Category Archives: Believer’s Bible Commentary

April 28, 2017: Verse of the day

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11:1 Isaiah 11 is one of the greatest passages on the Millennium in either the OT or the NT. In one of the quick transitions, so frequent in the prophets, we are now carried forward to the Second Coming of Christ.

First we see the lineage of the Son of David, a Rod from the stem of Jesse, who was David’s father (1 Sam. 17:12).

Believer’s Bible Commentary

11:1 stem … roots. With the Babylonian captivity of 586 b.c., the Davidic dynasty appeared as decimated as the Assyrian army. A major difference between the two was the life remaining in the stump and roots of the Davidic line. That life was to manifest itself in new growth in the form of the Rod and Branch. Jesse. Jesse was David’s father through whose line the messianic king was to come (Ru 4:22; 1Sa 16:1, 12, 13). branch. This is a title for the Messiah (see 4:2).

MacArthur Study Bible

11:1 a shoot from the stump. After portraying the destruction of arrogant human evil as the felling of a vast forest (10:33–34), Isaiah presents the Messiah as a shoot or twig growing from a stump remaining after God’s judgment (cf. 4:2; 6:13; 53:2). Jesse. The father of David (cf. 1 Sam. 16:1–13; 2 Sam. 20:1). A greater David is prophesied (cf. Ezek. 34:23–24; Hos. 3:5). bear fruit. Unlike the human failure before him, especially King Ahaz, this son of Jesse bears the fruit of a new world.

11:1 The Messiah is from the line of Jesse, the father of David (1 Sam. 16:1). He is filled with the Spirit (Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:18), with wisdom (Col. 2:3), and with justice (Rev. 19:11).

ESV Study Bible

April 28 – Three Kinds of Persecution

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me” (Matt. 5:10–11).

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When you speak out for Christ, you can expect harassment, insults, and slander.

Jesus mentioned three broad categories of suffering that Christians will experience. The first is persecution. “Persecuted” (Matt. 5:10) and “persecute” (v. 11) both come from the same Greek root, meaning “to pursue” or “to chase away.” Over time it came to mean “to harass” or “to treat in an evil manner.” Verse 10 literally reads, “Blessed are those who have been allowing themselves to be persecuted.” You are blessed when people harass you for your Christian stance and you willingly accept it for the sake of your Lord.

The second form of suffering is “insults” (v. 11), which translates a Greek word that means “to reproach,” “to revile,” or “to heap insults upon.” It speaks of verbal abuse—attacking someone with vicious and mocking words. It is used in Matthew 27:44 of the mockery Christ endured at His crucifixion. It happened to Him, and it will happen to His followers as well.

The final category Jesus mentioned is slander—people telling lies about you. That’s perhaps the hardest form of suffering to endure because our effectiveness for the Lord is directly related to our personal purity and integrity. When someone’s trying to destroy the reputation you worked a lifetime to establish, that is a difficult trial indeed!

If you’re going through a time of suffering for righteousness’ sake, take heart—the Lord went through it too, and He understands how difficult it can be. He knows your heart and will minister His super-abounding grace to you. Rejoice that you are worthy of suffering for Him and that the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Pray for those who treat you unkindly, asking God to forgive them and to grant them His grace. ✧ Pray that you might always treat others with honesty and fairness.

For Further Study: Throughout history God Himself has endured much mocking and slander. Read 2 Peter 3:3–9, then answer these questions: ✧ What motivates mockers? ✧ What do they deny? ✧ Why doesn’t God judge them on the spot?[1]


Happy Are the Harassed

Of all the beatitudes, this last one seems the most contrary to human thinking and experience. The world does not associate happiness with humility, mourning over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, or peacemaking holiness. Even less does it associate happiness with persecution.Of all the beatitudes, this last one seems the most contrary to human thinking and experience. The world does not associate happiness with humility, mourning over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, or peacemaking holiness. Even less does it associate happiness with persecution.Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (5:10–12)

Some years ago a popular national magazine took a survey to determine the things that make people happy. According to the responses they received, happy people enjoy other people but are not self-sacrificing; they refuse to participate in any negative feelings or emotions; and they have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.

