughts of a literal immersion in water would be nonsense.

Take 1 Corinthians 10:1–2, as an example. “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” That cannot be referring to a water baptism, because the only people who were immersed in water were the Egyptian soldiers, and they were drowned in it. The Israelites did not even get their feet wet. What do the verses mean? Obviously, they refer to a permanent identification of the people with Moses as a result of the Red Sea crossing. Before this they were still in Egypt and could have renounced Moses’ leadership, retaining their allegiance to Pharaoh. But once they crossed the Red Sea they were joined to Moses for the duration of their desert wandering. They were not able to go back.

By now you are probably beginning to see why this discussion of baptism is important and why Paul used the words baptized and baptism in verses 3 and 4. But let me offer a few more texts that are clarified by understanding baptism as change rather than mere immersion in water.

Galatians 3:27. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” This is not referring to water baptism, because if it were, the illustration of being clothed with Christ would be inappropriate. Rather, it refers to our being identified with Christ, like a child identifies with her mother when she dresses in her mother’s clothes or a soldier identifies with the armed forces of his country when he dons a uniform.

Mark 16:16 is well known. Jesus says here: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. …” Scores of people have wrongly concluded from that verse that unless a person first believes in Christ and then is also immersed in water, he or she cannot be saved. But even the poorest Bible student knows that this is not true. A person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. If baptism in water is necessary for salvation, then the believing thief who was crucified with Christ is lost.

Once we get away from the mistaken idea that baptism always refers to water baptism, the verse becomes clear. For what Jesus is saying in Mark 16:16 is that a person needs to be identified with him to be saved. He was saying that mere intellectual assent to the doctrines of Christianity is not enough. It is necessary, to use another of his teachings, that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This last verse is an exact parallel to what the apostle is teaching in Romans 6:3–4, for it means that a true follower of Christ has died to his past life—like a man on his way to execution. Only, in Romans 6, the man has already died and been buried.

Buried Through Baptism

With this lengthy excursion into the meaning of the word baptism in mind, I return to our text to show how these ideas come together. What was the chief idea in Romans 5:12–31? It was the idea of our union with Christ, wasn’t it? Before, we were in Adam; now, we are in Christ. And what is Paul’s answer to “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom. 6:1). It is that we have died to sin: “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Union with Christ! And death to sin!

But notice: That is exactly what baptism signifies, and in that order. The most important idea is that we have been taken out of one state and put into another. We have had an experience similar to that of the Jews after they had been brought through the Red Sea. They were joined to Moses; we are joined to Christ. Or, to put it in the words of Galatians 3:27, we have been clothed with Christ. We are in Christ’s uniform. And what that means, if we look backward, is that we have died to whatever has gone before. We died to the old life when Christ transferred us to the new one.

As soon as we see how these ideas go together, we see why Paul’s thoughts turned to the word baptism as a way of unfolding what he had in mind when he said: “How can we live in [sin] any longer?”

I want you to notice something else, too. When theologians write about our being “baptized into Christ” and how this is the equivalent of our being united to him by the Holy Spirit, they stress that we are identified with Christ in all respects. That is, we are identified with him in (or baptized into) his death, burial, and resurrection. One commentator got into this theme so deeply that he worked out parallels to our identification with Christ in his election, virgin birth, circumcision, physical growth, baptism by John the Baptist, suffering, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.5 Much of this is very true, of course. If we have been identified with Christ, as we have been, we are identified with him in many respects, particularly in his death and resurrection.

But what I want to point out is that Paul does not say here that we have been identified with Christ by baptism in these other respects. He does not, for example, even say that we have been baptized into Christ’s resurrection, though he goes on to say that “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (v. 4) and later that we have been “united with him like this in his resurrection” (v. 5). In verse 3 he speaks of our baptism into Christ in one respect only: “into his death.” And in the next phrase he shows that what he has particularly in mind is Christ’s burial: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.”

This flow of thought is so strong that F. Godet rightly says, “According to these words, it is not to death, it is to the internment of the dead, that Paul compares baptism.”

This is striking, and quite puzzling, too. I notice, for example, that when theologians work out the parallels of our identification with Christ, they have little trouble showing how we have been crucified with him, raised with him or even made to ascend into heaven with him. But they have trouble with the burial. “How can we be said to be buried with Christ?” they ask. “And what does this add that is not already covered by our death to sin?”

Yet burial is the thing Paul emphasizes.

How do we account for this? And how do we account for the difficult way Paul puts it: “buried with him through baptism into death.” More than one commentator has struggled with the awkwardness of that phrase, suggesting in some cases that it is even backward, since no one is buried into death (that is, buried to die) but rather is buried because he died.

I suggest that if this is approached as I have been suggesting, the problem is not difficult at all. The reason burial is an important step even beyond death is that burial puts the deceased person out of this world permanently. A corpse is dead to life. But there is a sense in which it can still be said to be in life, as long as it is around. When it is buried, when it is placed in the ground and covered with earth, it is removed from the sphere of this life permanently. It is gone. That is why Paul, who wanted to emphasize the finality of our being removed from the rule of sin and death to the rule of Christ, emphasizes it. He is repeating but also intensifying what he has already said about our death to sin. “You have not only died to it,” he says. “You have been buried to it.” To go back to sin once you have been joined to Christ is like digging up a dead body.

The Public Profession

I have been saying throughout this study that when Paul refers to our being baptized into Christ, he is not thinking chiefly of the sacrament of baptism but rather of our having been joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit. I do not want to go back on that. The very next verses prove this view, for in them Paul speaks explicitly of our being “united with him in his death [and] resurrection.” This is something the Holy Spirit does.

But, while emphasizing this, I do not want to miss the significance of the sacrament of baptism as a Christian’s public renunciation of his past life and a profession of his new identification with Christ.

This is not so obvious to us today perhaps, since baptism is something that generally takes place in an exclusively Christian environment and for many people means very little. But it was not so in Paul’s day. And it is not so in many places in the world even today. In the ancient world, to be identified with Christ in baptism was a bold and risky declaration. It often put the believer’s life in jeopardy. There was nothing wrong with listening to Christian preaching or propaganda. But when a Christian was baptized, he was saying to the state as well as to his fellow believers that he was now a follower of Jesus Christ and that he was going to be loyal to him regardless of the outcome. It meant “Christ before Caesar.”

Baptism was as nearly an irreversible step as a believer in Jesus Christ could take. Therefore, even though Paul is not thinking primarily about water baptism in Romans 6—water baptism is something we do; the baptism Paul is talking about is something that has been done to us—the sacrament of baptism is nevertheless a fit public testimony to what baptism into Christ by the Holy Spirit means: that we have been united to Christ and that the old life is done for us forever. That is what you have professed if you have been baptized, particularly if you have been baptized as an adult. You have told the world that you are not going back, that you are going forward with Jesus.

But I come to the questions that I know are in many people’s minds, the same questions I touched on at the end of the last study: “But what if I do go back? What if I do sin?”

Here are three points to remember:

  1. It won’t work. Do you remember my illustration of an adult trying to return to childhood. Can he do it? Well, he can act childlike, though it would be a dishonor to him and an embarrassment to everyone else. But to become a child again? It can’t be done. An adult can behave in an infantile manner. But an adult cannot be a child. In the same way, if you are a true Christian, you cannot return to sin in the same way you were in it previously. You can sin. We do sin. But it is not the same. If nothing else, you cannot enjoy sin as you did before. And you will not even be able to do it convincingly. You will be like Peter trying to swear that he did not know Jesus, after having spent three years in Jesus’ school. People will look at you and say, “But surely you are one of his disciples.”
  2. God will stop you. God will not stop you from sinning, but he will stop you from continuing in it. And he will do it in one of two ways. Either he will make your life so miserable that you will curse the day you got into sin and beg God to get you out of it, or God will put an end to your life. Paul told the Corinthians that because they had dishonored the Lord’s Supper, God had actually taken some of them home to heaven (1 Cor. 11:30). If God did it to them for that offense, he will do it to you for persistence in more sinful things.
  3. If you do return to the life you lived before coming to Christ and if you are able to continue in it, you are not saved. In fact, it is even worse than that. If you are able to go back once you have come to Christ, it means, not only that you are not saved, but that you even have been inoculated against Christianity.

I am sure that is why the author of Hebrews wrote, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance …” (Heb. 6:4–6). Those verses are not referring to a true believer in Christ being lost—How could they in view of Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 and 8?—but rather of one who was close enough to have tasted the reality of Christ and who nevertheless turned back. It teaches that the closer you are to Christ, if you do go back, the harder it will be to come to Christ again. In some cases, as in the case described here, it will be impossible.

So don’t go back!

I say it again: Don’t go back!

If you have been saved by Jesus, you have been saved forever. There is nothing before you but to go on growing in righteousness![2]


4 Paul uses baptism to illustrate this vital union with Christ in his death. Paul apparently pictures burial with Christ, however momentarily, in the submergence of the body under the baptismal waters. The importance of burial is that it attests the reality of death (1 Co 15:3–4). It expresses with finality the end of the old life governed by relationship with Adam. It also expresses the impossibility of a new life apart from divine action. The God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead has likewise imparted life to those who are his. The ability to “walk in newness of life” (NASB; NIV, “live a new life”) is the evidence of the new type of life granted to the child of God. This is a distinctive type of life realized only by one united to Christ (cf. 2 Co 5:17), so that Christ is its dynamic. In this connection, the question arises, Why should the resurrection of Christ be described as accomplished “through the glory of the Father?” It is because “glory” here has the meaning of “power” (cf. Jn 11:40).

The latter half of v. 4 has a noticeably balanced structure (“just as Christ …, we too”), recalling the pattern in 5:12, 18, 21. This suggests that the principle of solidarity advanced in 5:12–21 is still thought of as operating here in the significance of baptism. There is no explicit statement that in baptism we were raised with Christ, as well as being made to share in his death. Resurrection is seen rather as an effect that logically follows from the identification with Christ in his death. However, resurrection is verbally connected with baptism in the important parallel passage in Colossians: “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). So it would not be wrong to associate resurrection with baptism here (cf. vv. 5, 13).

There is a certain awkwardness in the statement that we were buried with Christ through baptism into death, since in human experience, burial follows rather than precedes death. However, as Sanday and Headlam, 156, have pointed out, this awkwardness disappears in the prominence given death in the whole passage. It is not into Christ’s burial that believers are baptized but into his death, because it was there that he dealt with sin. (On these verses, see E. Schweizer, “Dying and Rising with Christ,” NTS 14 [1967–68]: 1–14.)[3]


6:3–4 / The believer as the recipient of the benefits of Christ’s death is reinforced by the reference to baptism in verse 3: we were baptized into Christ’s death. Mention of baptism, of course, is an explicit reference to the sacraments and presupposes the reality of the church. Paul knows of no faith that is not attested to publicly via the sacraments and corporately in the church. And neither did the early church, for in prefacing verse 3 with, Or don’t you know, Paul obviously appeals to accepted tradition before him. The phrase, into Christ Jesus, is an abbreviation of the traditional baptismal formula, “into the name of Christ Jesus” (e.g., Matt. 28:19). Like the phrase, “taken into account” (5:13 above), this phrase derives from the language of accounting, wherein believers are “entered upon Christ’s account,” so to speak. Elsewhere Paul says believers were baptized into Christ’s body, thus stressing the corporate nature of faith (1 Cor. 12:13), but here the idea is one of personal union with Christ.

In speaking of union with Christ it is improbable that Paul borrows either thought or language from the various mystery religions of his day. Whereas the mysteries stressed the initiates’ experience, Paul stresses God’s decisive act on behalf of believers that is both signified and assured by baptism. The word “forensic,” which we used earlier of Paul’s understanding of righteousness, also applies here, for Christ’s death and resurrection usher believers into a new condition. With God they stand on the ground of faith instead of wrath, and they are freed from the pull of sin and death. What happened to Jesus on the cross happens to believers in baptism. Baptism is a sign of participating in Christ’s death and resurrection, of “charging our lives to his account.” Neither mechanical (i.e., something which occurs apart from human involvement), nor magical (i.e., the manipulation of supernatural power), baptism is an act of faith wherein God communicates the effects of Christ’s death and resurrection to the receptive heart.

The train of thought continues in verse 4: we were buried with him. The metaphor proceeds from the act of dying to the fact of death. Baptism denotes the state of death in which the power and effects of sin are annulled. In addressing converts baptized as adults, Paul correlates the immersion of baptism to the burial of the dead, in which the old life has ceased and has been committed to a foreign element. This is not the death of Nothingness, however, which awaits the old Adam, but a necessary prelude to resurrection and life. “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24; see 1 Cor. 15:36). When Paul speaks of the death of believers in relation to the death of Christ he is not suggesting some kind of cultic identification, but rather the fellowship of Christ with his own, in which Christ’s death and resurrection are made fruitful for the church.

Union with Christ recurs throughout 6:1–8 in waves of repetition. “[We] were baptized into Christ Jesus,” “[we] were baptized into his death” (v. 3), “we were … buried with him” (v. 4), “we have been united with him” (v. 5), “our old self was crucified with him” (v. 6), “we died with Christ,” “we will also live with him” (v. 8). Paul’s cup overflows with syn-compounds (meaning “with” or “together” in Greek). The new existence is never spoken of apart from Christ because the new existence is Christ. He is our life (Col. 3:4). In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing” (15:5). So too with Paul, the Christian life is not an isolated effort but a corporate existence linked inextricably with Christ.

Believers share Christ’s fate, including his tomb! Only thus can they share his resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is a precursor to our own, so that we too may live a new life. The Greek preserves a more concrete summons to the moral life, “so also let us walk in newness of life.” Christ’s resurrection is thus presented not to indulge the readers in dreams of future glory, but to exhort them to moral resolution here and now. To be sure, Christ’s resurrection is a prelude to believers’ resurrection at the endtime, but it bears fruit today by calling believers to moral regeneration and responsibility. The Christian life is not a new attitude or better philosophy, but the release of righteousness into everyday life in an inexorable movement, step-by-step, toward Christ-likeness.[4]


3, 4. Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? So then we were buried with him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

When Paul asks, “Don’t you know that,” etc.? he reminds us of the style of the Master. See especially John 3:10; 19:10; but compare also such passages as Matt. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31; Luke 6:3, to mention only a few. The question shows too that although Paul had not himself established the church of Rome, he takes for granted that the practical significance of Christ’s death for Christian living is a matter on which his readers could be expected to be thoroughly informed. See also on 7:1, p. 214.

