Category Archives: Believer’s Bible Commentary

August 17, 2017: Verse of the day

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John repeated for emphasis the truth from verse 1 that those who believe in Jesus Christ and have been born of God … overcome the world, gaining the victory over it through their faith. The phrase our faith literally reads, “the faith of us.” It could refer to the subjective, personal faith of individual believers, or objectively to the Christian faith, “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3; cf. Acts 6:7; 13:8; 14:22; 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:13; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 1:23; Phil. 1:27; 1 Tim. 4:1; 6:10, 21; 2 Tim. 4:7). It is safe to see in this context of believing that John is referring not to the objective content of the gospel as theology, but to the subjective trust by which God makes saints overcomers.[1]


4 Verse 4 builds on vv. 2–3 by describing the benefits of obedience. All those who are born of God “conquer [nikaō, GK 3771] the world” (NIV, “overcome the world”). The conquest metaphor is consistent with John’s dualistic perspective, which sees a hostile relationship between the world and God’s children. But the precise meaning of nikaō here is open to debate, especially since it seems to contrast starkly with the real-life experiences of the Johannine Christians (see Introduction).

Some suggest that nikaō is used in an eschatological sense. Schnackenburg, 229–30, for example, sees here a reference to “the victory that Christ won once for all in salvation history,” the victory that is “repeated in the lives of the Christians.” By participating in the work of Christ, then, believers experience the future victory over evil in the midst of the pain of this world. Rensberger, 129, takes a somewhat similar view with the suggestion that John is touching on the notion that Satan is “the ruler of this world” (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Jesus has conquered the ruler of this world, and all those who believe share the benefits of this victory. Other commentators believe that John is thinking of the moral sphere of human experience. Dodd, 126–27, for example, says that “the world” refers here to “the power of evil inclinations, false standards and bad dispositions.” “Victory” is achieved when believers choose to obey God and resist temptation (cf. Marshall, 228–29; Schnackenburg, 229).

While both of these views are reasonable, the most likely reference point for the believer’s “victory over the world” is John 16:33. First John 5:4 opens with a hoti clause that seems to introduce a traditional slogan or saying, and the phrase that follows is strongly reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the upper room. After assuring the disciples that they will be hated by the world, put out of the synagogues, and persecuted for his name (Jn 15:18–16:4), Jesus predicts that they will soon scatter and abandon him. Despite all this, they should not be discouraged, because “I have conquered the world” (NIV, “overcome the world”; 16:33).

Jesus’ “conquest” seems to consist of his resolution to obey God’s calling and suffer death. By analogy, 1 John 5:4 uses nikaō to describe the true believer’s willingness to serve God in spite of the world’s persecutions. Hence the conquest of the world may be reduced to “our faith”—the fact of holding fast to the orthodox confession in the face of pressure to abandon Christ. The verb nikaō is used with the same connotation in Revelation, where the believer’s “victory” is gained by overcoming the temptation to abandon the faith in the face of severe suffering and possibly death (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). If 1 John and Revelation were produced by the same person or by members of the same community, these references would also support the interpretation adopted here.[2]


5:4 Next we learn the secret of victory over the world. The world system is a monstrous scheme of temptation, always trying to drag us away from God and from what is eternal, and seeking to occupy us with what is temporary and sensual. People of the world are completely taken up with the things of time and sense. They have become the victims of passing things.

Only the man who is born of God really overcomes the world, because by faith he is able to rise above the perishing things of this world and to see things in their true, eternal perspective. Thus the one who really overcomes the world is not the great scientist or philosopher or psychologist, but the simple believer who realizes that the things which are seen are temporary and that the things which are not seen are eternal. A sight of the glory of God in the face of Jesus dims the glory of this world.[3]


4 This leads on to victory. The neuter ‘whatever’ (niv, everyone) makes the statement quite general (cf. 1:1). Our faith (the noun occurs only here in 1 John; it is not found in the gospel or 2 or 3 John) stands last with emphasis. Has overcome means that the decisive victory is in the past, when Jesus died to overcome evil, and in the case of the individual believer when that believer came to trust in him.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (p. 179). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 490–491). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2322–2323). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Morris, L. L. (1994). 1 John. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1408). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

August 12, 2017: Verse of the day

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Salvation Presentation

And opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” (10:34–43)

In contrast to his indicting sermons on the Day of Pentecost and at Solomon’s portico, and his bold defenses before the Sanhedrin, Peter here is led by the Spirit to give a simple gospel presentation. Some situations call for a detailed apologetic and historic presentation before the hearers can understand the gospel message. Others, with divinely plowed hearts, require only the simple truths of the gospel. Cornelius and the other Gentiles gathered with him were such divinely prepared individuals.