The person described by those principles is completely contrary to the kind of person the Lord says will be authentically happy. Jesus says a blessed person is not one who is self-sufficient but one who recognizes his own emptiness and need, who comes to God as a beggar, knowing he has no resources in himself. He is not confident in his own ability but is very much aware of his own inability. Such a person, Jesus says, is not at all positive about himself but mourns over his own sinfulness and isolation from a holy God. To be genuinely content, a person must not be self-serving but self-sacrificing. He must be gentle, merciful, pure in heart, yearn for righteousness, and seek to make peace on God’s terms-even if those attitudes cause him to suffer.

The Lord’s opening thrust in the Sermon on the Mount climaxes with this great and sobering truth: those who faithfully live according to the first seven beatitudes are guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth. Those who live righteously will inevitably be persecuted for it. Godliness generates hostility and antagonism from the world. The crowning feature of the happy person is persecution! Kingdom people are rejected people. Holy people are singularly blessed, but they pay a price for it.

The last beatitude is really two in one, a single beatitude repeated and expanded. Blessed is mentioned twice (vv. 10, 11), but only one characteristic (persecuted) is given, although it is mentioned three times, and only one result (for theirs is the kingdom of heaven) is promised. Blessed apparently is repeated to emphasize the generous blessing given by God to those who are persecuted. “Double-blessed are those who are persecuted,” Jesus seems to be saying.

Three distinct aspects of kingdom faithfulness are spoken of in this beatitude: the persecution, the promise, and the posture.

The Persecution

Those who have been persecuted are the citizens of the kingdom, those who live out the previous seven beatitudes. To the degree that they fulfill the first seven they may experience the eighth.

“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Before writing those words Paul had just mentioned some of his own “persecutions, and suffering, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra” (v. 11). As one who lived the kingdom life he had been persecuted, and all others who live the kingdom life can expect similar treatment. What was true in ancient Israel is true today and will remain true until the Lord returns. “As at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also” (Gal. 4:29).

Imagine a man who accepted a new job in which he had to work with especially profane people. When at the end of the first day his wife asked him how he had managed, he said, “Terrific! They never guessed I was a Christian.” As long as people have no reason to believe that we are Christians, at least obedient and righteous Christians, we need not worry about persecution. But as we manifest the standards of Christ we will share the reproach of Christ. Those born only of the flesh will persecute those born of the Spirit.

To live for Christ is to live in opposition to Satan in his world and in his system. Christlikeness in us will produce the same results as Christlikeness did in the apostles, in the rest of the early church, and in believers throughout history. Christ living in His people today produces the same reaction from the world that Christ Himself produced when He lived on earth as a man.

Righteousness is confrontational, and even when it is not preached in so many words, it confronts wickedness by its very contrast. Abel did not preach to Cain, but Abel’s righteous life, typified by his proper sacrifice to the Lord, was a constant rebuke to his wicked brother-who in a rage finally slew him. When Moses chose to identify with his own despised Hebrew people rather than compromise himself in the pleasures of pagan Egyptian society, he paid a great price. But he considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26).

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said of Christians: “Though they be never so meek, merciful, pure in heart, their piety will not shield them from sufferings. They must hang their harp on the willows and take the cross. The way to heaven is by way of thorns and blood. … Set it down as a maxim, if you will follow Christ you must see the swords and staves” (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 259–60).

Savonarola was one of the greatest reformers in the history of the church. In his powerful condemnation of personal sin and ecclesiastical corruption, that Italian preacher paved the way for the Protestant Reformation, which began a few years after his death. “His preaching was a voice of thunder,” writes one biographer, “and his denunciation of sin was so terrible that the people who listened to him went about the streets half-dazed, bewildered and speechless. His congregations were so often in tears that the whole building resounded with their sobs and their weeping.” But the people and the church could not long abide such a witness, and for preaching uncompromised righteousness Savonarola was convicted of “heresy,” he was hanged, and his body was burned.

Persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. Persecution is not incidental to faithful Christian living but is certain evidence of it. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by sending them Timothy, “so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know” (1 Thess. 3:3–4). Suffering persecution is part of the normal Christian life (cf. Rom. 8:16–17). And if we never experience ridicule, criticism, or rejection because of our faith, we have reason to examine the genuineness of it. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake,” Paul says, “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29–30). Persecution for Christ’s sake is a sign of our own salvation just as it is a sign of damnation for those who do the persecuting (v. 28).

Whether Christians live in a relatively protected and tolerant society or whether they live under a godless, totalitarian regime, the world will find ways to persecute Christ’s church. To live a redeemed life to its fullest is to invite and to expect resentment and reaction from the world.

The fact that many professed believers are popular and praised by the world does not indicate that the world has raised its standards but that many who call themselves by Christ’s name have lowered theirs. As the time for Christ’s appearing grows closer we can expect opposition from the world to increase, not decrease. When Christians are not persecuted in some way by society it means that they are reflecting rather than confronting that society. And when we please the world we can be sure that we grieve the Lord (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17).

When (hotan) can also mean whenever. The idea conveyed in the term is not that believers will be in a constant state of opposition, ridicule, or persecution, but that, whenever those things come to us because of our faith, we should not be surprised or resentful. Jesus was not constantly opposed and ridiculed, nor were the apostles. There were times of peace and even popularity. But every faithful believer will at times have some resistance and ridicule from the world, while others, for God’s own purposes, will endure more extreme suffering. But whenever and however affliction comes to the child of God, his heavenly Father will be there with him to encourage and to bless. Our responsibility is not to seek out persecution, but to be willing to endure whatever trouble our faithfulness to Jesus Christ may bring, and to see it as a confirmation of true salvation.

The way to avoid persecution is obvious and easy. To live like the world, or at least to “live and let live,” will cost us nothing. To mimic the world’s standards, or never to criticize them, will cost us nothing. To keep quiet about the gospel, especially the truth that apart from its saving power men remain in their sins and are destined for hell, will cost us nothing. To go along with the world, to laugh at its jokes, to enjoy its entertainment, to smile when it mocks God and takes His name in vain, and to be ashamed to take a stand for Christ will not bring persecution. Those are the habits of sham Christians.

Jesus does not take faithlessness lightly. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of us. Christ also warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). To be popular with everyone is either to have compromised the faith or not to have true faith at all.

Though it was early in His ministry, by the time Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount He had already faced opposition. After He healed the man on the Sabbath, “the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). We learn from Luke that they were actually hoping Jesus would heal on the Sabbath “in order that they might find reason to accuse Him” (Luke 6:7). They already hated His teaching and wanted Him to commit an act serious enough to warrant His arrest.

Our Lord made it clear from His earliest teaching, and His opponents made it clear from their earliest reactions, that following Him was costly. Those who entered His kingdom would suffer for Him before they would reign with Him. That is the hard honesty that every preacher, evangelist, and witness of Christ should exemplify. We do the Lord no honor and those to whom we witness no benefit by hiding or minimizing the cost of following Him.

The cost of discipleship is billed to believers in many different ways. A Christian stonemason in Ephesus in Paul’s day might have been asked to help build a pagan temple or shrine. Because he could not do that in good conscience, his faith would cost him the work and possibly his job and career. A believer today might be expected to hedge on the quality of his work in order to increase company profits. To follow His conscience in obedience to the Lord could also cost his job or at least a promotion. A Christian housewife who refuses to listen to gossip or to laugh at the crude jokes of her neighbors may find herself ostracized. Some costs will be known in advance and some will surprise us. Some costs will be great and some will be slight. But by the Lord’s and the apostles’ repeated promises, faithfulness always has a cost, which true Christians are willing to pay (contrast Matt. 13:20–21).