The apostle assumes that those (including himself) who had listened to the public preaching of the gospel or who by any other means had been converted, had publicly confessed their faith and had been baptized. See Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:37, 38; 9:18. He now asks, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

To be baptized “into Christ Jesus” implies to be brought into personal relation to the Savior. For similar expressions see Matt. 28:19 (“baptizing into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”); 1 Cor. 1:13 (“baptized into the name of Paul”); and 10:2 (“baptized into Moses”). Paul, accordingly, points out that baptizing people into Christ Jesus implies baptizing them into—i.e., in connection with the sacrament of baptism bringing them into personal relationship with—Christ’s death, so that this death becomes meaningful to them, teaching them that by it the guilt of their sins had been removed, and that they had received power to fight and overcome sin’s pollution.

On the surface the statement, “We were buried with him through baptism into his death” may seem confusing, as if burial precedes death. Besides, how is it possible for any person to be buried into another’s death? However, when we bear in mind the context, the difficulty disappears, as will be shown:

The dangerous doctrine of the antinomians was leading people astray. This sinister heresy caused Paul to emphasize the necessity of making a complete break with the sinful life of the past. So he says, “We were buried into his—i.e., Christ’s—death; that is, by the power of the Holy Spirit we were made to delve down deeply into the meaning of that marvelous death. In fact, so deeply did we, with heart and mind, bury ourselves into it that we began to see its glorious meaning for our lives. Therefore we reject and loathe the terrible wicked slogan, Let us continue to live in sin in order that grace may increase.”

Through baptism and reflection on its meaning these early converts, including Paul, had been brought into a very close personal relationship with their Lord and Savior and with the significance of his self-sacrificing death. The meaning of that death had been blessed to their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Paul now also reminds his readers that Christ was raised from the dead through “the glory”—here meaning “the majestic power” (see on 1:23, p. 74)—of the Father.

Since the Savior’s beloved ones are “in him,” the relationship being very close and inseparable (John 10:28; 17:24; Rom. 8:35–39; Col. 3:3), it follows that included in the purpose of his resurrection was this goal: “that we might walk in newness of life,” a life dedicated no longer to sin but to the glory of God Triune.

It must be understood that Christ’s resurrection from the dead must be given its full meaning, as that great event which led to his saving activity in heaven (Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20–23; Heb. 7:25).

For walking, in the sense of conducting oneself or living, see such passages as the following: Gen. 17:1; Exod. 16:4; Ps. 56:13; 101:2; 119:1; Rom. 4:12; 8:1, 4; 13:13; 14:5; 1 Cor. 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:16, 25; Eph. 2:10; 3:6–19.[5]


4 συνετάφημεν αὐτῷ, “we were buried with him.” συνθάπτειν is one of about 40 συν- compounds which form a characteristic and distinctive feature of Paul’s style and theology (more than half the 40 appear only in Paul in the NT). He uses them both to describe the common privilege, experience and task of believers, usually nouns (συγκοινωνός, συγχαίρειν, σύζυγος, συμπαρακαλεῖσθαι, συναγωνίζεσθαι, συνεργός,, etc.), and to describe a sharing in Christ’s death and life, usually verbs (συζῆν, συζωοποιεῖν, συμμορφίζεσθαι, σύμμορφος, συμπάσχειν, σύμφυτος, συναποθνῄσκειν, συνδοξάζειν, συνεγείρειν, συνθάπτειν, and συ(ν)σταυροῦν; also συγκληρονόμος; cf. TDNT 7:786–87). The two uses were no doubt linked in Paul’s mind, to express the communality of believers rooted in a dependence upon their communality in Christ. Note also συμμαρτυρεῖν and συναντιλαμβάνεσθαι with reference to the Spirit, συνεργεῖν with reference to God, and συνωδίνειν and συστενάζειν with reference to creation (all within 8:16–28). The prominence of the death-resurrection motif in the compounds uniting believer to Christ underlines the distinctively Christian (Pauline) character of the teaching. Paul appeals not simply to the wider sense of the appropriateness of death imagery when describing conversion or initiation to a new faith. Fundamental is the eschatological claim that with Christ’s death a whole epoch has passed and a new age begun (see also on 6:8). As the συν- compounds later on confirm (8:22), this is not a merely individual experience, but a shared experience which involves creation as well. Since the train of thought from the contrast between the ages and the two individuals who sum up the two ages divided by death (5:12–21) is so clear, it is less likely that Paul derives his συν- language here from the idea of being caught up with the Lord at the final consummation (Käsemann, 162; Schnelle, 79); were that the case the absence of συν compounds in 1 Thess 4:14–17, which is modeled on older apocalyptic imagery anyway (cf. 1 Enoch 1.9; Schweizer, “Dying,” 2), would be surprising.

διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος, “through baptism.” Here the ritual act is almost certainly in view (Fazekas, 314; cf. Mark 1:4; 11:30; Luke 7:29; Acts 1:22; 10:37; 13:24; 18:25; 19:3–4; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12; 1 Pet 3:21), though βάπτισμα also appears as a metaphor in Mark 10:38–39. As it stands, the phrase could signify that God acted through the ritual act, though that would run the danger of encouraging the sort of misunderstanding Paul attacks in 1 Cor 10:1–12. Or it could denote baptism as the locus or occasion of God’s action (cf. Col 2:12—συνταφέντες ἐν τῷ βαπτισμῷ); but not baptism as acting subject, as, e.g., in Schlier, “Taufe,” 55 (“baptism effects …”), or Leenhardt (“the rite of baptism makes this grace actual …”), or G. Barth 103, (“baptism gives freedom … and participation …”). Or the “through” phrase could include the idea of baptism as a person’s response within and to the action of God (cf. the talk of God accomplishing his purpose “through faith,” as in 3:22, 25, 30; and Col 2:12)—baptism as the psychologically climactic expression of commitment to and self-identification with the last Adam. The baptized’s faith is, of course, taken for granted (cf. Schlatter; Fazekas, 316; Kertelge, Rechtfertigung, 265; Thyen, 203; Ridderbos, Paul, 213, 414; Achtemeier, 107), not forgotten, nor denied (cf. particularly 1:17 and the thematic role of πίστις and πιστεύειν in the central argument of chaps. 3–4); the absence of πίστις from this context is more a consequence of Paul’s structuring of his argument by focusing in turn on different aspects of the whole (see chaps. 6–8 Introduction) than anything else, with βάπτισμα here standing for the already emphasized πίστις. Käsemann rightly notes how little we have to go on here to construct a doctrine of baptism.

εἰς τὸν θάνατον, “into death.” The phrase goes with the verb; for the ancients the combination (buried into death) would be neither tautologous nor strange (against Cranfield). “The event of dying, of departure from this world, was first really concluded by burial” (E. Stommel, cited by Schnackenburg, Baptism, 34, and Schlier). “θάνατος denotes neither the process of dying, nor the moment in which life is extinguished, but the condition into which someone passes at the end of his life” (Schlatter); cf. neb: “… were buried with him, and lay dead.” Petersen notes that the phenomenon of secondary or double burial sheds light on Paul’s talk of an event (aorist—[first] burial) which begins a more drawn-out transition. As several have noted, the reference to Jesus’ burial as well as to his death probably echoes the kerygmatic formula of 1 Cor 15:3–4 (G. Barth, 100, and Halter, 41, 49, with bibliography).

It is unclear whether in this clause Paul means merely to repeat the final clause of v 3 (the absence of αὐτοῦ in the second Clause is hardly significant, despite Frid, 191–94, though in view of v 10 that death can properly be described as a “death to sin”). The superficial attraction of pairing off the most closely related phrases (εἰς τὸν θάνατον/εἰς τὸν θάνατον; ἐβαπτίσθημεν/διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος) leaves συνετάφημεν unaccounted for. More likely then in v 4a Paul reorders and elaborates the elements of the preceding thought, splitting up the metaphor βαπτίζεσθαι εἰς τὸν θάνατον into a more direct statement of the epochal reality thus imaged (συνετάφημεν εἰς τὸν θάνατον), and condensing the metaphor back into the ritual act which provided it (διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος). Either way baptism here is linked only with Christ’s death, with the imbalance of the following clauses (see below and on 6:5; contrast Col 2:12) implying a refusal to extend the association to resurrection (rightly Leenhardt; against, e.g., Bruce). The more closely the imagery of baptism is tied to immersion (LSJ, βαπτίζω, etc.), the less fitted is it to include the thought of reemergence from the water (= resurrection), all the more so since the correlate to immersion “into Christ” would then presumably be reemergence out of Christ? (cf. M. Barth, Sakrament, 224–25,227–29, 243–44). “In this world baptism corresponds to Christ’s death, the new περιπατεῖν to Christ’s resurrection” (Gäumann, 77; cf. Halter, 50–51) (see also on 13:14). Hence also the inadequacy of equating βαπτισθῆναι with δικαιωθῆναι (as Dinkler, “Verhältnis,” does). The metaphors are different, with the latter offering much greater possibilities (including the περιπατεῖν and different tenses).

ἵνα ὥσπερ … οὕτως καί, “in order that as … so also.” The reversion to one of the main structural features of the preceding passage (5:12, 18, 19, and especially 21) is no doubt deliberate. The sweeping comparisons and contrasts between the epochs of Adam and of Christ begin to be particularized and to be qualified. The new epoch of Christ does not mean an end to the old, but neither does its realization in the lives of believers await the complete end of the old. In this age the outworking of the decisive act of Christ is not yet sinless conduct or deathless life, but morally responsible conduct which expresses the life of the Christ beyond death. This ἵνα thus answers to the false and blasphemous ἵνα of v 1 (Wilckens).

ἠγέρθη Χριστὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν, “Christ was raised from the dead,” has a formulaic ring (6:4, 9; 7:4; 8:34; 1 Cor 15:12; cf. 15:20; 2 Tim 2:8). The one who effected the resurrection was of course God (cf. the active form of the same formula: Rom 4:24; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Cor 6:14; 15:15; 2 Cor 4:14; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20; Col 2:12; 1 Thess 1:10; 1 Pet 1:21); see on 4:24 and further Kramer, Christ, 19–44.

διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός, “through the glory of the Father.” In resurrection formulae the agency used by God is not usually mentioned. Where it is specified elsewhere Paul speaks of God’s “Spirit” or his “power” (8:11; 1 Cor 6:14; cf. 2 Cor 13:4); but here he chooses the more unexpected phrase, probably deliberately, to avoid attributing Christ’s resurrection to the Spirit (cf. 1:4; 8:11), thus indicating already an awareness that the relation of exalted Christ to Spirit of God was an issue of some theological sensitivity (see further Dunn, Christology, 144). In this range of meaning, δόξα usually refers to the visible splendor of heaven, of heavenly beings and of God in particular (in Paul, 1:23; 3:23; 1 Cor 11:7; 15:40–41; 2 Cor 4:6; Eph 1:17), and, more frequently in Paul, of what believers can hope to share in as the climax of God’s saving purpose (2:7, 10; 3:23; 5:2; 8:18, 21; 9:23; 1 Cor 2:7; 15:41; Eph 1:18; Phil 3:21; Col 1:27; 3:4; 1 Thess 2:12; 2 Thess 2:14); see further BGD, δόξα, and on 1:21; 3:23; and 9:4. But the more dynamic notion is not unexpected, since there is a relational element in the thought: the divine as perceived by the human, with the thought of the divine as experienced by the human not far away (see references in Cranfield; BGD; cites Wisd Sol 9:11 and Philo, Spec. Leg. 1.45; in Paul cf. particularly 2 Cor 3:18; Eph 3:16; Phil 4:19; Col 1:11; and 2 Thess 1:9). Black, however, takes the διά as denoting “attendant circumstances, that is, the accompaniment of a manifestation of the glorious power of God.”

ἡμεῖς ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν, “we should walk in newness of life.” περιπατέω in the sense of “conduct oneself,” used figuratively of the walk of life, is untypical of Greek thought (BGD; TDNT 5:941), but characteristically Jewish (e.g., Exod 18:20; Deut 13:4–5; 1 Kgs 9:4; 2 Kgs 22:2; Ps 86:11; Prov 28:18; Isa 33:15). The divergence between Jewish and Greek idiom at this point is indicated by the infrequency with which περιπατέω is used to translate the regular הָלַךְ, hālak of the OT (only in 2 Kgs 20:3; Prov 8:20; and Eccl 11:9). NT usage therefore reflects knowledge of the Hebrew idiom rather than of the LXX. So also obviously in its infrequent use outside John and Paul (Mark 7:5; Acts 21:21; Heb 13:9; Rev 21:24), but also in its more frequent appearance in John (8:12; 11:9–10; 12:35), and in the predominantly Pauline usage (Rom 8:4; 13:13; 14:15; 1 Cor 3:3; 7:17; 2 Cor 4:2; 5:7; 10:2–3; 12:18; etc.; not the Pastorals). The aorist (περιπατήσωμεν) presumably implies that conversion means a decisive transition to a new lifestyle; cf. neb: “so also we might set our feet upon the new path of life.”

The typical OT metaphor speaks of walking “in the law/statutes/ordinances/ways” of God (e.g., Exod 16:4; Lev 18:3–4; Deut 28:9; Josh 22:5; Jer 44:23; Ezek 5:6–7; Dan 9:10; Mic 4:2). In writing ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς Paul clearly intends a contrast. This is implicit both in the καινότης (cf. its only other NT usage in 7:6: ἐν καινότητι πνεύματος καὶ οὑ παλαιότητι γράμματος; see further TDNT 3:447–51) and in the ζωή, which in the context is clearly thought of as derivative from Christ’s risen life (ὥσπερ … οὕτως …; cf. BGD, ζωή 2). For Paul the dominion of sin is not broken by the law but only eschatologically. See also on 6:9 and further on 8:4. The fact that the second half of the parallel has been suspended (buried with Christ, but not yet raised with him) also tells against the language being derived from or framed in parallel to the mysteries, since this “eschatological reservation” is also distinctively Christian; and an emphasis derived in reaction to a toorealized (baptismal) eschatology in Corinth (1 Cor 4:8; 10:1 ff.; 15:12) (e.g., G. Barth, 94–98; Schnelle, 80) would surely betray more evidence of its polemic origin.[6]


6:4 Water baptism gives a visual demonstration of baptism into Christ. It pictures the believer being immersed in death’s dark waters (in the person of the Lord Jesus), and it pictures the new man in Christ rising to walk in newness of life. There is a sense in which a believer attends the funeral of his old self when he is baptized. As he goes under the water he is saying, “All that I was as a sinful son of Adam was put to death at the cross.” As he comes up out of the water he is saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (see Gal. 2:20).

Conybeare and Howson state that “this passage cannot be understood unless it be borne in mind that the primitive baptism was by immersion.”