The phrase opening his mouth is a colloquial Greek expression marking the speech that follows as important. Looking around at his improbable audience, Peter began by shattering what remained of the barrier separating the two groups with his fresh insight: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.” With one stroke, Peter cuts to the heart of the issue and rivets their attention on him.

Saying … . understand is an admission that this is really new for him, and that only now, at long last, was he beginning to understand that the church was to include men from every nation. The truth of Jesus’ words “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold” (John 10:16) was dawning. The meaning of the vision was clear. Actually, because this was not new truth, Peter and his Jewish companions should have already known that God is not one to show partiality. That is clearly taught in the Old Testament (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Job 34:19).

Paul elaborated on that truth. To the Romans he wrote, “Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one” (Rom. 3:29–30; cf. 2:11; Eph. 6:9).

Peter then expanded that thought, explaining that in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. Some have misunderstood this verse to be teaching universalism, that God accepts all who are sincere on the basis of their works. That view is obviously inconsistent with biblical teaching and absurd. If Cornelius and the others were already saved, what was Peter doing there preaching that only through the name of Jesus can souls be saved (v. 43)? Further, that they were not yet saved is clearly stated in Acts 11:14. There are some who would deny that there is any pre-salvation work on the part of the sinner, leading to salvation. This, too, is absurd, since the text clearly states that salvation comes to those who fear God and do what is right. Is this salvation by works? Of course not. Peter is simply expressing the reality that there is a Spirit work in the heart of the sinner (cf. John 16:8–11; Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). That work produces a person who fears or reverences God and does what is right, and who is welcome or acceptable (dektos) to God. That word means “marked by a favorable manifestation of the divine pleasure,” as used in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “ ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’; behold, now is ‘the acceptable time’, behold, now is ‘the day of salvation.’ ” This text shows that the welcome or acceptable time is the time of salvation. No matter what the age, race, sex, or social strata, when the heart hungers for God and for righteousness (Matt. 5:6), it is the welcome time for salvation. Commenting on this verse, Everett Harrison remarks, “The meaning is not that such persons are thereby saved (cf. Acts 11:14) but rather that they are suitable candidates for salvation. Such preparation betokens a spiritual earnestness that will result in faith as the gospel is heard and received (Interpreting Acts: The Expanding Church [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986], 182).

Cornelius responded to the work of God in his soul, yet it must not be thought that he did that on his own, apart from the grace of God. The truth is that no one, whether Gentile (cf. Rom. 1:18ff.) or Jew (cf. Rom. 2:1ff.) does that (Rom. 3:10–18). God had worked in Cornelius’s heart so that he sought to know and obey God, and when he heard the saving truth of the gospel, he eagerly responded.

Peter introduced his message by assuring them that salvation was available to the prepared heart. Yet it was not enough for them merely to know of its availability; they needed to know how to appropriate the forgiveness of sin and deliverance from judgment. Peter turns, then, to the main theme of the gospel, namely that salvation comes through Jesus Christ to anyone from any nation. In the words of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation,” the church is

Elect from ev’ry nation,

Yet one o’er all the earth.

The word of God containing the message of salvation came first to the sons of Israel (cf. Rom. 1:16). It was the glorious message of peace through Jesus Christ. All people are fallen and are enemies who are at war with God (cf. Rom. 5:10). The sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ ended that hostility and brought peace between man and God by paying the price for sin. In the words of the apostle Paul, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19), and has “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20). Salvation is offered to all because Jesus is Lord of all.

As already noted, Caesarea was the seat of the Roman government in Judea. Consequently, Peter can affirm to Cornelius and the others that you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. They were aware of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him.

The baptism which John proclaimed was a baptism signifying an attitude of repentance and longing for the reign of righteousness. It prepared the nation for the Messiah, who was Jesus of Nazareth. As He began His ministry, God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power (cf. Matt. 3:13–17; Luke 3:21–22). Peter describes that ministry as going about doing good, then lists as an example His healing of all who were oppressed by the devil. That phrase encompasses the whole gamut of human ailments, from direct demon oppression to disease to spiritual darkness. “The Son of God,” wrote the apostle John, “appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Jesus Christ’s complete overpowering of Satan and his demons left no doubt that God was with Him.