The second-century Christian leader Tertullian was once approached by a man who said, “I have come to Christ, but I don’t know what to do. I have a job that I don’t think is consistent with what Scripture teaches. What can I do? I must live.” To that Tertullian replied, “Must you?” Loyalty to Christ is the Christian’s only true choice. To be prepared for kingdom life is to be prepared for loneliness, misunderstanding, ridicule, rejection, and unfair treatment of every sort.

In the early days of the church the price paid was often the ultimate. To choose Christ might mean choosing death by stoning, by being covered with pitch and used as a human torch for Nero, or by being wrapped in animal skins and thrown to vicious hunting dogs. To choose Christ could mean torture by any number of excessively cruel and painful ways. That was the very thing Christ had in mind when He identified His followers as those willing to bear their crosses. That has no reference to mystical devotion, but is a call to be ready to die, if need be, for the cause of the Lord (see Matt. 10:35–39; 16:24–25).

In resentment against the gospel the Romans invented charges against Christians, such as accusing them of being cannibals because in the Lord’s Supper they spoke of eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood. They accused them of having sexual orgies at their love feasts and even of setting fire to Rome. They branded believers as revolutionaries because they called Jesus Lord and King and spoke of God’s destroying the earth by fire.

By the end of the first century, Rome had expanded almost to the outer limits of the known world, and unity became more and more of a problem. Because only the emperor personified the entire empire, the caesars came to be deified, and their worship was demanded as a unifying and cohesive influence. It became compulsory to give a verbal oath of allegiance to caesar once a year, for which a person would be given a verifying certificate, called a libellus. After publicly proclaiming, “Caesar is Lord,” the person was free to worship any other gods he chose. Because faithful Christians refused to declare such an allegiance to anyone but Christ, they were considered traitors-for which they suffered confiscation of property, loss of work, imprisonment, and often death. One Roman poet spoke of them as “the panting, huddling flock whose only crime was Christ.”

In the last beatitude Jesus speaks of three specific types of affliction endured for Christ’s sake: physical persecution, verbal insult, and false accusation.

Physical Persecution

First, Jesus says, we can expect physical persecution. Have been persecuted (v. 10), persecute (v. 11), and persecuted (v. 12) are from diōkō, which has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.

All of the other beatitudes have to do with inner qualities, attitudes, and spiritual character. The eighth beatitude speaks of external things that happen to believers, but the teaching behind these results also has to do with attitude. The believer who has the qualities required in the previous beatitudes will also have the quality of willingness to face persecution for the sake of righteousness. He will have the attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. It is the lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness that says, “I will be in this world what Christ would have me be. I will say in this world what Christ will have me say. Whatever it costs, I will be and say those things.”

The Greek verb is a passive perfect participle, and could be translated “allow themselves to be persecuted.” The perfect form indicates continuousness, in this case a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living. This beatitude speaks of a constant attitude of accepting whatever faithfulness to Christ may bring.

It is in the demands of this beatitude that many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord, because here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is here where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems that we know obedience will bring.

But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christ life costs nothing. A synthetic gospel, a man-made seed, produces no real fruit.

Verbal Insults

Second, Jesus promises that kingdom citizens are blessed … when men cast insults at them. Oneidizō carries the idea of reviling, upbraiding, or seriously insulting, and literally means to cast in one’s teeth. To cast insults is to throw abusive words in the face of an opponent, to mock viciously.

To be an obedient citizen of the kingdom is to court verbal abuse and reviling. As He stood before the Sanhedrin after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was spat upon, beaten, and taunted with the words “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” (Matt. 26:67–68). As He was being sentenced to crucifixion by Pilate, Jesus was again beaten, spit upon, and mocked, this time by the Roman soldiers (Mark 15:19–20).