The apostle moves on to state that the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for us to walk in newness of life. He states that Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This simply means that all the divine perfections of God—His righteousness, love, justice, etc.—demanded that He raise the Lord. In view of the excellence of the Person of the Savior, it would not have been consistent with God’s character to leave the Savior in the tomb. God did raise Him, and because we are identified with Christ in His resurrection, we can and should walk in newness of life.[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 321–323). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 657–664). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[3] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 105). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans (pp. 159–161). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 195–196). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] Dunn, J. D. G. (1998). Romans 1–8 (Vol. 38A, pp. 313–316). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1701). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 

November 9, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

img_1462

The Illustrative Parable

Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. (16:20–22)

The solemn phrase amēn amēn (truly, truly) underscores the importance of what the Lord was about to say to the disciples (cf. v. 23; 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20, 21, 38; 14:12; 21:18). Jesus’ followers would soon weep and lament over His death (cf. 20:11; Luke 24:17–21) but the world, the Jewish leaders, and the apostate nation which had so bitterly opposed Him would rejoice.

But Christ’s enemies’ joy over His death would be short-lived. The Jewish leaders had mockingly promised to believe in Jesus if He came down from the cross (Matt. 27:42). But when He did the far greater miracle of rising from the dead, they refused to believe. Instead, they hastily concocted a scheme to cover up the resurrection, bribing the soldiers to spread the lie that Jesus’ body had been stolen while they were sleeping (Matt. 28:11–15). Then the Jewish leaders tried desperately, but futilely, to suppress the apostles from preaching the resurrection (Acts 4:1–21; 5:17–18, 27–42).

While the world’s joy over Christ’s death would turn to dismay, just the opposite would be the case with the disciples. Your grief, Jesus assured them, will be turned into joy. The Lord was not saying that the event causing their sorrow would be replaced by an event producing joy but rather that the same event (the cross) that caused their mourning would be the cause of their joy. The dark shadows of sorrow and grief cast by the cross fled before the brilliant, glorious light of the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4–47). That light also caused the disciples to view the cross in its proper perspective, making it an unending source of joy for them (cf. v. 22; Acts 13:52). As Paul exulted, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). The cross is foundational to all Christian joy, because it is the basis of redemption.

A vivid example of an event that initially causes pain but ultimately brings joy is childbirth. The reality that a woman … in labor … has pain stems from the Edenic curse that God pronounced on Eve in the aftermath of the fall. Genesis 3:16 records that “to the woman [God] said, ‘I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children’ ” (cf. Ps. 48:6; Isa. 13:8; 21:3; 26:17; Jer. 4:31; 6:24; 22:23; 49:24; 50:43; Mic. 4:9–10; 1 Thess. 5:3). Yet after a woman gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish she has been through. The intense anguish and suffering of labor in giving birth fades in the face of the consuming joy that a child has been born into the world.

In the same way though the disciples would have grief in the short-term, they could take comfort in the Lord’s promise, I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice. In verses 16 and 19 Jesus spoke of the disciples seeing Him; here He told them that He will see them. His knowledge of believers is more important than and foundational to their knowledge of Him. “You have come to know God,” Paul wrote, “or rather to be known by God” (Gal. 4:9). The reality that no one will take the disciples’ joy away from them indicates that more than just seeing Jesus after the resurrection is in view, since that lasted only forty days. The Lord’s reference, as noted above, is to the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost to permanently indwell them. The disciples’ Spirit-produced joy (Gal. 5:22; cf. Rom. 14:17; 1 Thess. 1:6) would be permanent. Nothing can undo the work of grace wrought in believers’ lives through the power of the cross.[1]


22 Jesus now applies the illustration to the lot of the disciples. This will be their time of grief, but Jesus will see them again, which will lead to rejoicing. The Christian does not reject sorrow and pain but understands it as part of the human experience in a world that has turned its back on God. Grief is to be accepted and endured but always with the confidence that it is no more than a passing stage (cf. Ro 8:18–25).

In v. 16 Jesus had said that after a little while they would see him. Now he promises, “I will see you again.” To see Jesus is to be seen by him. The change stresses the reciprocal nature of the coming relationship. At that time, “you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” Like the joy accompanying the birth of a child, so will be the disciples’ joy in restored fellowship with their Master. Temple, 2:296, writes that Paul’s “glorious outburst” in Romans 8:35–39 is “no more than a symphony on the theme propounded before the event by the Lord Himself.”[2]


16:21–22. Their grief would also turn to joy because they would see him again. We cannot be sure that the Lord intended any kind of time frame in the choice of this analogy. But the pain of labor, however long it may seem, is normally a little while. Because of the confusion brought on by grief, Jesus kept repeating himself—another key to communication that we now call “the principle of successive rehearsals.” The grief turning to joy was not like a sorrow followed by joy—for example, illness. In that case, the absence of the cause of the grief brings about the joy. Not so with the birth of a baby. When pregnancy culminates in delivery, the cause of pain becomes the cause of joy.[3]


22. And, indeed, you too are now in sorrow, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and that joy of yours will no one take away from you.

At this moment the disciples are sorrowing (cf. 14:1, 27; 16:6). They cannot reconcile themselves to the idea of their Master’s imminent departure. However, Jesus declares that he will see them again. This is the counterpart of verse 19, “You will see me.” That this “seeing-one-another-again” refers to the entire dispensation of the Spirit (the fruit of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection), and not merely to the physical resurrection. is very clear from the fact that we are distinctly told that, as a result, the hearts of the disciples will rejoice with a joy which no one will ever be able to take away. Besides, the opening words of verse 23 remove any doubt on this score. When Jesus says, “And in that day you will not question me with respect to anything,” he certainly is not thinking merely of the one day of twenty-four hours when he arose from the grave! The day of verse 23 has already lasted almost two thousand years! To be sure, the rejoicing would begin on the very day of Christ’s resurrection, but that day ushers in (and must not be thought of as separate from) the entire dispensation of the Spirit. Why this is true has been explained in connection with 16:7.[4]


21–22 To clarify the nature of the change a brief parable is adduced: a woman in labor has anguish, but when her child is born her anguish is turned to joy; so too the anguish of the disciples will give place to gladness, for the Lord who has died will appear to them (“I shall see you”), and thereafter their joy will be perpetual. The statement that Jesus will see the disciples, replacing that of v 16 (“You will see me”), shows that more is in view than simply a fresh spiritual insight on their part. The disciples will know joy instead of sadness because Jesus, having left them in death, will meet them in resurrection life. It is the Easter resurrection that is in view. Consequent on that no man will have power to rob the disciples of their joy, because Easter is not an isolated event but the beginning of the new creation (20:22), wherein disciples will know the presence of the Lord in a manner impossible in the days of his flesh. From that time on, therefore, life for them is existence in the shared fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (14:21, 23, 26).[5]


16:22 Again we must express ignorance as to the time indicated by the Lord’s words, “I will see you again.” Does this refer to His resurrection, His sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, or His Second Advent? In all three cases, the result is rejoicing, and a joy that cannot be taken away.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (pp. 216–218). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] 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. 593). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 302). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, pp. 333–334). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). John (Vol. 36, p. 285). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1554). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 

November 5, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

img_0647

the law as guardian and guide

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. (3:24)

Second, the Law has become a guardian and guide to the Jews and, in a less unique and more general sense, to all mankind.

A paidagōgos (tutor) was not a teacher or schoolmaster proper (KJV) but rather a slave employed by Greek or Roman families, whose duty was to supervise young boys in behalf of their parents. They took their young charges to and from school, made sure they studied their lessons, and trained them in obedience. They were strict disciplinarians, scolding and whipping as they felt it necessary. Paul told the Corinthian believers—who often behaved liked spoiled children—that, even if they “were to have countless tutors [paidagōgous] in Christ,” he would be their only “father through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). Continuing the contrast of paidagōgos and father, he later asks, “Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” (v. 21).

The role of the paidagōgos was never permanent, and it was a great day of deliverance when a boy finally gained freedom from his paidagōgos. His purpose was to take care of the child only until he grew into adulthood. At that time the relationship was changed. Though the two of them might remain close and friendly, the paidagōgos, having completed his assignment, had no more authority or control over the child, now a young man, and the young man had no more responsibility to be directly under the paidagōgos.

The sole purpose of the Law, God’s divinely appointed paidagōgos, was to lead men to Christ, that they might be justified. After a person comes to Him, there is no longer need for the external ceremonies and rituals to act as guides and disciplinarians, because the new inner principles operate through the indwelling Christ, in whom is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). The law in the ceremonial sense is done away with, though in the moral sense it remains always an intimate friend that one seeks to love and favor.

Before Christ came, the law of external ritual and ceremony, especially the sacrificial system, pictured the once-for-all, perfect, and effective sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. When the perfect Christ comes into the believer’s heart, those imperfect pictures of Him have no more purpose or significance.[1]


24 The law was, therefore, a paidagōgos (GK 4080, “pedagogue,” “one who leads a child,” i. e., “instructor,” “custodian,” “administrator of discipline”) to lead God’s people until the time of Christ. A pedagogue was “a slave employed by Greek and Roman families to have general charge of a boy in the years from about six to sixteen, watching over his outward behavior and attending him” (Burton, 200; cf. also Michael J. Smith, “The Role of the Pedagogue in Galatians,” BSac 163 [2006]: 197–214). By analogy, then, Paul is saying that the law both kept (or guarded) and disciplined the people of God until Christ, demonstrating both (1) the minority of the one under a pedagogue and (2) the temporary nature of such an arrangement. The law’s pedagogical function was to bring people to understand their sinfulness, their inability to do anything to rectify that condition, and to guide people to Christ, Abraham’s Seed and the personal fulfillment of God’s promise.[2]


3:24 / Through his use of the word so Paul indicates that now he is giving a straightforward answer to the question he raised in verse 19. The law’s purpose was custodial for the period before Christ. The law’s function was both negative and positive, for while it confined (v. 23), it did so with a view to liberation. The law’s role was to be in charge so that we might be justified by faith.

The Greek word translated by “in charge” (paidagōgos) means pedagogue, tutor, or guardian. In the ancient Greco-Roman world a pedagogue was a standard member of a well-to-do household. Pedagogues were the guardians in charge of educating and directing the ethical conduct of the sons of the household. Paul equates the law’s function with that of guardianship. The metaphor suggests that as a guardian keeps watch over a child until the child reaches maturity, so the law guarded humanity until the coming of Christ. In the following verses Paul will appeal to the idea of inheritance (3:29–4:7), which is the flipside of the idea of guardianship. In the ancient world a boy often had a guardian until the age of maturity, at which point he came into his inheritance. In verse 24 Paul suggests that the way to understand the purpose of the law is as a time-limited guardian or disciplinarian, and he strongly implies that the opportunity of being “justified by faith” is akin to attaining maturity.

Throughout this passage faith refers to the action of believing (3:22b) and to the faith of Christ (3:23, 25), the one who has come. The second part of verse 24 fills out what Paul has said by claiming that the law served a purpose until Christ came. As a result of Christ’s coming righteousness is available to all through faith. A believing response to the faith of Christ means that one is “in Christ,” as Paul goes on to say in verse 26. Belonging to Christ in this way makes one an heir to the promise (v. 29). The age of maturity, in which the inheritance can be received, is available to those who live by faith in Christ. Being justified by faith is a sign that one is grown up, for it is a sign that one has inherited the promise to Abraham (3:6–9).[3]


24. So the law became our custodian (to conduct us) to Christ, that by faith we might be justified. In view of the explanation of verse 23 little need be added. The rendering “schoolmaster” (A.V.) is not a happy one. It is true that the original calls the law “our pedagogue,” but that word did not then have the meaning which it has now in our language. It cannot be denied that in the execution of his duties the ancient “pedagogue” might also impart some elementary and useful instruction on various matters, but that was not his primary function. In the figure here used the “pedagogue” is the man—generally a slave—in whose custody the slave-owner’s boys were placed, in order that this trusted servant might conduct them to and from school, and might, in fact, watch over their conduct throughout the day. He was, accordingly, an escort or attendant, and also at the same time a disciplinarian. The discipline which he exercised was often of a severe character, so that those placed under his guardianship would yearn for the day of freedom. And, as has been shown (see the explanation of verses 19, 22, and 23), that was exactly the function which the law had performed. It had been of a preparatory and disciplinary nature, readying the hearts of those under its tutelage for the eager acceptance of the gospel of justification (for which concept see on 2:15, 16) by faith in Christ.[4]


24 ὤστε ὁ νόμος παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν γέγονεν, “the law, therefore, was our supervisory guardian.” The particle ὤστε followed by an independent clause signals the result or consequence of what has just been stated (“so,” or more formally “therefore”). The perfect γέγονεν (lit.: “it has been”) is used here like a historical aorist to mean simply “it was” (so ἐγένετο as read by P46 and B). Paul’s use of the term παιδαγωγός has often puzzled commentators. For while today we think of pedagogues as teachers, in antiquity a paidagōgos was distinguished from a didaskalos (“teacher”) and had custodial and disciplinary functions rather than educative or instructional ones.

Plato (427–347 b.c.) in The Republic speaks of “pedagogues [παιδαγωγῶν], nurses wet and dry, beauticians, barbers, and yet again cooks and chefs” as part of the retinue of Greek patrician households (373C), and characterizes pedagogues as “not those who are good for nothing else, but men who by age and experience are qualified to serve as both leaders and custodians of children” (467D). In chap. 4 of Lysis he provides us with a fascinating glimpse into the rearing of a son in a Greek family, from which the following dialogue between the boys, Socrates (who begins the dialogue), and Lysis is an excerpt:

Do they [i.e. Lysis’s father and mother] let you control your own self, or will they not trust you in that either?

Of course they do not, he replied.

But someone controls you?

Yes, he said, my παιδαγωγός here.

Is he a slave?

Why certainly; he belongs to us, he said.

What a strange thing, I exclaimed: a free man controlled by a slave! But how does

this παιδαγωγός exert his control over you?

By taking me to the teacher (εἰς διδάσκαλον), he replied (208C).

And in Laws Plato writes of children:

Just as no sheep or other witless creature ought to exist without a herdsman, so children cannot live without παιδαγωγῶν, nor slaves without masters. And of all wild creatures, the child is the most intractable; for insofar as it, above all others, possesses a fount of reason that is yet uncurbed, it is a treacherous, sly and most insolent creature. Wherefore the child must be strapped up, as it were, with many bridles—first, when he leaves the care of nurse and mother, with παιδαγωγοῖς to guide his childish ignorance, and after that with διδασκάλοις of all sorts of subjects and lessons, treating him as becomes a freeborn child. On the other hand, he must be treated as a slave; and any free man that meets him shall punish both the child himself and his παιδαγωγόν or his διδάσκαλον, if any of them does wrong (VII. 808D–E).

Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) alludes to such a custodial function of a pedagogue when he says that “the appetitive part of us should be ruled by principle, just as a boy should live in obedience to his παιδαγωγός (Nic. Ethics 3.12.8). And Xenophon (430–355 b.c.) writes: “When a boy ceases to be a child, and begins to be a lad, others release him from his παιδαγωγόν and from his διδάσκαλον; he is then no longer under them, but is allowed to go his own way” (Laced 3.1).