All they had heard about Jesus’ ministry was true, Peter affirms. He adds the apostolic corroboration that we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, and then comes quickly to the significant event saying, And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. That religious men would lead the effort to put to death the One who went about doing good and overruling the work of Satan illustrates the depths of human depravity—even when it is masked with religion. God, however, overturned the world and hell, vindicating Jesus by raising Him up on the third day.

The significance of Peter’s statement that Jesus became visible should not be overlooked. Countless heretics, from apostolic times to the present, have denied the truth of Christ’s physical resurrection. That fact is central to Christianity, however. Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19 the serious consequences of denying the resurrection. If “Christ has not been raised, [our] faith is worthless; [we] are still in [our] sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). Those who deny Christ’s literal resurrection destroy the only bridge spanning the gulf separating them from God. For the record, Paul has left us the inspired fact that the risen Jesus appeared to Peter, then the Twelve, more than 500 believers at one time, then to James, all the apostles, and finally to himself (1 Cor. 15:5–8).

Not everyone had the privilege of witnessing the resurrected Christ, however. He appeared, Peter declares, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. God chose only a few to bear testimony to the world that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, and all of them were believers. Peter’s reference to those who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead offers further proof of His bodily resurrection, since in Jewish thought spirit beings were incapable of such actions.

Verse 42 relates the warning that was essential to the apostolic witness. They were ordered (Commanded) to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead (cf. John 5:21–29; Acts 17:30–31; 2 Thess. 1:7–10; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 19:11ff.). Jesus Christ will be to every person either deliverer or judge.

The apostles were not the only witnesses of Jesus Christ; so also were the prophets. They bore witness that through His name (By His power and authority) everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. Isaiah (Isa. 53:11), Jeremiah (Jer. 31:34), and Zechariah (Zech. 13:1) were among those who spoke of the forgiveness Messiah would bring. All that Jesus is and did is the culmination of divine promises made centuries earlier. The last recorded line of Peter’s message, everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins, is essential. Every component is critical to the gospel. Everyone indicates the universal offer of saving grace (cf. Acts 2:39; 13:39; Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Rev. 22:17). Who believes in Him indicates the means of receiving saving grace—by faith in Christ alone (Acts 9:42; 11:17; 13:39; 14:23; 15:9; 16:31; 19:4; cf. John 3:14–17; 6:69; Rom. 10:11; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 2:8–9). Receives forgiveness of sins indicates the marvelous, unspeakable privilege conferred by saving grace (Acts 2:38; 13:38–39; cf. Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14).[1]


34–35 The sermon is prefaced by the words “opening his mouth, Peter said” (anoixas de Petros to stoma eipen). This was one way to introduce a weighty utterance (cf. Mt 5:2; 13:35 [quoting Ps 78:2]; Ac 8:35). In Luke’s eyes, what Peter was about to say was indeed momentous in sweeping away centuries of racial prejudice. It begins by Peter’s statement that God does not show “favoritism” or “partiality” (prosōpolēmptēs [GK 4720], which appears only here in the NT but whose synonym prosōpolēmpsia is found in Ro 2:11; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25; Jas 2:1; 1 Pe 1:17), “but accepts [people] from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” While some consciousness of this may be implicit in Israel’s history and at times have been expressed by her prophets (cf. Am 9:7; Mic 6:8), it was only by means of a revelational clarification—i.e., a “pesher” interpretation of what was earlier considered to be a highly enigmatic “mystery” (cf. Eph 3:4–6)—that Peter came to appreciate the racial challenge of the gospel.[2]


10:34–35. Luke understood the enormous impact of what he was about to write. In a few short sentences this brash disciple from Galilee, now a respected apostle from Jerusalem, would sweep away centuries of religious and racial prejudice. No longer was God only for the Jews, and no longer was Jesus only a Jewish Messiah. Here comes a new theology of remnant Christians from all nations of the world. The word for favoritism (prosopolemptes) appears only here in the New Testament, but synonyms show up in Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, and James 2:1.