Faithfulness to Christ may even cause friends and loved ones to say things that cut and hurt deeply. Several years ago I received a letter from a woman who told of a friend who had decided to divorce her husband for no just cause. The friend was a professed Christian, but when she was confronted with the truth that what she was doing was scripturally wrong, she became defensive and hostile. She was reminded of God’s love and grace, of His power to mend whatever problems she and her husband were having, and of the Bible’s standards for marriage and divorce. But she replied that she did not believe the Bible was really God’s Word but was simply a collection of men’s ideas about God that each person had to accept, reject, or interpret for himself. When her friend wanted to read some specific Bible passages to her, she refused to listen. She had made up her mind and would not give heed to Scripture or to reason. With hate in her eyes she accused the other woman of luring her into her house in order to ridicule and embarrass her, saying she could not possibly love her by questioning her right to get a divorce. As she left, she slammed the door behind her.

The woman who wrote the letter concluded by saying, “I love her, and it is with a heavy heart that I realize the extent of her rejection of Christ. Painful as this has been, I thank God. For the first time in my life I know what it is to be separate from the world.”

Paul told the Corinthian church, whose members had such a difficult time separating themselves from the world, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9). Paul drew the expression “become a spectacle” from the practice of Roman generals to parade their captives through the street of the city, making a spectacle of them as trophies of war who were doomed to die once the general had used them to serve his proud and arrogant purposes. That is the way the world is inclined to treat those who are faithful to Christ.

In a note of strong sarcasm to enforce his point, Paul continues, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor” (v. 10). Many in the Corinthian church suffered none of the ridicule and conflict the apostle suffered because they prized their standing before the world more than their standing before the Lord. In the world’s eyes they were prudent, strong, and distinguished-because they were still so much like the world.

God does not call His people to be sanctified celebrities, using their worldly reputations in a self-styled effort to bring Him glory, using their power to supplement His power and their wisdom to enhance His gospel. We can mark it down as a cardinal principle that to the extent the world embraces a Christian cause or person-or that a Christian cause or person embraces the world-to that extent that cause or person has compromised the gospel and scriptural standards.

If Paul had capitalized on his human credentials he could have drawn greater crowds and certainly have received greater welcome wherever he went. His credentials were impressive. “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more,” he says. He was “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3:4–5). He had been “caught up to the third heaven, … into Paradise” (2 Cor. 12:2, 4) and had spoken in tongues more than anyone else (1 Cor. 14:18). He had studied under the famous rabbi Gamaliel and was even a free-born Roman citizen (Acts 22:3, 29). But all those things the apostle “counted as loss for the sake of Christ, … but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7–8). He refused to use worldly means to try to achieve spiritual purposes, because he knew they would fail.

The marks of authenticity Paul carried as an apostle and minister of Jesus Christ were his credentials as a servant and a sufferer, “in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city; dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:23–27).

The only thing of which he would boast was his weakness (12:5), and when he preached he was careful not to rely on “superiority of speech or of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1), which he could easily have done. “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” he told the Corinthians. “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (vv. 2–5).

We live in a day when the church, more than ever before, is engaged in self-glorification and an attempt to gain worldly recognition that must be repulsive to God. When the church tries to use the things of the world to do the work of heaven, it only succeeds in hiding heaven from the world. And when the world is pleased with the church, we can be sure that God is not. We can be equally sure that when we are pleasing to God, we will not be pleasing to the system of Satan.

False Accusation

Third, faithfulness to Christ will bring enemies of the gospel to say all kinds of evil against [us] falsely. Whereas insults are abusive words said to our faces, these evil things are primarily abusive words said behind our backs.

Jesus’ critics said of Him, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). If the world said that of the sinless Christ, what things can His followers expect to be called and accused of?

Slander behind our backs is harder to take partly because it is harder to defend against than direct accusation. It has opportunity to spread and be believed before we have a chance to correct it. Much harm to our reputations can be done even before we are aware someone has slandered us.

We cannot help regretting slander, but we should not grieve about it. We should count ourselves blessed, as our Lord assures us we shall be when the slander is on account of Me.