Reflecting more directly the NT period, Josephus (a.d. 37–100/110) uses παιδαγωγός six times in contexts having to do with biblical history (Ant. 1.56; 9.125; 10.186), with Greco-Roman households (Ant. 18.6.9; 20.8.10), and in speaking about his own son’s pedagogue, who is described as “a slave, a eunuch” and who was punished by the emperor Domitian for an accusation made against Josephus (Life 76). Epictetus (first and second centuries a.d.) speaks of brothers having not only the same father and mother but also commonly the same παιδαγωγός (Diss. 2.22.26). He also tells of pedagogues cudgeling the family cooks when their charges would overeat, and exhorts them: “Man, we did not make you the cook’s παιδαγωγός, did we? but the child’s. Correct him; help him!” (Diss. 3.19.5). And in a late second or early third-century a.d. papyrus letter a mother, on hearing of the departure of her son’s teacher, writes: “So, my son, I urge both you and your παιδαγωγόν that you go to a suitable διδάσκαλον,” and then closes her letter with the words: “Salute your esteemed παιδαγωγός Cros” (POxy 6.930).

The pedagogue is frequently encountered in rabbinic writings, where the Hellenistic origin of the concept is shown by the fact that pĕdāgôg, is a Greek loanword. For the most part the term appears in parables that have to do with the household of a king where the prince is under custodial supervision. Gen. Rab. 29.6, for example, reads:

  1. Judah said: This may be illustrated by the case of a king who entrusted his son to a pedagogue (pĕdāgôg) who led him into evil ways, whereat the king became angry with his son and slew him. Said the king, “Did any lead my son into evil ways save this man? My son has perished and this man lives!” Therefore [God destroyed] “both man and beast.”

Or again, Gen. Rab. 31.7 reads:

It is as if a royal prince had a pedagogue (pĕdāgôg), and whenever he did wrong, his pedagogue was punished; or as if a royal prince had a nurse, and whenever he did wrong, his nurse was punished. Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “Behold, I will destroy them with the earth!”

There are also several places in the Midrashim where Moses is depicted as Israel’s pedagogue (e.g. Exod. Rab. 21.8; 42.9), or where Moses, Aaron, and Miriam are so presented (Num. Rab. 1.2), or Moses, David, and Jeremiah (Deut. Rab. 2.11). But there is no passage in the extant Jewish literature where the Mosaic law itself is spoken of as a pedagogue. 4 Maccabees comes close in referring in 1:17 to the law as bringing παιδεία (“instruction,” “training,” “discipline”) and in speaking in 5:34 of the law as a παιδευτής (“instructor,” “teacher”), yet without directly calling the law a παιδαγωγός.

From such a collection of Greek and Jewish references it seems evident that Paul’s use of παιδαγωγός here in vv 24–25, though creatively applied, is not an isolated phenomenon. The παιδαγωγός, though usually a slave, was an important figure in ancient patrician households, being charged with the supervision and conduct of one or more sons in the family. He was distinguished from the διδάσκαλος, for he gave no formal instruction but administered the directives of the father in a custodial manner, though, of course, indirectly he taught by the supervision he gave and the discipline he administered. The characterization of the pedagogue as having “the bad image of being rude, rough, and good for no other business,” one for whom “the public did not have much respect,” and “a comic type” as Betz portrays him (Galatians, 177), arises from caricatures drawn by ancient playwrights. But such a characterization is itself a caricature and entirely ignores passages that speak of him as a trusted figure in antiquity who commanded respect and even affection. Plutarch (a.d. 4 6–120), in fact, considered the term appropriate for a good political leader when he wrote of Aratus: “And all the world thought that Aratus was a good παιδαγωγός for a kingdom no less than for a democracy, for his principles and character were manifest, like color in a fabric, in the actions of the king” (Aratus 48.3).

The depiction of the ancient pedagogue as a grim and ugly character is, indeed, a caricature, and must not be imported into Paul’s analogy here. Yet, on the other hand, it is difficult to interpret vv 24–25 as assigning a positive preliminary or preparatory role to the law. The point of the analogy here is not that the Mosaic law was a positive preparation for Christ, though in terms of piety and education that cannot be doubted in other contexts. Rather, the focus here is on the supervisory function of the law, the inferior status of one under such supervision, and the temporary nature of such a situation in the course of salvation history.

εἰς Χριστόν, “until Christ came.” The preposition εἰς, which signals motion into or toward something, has a wide variety of uses. Here it may be used in a pregnant sense to suggest a forthcoming result, with Paul understood to be saying that the law functions to bring forth Christ (cf. Rom 8:21, where “freedom from the bondage of decay” has the result of bringing one “into [εἰς] the glorious freedom of the children of God”). The last clause of v 24, “in order that we might be justified by faith,” might suggest such a reading. Or it may be used in a telic sense to suggest that the purpose of being under the supervision of the Mosaic law was “to lead us to” Christ (so kjv niv). The analogy of a pedagogue who brings his young charge to a teacher might suggest this. Or εἰς may be used here in a temporal sense to mean that the law’s supervisory reign over the lives of God’s people was meant to be only until the coming of Christ (SO jb rsv neb gnb). This would be in line with the use of εἰς in the immediately preceding clause of v 23b, “until [εἰς] this coming faith should be revealed.” Taken on its own, theologically supported arguments for each of these three possibilities could be mounted. Taken in context, however, only the temporal sense is possible. For the immediate context makes it clear that Paul is speaking of successive periods in salvation history, first that of the reign of the law and then that associated with the coming of Christ—with the first being displaced by the second (cf. vv 23 and 25). Furthermore, ὤστε (“therefore”) at the start of the sentence ties v 24 directly to v 23 as the consequence of what was said immediately before. It is impossible, therefore, to understand εἰς Χριστόν here in any other way than temporally and so translate it by some such expression as “until Christ came” (rsv gnb), “until the Christ came” (jb), or “until Christ should come” (neb).

ἴνα ἐκ πίστεως δικαιωθῶμεν, “in order that we might be justified by faith.” As a Jew, Paul usually speaks in ultimates, not in terms of mediate causation. So here he expresses the ultimate purpose of the law as a παιδαγωγός: “that we might be justified by faith.” The law’s other functions of bringing about a knowledge of sin, increasing sin, and condemning sin have this ultimate purpose in mind as well, and so serve this end among both Jews and Gentiles. Here, however, Paul has in mind the law in its custodial function in the experience of Israel, and so talks about being justified before God in the first person plural (note the verbal suffix “we”). “Justification by faith” is an emphasis made throughout the propositio and the probatio of Galatians. The aorist subjunctive passive form of δικαιωθῶμεν (“be justified”) identifies God as the one who justifies (passive voice) and justification as an offer to be received. On ἐκ πίστεως, see Comment on 2:16 and 3:2, 5.[5]


3:24 The law is pictured as a guardian and guide of children, or as a tutor. This emphasizes the thought of teaching; the law taught lessons concerning the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and the need for atonement. Here the word is used to describe one who exercises discipline and general supervision over minors, or the immature.

The words to bring us are not in the original, but were supplied by the translators of the King James tradition. If we leave them out, the verse teaches that the law was a Jewish guardian up to Christ, that is, until the coming of Christ, or with the coming of Christ in view. There is a sense in which the law preserved the people of Israel as a distinct nation by regulations concerning marriage, property, foods, etc. When “the faith” came, it was first announced to this nation that had been so miraculously kept in ward through the centuries. Justification by faith was promised on the basis of the finished work of Christ, the Redeemer.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (pp. 95–96). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 601). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Jervis, L. A. (2011). Galatians (p. 102). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Galatians (Vol. 8, pp. 147–148). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] Longenecker, R. N. (1998). Galatians (Vol. 41, pp. 146–149). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1885). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

November 3, 2017: Verse of the day

img_1708

34 In the four gospels Jesus makes seven statements from the cross (the “seven last words”). Yet Mark records only one of them: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?—an Aramaic version of Psalm 22:1, meaning, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is significant that Mark, the evangelist who most stresses the suffering role of the Messiah, records only Jesus’ cry of forsakenness. The narrative of the crucifixion paints a dark and foreboding scene.

The saying is surely authentic, since it is unlikely that the church would have invented a saying in which Jesus expresses utter forsakenness by God. Some commentators have tried to soften its meaning by claiming that Jesus has in mind the entire context of Psalm 22, and so contemplates not only his suffering but also his vindication and restoration to fellowship with God (cf. Ps 22:22–31). This interpretation is unlikely. While it is true that Mark uses this and other allusions to Psalm 22 to portray Jesus as the righteous sufferer par excellence (cf. vv. 24, 29), nothing in the context indicates that Jesus’ words express confidence or trust in God. Although Jesus does not abandon or reject God (whom he still refers to as “my God”), the cry is certainly one of true anguish and despair. While we should be cautious about reading a developed theology of atonement into the episode, the best explanation from Mark’s narrative perspective is that Jesus is experiencing God’s cup of judgment (14:36), suffering as a ransom payment for the sins of “the many” (10:45; 14:24). This view is not far from Paul’s affirmations that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Co 5:21) and that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). God cannot look on sin and so turns his back on his own Son, thus allowing him to suffer its judgment alone. Taylor, 549, remarks: “The depths of the saying are too deep to be plumbed, but the least inadequate interpretations are those which find in it a sense of desolation in which Jesus felt the horror of sin so deeply that for a time the closeness of His communion with the Father was obscured.”[1]


15:34 / Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani is an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew of Ps. 22:1. Matt. 27:46 (niv marginal note) and some manuscripts of Mark give the cry as “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” in which the first two words, “My God, my God,” are in Hebrew and the last two in Aramaic. If Jesus indeed addressed God in the Hebrew words “Eli, Eli,” this would better explain how bystanders misunderstood him to be appealing to Elijah, for the Hebrew words sound more like Elijah’s name, but it is impossible to decide with certainty exactly what Jesus may have said and in what language, for each Gospel account seems primarily concerned with giving us the meaning of the crucifixion rather than a documentary and complete description.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? This translates the Aramaic phrase and is an allusion to Ps. 22:1. As indicated in the discussion earlier, it is perilous to try to make this statement the basis of a view of what Jesus felt on the cross. Mark’s purpose in giving this statement is to make the allusion to Ps 22:1, so as to portray Jesus as the righteous sufferer who is beset unjustly by his enemies and appeals to God. This allusion reveals Jesus’ true character in the face of the ridicule and false charges on the lips of the bystanders. Interestingly, the statement does not appear in the Lucan parallel in 23:44–46.[2]


15:34. Jesus made seven key statements when he hung on the cross. Mark records just one, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (see Ps. 22:1). Jesus Christ was feeling the full wrath of God, his Father, against all the sins of mankind—past, present, and future. Jesus cried out in agony as he bore the sins of the world and was separated for the first time from his Father because of this sin. Jesus expressed horror at being separated from God, his Father. Jesus’ death on the cross fulfills the saying, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). Jesus expressed the incredible pain of abandonment by God. Paul later said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). Yet, in all of this pain and agony Jesus did not renounce his Father but submitted to his will. Hallelujah, what a Savior![3]


34. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice,

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

which means

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

In uttering this cry Jesus was using words taken from the Old Testament, in this case from Ps. 22:1 (22:2 in the original). It should not escape our attention that often during his earthly ministry Jesus drew his strength from the Old Testament. Careful study of those references given in N.T.C. on Matthew, pp. 80, 81 which indicate dominical sayings (not all of them do) will make this clear. But even during the final hours of his life on earth before he died, Jesus made use of passages from the sacred writings again and again:

Sayings of Jesus

 

Old Testament References

 

Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27

 

Zech. 13:7

 

Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62;

 

 

 

Luke 21:27; 22:69

 

Ps. 110:1; Dan. 7:13, 14

 

Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34

 

Ps. 22:1

 

Luke 22:37

 

Isa. 53:12

 

Luke 23:30

 

Hos. 10:8

 

Luke 23:46

 

Ps. 31:5

 

John 19:28

 

Ps. 22:15; 69:21

 

The link between the darkness and the cry is very close: the first is a symbol of the agonizing content of the second. This, then, is the fourth word from the cross, the only one reported by Matthew and Mark. It issued from the mouth of the Savior shortly before he breathed his last.

In the Gospels what happened between twelve o’clock and three o’clock is a blank. All we know is that during these three hours of intense darkness Jesus suffered indescribable agonies. He was being “made sin” for us (2 Cor. 5:21), “a curse” (Gal. 3:13). He was being “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” Jehovah was laying on him “the iniquity of us all,” etc. (Isa. 53).

To be sure, this happened throughout the period of his humiliation, from conception to death and burial, but especially in Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha.

The question has been asked, “But how could God forsake God?” The answer must be that God the Father deserted his Son’s human nature, and even this in a limited, though very real and agonizing, sense. The meaning cannot be that there was ever a time when God the Father stopped loving his Son. Nor can it mean that the Son ever rejected his Father. Far from it. He kept on calling him “My God, my God.” And for that very reason we may be sure that the Father loved him as much as ever.

How, then, can we ascribe any sensible meaning to this utterance of deep distress? Perhaps an illustration may be of some help, though it should be added immediately that no analogy taken from things that happen to humans on earth can ever begin to do justice to the Son of God’s unique experience. Nevertheless, the illustration may be helpful in some slight degree. Here, let us say, is a child that is very sick. He is still too young to understand why he has to be taken to the hospital, and especially why, while there, he may have to be in the Intensive Care Unit, where his parents cannot always be with him. His parents love him as much as ever. But there may be moments when the child misses the presence of his father or mother so much that he experiences profound anguish. So also the Mediator. His soul reaches out for the One whom he calls “my God,” but his God does not answer him. Is not that exactly the manner in which the cry of agony is interpreted in the context of Ps. 22? Note:

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou answerest not;

And by night, but I find no rest.”

For the Sufferer with a superbly sensitive soul this terrible isolation must have been agonizing indeed. This all the more in view of the fact that only several hours earlier he had said to his disciples, “Note well, there comes an hour—yes, it has arrived—when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (John 16:32). And a little later he had added, in his touchingly beautiful Highpriestly Prayer, “And now Father, glorify thou me in thine own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world existed” (John 17:5). And now the Father does not answer, but leaves him in the hands of his adversaries. Reflect again on all the abuse and the suffering Jesus had already endured this very night. Is it any wonder that he now cries out, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” His God and Father would not have abandoned him to his tormentors if it had not been necessary. But it was necessary, in order that he might fully undergo the punishment due to his people’s sins.[4]


34 καὶ τῇ ἐνάτῃ ὥρᾳ ἐβόησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice.” Jesus, having hung on the cross for six hours (from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.), suddenly ἐβόησεν … φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, “cried with a loud voice.” The loudness of the cry lends further drama to the scene. Jesus does not expire with a gasp or a whimper; he cries out loudly and unexpectedly.