We talked earlier about Mark writing Peter’s version of the life of Christ. Here we have a mini-summary of the Gospel of Mark, a revolutionary message indicating that salvation does not rest in the works of some religious group. It forms the racial challenge of the gospel—God does not distinguish faces. The body of Christ reaches worldwide. Its members come from every ethnic group where the gospel has been preached (Rom. 2:11; Eph. 2:11–22; Col. 3:25; Jas. 2:1; 1 Pet. 1:17).

Like the Ethiopian treasurer before him, Cornelius followed what light God had given and now became the recipient of more light, the full light of the message of Jesus and the gospel.[3]


  1. Peter said: “I truly understand that God shows no favoritism.”

This is Peter’s first address to a Gentile audience. As a representative of the Christian church, he is fully aware of the uniqueness of this situation. He realizes the significance of his vision in Joppa and knows that he is doing God’s will. He says, “I truly understand that God shows no favoritism.” The Jews of Peter’s day lived by the doctrine that God had made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants and that they were God’s chosen people. They despised the Gentiles because, according to the Jews, God had rejected the Gentiles and had withheld his blessings from them.

The Jews also knew that God had told Abraham that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4). So, then, believers of all nations would claim Abraham as their spiritual father. Interestingly, in his sermon at Solomon’s Colonnade Peter had quoted the words God had spoken to Abraham: “And through your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed” (3:25). But at that time, Peter had not fully fathomed the depth of this divine saying. Now, however, Peter sees the fulfillment of God’s word to Abraham. The Roman centurion, the members of Cornelius’s household, and all his invited relatives and guests receive God’s blessing.

Peter appeals to the Scriptures when he says that God shows no favoritism. For instance, Moses tells the Israelites in the desert, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes bribes” (Deut. 10:17, NIV).41

God does not look at a person’s external appearance, nationality, wealth, social status, and achievements. In the light of God’s teaching given in a vision, Peter sets aside his ingrained bias against the Gentiles and, as he states, truthfully accepts the doctrine of God’s impartiality. He is convinced that salvation belongs to all nations and not merely to Israel. He knows that his earlier view of God was defective.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

Like the wideness of the sea;

There’s a kindness in his justice,

Which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader

Than the measure of man’s mind;

And the heart of the Eternal

Is most wonderfully kind.

—Frederick W. Faber

  1. “But in every nation, the man who fears him and does what is right is accepted by God.”

The expression in every nation stands first in the sentence for emphasis. God excludes no country on the face of this earth but accepts believers from every nation into the church. God has removed the barrier between the nation Israel and the Gentiles. Nevertheless, God accepts a Gentile only when such a person fears him and obediently does his will. God accepts no sinner on his own merit; everybody, be he Jew or Gentile, must be saved through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. If Cornelius were acceptable on the basis of his own moral purity and personal religiosity, Peter would not have to preach Christ’s gospel in the officer’s home.

What is the meaning of Peter’s remark that God accepts a man who fears God and does what is right? Peter is saying that a person who seeks God and strives to keep his law is, on that account, eager to hear the good news of salvation. In Acts, Luke shows that God-fearers who earnestly do what is right readily place their trust in Jesus. When the apostles preach the gospel to them, they believe (see 16:14–15; 17:4, 12; 18:7–8). God receives people from every race, tribe, or tongue, not on the basis of their reverence for God and their striving after righteousness, but because they put their faith in Jesus. Thus, Peter reminds his audience of their knowledge of the Christ.[4]


10:34, 35 Peter prefaced his message with a frank admission. Up to now he had believed that God’s favor was limited to the nation of Israel. Now he realized that God did not respect a man’s person because of his nationality, but was interested in an honest, contrite heart, whether in a Jew or a Gentile. “In every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

There are two principal interpretations of verse 35:

  1. Some think that if one truly repents and seeks after God, he is saved even if he has never heard about the Lord Jesus. The argument is that although the man himself might not know about Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice, yet God knows about it and saves the man on the basis of that sacrifice. He reckons the value of the work of Christ to the man whenever He finds true faith.
  2. The other view is that even if a man fears God and works righteousness, he is not thereby saved. Salvation is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But when God finds a man who has lived up to the light he has received about the Lord, He makes sure that the man hears the gospel and thus has the opportunity to be saved.