Arthur Pink comments that “it is a strong proof of human depravity that men’s curses and Christ’s blessings should meet on the same persons” (An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950], p. 39). We have no surer evidence of the Lord’s blessing than to be cursed for His sake. It should not seriously bother us when men’s curses fall on the head that Christ has eternally blessed.

The central theme of the Beatitudes is righteousness. The first two have to do with recognizing our own unrighteousness, and the next five have to do with our seeking and reflecting righteousness. The last beatitude has to do with our suffering for the sake of righteousness. The same truth is expressed in the second part of the beatitude as on account of Me. Jesus is not speaking of every hardship, problem, or conflict believers may face, but those that the world brings on us because of our faithfulness to the Lord.

It is clear again that the hallmark of the blessed person is righteousness. Holy living is what provokes persecution of God’s people. Such persecution because of a righteous life is joyous. Peter identifies such experience as a happy honor.

And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:13–18)

With those words, the apostle extols the privilege of suffering for holiness, and thus of sharing in a small way in the same type of suffering Christ endured. In the next chapter, Peter emphasizes the same thing.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. … If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. … Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (4:12–14, 16, 19)

When we are hated, maligned, or afflicted as Christians, the real animosity is not against us but against Christ. Satan’s great enemy is Christ, and he opposes us because we belong to Jesus Christ, because He is in us. When we are despised and attacked by the world, the real target is the righteousness for which we stand and which we exemplify. That is why it is easy to escape persecution. Whether under pagan Rome, atheistic Communism, or simply a worldly boss, it is usually easy to be accepted if we will denounce or compromise our beliefs and standards. The world will accept us if we are willing to put some distance between ourselves and the Lord’s righteousness.

In the closing days of His ministry Jesus repeatedly and plainly warned His disciples of that truth. “If the world hates you,” He said, “you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18–21).

The world went along for thousands of years before it ever saw a perfect man. Until Christ came, every person, even God’s best, were sinful and flawed. All had feet of clay. To see God’s people fail and sin is often taken as an encouragement by the wicked. They point a finger and say, “He claims to be righteous and good, but look at what he did.” It is easy to feel smug and secure in one’s sinfulness when everyone else is also sinful and imperfect. But when Christ came, the world finally saw the perfect Man, and all excuse for smugness and self-confidence vanished. And instead of rejoicing in the sinless Man, sinful men resented the rebuke that His teaching and His life brought against them. They crucified Him for His very perfection, for His very righteousness.

Aristides the Just was banished from ancient Athens. When a stranger asked an Athenian why Aristides was voted out of citizenship he replied, “Because we became tired of his always being just.” A people who prided themselves in civility and justice chafed when something or someone was too just.

Because they refused to compromise the gospel either in their teaching or in their lives, most of the apostles suffered a martyr’s death. According to tradition, Andrew was fastened by cords to a cross in order to prolong and intensify his agony. We are told that Peter, by his own request, was crucified head down, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Paul presumably was beheaded by Nero. Though John escaped a violent death, he died in exile on Patmos.[2]


5:10 The next beatitude deals with those who are persecuted, not for their own wrongdoings, but for righteousness’ sake. The kingdom of heaven is promised to those believers who suffer for doing right. Their integrity condemns the ungodly world and brings out its hostility. People hate a righteous life because it exposes their own unrighteousness.

5:11 The final beatitude seems to be a repetition of the preceding one. However, there is one difference. In the previous verse, the subject was persecution because of righteousness; here it is persecution for Christ’s sake. The Lord knew that His disciples would be maltreated because of their association with, and loyalty to, Him. History has confirmed this: from the outset the world has persecuted, jailed, and killed followers of Jesus.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 131). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 219–229). Chicago: Moody Press.

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

APRIL 28 – A MAN SENT FROM GOD

Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:11

The Bible record is very plain when it assures us that John the Baptist was a man sent from God.

Our generation would probably decide that such a man ought to be downright proud of the fact that God had sent him. We would urge him to write a book. Seminary leaders would line up to schedule him as guest lecturer.