ἐλωί ἐλωί λεμὰ σαβαχθανί; ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον· ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου, εἰς τί ἐγκατέλιπές με, “ ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ ” The darkness of the land signifies judgment; that Jesus cries out the way he does suggests that divine judgment has in part fallen on him. This is consistent with his earlier allusion to Zech 13:7 in Mark 14:27. In rejecting God’s son (see the parable of the Vineyard Tenants in 12:1–12) God strikes his own people, beginning with Israel’s shepherd. Darkness covers the land as God looks away from the obscenity that has taken place. (The variant in Gos. Pet. 5.19, ἡ δύναμίς μου, ἡ δύναμίς [μου], “My Power, [my] Power,” is clearly a secondary, probably docetic, gloss.) Burchard (ZNW 74 [1983] 1–11) rightly comments that there is nothing in Mark’s account that has prepared its readers for this shocking cry.

Jesus has quoted Ps 22:1, a psalm whose details have been echoed in various places in the Passion Narrative. Here we have an explicit quotation and one that is on the lips of Jesus (as was Zech 13:7 in Mark 14:27). Some wonder if Jesus has the whole psalm in mind, especially the concluding part that relates vindication and restoration:

I will tell of thy name to my brethren;

in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee.…

For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;

and he has not hid his face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to him.…

Posterity shall serve him;

men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation,

and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,

that he has wrought it. (vv 22, 24, 30–31)

Perhaps Jesus did have the whole of the psalm in mind, including the optimistic conclusion (see the excellent treatment in Marcus, Way of the Lord, 180–86), but the reality of his sense of abandonment must not be minimized. Jesus has not lost his faith in God, as the twofold address, “My God, my God,” implies, but he feels utterly abandoned. It is not surprising that the later evangelists choose different concluding utterances: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46); “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Very problematic and unconvincing is Cohn-Sherbok’s (ExpTim 93 [1981–82] 215–17) speculative suggestion that Jesus’ Aramaic words have been misunderstood and misrendered into Greek and that he really said “My God, my God, why have you praised me?”[5]


[1] Wessel, W. W., & Strauss, M. L. (2010). Mark. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 975–976). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Hurtado, L. W. (2011). Mark (p. 276). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Cooper, R. L. (2000). Mark (Vol. 2, p. 260). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Vol. 10, pp. 661–663). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] Evans, C. A. (2001). Mark 8:27–16:20 (Vol. 34B, pp. 506–507). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

November 2, 2017: Verse of the day

img_1707

Jesus Is Omniscient

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, (5:4–6a)

The challenge always facing fishermen is finding the fish. Even experienced fishermen, using the latest fish-finding sonar, often come up empty. The Lord Jesus Christ, however, knew exactly where the fish were. As the One who created everything (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), He has an exhaustive knowledge of all creatures—even to the point of knowing when a sparrow falls to the ground (Matt. 10:29)—since “there is no creature hidden from His sight” (Heb. 4:13). As the story unfolds, Jesus’ omniscience becomes evident.

When He had finished speaking to the crowd, Jesus said to Simon (the verb is a second person singular), “Put out into the deep water and then said to the entire crew let down (this verb is a second personal plural) your nets for a catch.” The nets were not the small ones used by individuals fishing from the shore or in shallow water (cf. Matt. 4:18) but large nets similar to modern seines, and used for fishing in the deeper water of the lake.

Perhaps surprised that a carpenter would presume to tell experienced fisherman how to fish, Simon answered the Lord and said, “Master (epistatēs; “chief,” “commander”; a respectful title for one in authority, but not an affirmation of deity), we worked hard all night (when, as noted above, fishing was usually done) and caught nothing.” Why then should He expect them to catch fish in the middle of the day? Besides, letting down the large nets and hauling them in was hard work. But then again, this was no ordinary carpenter, but one who had healed his mother-in-law, so Peter added, “but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”

If Jesus’ command surprised them, the result utterly dumbfounded them. When they had let down the nets, much to their amazement they enclosed a great quantity of fish. Nothing in their experience could have prepared them for such an unheard of catch in the middle of the day. But the omniscient Savior knew exactly where the fish were. Later He would tell Peter where to find one specific fish with a specific coin in its mouth (Matt. 17:27). And after His resurrection, the Lord would once again tell Peter and his companions where to let down their nets for a huge catch of fish (John 21:1–6).

Knowing where the fish in the Sea of Galilee were is merely one demonstration of Jesus’ omniscience. He described exactly the man who would lead Peter and John to the upper room where they would celebrate the Last Supper (Luke 22:8–12). His supernatural knowledge of Nathanael’s whereabouts (John 1:47–48) led Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel” (v. 49). He was not deceived by the shallow, superficial, nonsaving professions of faith on the part of some, because “He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25). He “knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him” (John 6:64). Christ’s omniscience was convincing proof of His deity, and caused the disciples to say, “Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God” (John 16:30; cf. 21:17). Those times when Jesus voluntarily restricted His omniscience (e.g., Matt. 24:36; Mark 11:13; Luke 8:45–46) are consistent with His submission to the Father during His incarnation (cf. the discussion of 3:22 in chapter 20 of this volume).[1]


5 All seven synoptic occurrences of ἐπιστάτης (epistatēs, “Master,” GK 2181) are in Luke. In all but one of these (17:13) it is the disciples who use the title. It is used instead of διδάσκαλος (didaskalos, “Teacher,” GK 1437) in 8:24 (cf. Mk 4:38) and 9:49 (cf. Mk 9:38), and instead of “Rabbi” in 9:33 (cf. Mk 9:5). It was a term Luke’s readers understood, and it often referred to officers. The transformation of Simon’s response in v. 8, where Jesus is now called κύριε (kyrie, “Lord,” GK 3261), signals the realization of the power (if not the unique status) of Jesus.[2]


5:4–5. Teaching was over; it was time for fishing. No recreational fishing for these professionals. Back to daily work, but not ordinary daily work. That was completed for the night, because night was the best time to fish. Jesus called for overtime labor in the least productive time of day. Exercising his normal gift for immediate response, Simon Peter protested: “No more fruitless labor for us. We have already done a night’s work without anything to show for our efforts.”

Then Simon caught himself: “You are talking, Jesus. You are the Master. What you say, we will do.” Note that Master (Gr. epistata) was Luke’s word of address from the disciples to Jesus where other Gospels used “Rabbi.” Luke thus shows his aim toward a Gentile rather than a Jewish audience. The Master’s word takes precedence over human experience and human knowledge. Tough, experienced fishermen let Jesus show them when and where to fish. They had seen the power and authority of his ministry.[3]


4, 5. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a haul.

When Jesus was through speaking to the multitude, he told Simon to bring the boat to a place where the water was deep, and then, with the help of his men, to lower the nets for the purpose of catching fish. Note the change here from the singular to the plural. It took more than one individual to lower the nets.

The boat to which Luke refers was probably rather large, with room enough for Jesus and his disciples (cf. Mark 6:7, 30, 32). It is therefore reasonable to assume that also now, together with Jesus and Simon, there were others in this boat. One of them may have been Andrew (cf. Mark 1:16), though in this entire account he is never mentioned by name. The probability must also be granted that Simon and his partners (see verses 7 and 10) had employed a crew of hired men. Cf. Mark 1:20.

Humanly speaking, the order which Jesus issued—“Launch out into the deep,” etc.—was strange. A carpenter telling an experienced fisherman how to catch fish! He was ordering him to fish at an unlikely place and time, that is, in deep water and in bright daylight. It must be borne in mind that Jesus had already twice addressed the people on the shore, each time presumably at some length (verses 1 and 3). By this time it may well have been around noon, therefore.

Accordingly, when Simon receives this order, faith and doubt, trust and misgiving, are battling it out. His fisherman’s expertise raises a doubt and whispers to him that he must not obey Jesus. His conscience, illuminated by faith, tells him that he must obey. Faith conquers, though still tempered with some misgiving. Simon answered, Master—this is Luke’s constant substitute for the term Rabbi of the other Gospels—all through the night we toiled and caught nothing, but because you say so I’ll let down the nets. This not, to be sure, all by himself but with the help of his men, so that the translation “I’ll have the nets lowered” can be substituted.

Implied in Jesus’ command is at least the fact that he knew that at the spot where Simon would lower the nets there would be an abundance of fish. How did he know this? Here we are confronted with a mystery. It cannot be denied that even during his sojourn on earth Jesus, according to his divine nature, was omniscient. That he actually knew the whereabouts of fishes is clear not only from our present passage but also from Matt. 17:27. He also knew where human individuals would be and what they would be doing at this or that particular moment (Mark 14:13; John 1:47–49). He was even aware of the contents and deliberations of hearts and minds (Luke 5:22; John 2:25). Yet, according to his human nature his knowledge was limited (Matt. 24:36; Mark 11:13; Luke 8:45, 46). How these two natures, each possessing certain characteristics in distinction from the other, could be inseparably united in one divine person is beyond human comprehension. The best we can do, when we contemplate this great mystery, is to derive comfort from our Savior’s penetrating knowledge, so that with Simon Peter we cry out, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:17b).

So far we have referred only to Christ’s omniscience. But according to his divine nature he was not only omniscient but also omnipotent. Therefore we cannot rule out the possibility that he not only knew that at a certain moment this enormous shoal of fish would be at a certain definite place, but that he also actually directed them to that place! And if that is what happened, then he naturally knew where they would be.

When God created man he gave him “dominion over the fish of the sea.” To an extent, at least, this dominion was lost when man fell. In Christ it is restored (Gen. 1:28; Matt. 11:27; 28:18; Heb. 2:5–8).[4]


5 ἐπιστάτα, “master,” may be from Luke (cf. 8:24, 45; 9:33, 49; 17:13). He often prefers it to the other synoptists’ διδάσκαλε, “teacher,” or ραββί, “Rabbi,” in the cases where Jesus’ authority in contexts not directly related to teaching is in view. Since for Luke διδάσκαλε is an objective description while ἐπιστάτα involves a personal recognition of Jesus’ authority, the latter is mostly on the lips of disciples (except 17:13). ἐπὶ τῷ ῥήματί σου, “at your word,” points to the intrinsic authority of Jesus’ words. Certainly no disrespect is implied (contra Dietrich, Petrusbild, 43; Derrett, NovT 22 [1980] 122; Matthews, ExpTim 30 [1918–19] 425; Delorme, NTS 18 [1971–72] 336).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2009). Luke 1–5 (pp. 304–305). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 117). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Butler, T. C. (2000). Luke (Vol. 3, p. 76). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, pp. 281–282). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] Nolland, J. (2002). Luke 1:1–9:20 (Vol. 35A, p. 222). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

October 31, 2017: Verse of the day

img_1705

Rejecting the Righteous

(The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (5:30–32)

Their haughty disdain for the riffraff inside prevented them from attending Matthew’s banquet, but that did not mean that the Pharisees and their scribes (see the exposition of 5:17 in chapter 27 of this volume for background information on the scribes and Pharisees) weren’t aware of what was going on inside. They expressed their disapproval by grumbling (gogguzō; an onomatopoetic word) at Jesus’ disciples. They would not deign to speak to any of the tax collectors and sinners attending the banquet. But they evidently expected the Lord and His disciples to follow the prescriptions of the rabbinic law, hence their anger and resentment toward them.

Their question, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” reflects the scribes’ and Pharisees’ outrage that Jesus and His disciples would associate with those unclean outcasts. Their question was a rhetorical one, intended as a stinging rebuke for what they viewed as outrageous behavior on the part of the Lord and His disciples. The question exposes the scribes and Pharisees as proud, focused on externals, and hypocritical. Imagining themselves to be the religious elite, they were in reality void of grace and strangers to salvation. Jesus turned His back on the outwardly moral, and focused on transforming repentant sinners into a holy people.

Overhearing the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus answered their challenge. His reply consisted of three parts. The Lord first gave an analogy, pointing out the self-evident fact that it is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. The scribes and Pharisees could not dispute that the tax collectors and sinners were spiritually sick; they were the sickest of the sick. How could they argue that the Great Physician should not minister to them? The Lord’s reply was a powerful indictment of their cold hearts, wickedness, and hatred of the very downtrodden sinners they should have sought to help. They saw no sin in themselves and no good or value in others.

Second, Jesus answered them from Scripture. Matthew 9:13 records that He also told the scribes and Pharisees to “go and learn [an expression used by the rabbis to rebuke unwarranted ignorance] what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice.’ ” The quote is from Hosea 6:6, and declares that God does not want external sacrifices but a heart that shows mercy (cf. Prov. 21:3; Isa. 1:11–17; Amos 5:21–24; Mic. 6:8). Those who show mercy to others as the Lord commanded (Luke 6:36) will themselves receive mercy from God (Matt. 5:7), but “judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13). The scribes and Pharisees, who prided themselves on their rigid adherence to the law, had no excuse for failing to show mercy to those who so desperately needed it.

Finally, Jesus answered them from His own personal authority as God incarnate, declaring, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” It is a statement full of irony, even sarcasm (cf. Paul’s sarcastic deflation of the conceited Corinthians in 1 Cor. 4:8). Accepting on the surface the scribes’ and Pharisees’ evaluation of themselves as righteous and hence not in need of a Savior, Jesus judicially left them to their self-righteous folly (cf. Matt. 15:14). Later He would again make this point when He told His hearers that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). God seeks the truly repentant heart, not the hardened, self-righteous one. It was the humble, repentant tax collector, not the self-exalting, self-righteous Pharisee who Jesus said was justified (18:14). It was His classifying of them as sinners in need of repentance that inflamed the Pharisees’ hatred of Jesus.

The truth is that God cannot save those who refuse to see themselves as sinners, who ignore, gloss over, or trivialize their sin. Only those who understand by the grace of God and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit that they are the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed, headed for a Christless, Godless eternity in hell, and trust in Christ’s work on the cross as payment in full for their sins (Col. 2:13–14) can be saved. As James wrote, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

The scribes and Pharisees had badly misunderstood God’s purpose in giving the law. He did not give the law as a means of achieving self-righteousness, but to provoke self-condemnation, awareness of sin, conviction, repentance, and pleading to God for mercy. The law is “our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:9–10,

[God’s] law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.