We believe that the second view is the proper interpretation.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (pp. 298–302). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 880). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Gangel, K. O. (1998). Acts (Vol. 5, pp. 163–164). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 391–392). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1613–1614). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

August 11, 2017: Verse of the day

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3 The forgiveness of “sins” (ʿāwōn, GK 6411, lit., “guilt”) is God’s gracious act of removing the consequences of sin as well as the sin itself (cf. 32:1; 51:2; 90:8). It is synonymous with “heals all your diseases.” The “diseases” may be forms of sickness (cf. Mk 2:7); but more likely it is a metaphor for adversities or setbacks (cf. Dt 29:22; Jer 14:19; 16:4), similar to punishment (“sins”). For “healing” as an act of restoration, see 147:3 and Jeremiah 30:12–17; 51:8–9.[1]


forgiveness (v. 3) He first mentions the forgiveness of sins—not just some of his iniquities! What good would that be when one sin is sufficient enough to condemn before a holy God. The forgiveness of God covers ‘all’ iniquities. And the forgiveness of iniquities—let us never forget—flows from God through the channel of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

healing (v. 3) David moves to the next blessing: God’s healing of diseases. Henry T. Mahan writes: ‘The diseases of this body are the results of sin and God will heal them when it is according to his will and when it serves his purpose, but the diseases referred to here are spiritual diseases, which, like our sins, are all healed in Christ. He bore all our spiritual sicknesses and diseases in his body on the tree and by his sufferings we are healed for ever.…’[2]


103:3 But above all else, we should be thankful to Him for forgiving all our iniquities. It is an unspeakable miracle of divine grace that crimson sins can be made whiter than snow. I can empathize with the man who chose one word for his tombstone—FORGIVEN. And also with the Irishman who said, “The Lord Jesus has forgiven me all my sins, and He’s never going to hear the end of it.” To know that our sins have been put away forever by the precious blood of Christ—well, it’s just too much to take in. The second benefit to be remembered is the healing of all our diseases. Before we get into the problem that this raises, let us notice that healing comes after forgiveness. The physical is closely related to the spiritual. While not all sickness is a direct result of sin, some of it is. Where the connection exists, forgiveness must precede healing.

But the obvious problem is still there. The verse says “… who heals all your diseases.” Yet as a matter of practical experience we know that not all diseases are healed, that we will all die sooner or later if the Lord does not come in the meantime. So what does the verse mean? In seeking an answer, we would make the following observations.

First, all genuine healing is from God. If you have been sick, and then have recovered, you can thank God for your recovery because He is the source of all healing. One of the names of God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Rophi—the Lord your Healer. Every instance of true healing comes from Him.

Second, the Lord is able to heal all kinds of diseases. There is no such thing with Him as an incurable disease.

Third, the Lord can heal by the use of natural means over a period of time or He can heal miraculously and instantly. No limit can be placed on His power to heal.

Fourth, when He was on earth the Lord actually healed all that were brought to Him (Matt. 8:16).

Fifth, during the Millennium He will actually heal all diseases (Isa. 33:24; Jer. 30:17) except in the case of those who rebel against Him (Isa. 65:20b).

But whatever else the verse means, it cannot mean that the believer can claim healing for every disease, because in other verses of the Psalm we are reminded of the shortness of life and of the certainty of its coming to an end (see vv. 15, 16). What the verse says to me is that whenever a believer is healed, this is a mercy from God, and He should be acknowledged and thanked as the Healer.[3]


103:3 diseases. This is not a promise, but rather a testimony which should be understood in the light of Dt 32:39.[4]


103:3 Heals often refers to curing someone from a physical sickness, but it can also be used as a metaphor for restoring the moral and spiritual life (e.g., Isa. 6:10; 53:5; Jer. 3:22; Hos. 14:4). Since it is in parallel with forgives, the metaphorical use may be intended here. Thus iniquity is like diseases, which weaken and corrupt; it is God’s mercy that takes them away. These sentiments reflect David’s own experience of God’s forgiveness (cf. 2 Samuel 12; Psalm 51).[5]


103:3 forgives all your iniquity. The primary benefit of grace is the forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38). God is compassionate toward His repentant people.[6]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 757). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Ellsworth, R. (2006). Opening up Psalms (p. 133). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 703–704). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 103:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1068). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 826). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