Only those who recognize themselves to be in the latter group can embrace the glorious gospel of forgiveness. Such a one was Paul, the self-proclaimed foremost of all sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), who nevertheless found that “the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” to save even him (v. 14).[1]


31–32 It is important to recognize that Jesus not only originated proverbs and parables but also made wise use of current ones. So, citing a self-evident proverb of his day (v. 31), he described his mission in terms that he would go on to amplify in the parables in ch. 15. Since none are truly “righteous” (v. 32; cf. 18:19; Ro 3:23), Jesus used the word here either in a relative sense or with a touch of sarcasm. The prodigal son’s older brother, for example, could rightly claim that he had not deserted his father as the prodigal had (15:29). If, therefore, Jesus meant by “righteous” those who are generally loyal or devout, v. 32 means that he gave more help to those in greater need. But if, as is more likely, Jesus implied that the Pharisees only thought that they were righteous, the point is that one must first acknowledge oneself to be a sinner before he or she can truly respond to the call to repentance. Luke allows the proverb Jesus quoted to come full circle theologically by including the word “repentance,” omitted in Matthew 9:13 and Mark 2:17. With this word Luke introduces a topic of major importance. While the gospel of grace and forgiveness is for everyone (2:10), repentance is a prerequisite to its reception. The tax collector in 18:13–14 met this prerequisite, but not the Pharisee (18:11–12). The Lukan theme of joy is linked with that of repentance in 15:7, 10, 22–27, 32. Repentance was previously mentioned in Luke 3:3, 8, but only in the context of John the Baptist’s ministry.

Jesus’ use of the proverb may contain an allusion to Ezekiel 34, where the leaders of God’s people were accused of failing to take care of their flock since they had not “strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured” (34:4; cf. Green, 248). If this allusion can be established, then Jesus is also saying that his Messianic ministry points to the disqualification of the Jewish leaders as the “shepherds” of God’s people. This challenge to those in power is effectively issued in this context of table fellowship when the “traditional meal praxis” of the society is overturned (S. Scott Bartchy, “The Historical Jesus and Honor Reversal at the Table,” in The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. W. Stegemann, B. J. Malina, and G. Theissen [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002], 175–83).[2]


5:30, 32 / sinners: This epithet refers to those who could not or would not observe the law of Moses, particularly the oral laws and traditions of the scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees regarded these people as having no hope for participation in the kingdom of God or the resurrection of the righteous. Lachs (p. 168) cites several rabbinic sources that discuss the undesirability of mingling, especially eating, with those who did not observe the laws of purity.[3]


5:31–32. In typical Jewish teacher fashion, Jesus cited a proverb to emphasize his message. Wellness did not drive people to the doctor. Illness did. Jesus was the spiritual doctor. He came with a message of repentance. That message seemed misdirected. It did not save Israel and the Middle East, where political confusion reigned. It saved those religious leaders considered unworthy of God’s attention. Power began to reveal true positions in life. Who was sick? The tax collector’s friends, people willing to work for the Roman government and thus against Israel? Or religious leaders who knew more about God than God did? The title Righteous One given them by humans was the only title they would ever receive. Jesus picked out the lowest social positions as the positions through which he would work.[4]


31, 32. Jesus answered them, It is not those who are healthy that need a doctor but those who are ill.

The criticism of the scribes has been duly noted by Jesus. He himself, by means of what may have been a current proverb, flings back a clinching answer. When he associates on intimate terms with people of low reputation he does not do this as a hobnobber, a comrade in evil, “birds of a feather flocking together,” but as a physician, one who, without in any way becoming contaminated with the diseases of his patients, must get very close to them in order that he may heal them! Moreover, it is especially the Pharisees who should be able to understand this. Are not they the very people who regard themselves as being healthy, and all others as being sick? See Luke 18:9. If, then, in the eyes of the Pharisees, publicans and sinners are so very sick, should they not be healed? Is it the business of the healer to heal the healthy or the sick? The sick, of course.

Jesus adds: I have not come to call righteous people to conversion but sinners. Substantially this is the reading also in Matthew and Mark, though in Matthew these words are preceded by a quotation from Hos. 6:6, and prefixed by “for”; while Luke here adds the phrase “to conversion,” where most translators favor “to repentance.”

The passage makes clear that the invitation to salvation, full and free, is extended not to “righteous people,” that is, not to those who consider themselves worthy, but rather to those who are unworthy and in desperate need. It was sinners, the lost, the straying, the beggars, the burdened ones, the hungry and thirsty, whom Jesus came to save. See also Matt. 5:6; 11:28–30; 22:9, 10; Luke 14:21–23; ch. 15; 19:10; John 7:37, 38. This is in line with all of special revelation, both the Old Testament and the New (Isa. 1:18; 45:22; 55:1, 6, 7; Jer. 35:15; Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; Hos. 6:1; 11:8; 2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Tim. 1:15; Rev. 3:20; 22:17). It is a message full of comfort and “relevant” to every age!

As reported by Luke, Jesus adds that the call he had come to extend to sinners was “to conversion.” Not only “repentance” or sorrow for sin is needed, but nothing less than complete transformation: change of mind, heart, will, conduct. For more material in defense of the rendering “conversion” instead of merely “repentance” see the note on Luke 5:32 on page 306.

Are we now finished with the explanation of Luke 5:27–32? Not entirely. Something must still be added. Otherwise the reader might conclude that the main purpose of the section is to show what a wonderful man Levi (= Matthew) was. He was, indeed, wonderful. Nothing should ever be said to detract from the value of his complete and immediate surrender to Jesus. However, that is not the legitimate point of emphasis. What is far more important is the fact that Jesus, who even at this early point in Luke’s Gospel had performed so many miracles of mercy, added this to them all, namely, the exhibition of his power to bring about a radical and permanent change in the mind, heart, will, and life of … Matthew. So, whenever we read his beautiful Gospel let us think of the saving power of the Triune God as revealed through his Spirit in Christ.[5]


32 Luke replaces Mark’s aorist ἦλθον, “I came,” with the perfect ἐλήλυθα, “I have come,” probably because he sees a permanently changed state of affairs introduced by Jesus and carried on into the life of the church. He also adds at the end of the verse εἰς μετάνοιαν, “to repentance”: Luke assures his reader that Jesus with his magnanimity in no way condones sin. The addition also facilitates the application of the medical similitude of v 31 to this verse. Jesus’ sentiment is: “Where the need, there the deed.” Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of restoration. To ask whether there are, or who are, the righteous whom Jesus does not call to repentance misses the thrust (as it does in 15:7). The contrast is determined by the imagery of v 31.

While it would be attractive to consider Jesus’ call as an invitation to the great eschatological banquet of God (so H. Schürmann, Worte des Herrn: Jesu Botschaft vom Königtum Gottes [Freiburg: Herder, 1961] 38: Jesus as host; Pesch, “Das Zöllnergastmahl,” 79–80: Jesus as messenger), at least for the Lukan text with its “call to repentance” only a more general sense for “call” may be claimed.[6]


5:32 The Pharisees considered themselves to be righteous. They had no deep sense of sin or of need. Therefore, they could not benefit from the ministry of the Great Physician. But these tax collectors and sinners realized that they were sinners and that they needed to be saved from their sins. It was for people like them that the Savior came. Actually, the Pharisees were not righteous. They needed to be saved as much as the tax collectors. But they were unwilling to confess their sins and acknowledge their guilt. And so they criticized the Doctor for going to people who were seriously ill.[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2009). Luke 1–5 (pp. 332–334). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 125). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (p. 97). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Butler, T. C. (2000). Luke (Vol. 3, p. 79). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, pp. 304–305). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] Nolland, J. (2002). Luke 1:1–9:20 (Vol. 35A, pp. 246–247). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1386). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

October 27, 2017: Verse of the day

img_1702

The Response of the Lord

And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (22:37–40)

Jesus responded without hesitation, and the answer He gave was in total accord not only with Mosaic law but with an ancient Jewish custom based on that law. The command, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, was part of the Shema (Hebrew for “Hear”), so named because it began with, “Hear, O Israel” The Shema comprised the texts of Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21; and Numbers 15:37–41-by far the most familiar, most quoted, and most copied Scripture passages in Judaism. In Jesus’ day, every faithful Jew recited the Shema twice a day.

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 11:13–21 were two of the four Scripture texts (with Ex. 13:1–10 and 13:11–16) that were copied on small pieces of parchment and placed in phylacteries that were worn on the foreheads and left arms of Jewish men during prayer. The practice was based on the admonition of Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead” (cf. 11:18). It was for the ostentatious display of phylacteries that Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees only a short while later, while He was still teaching in the Temple (Matt. 23:5). In a similar way, copies of Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 11:13–21 were placed in mezuzahs, small boxes that Jews attached to their doorposts, following the instruction of Deuteronomy 6:9 and 11:20. Both phylacteries and mezuzahs are still used by many orthodox Jews today.

“I am declaring to you,” Jesus was therefore saying, “that the great commandment is the commandment of Moses that all of you recite every day and that many of you bind on your arms and foreheads every day.”

Aheb, the Hebrew word for love used in Deuteronomy 6:5, refers primarily to an act of mind and will, the determined care for the welfare of something or someone. It might well include strong emotion, but its distinguishing characteristics were the dedication and commitment of choice, It is the love that recognizes and chooses to follow that which is righteous, noble, and true, regardless of what one’s feelings in a matter might be. It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek agapaō in the New Testament, the verb of intelligent, purposeful, and committed love that is an act of the will. This love is in contrast to the emotion and tender affection of phileō and the physical, sensual love of eros (which is not used in the New Testament).

To love the Lord with all one’s heart, … soul, and … mind (Mark’s account adds “strength,” 12:30) does not express separate and technical definitions of each element of human nature or a compartmentalizing of love into three or four categories, but rather connotes comprehensiveness. We are to love the Lord our God with every part of our being.

On the other hand, the areas are listed distinctly, each one preceded by its own with all your. It is therefore helpful to look at some distinctions in each of them in order to understand the fullness of what love for God should include.

To the ancient Hebrews, heart referred to the core of one’s personal being. The book of Proverbs counsels, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (4:23). The term soul is closest to what we would call emotion and is the word Jesus used when He cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane the night He was arrested: “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death” (Matt. 26:38). Mind corresponds to what is usually translated “might” in Deuteronomy 6:5. The Hebrew term had a broad connotation and carried the general idea of moving ahead with energy and strength. Mind is used here in the sense of intellectual, willful vigor and determination, carrying both the meaning of mental endeavor and of strength.

Genuine love of the Lord is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate. God has never sought either empty words or empty ritual. His desire is for the person himself, not simply what the person possesses. If He truly has the person, He inevitably has all that the person possesses as well. And just as God loves us with His whole being, we are to return His love with our whole being. His love for mankind was so great “that He gave His only begotten Son” for their redemption (John 3:16). Godly love, whether as His love for man or man’s love for Him, is measured by what it gives, not by what it might gain. It does not love because love is beneficial but because love is right and good.

God requires more than bare belief. James reminds us that even the demons believe that God exists; but instead of rejoicing in that belief, they shudder (James 2:19). The distinguishing mark of saving belief in God is love of God. Faith in Jesus Christ that is not characterized by a consuming love for Him is not saving faith but simply an acknowledgement of His divinity such as even the demons make.

I believe that the transforming new creation that takes place at salvation produces a new will, desire, and attitude deep within the person that can best be described as love for God. John makes love for God the true mark of the believer (see John 14:23–24; 1 John 2:5; 3:17; 4:12–13, 16–21). Peter declares that God is precious to those who believe (1 Pet. 2:7), pointing to the same truth that love for God and Christ characterize a true Christian.

The Ten Commandments themselves make clear that love for and obedience to God are inseparable. The Lord shows His “lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love [Him] and keep [His] commandments” (Ex. 20:6; cf. Deut. 7:9; Neh. 1:5). Jesus declared, “If you love Me, you will keep. My commandments” (John 14:15), and John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:3–5). A person who belongs to God loves God and therefore obeys God. One of the most beautiful descriptions of a Christian is one who loves “our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible” (Eph. 6:24). And one of the most sobering descriptions of an unbeliever is “anyone [who] does not love the Lord” (1 Cor. 16:22).

True love of God declares with Paul, “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15), In essence he was saying that, even though he did not always do what was tight, he always loved what was right and longed to do what was honoring to God. That was the opposite attitude of the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus repeatedly condemned for making great pretense of love for God on the outside while having no inward love for Him at all. They were interested only in the outward religious ceremonies and actions that fed their self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, and hypocrisy. Although they recited the Shema with meticulous regularity, that verbal declaration of love for God was hollow and meaningless.

Just as belonging to God is loving God, not belonging to Him is hating Him (Ex. 20:5). God’s people are those who love Him, and the unsaved are those who hate Him and are His adversaries (Deut. 32:41; Prov. 8:36).

The person who truly loves the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind is the person who trusts Him and obeys Him. That person demonstrates his love by meditating on God’s glory (Ps. 18:1–3), trusting in God’s divine power (Ps. 31:23), seeking fellowship with God (Ps. 63:1–8), loving God’s law (Ps. 119:165), being sensitive to how God feels (Ps. 69:9), loving what God loves (Ps. 119:72, 97, 103), loving whom God loves (1 John 5:1), hating what God hates (Ps. 97:10), grieving over sin (Matt. 26:75), rejecting the world (1 John 2:15), longing to be with Christ (2 Tim. 4:8), and obeying God wholeheartedly (John 14:21).

Above all, the one who truly loves God is the one who truly obeys God Like Paul, he knows his love is imperfect and his obedience is imperfect, but he presses “on in order that [he] may lay hold of that for which also [he] was laid hold of by Christ Jesus,” pressing “on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12, 14).

To say that Jesus died for man’s sin is to say that He died for man’s hatred of God, which is the essence of all sin. Christ died for man’s lack of love for God. And just as He offers forgiveness for past lack of love for God, Christ also provides for future love for God. The great Forgiver is also the great Enabler, because through Christ, “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Even before Christ came to earth, God’s way was the way of love, which was the way of obedience. The Jews of Jesus’ day should have been convicted of their lovelessness and their disobedience, because the Old Testament was clear-and nowhere more dear than in the Shema-that the person without obedience for God was without love for God and was therefore without God Himself

After stating the first and greatest commandment, Jesus did the Pharisees one better and added the second as well: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Not surprisingly, the second greatest commandment involves the same virtue as the first, namely, love. The command for genuine love of God, Jesus declared, is next followed in importance by the command for a love of your neighbor that is of the same order as the love you already have for yourself.

Just as the Pharisees had no genuine love for God, neither did they have genuine love even for their Jewish neighbor, not to mention their Gentile neighbor. Instead, as Jesus reminded the multitudes a short while later, the scribes and Pharisees “tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Matt. 23:4). Like the mercenary Sadducees who extorted the Temple worshipers in the selling of sacrifices and exchanging of money, the scribes and Pharisees also abused and made religious merchandise of their fellow Jews.

Genuine love for one’s neighbor is of the same kind as genuine love for God. It is by choice purposeful, intentional, and active, not merely sentimental and emotional. And it is measured, Jesus said, by your love for yourself. When a person is hungry, he feeds himself; when he is thirsty, he gets himself a drink; and when he is sick, he takes medicine or sees a doctor-all because he is so consumed with caring for himself. He does not simply think or talk about food or water or medicine but does whatever is necessary to provide those things for himself. A person never simply says to himself, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” without doing anything to secure his needed clothing and food (see James 2:16).

Contrary to some contemporary interpretations of this passage, Jesus was not commanding that a person love himself but assumed he already does love himself. “No one ever hated his own flesh,” Paul states, “but nourishes and cherishes it” (Eph. 5:29). And just as a person looks out for his own welfare, both by the legitimacy of natural design as wall as because of sinful selfishness, he will also look out for the welfare of others if he truly loves them.

The basic requirements both of Judaism and of Christianity are summed up in the same dual command: to love God and to love one’s fellow man. “On these two commandments,” Jesus said, “depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Everything else in the Old Testament that God required of believers hung on those two commands. Likewise, every New Testament requirement of believers is based on them. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God” John declares; “and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7–8). “He who loves his neighbor,” Paul says, “has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the Law” (Rom. 13:8–10).

If people loved perfectly there would be no need for law, because the person who loves others will never do them harm. In the same way, the believer who loves God with all his being will never take His name in vain, will never worship idols, and will never fail to obey, worship, honor, and glorify Him as Lord.

The lawyer was favorably, and no doubt surprisingly, impressed by Jesus’ answer. “Right, Teacher,” he said; “ ‘You have truly stated that … to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 12:32–34).[1]


37–39 Jesus first quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 (part of the Shema [Dt 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Nu 15:38–41]) and then Leviticus 19:18. The first is from the MT, the second from the LXX (cf. Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 22–25; Blomberg, “Matthew,” in CNTUOT). From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, “heart,” “soul,” and “mind” (v. 37) are not mutually exclusive but overlapping categories, together demanding our love for God to come from our whole person, our every faculty and capacity. “First and greatest” (v. 38) refers to one, not two, qualities. The “and” is explicative; i.e., this command is primary because it is the greatest. The second (v. 39) also concerns love, this time toward one’s “neighbor,” which in Leviticus 19:18 applies to a fellow Israelite or resident alien, but which Luke 10:29–37 expands to anyone who needs our help.

Bringing these two texts together does not originate with Jesus, as Luke’s parallel suggests (confirmed also by T. Iss. 5:2; 7:6; T. Dan 5:3, if these texts are pre-Christian).[2]


22:37–38. Jesus drew his answer from the most memorized and recited passage in all the Jewish Scriptures: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4–5).

Jesus quoted the Septuagint almost verbatim, but he substituted mind (dianoia) for the similar sounding “might” (dunameos). We are to take this list as an emphatic way of saying, “Love God with everything you are in every way possible.” But it was not without significance that our Lord deliberately substituted “mind” here rather than some other term. Christians need to take a lesson from this. We should learn to think critically and biblically.

Jesus emphasized his answer by identifying this commandment as the first and greatest commandment. This commandment was greatest because of the statement in Deuteronomy 6:4 which preceded it: “Yahweh is your God, Yahweh alone” (paraphrased). To honor Yahweh as the one true God is to love him exclusively, from among all others who claim to be gods.[3]


37–40. He answered him,

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

This is the great and first commandment. And a second like it is this:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.

Jesus here teaches that:

  • The whole duty of man, the whole moral-spiritual law, can be summed up in one word: love. Cf. Rom. 13:9, 10; 1 Cor. 13.
  • This love should be directed toward God (Deut. 6:5) and toward man (Lev. 19:18). In the Sermon on the Mount the obligation to love is set forth in greater detail (see especially 5:43–48; chapter 6; and 7:1–12).
  • Heart, soul, and mind must co-operate in loving God. The heart is the hub of the wheel of man’s existence, the mainspring of all his thoughts, words, and deeds (Prov. 4:23). The soul—the word used in the original has a variety of meanings (see footnote 334 on p. 349)—is here probably the seat of man’s emotional activity; the mind, not only of his purely intellectual life but also of his disposition or attitude. In the Hebrew original (and also in the LXX) of Deut. 6:5 the reading is “heart, soul, and might (or: power).” Mark 12:30 has “heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Cf. Luke 10:27. No essential difference is intended. We must not begin to over-analyze. What is meant in all these passages is that man should love God with all the “faculties” with which God has endowed him.
  • Man must use all these powers to the full; note triple “all … all … all,” or “whole … whole … whole.” The point is that God’s whole-hearted love must not be answered in a half-hearted manner. When God loves, he loves the world; when he gives, he gives his Son, hence himself. See N.T.C. on John 3:16. He gives him up; he spares him not. Greater love is impossible (John 15:13; Rom. 5:6–10; 2 Cor. 8:9). Surely, the response to such love must not be less than that indicated in Rom. 11:33–36; 1 Cor. 6:20; 2 Cor. 9:15; Eph. 5:1, 2; Phil. 2:1–18; Col. 3:12–17.
  • This commandment is called the great(est) because it epitomizes the most excellent response to the Most Wonderful Being, and is basic to all other genuine love.
  • “A second commandment which is similar to it” resembles the first, because it too requires love. Moreover, this love toward the neighbor, who is God’s image-bearer, flows forth from the love toward God (1 John 4:21; see also Matt. 5:43; 7:12; 19:19).
  • This twofold command (love for God and for the neighbor) is the peg on which the whole “law and the prophets” hang. Remove that peg, and all is lost, for the entire Old Testament, with its commandments and covenants, prophecies and promises, types and testimonies, invitations and exhortations, points to the love of God which demands the answer of love in return.[4]

37–38 Jesus draws his answer from the Shema, which was recited twice daily by the Jews. After the opening words, “Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,” which are included in Mark 12:29, comes the commandment quoted by Jesus. The wording of the citation itself agrees nearly verbatim with the LXX of Deut 6:5, except for Matthew’s use of ἐν and the dative for ἐκ and the genitive (no doubt reflecting the Hebrew preposition בְּ, , “with,” of the Hebrew text of Deut 6:5) and the alteration of the third noun from δυνάμεως, “strength,” to διανοίᾳ, “mind” (the latter, however, occurs in a cognate passage in the LXX of Josh 22:5). διανοίᾳ is derived from Matthew’s source, Mark 12:30 (which, however, has four modifying nouns; cf. above Form/Structure/Setting §B). The first and great commandment is to love God with all one’s being: with heart, soul, mind, and whatever else one might care to add. This commandment from Deut 6:5 can easily be recognized as a kind of elaboration on the first commandment of the Decalogue: “I am the Lord your God … you shall have no other gods besides me.” In its fundamental character, this is clearly ἡ μεγάλη [cf. v. 36] καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή, “the great and first commandment.” Included within it is the duty of obedience to the other commandments given by God, and thus the answer would have been a good one in the eyes of the Pharisees.[5]


22:37, 38 In a masterful way the Lord Jesus summarized man’s obligation to God as the first and great commandment: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ ” Mark’s account adds the phrase, “and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). This means that man’s first obligation is to love God with the totality of his being. As has been pointed out: the heart speaks of the emotional nature, the soul of the volitional nature, the mind of the intellectual nature, and strength of the physical nature.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 22:36–37). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 522–523). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, p. 358). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 809–810). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] Hagner, D. A. (1998). Matthew 14–28 (Vol. 33B, p. 647). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1287–1288). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

October 21, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0458

13    O my God, make them like whirling dust,

like chaff before the wind.

14    As fire consumes the forest,

as the flame sets the mountains ablaze,

15    so may you pursue them with your tempest

and terrify them with your hurricane!

16    Fill their faces with shame,

that they may seek your name, O Lord.

17    Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;

let them perish in disgrace,

18    that they may know that you alone,

whose name is the Lord,

are the Most High over all the earth. [1]


83:13–18 In its bold plea for God’s judgment on His foes, Israel leaves nothing to the divine imagination. The details of the punishment are specified. Let them be like the whirling dust, or as some translate it, like a tumbleweed. Let them be like the chaff driven before the wind. Let them be pursued as if by a fire sweeping through the woods, and consumed as if by a raging holocaust. Let them be terrified by the Lord’s storm. Let them be thoroughly put to shame so that men might seek the Lord. Let them perish in disgrace so that men might learn that Jehovah alone is the Sovereign Ruler over all the earth.

Strong language? Yes, strong but not unjustified. When the honor of God is at stake, love can be firm. Morgan explains:

These singers of the ancient people were all inspired supremely with a passion for the honor of God. With them, as with the prophets, selfish motives were unknown. Selfishness sings no song, and sees no visions. On the other hand, a passion for the glory of God is capable of great sternness as well as great tenderness.[2]


13–16 Your tempest. The Lord has all the forces of creation at his command and they often become, as here, symbols of his own power—to scatter, destroy, disorientate and disappoint (shame, disappointment of all they hoped) his foes. But his ways are ever full of purposeful mercy and in our prayers we should share that attitude. Sometimes people must be brought to nothing (13–15) so that they may be brought to God (16).

17–18 Your name. The note sounded at the end of the last section becomes a dominant theme. The prayer with which the psalm opens, be not quiet (1), becomes a prayer for a voice of divine revelation, let them know (18), addressing those who, left to themselves, plotted the elimination of the church (4). Whose name is (18) is rather ‘by’ or ‘because of your name’: i.e. ‘by’ telling them who and what he is, he will win them to himself; or because he is what he is he must move out towards them in revelation.[3]


Shaming of the Enemies (83:13–16)

Commentary

13–15 The enemies are the enemies of God. The godly must turn to him for deliverance and submit to his will. The believing heart calls on the Lord to act speedily for his righteousness’ sake. The emphatic use of “God” in v. 13 expresses the prayerful submission to the will of the heavenly Father: “My God, make them …” He prays that the curses of God will overtake the arrogant.

The psalmist likens the enemies’ lot to that of “tumbleweed,” “chaff,” and “forest” (vv. 13–14). “Tumbleweed” (galgal, lit., “wheel”) is a plant of the wild artichoke family (Gundelia tournefortii), a plant with wheel-shaped stems and thistles (see Avinoam Danin, “Plants as Biblical Metaphors,” BAR 5 [1979]: 20–21). Others translate galgal as “whirling dust.” The metaphor of the “chaff” is more common (cf. 1:4; 35:5; Isa 17:13; Jer 13:24). The psalmist prays that the Lord may destroy the enemies like “fire” destroys forests and the vegetation on the mountains (v. 14; see Reflections, p. 953, Imprecations in the Psalms). He also prays that the Lord will confound the plotting of the wicked as by a “tempest” and “storm” (v. 15). The enemies are “astir” against the Lord (vv. 2–4), but he will “terrify” them.

16 The confidence of the nations will be shaken by God’s sovereign presence. The nations had boastfully claimed that they would rid themselves of the “name” of Israel forever (v. 4). Instead, the psalmist prays for the Lord to change their pride and boasting to “shame.” But he shows a deep awareness of God’s gracious nature as he opens a door to those among the nations who will seek the “name” of Yahweh. This thought is repeated in v. 18. God’s mighty acts in judgment must lead to the recognition that Yahweh alone is God (vv. 17–18)![4]


83:16–18 / The final petitions (vv. 16–18) appear to show the same restraint. While a request is made that they perish in disgrace, this does not denote their deaths but simply their defeat, because the petitions both before and after seek to bring them to shame with the ultimate purpose of bringing them to the knowledge that the Lord … alone is the Most High. One of these petitions also echoes an earlier lament: they who plotted to destroy the memory of the name of Israel (v. 4) must seek your name, O Lord (v. 16).[5]


83:13 make them like the tumbleweed Emphasizes God’s power and His enemies’ helplessness against Him.

83:14 As fire burns a forest The psalmist describes how God’s wind surrounds His enemies like fire destroys a forest.

83:16 that they may seek your name The psalmist seems to indicate that God’s enemies will plead for mercy in desperation after they are defeated.

83:17 let them be humiliated and perish The psalmist wishes for the total humiliation of God’s enemies and their total destruction.

83:18 that they may know Knowledge of God can have both positive and negative ramifications. Here the sense is that God’s enemies will know His power as He decisively judges them.[6]


83:15 your tempest … your hurricane. God’s wrath is often compared to a violent storm (Ps. 18:7–15; Nah. 1:3).

83:16 seek your name. The psalm supplies a redemptive reason behind the judgment. As God judges the wickedness of the attackers, they will see their folly and turn to Him.

83:18 Most High. The Hebrew words used sound similar to the most common title of the Canaanite god Baal. The poet is asking God to judge the nations so that they will see that Yahweh, not Baal, is the only God.[7]


83:13–15 In a culture in which remembering a person was very important, an ultimate curse would have been to regard a person’s memory as whirling dust or windblown chaff.

83:16–18 Shame is the opposite of dignity, an attribute of the righteous (25:2; 97:7). seek Your name: Asaph’s first call for God to shame Israel’s enemies is redemptive—that the nations might hear, feel shame, repent, and seek the face of the Lord. Yet if they continued in their wicked path, they would face further confounding and would one day face God in judgment. The title Most High is often used in the Psalms to speak of God’s control over all the nations of the world (47:2; 78:35; 97:9).[8]


83:13–16. The psalmist asked that God would make them like windblown tumbleweed and chaff (cf. 1:4), insecure and pursued, and that He would hotly pursue them as fire consumes a forest on a mountain. Asaph wanted God’s wrath to be like a stormy tempest from which they could not escape. This defeat would shame them and cause many to turn to the Lord.

83:17–18. The psalm closes with a reiteration of the prayer that the wicked be ashamed (cf. v. 16) and disgraced. By trifling with people God cherishes, they would learn the hard way that God alone is the sovereign Lord.[9]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 83:13–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 676–677). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 540). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[4] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 631–632). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (p. 340). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 83:13–18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 811). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 703). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[9] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 855). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

October 18, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0455

The Test of Wisdom

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. (3:13)

Some interpreters believe the phrase who among you refers only to the teachers, or would-be teachers, addressed in verse 1. But it seems more probable that, like the intervening section on the tongue (vv. 2–12), this section on wisdom (vv. 13–18) applies to everyone in the churches to whom James was writing, true believers and mere professed believers. James is seeking to identify who is truly skilled in the art of righteous living. “In what way are you wise?” he is saying, in effect, “and in what way are you understanding? The answer will reveal not only your inner character but the spiritual condition of your soul.”

It is hard to find a self-professed fool. Most people have an elevated and unrealistically high opinion of their wisdom, although they might not say so. They believe they are just as “savvy” as the next person and that their opinion is usually better than anyone else’s. In this day of relativism, such perception is virtually universal.

Although the two terms seem to be used synonymously here, wise and understanding carry a shade of difference in meaning. Sophos (wise) is a general word, often used by the Greeks to designate speculative knowledge, theory, or philosophy. For the Jews, as noted earlier, it carried the deeper meaning of careful application of knowledge to personal living. Epistēmōn (understanding) appears only here in the New Testament and carries the idea of specialized knowledge, such as that of a highly skilled tradesman or professional.

Let him show translates an aorist imperative, making the verb a command. “If you claim wisdom and understanding,” he is saying, “show it first by your good behavior, your exemplary lifestyle.” As with faith (2:17), wisdom and understanding that are not demonstrated in righteous, godly living are devoid of spiritual value.