August 10, 2017: Verse of the day

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42:1 Our inner longing for fellowship with God can be compared to the vehement craving of the deer as it wanders through the parched countryside, its sides throbbing and its breathing quickened as it longs for the brooks. Gamaliel Bradford transferred the picture to himself when he said:

My one unchanged ambition

Wheresoe’er my feet have trod

Is a keen, enormous, haunting,

Never-sated thirst for God.[1]


42:1 As the deer pants … my soul pants. On this simile from nature, cf. Joel 1:20. In the psalmist’s estimation, he is facing a severe divine drought.[2]


42:1 As a deer longs for streams of water The psalmist’s desperation for God’s sustaining presence is like a thirst for water.[3]


42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams. A powerful description of deep desire for God’s presence.[4]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 615). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 42:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 42:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 773). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

August 8, 2017: Verse of the day

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1–3 The synonyms for “praise” (“I will exalt you … I will praise you … I will praise you … and extol your name,” vv. 1–2) set the mood for the psalm. The object of the praise is “my God the King” (v. 1; cf. 5:2; 68:24; 84:3) whose “name” (vv. 1–2) signifies covenantal fidelity. As the Lord is perpetually loyal to his covenantal people, the poet calls on the covenantal community to praise God unceasingly (“for ever and ever … every day … for ever and ever,” vv. 1–2; cf. 115:18). In Jewish practice this psalm was recited twice in the morning and once in the evening service. The Talmud commends all who repeat it three times a day as having a share in the world to come (b. Ber. 4b).

The reason for praise lies in God’s greatness (v. 3; cf. 48:1; 96:4; 147:5). He is the “great” King who deserves the “praise” of humankind. After all, no one can fully understand his purposes or his ways. In the presence of the divine King, human beings must admit their limitations (cf. Job 5:9; 9:10; Isa 40:28).[1]


145:1–3 The theme of the Psalm is the greatness of the Lord. The psalmist is consumed with a holy determination to extol, bless and praise his God and King both in time (every day) and in eternity (forever and ever). The gist of his endless song will be that God is great, that His greatness is worthy of great praise, and that His greatness is infinite in its dimensions.[2]


145:1–3 O God, I Will Ever Bless Your Name. The psalm opens by stating its theme of joy and celebration. Each member of the congregation pledges himself to this (I will).[3]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 988). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 777). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1122). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

August 5, 2017: Verse of the day

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4 Boldness of faith is not naive belief. The external difficulties are insignificant in comparison with the psalmist’s deep desire to experience more fully the presence of God. In God’s presence fear is banished. The longing for God’s temple expresses the intensity of the psalmist’s seeking after God himself (cf. Mt 6:33). The enjoyment of God’s presence assures the evident goodness and love of God (cf. 23:6).

The psalmist desires to dwell in the temple of God for the rest of his life (cf. 15:1; 23:4–6). The temple was the visible expression of God’s presence and was sought after by the godly. While sitting in God’s temple, he planned to “gaze” on the Lord’s beauty and to “seek” (inquire after) him in his temple. In the act of gazing on the Lord’s beauty, the psalmist submits himself fully to experience the beneficent fellowship with God. God’s “beauty” is an expression of his goodness to his people (cf. 16:11; 90:17). When Moses saw his glory, the Lord revealed his perfections of love and compassion (Ex 34:5–6). The “beauty” of the Lord is his favor toward his own (cf. 90:17; 135:3; see C. S. Lewis’s intriguing essay “The Fair Beauty of the Lord” [Reflections on the Psalms, 44–53]; Reflections, p. 931, The Ark of the Covenant and the Temple).

In the experience of God’s presence, the psalmist also intends to “seek” him (cf. 73:17). Little consensus exists on the meaning of the verb “seek” (see A. A. Anderson, 1:222–23). Was the psalmist seeking him as in the day of trouble, or does the word have a more technical sense? It is probable that he was looking for a divine word or action that would satisfy the longing in his heart (cf. v. 8). The desire for God’s presence arose out of a need. The psalmist is not an escapist, for he wants to hang on to God until he is fully assured of his glorious presence.[1]


27:4 Poor Peter tried to defend his Master by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s slave. But Jesus replied to Peter, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” His one desire was to dwell with God, and since the pathway to glory led first to the cross, He was prepared to endure its suffering and shame. His language was:

One thing I have desired of the Lord,

That will I seek:

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord

All the days of my life,

To behold the beauty of the Lord,

And to inquire in His temple.

There is something indomitable about “one-thing” people. They know what they want and are determined to get it. Nothing can stand in their way.[2]


27:4 One thing. The primary issue in David’s life was to live in God’s presence and by His purpose (cf. Pss 15:1; 23:6; cf. Paul’s “one thing” in Php 3:13).[3]


27:4 David, the author of this psalm, could have called the tabernacle a “house” (Josh. 6:24; 1 Sam. 1:7; 3:15) and a temple (1 Sam. 1:9; 3:3). On dwell in the house of the Lord, see Ps. 23:6. God’s beauty is what the faithful yearn to gaze upon (i.e., to behold with admiration and affection) as they seek him in worship.

27:4 Enjoyment of fellowship with God in his presence anticipates the joy of knowing God through Christ (John 15:11; 16:24; 17:3; Rev. 22:4). Christ opens the way into the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 10:19–22).[4]


27:4 the house of Yahweh The psalmist wants to dwell in the temple, Yahweh’s dwelling place. He is essentially saying he wants to remain in Yahweh’s presence, as a place of joy (Psa 16:11; 21:6).

consider The Hebrew word used here, baqar, means “to examine” or “to scrutinize.” Here it may describe a prayerful search for Yahweh’s will or a meditative reflection.[5]


27:4 house of the Lord. The place where God’s presence is manifest is a place of sanctuary from the enemy.[6]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 283). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 586). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 27:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 970). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 27:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 759). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

August 3, 2017: Verse of the day

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Longing for the Courts of the Lord Almighty (84:1–4)

1–4 The love for the “dwelling place” (v. 1) of the Lord is foremost in the heart of the psalmist as he exclaims, “How lovely!” He reflects on the temple proper as the place of God’s symbolic presence, together with “the courts,” where the worshipers and pilgrims assembled and spent their days (v. 2; cf. 43:3). He physically longs for the experience of God’s presence, as he “yearns/faints” with his whole being (“my soul … my heart and my flesh,” v. 2; cf. 16:9). C. S. Lewis, 51, gives fine expression to this desire for God: “I have rather—though the expression may seem harsh to some—called this the ‘appetite for God’ than ‘the love of God.’ The ‘love of God’ too easily suggests the word ‘spiritual’ in all those negative or restrictive senses which it has unhappily acquired.… [The appetite for God] has all the cheerful spontaneity of a natural, even a physical, desire.”

The psalmist’s total attention is on the “Lord Almighty” (YHWH ṣebāʾôt, vv. 1, 3, 8, 12; see Reflections, p. 263, Lord Sabaoth), the Great King (v. 2; cf. v. 3), whose blessing he seeks. The Lord Almighty has power over all forces in heaven and on earth. His presence transforms adversity into prosperity, affliction into freedom, and death into life. He is the “living God” (El, v. 2; cf. 42:2; see Reflections, p. 250, Yahweh Is El). It seems that the psalmist develops both motifs in the following strophes—the blessedness of those who experience the kingship of the Lord Almighty (vv. 3–4) and the blessedness of the strength and life of those who long for God. Having expressed the blessedness associated with the presence of the designations Lord Almighty and God, he makes a petition to the Lord Almighty and to God to bless the “anointed” (vv. 8–9). The repetition of “Lord Almighty” at the end of the psalm (v. 12) forms an inclusio with v. 1.

Reflecting on the temple courts, the psalmist pictures the birds that make their nests in the temple eaves. The “sparrow” and the “swallow” (v. 3) are common birds; yet they have their nests and raise their young close to the “altar” of the Lord Almighty. The thought of these lowly birds in such a glorious place overwhelms him and leads the psalmist to express his awe in the form of a blessing (v. 4). Since birds are greatly privileged to live in and around the temple of the Great King, whose name is “Lord Almighty” (Yahweh Sabaoth) and who is worshiped as his God (“my God”), how much more “blessed” (see 1:1) are all those who serve the Lord at his temple! The psalmist is mainly concerned about the Lord and his blessed presence. The temple was symbolic of God’s presence, but his presence was never to be limited to the temple (cf. 1 Ki 8:23–53; Isa 66:1–2).