Second, and somewhat more specifically, James admonishes readers to show their wisdom and understanding by their good (implied) deeds, by all the particular activities and endeavors they are involved in.

Third, believers are to demonstrate wisdom and understanding by an attitude of gentleness. People who are wise in their own eyes are generally arrogant about it, which would be expected, because an elevated self-view is based on pride. As made clear in the following verse, selfish ambition is a common companion of arrogance.

Prautēs (gentleness) and its related adjective praus (gentle) carry the idea of tenderness and graciousness, and can be accurately translated “meekness” and “meek,” respectively. But unlike those English words, the Greek terms do not connote weakness but rather power under control. The adjective was often used of a wild horse that was broken and made useful to its owner. For believers, gentleness is to be willingly under the sovereign control of God. Numbers 12:3 (kjv) describes Moses as “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Yet that same Moses could act decisively, and flared up in anger when provoked.

Gentleness is a God-honored character trait, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is never bitter, malicious, self-seeking, self-promoting, arrogant, or vengeful. James has earlier admonished believers, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility (prautēs) receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (1:21). Gentleness or meekness is to characterize everyone in the kingdom of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Our Lord used it of Himself, saying, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29; cf. 21:5).

In his excellent nineteenth-century commentary on James, Robert Johnstone wrote:

I do not know that at any point the opposition between the spirit of the world and the Spirit of Christ is more marked, more obviously diametrical, than with regard to this feature of character. That “the meek” should “inherit the earth”—they who bear wrongs, and exemplify that love which “seeketh not her own,”—to a world which believes in high-handedness and self-assertion, and pushing the weakest to the wall, a statement like this of the Lord from heaven cannot but appear an utter paradox. The man of the world desires to be counted anything but “meek” or “poor in spirit,” and would deem such a description of him equivalent to a charge of unmanliness. Ah, brethren, this is because we have taken in Satan’s conception of manliness instead of God’s. One Man has been shown us by God, in whom His ideal of man was embodied; and He, “when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously”; He for those who nailed Him to the tree prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” The world’s spirit of wrath, then, must be folly; whilst than a spirit of meekness like His, in the midst of controversy, oppositions, trials of whatever kind, there can be no surer evidence that “Jesus is made of God to His people wisdom.” …

We have here again what may be described as the central thought of this epistle, that where religion [the gospel] has real saving hold of a mind and heart, it cannot from its nature but powerfully influence the outward life; and that the more a Christian has of true wisdom and spiritual knowledge, the more manifestly will his life at all points be governed by his religion [faith]. Talk of orthodoxy and Christian experience, however fluent and animated and clever, does not of itself prove wisdom; the really wise man will “show his work.” (A Commentary on James [reprint; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 261–62; 259)[1]


13 In the ancient world, to be “wise” (sophos, GK 5055) could refer to being skilled or experienced (e.g., 1 Co 3:10); but most often in biblical literature, the word communicates an understanding that results in right attitudes and right living, for God himself is wise (Ro 16:27; 1 Co 1:25) and therefore is the source of divine wisdom. James wants his audience to consider such godly wisdom, for he asks rhetorically, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” The term translated “understanding” (epistēmōn, GK 2184) has to do with being knowledgeable or expert in some area of life. It may be that there were strong personalities in the churches James addresses—people who boasted of their great learning and “wisdom,” insisting that their perspectives on certain matters be given the highest consideration. Yet James issues a reminder that true wisdom “speaks” loudest in one primary way: a life lived well and with an attitude of humility. Thus one must “show,” or demonstrate (deiknymi, GK 1259), “deeds” (ta erga, GK 2240) associated with a righteous pattern of life. This “good life” (tēs kalēs ana-strophēs, GK 2819, 419) constitutes high moral quality and excellence of conduct (Gal 1:13; Eph 4:22; Heb 13:7; 1 Pe 3:2). Further, true wisdom is the source of humility, so the “showing” of good deeds, which really stems from divine wisdom, will manifest itself in a humbleness of spirit rather than stimulating a boastful attitude. The word rendered “humility” (prautēs, GK 4559) by the NIV and “gentleness” by the NASB can also carry the meaning “courtesy” or “considerateness,” and, given the relational conflicts addressed in the passage, these nuances may be in line with James’s intention.[2]


3:13 / James has already argued for simple, sincere speech; now he makes an appeal. Who is wise and understanding among you? At one level this is a question that simply asks if someone fits the description, but at a deeper level one remembers that 1 Corinthians 1–3 describes a church in which rival teachers claimed superior wisdom, and perhaps that was happening in James’ community as well. At the least, he knows that the teachers of 3:1 were claiming to be understanding, for how else could they teach? It is such persons, as well as those who aspire to understanding, whom James addresses.

How are such persons to show their wisdom? By clever refutation of those who disagree with their position? By no means; rather, show it by [their] good life. Jesus had taught that one would know true teachers from false ones by how they lived (Matt. 7:15–23). James is applying his master’s teaching. Lifestyle was absolutely critical for the early church. Elders were primarily examples (1 Pet. 5:3; 1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:10–11), secondarily teachers: Their qualifications stress their exemplary lives and only mention their teaching ability as one item among many (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). Lifestyle was an important witness as well (1 Pet. 2:12; 3:2, 16), for if it did not succeed in converting, it at least removed the excuses from the mouths of unbelievers at the final judgment. James states that not one’s orthodoxy (right preaching) but one’s orthopraxis (right living) is the mark of true wisdom. One must reject the teacher who does not live like Jesus; one discounts the profession that does not lead to holiness.

James stresses two marks of this lifestyle. The first is good deeds. Actions do speak louder than words (Matt. 5:16). The works one does show where the heart is really invested (e.g., Matt. 6:19–21, 24). James commends such practices as charity and caring for widows as marks of wisdom.

The second mark is performing these deeds in the humility that comes from wisdom. Unlike the hypocrites of Matthew 6:1–5, the truly wise know how to act out of humility: They are not building their own reputations. Like Moses (Num. 12:3) and Jesus (Matt. 11:29; 21:5; 2 Cor. 10:1), they are not interested in defending themselves. They avoid conflict and especially avoid advertising themselves. Humility is the mark of the truly wise.[3]


A Challenge to Demonstrate Wisdom in Behavior (v. 13)

3:13. James 3:2–12 presents shortcomings of the tongue to which teachers and all individuals are vulnerable. 3:13–18 reminds us of our need to demonstrate genuine wisdom. The words particularly apply to aspiring teachers, but they have relevance to all believers.

The opening rhetorical question asks how we can show that we have wisdom. Wise refers to someone with moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct. Understanding pictures someone with the knowledge of an expert. We are to show the presence of wisdom by good deeds practiced with humility. Only obedient deeds, not mere talk, prove the presence of wisdom.

Humility refers to a submissive spirit opposed to arrogance and self-seeking. The person with humility is not a doormat for the desires of others, but controls and overpowers the natural human tendency to be arrogant and self-assertive. Non-Christian Greeks felt that this type of humility was a vice. Christianity made meekness into a virtue. “Meek” in Matthew 5:5 is the adjectival form of the noun translated here as humility. Jesus promised the “meek” they would inherit the earth. Jesus meant a believer who relates to God with dependence and contentment will reap God’s abundant blessings.

Even when you are involved in a disagreement, you must demonstrate a gentleness and kindness of attitude. You must banish all contentiousness and mutual accusation. The Bible calls on all Christians to show the presence of spiritual wisdom in their lives by deeds of humility and goodness.[4]


13, Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

James addresses the members of the church. He assumes that they pray to God for wisdom, that they possess this virtue, and that the world looks to them for leadership. Knowing, however, that these things are not always true of Christians, James wants his readers to examine themselves.

  • Examination

“Who is wise and understanding among you?” A wise and understanding person demonstrates in what he says and by what he does that he possesses wisdom. Whether James wants to designate the teachers of his day wise men is not quite clear. If this is the case, we see a direct connection between the beginning of this chapter (“Not many of you should presume to be teachers,” v. 1) and the rhetorical question here (v. 13).

James qualifies the term wise with the word understanding. This means that a wise person also has experience, knowledge, and ability. Wisdom consists of having insight and expertise to draw conclusions that are correct. An old proverb sums this up: “Foresight is better than hindsight, but insight is best.”

Countless instances prove that knowledgeable people are not necessarily wise. But when a knowledgeable person has insight, he indeed is wise. If there is a wise and understanding person among you, says James, let him demonstrate this in his life.

  • Demonstration

James encourages the wise man to show by his conduct that he has received the gift of wisdom. “Let him show it by his good life.” James seems to indicate that among Christians wise and understanding men are in the minority, for not everyone who belongs to the Christian community acquires wisdom. But those who have it are exhorted to demonstrate by word and deed that they indeed are wise. James uses the verb to show in the sense of “to prove.” Let a man provide actual proof that he possesses wisdom and understanding. Let him confirm this by means of his daily conduct.

What does James mean by the expression good life? He refers to noble, praiseworthy behavior. True, James stresses “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” But a wise man affirms his noble conduct in words and deeds.

  • Affirmation

“Actions speak louder than words.” This proverbial truth underscores the necessity of looking at a person’s deeds to see whether his actions match his words. What are these deeds? They are performed in a humble, gentle spirit that is controlled by a spirit of heavenly wisdom.

The emphasis in this verse falls on that characteristic of wisdom described as humility. This quality can also be described as meekness or gentleness. Gentleness comes to expression in the person who is endowed with wisdom and who affirms this in all his deeds.

In Ecclesiasticus, also known as the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, the writer lists a few precepts on humility and says, “My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts” (Sir. 3:17, RSV).[5]


13 Τίς σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιοτήυων ἐν ὑμῖν, “who among you is the wise and understanding person?” The opening τίς (“who”: see BDF §298.4, and for the Semitic usage of מִי, , as interrogative, see Beyer, Semitische Syntax, 167) does not suggest that what follows is merely an abstract warning (Davids, 150); or that this interrogative (see 5:13, 14) necessarily introduces a new section (Dibelius, 208–9), as though 3:13–18 were no more than a parenthetical thought (see Form/Structure/Setting). The τίς may point specifically to the teachers (Adamson, 151), though the church members at large are not totally out of the picture. The problem seems to be that some self-styled chief people, thinking they were endowed with superior wisdom and understanding, had divided the church because of their teaching, which betrayed a misuse of the tongue. Such a scenario was not uncommon in the early church (Rom 16:17–18; 2 Cor 2:17; Gal 1:7–9; Eph 4:14; and the reference to ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν in 1 Tim 1:3–7). The term “wise” (σοφός) may relate directly to the teacher (the “wise teacher” is rabbinic: E. Lohse, TDNT 6:962–63 for תַלְמִיד־חָכָם, talmîd-ḥākām) but the term for understanding (ἐπιστήμων; a hapax legomenon in the NT) could also refer to anyone who claimed to have expert knowledge and esoteric understanding. The combination of the two terms in 3:13 reflects the influence of the LXX. These terms are close to being synonyms in Deuteronomy (1:13, 15; 4:6; cf. Dan 5:12). In the first two verses cited in Deuteronomy, the combination refers to leaders; the last Deuteronomic reference is to the people at large. Thus, the description of “wise and understanding” is not exclusively applicable to teachers, but may include all in the community. But it should be kept in mind that those who taught were prone to fall victim to the misuse of the tongue and were obliged to demonstrate their faithfulness to their calling. The opening words are thus a challenge to those whose business was with words spoken and intended to be received as authoritative. What James has in mind here is a wisdom that results not so much in what one thinks or says as in what one does (“practical wisdom”: see Ropes, 244). James will shortly contrast two types of wisdom, namely the worldly and that which comes from God. But before doing that he will recall an earlier theme—faith without works is dead (2:14–26)—by recasting this thought in terms of wisdom and the good works that confirm it.

δειξάτω ἐκ τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ ἐν πραΰτητι σοφίας, “Let him demonstrate by fine conduct his deeds [done] in the humility that stems from wisdom.” V 13 is a challenge to James’ readers similar to 2:18 (δεῖξόν μοι, “show me”), where the interlocutor calls on James to demonstrate a faith without works. The verb at the beginning of the sentence (here and in 2:18) is emphatic, and the aorist imperative (δειξάτω), suggesting a once-for-all action, may be employed here to indicate that a sudden change of “manner of living” (Lebenswandel is Mussner’s expression, 170) is necessary. The urgency of this needed turnaround is seen because the tone of this letter implies that “actual and present evils” (Adamson, 149) prevail in the congregation to which James writes.

Two concepts relating to wisdom—namely, that wisdom produces works and that wisdom is characterized by meekness—appear to be awkwardly combined (Davids, 150; Moo, 132). The first thought is not completely out of place in the sense that James has already expatiated upon the need to back up a word-of-mouth confession by good works. Earlier James expected (and demanded) that a genuine faith should issue in good works (2:14–26; i.e., in deeds of charity). Now, true wisdom (wisdom from above, 3:17) should likewise be demonstrated by “fine conduct” (καλὴ ἀναστροφή; for the terminology see Gal 1:13; 1 Pet 1:15; 2:12; 3:2, 16; Heb 13:7: Bertram, TDNT 7:715–17). The idea that a person will exhibit good conduct if led by wisdom-Torah is quite consistent with OT teaching (Moo, 132), and is common in Jewishrabbinic parenesis (˒Abot 3:9b, 17b; 4:5a) and in later Christian literature (1 Clem 38.2: see Explanation).

Where v 13b becomes a little awkward is in the expression “his deeds [done] in humility.” The genitive construction here may be the result of Semitic influence (Hort, 80; Dibelius, 36–37). Yet this does not really obscure the meaning of the words. The Christian is to pattern his or her life after Jesus, who was meek (Matt 11:29) and who urged his followers to adopt this attitude (Matt 5:5). Meekness (πραΰτης) was considered a vice by some noncanonical writers of James’ time (see Laws, 160–61), and even today meekness is often looked upon as a sign of weakness, but in the NT this disposition is seen as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). The Christian is exhorted to be gentle or humble particularly in situations that have potential for conflict. This advice is especially urgent when it pertains to a church setting that is fraught with danger arising from members’ pride and dissension. The life that can be described as both wise and meek is one that is under the control of God, as the Qumran community acknowledged (1QS 4.22, 5.25, 11.1, cited in Mussner, 170, who also refers to Appian, Civil War 3.79 [§ 323], for terms that would translate as σοφία and πραΰτης = in mansuetudine et prudentia). Such control results in an attitude that surrenders selfish rights and disallows “pride” that destroys good relations with others.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 168–170). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 249). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Davids, P. H. (2011). James (pp. 87–88). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 306–307). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 117–118). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] Martin, R. P. (1998). James (Vol. 48, pp. 128–130). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.