Characteristic of the wisdom psalms (cf. Ps 1), the psalmist contrasts in v. 10 “the tents of the wicked” and the blessedness of the godly in God’s courts. The reason for this blessedness lies in God’s protection, rewards, and blessing to those who are wise, “those whose walk is blameless” (v. 11). As God’s blessing was not limited to the temple courts, the blessing on those “who dwell” in the house of the Lord may well be extended to all who do the will of God. They dwell in his presence, wherever they may live.[1]


Intense longing for worship (vv. 1–4)

In the first place, we must note his intense longing for worship (vv. 1–4). How great was this longing? The psalmist says it consumed his entire being. He says his soul ‘faints’ with this longing (v. 2). It was almost too much for him to bear.

As he thought about the house of the Lord and its worship, he found himself envying the birds that nested there (v. 3). He may have also referred to these birds to convey something of the benefits of worship. The sparrow is a common emblem for worthlessness (Matt. 10:29–31) and the swallow a common symbol for restlessness. The house of God ministers to both!

The psalmist also expressed envy of those who were always at the temple—that is, the priests.

We must make sure we do not miss the reason for such intense longing. It was because the public worship in the temple was the worship of the Lord of hosts (v. 1). The ‘hosts’ are the heavenly hosts or the heavenly powers. The Lord God is the creator of all the heavenly beings and is their ruler. As such he is worthy of our worship.

We will never feel like worshipping God until we understand something of his greatness, and we cannot help but worship once we do. In other words, there is a direct correlation between our conception of God and our desire for worship. The greater God is in our eyes, the greater will be our desire to worship him.

What can we say of ourselves on this matter of desiring public worship? The sad fact is many who profess to know the Lord have very little or no appetite at all for worship.

It is obvious that many don’t have anything near the intensity of desire this psalmist expresses. What they lack in desire they make up for in excuses, and many of these are so absurd as to be almost unbelievable.

One of my fellow-pastors had a church member who refused to attend church because he claimed to be unable to sit on a pew for any length of time. But one day this pastor passed by the pool hall and noticed this gentleman sitting there. Three hours later the pastor went by the pool hall again and noticed the man sitting in the same place. The pastor, thinking the pool hall must have had some very comfortable seats, went inside. The only seats he found were old, unpadded church pews![2]


84:1, 2 What place can be compared in loveliness to the dwelling place of God! It is a place of unparalleled beauty, unique splendor and unutterable glory. But let us be clear on this point. The place is used, by a figure of speech known as metonymy, for the Person who lives there. And so when the psalmist says, “My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord,” he was really yearning to be with the Lord Himself. He says as much in the next sentence, “… my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”[3]


1–4 Longing. The soul is the essential ego, heart and flesh the inward and outward aspects of personality: thus the whole person is caught up in a consuming longing for God’s house and for God himself. The thought of the security of the birds that nest on and around the Lord’s house leads to the thought of that which secures the safety of all who dwell there (4), the altar where sinners are reconciled to the Holy God and he to them. 3–4 The sequence is: ‘The birds are safe in their house; it is the place of God’s altar; we are safe in his house.’ The altar is the key to our security.[4]


84:1 lovely are Your dwelling places. The temple worship center was “lovely” because it enabled the OT saint to come into the presence of God (cf. Pss 27; 42:1, 2; 61:4; 63:1, 2). Lord of hosts! “Hosts” represent God’s angelic armies, thus God’s omnipotence over all powers in heaven and on earth (cf. vv. 3, 8, 12).

84:2 longed … yearned … sing for. The psalmist is consumed with his happy, but intense desire to worship God in the temple.[5]


84:1 God’s dwelling place in the OT prefigures Christ as the dwelling place of God (John 1:14; 2:19–21), the church as dwelling place through the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:20–22), and the new Jerusalem as final dwelling place (Rev. 21:2–3, 21:22–22:5). See notes on Ps. 23:6 and 27:4.[6]


84:1 your dwelling place. The temple, the place which God chose to reveal His presence to the people (Deut. 12; 1 Kin. 8).

84:2 living God. The true object of the psalmist’s devotion is not the temple building itself, but the God who revealed Himself there. Israel was often tempted to forget God and rely on the external trappings of religion (Jer. 7).[7]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 633–634). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Ellsworth, R. (2006). Opening up Psalms (pp. 58–60). Leominster: Day One Publications.

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

[4] 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.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 84:1–2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1044). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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