Actually, John the Baptist would never have fit into the contemporary religious scene in our day—never! He did not keep his suit pressed. He was not careful about choosing words that would not offend. He did not quote beautiful passages from the poets. The doctors of psychiatry would have quick advice for him: “John, you really need to get adjusted to the times and to society!”

Adjust. That is a modern word I have come to hate. It was never an expression used to speak about human beings until we forgot that man has a soul. Now we have weird guys with mental “screwdrivers” adjusting one person a little tighter and another a little looser. John needed no adjustment. He gladly stepped down so that all eyes could turn to Jesus, the Lamb of God!

Lord, I pray that my church and other evangelical churches will exhibit the courage and boldness of John the Baptist and point many people to Jesus Christ.[1]


Continuing His praise of John, Jesus said, Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist. To emphasize the unquestionable truthfulness of what He said, Jesus prefaced His words with verily (amēn), a term of strong affirmation often simply transliterated as “Amen.”

Born of women was a common ancient expression that simply referred to basic humanness, to identification with the human race (see Job 14:1; 15:14). Jesus’ point was that, as far as mankind is concerned, there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist. He was the greatest human being who had lived until that time. From an earthly perspective, John’s character and calling made him the greatest man yet born besides Jesus Himself. In superior qualities as a human being, John was unequalled.

Arisen is from egeirō, which means to rise up or to appear on the stage of history and was often used of prophets, both true and false (see, e.g., Matt. 24:11, 24). Not only as a human being but as a prophet, no one had arisen to equal John, because he was sent on the very threshold of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus.

But lest the people misunderstand the nature of John’s greatness, Jesus added, yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Although he was a spiritual giant among men, John’s unique greatness was in his role in human history, not in his spiritual inheritance, in which he would be equal to every believer. Therefore, the least in the kingdom of heaven, the spiritual dimension, is greater than he, that is, than anyone in the human dimension, including John.[2]


11:11 The statement that “he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” proves that Jesus was speaking of John’s privilege, not his character. A person who is least in the kingdom of heaven does not necessarily have a better character than John, but he does have greater privilege. To be a citizen of the kingdom is greater than to announce its arrival. John’s privilege was great in preparing the way for the Lord, but he did not live to enjoy the blessings of the kingdom.[3]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 11:9). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1243). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 28 – HAPPINESS: YOUR WHOLE AMBITION TO BE LIKE JESUS

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.

ROMANS 12:2

The assumption that human beings are born “to be happy” is scarcely questioned by anyone in today’s society and the effect of this modern hedonism is felt also among the people of God.

The Christian gospel is too often presented as a means toward happiness, to peace of mind or security. There are even those who use the Bible to “relax” them, as if it were a drug.

How far wrong all this is will be discovered easily by the simple act of reading the New Testament through once, with meditation. There the emphasis is not upon happiness but upon holiness. God is more concerned with the state of people’s hearts than with the state of their feelings.

Undoubtedly the will of God brings final happiness to those who obey, but the most important matter is not how happy we are but how holy!

The childish clamor after happiness can become a real snare. One may easily deceive himself by cultivating a religious joy without a correspondingly righteous life. For those who take this whole thing seriously I have a suggestion: Go to God and have an understanding. Tell Him that it is your desire to be holy at any cost and then ask Him never to give you more happiness than holiness! Be assured that in the end you will be as happy as you are holy; but for the time being let your whole ambition be to serve God and be Christlike![1]


The Mind Must Be Given to God

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, (12:2a)

The third element of our priestly self-sacrifice is that of offering Him our minds.

It is in the mind that our new nature and our old humanness are intermixed. It is in the mind that we make choices as to whether we will express our new nature in holiness or allow our fleshly humanness to act in unholiness.

Be conformed is from suschēmatizō, which refers to an outward expression that does not reflect what is within. It is used of masquerading, or putting on an act, specifically by following a prescribed pattern or scheme (schēma). It also carries the idea of being transitory, impermanent, and unstable. The negative (not) makes the verb prohibitive. The verb itself is passive and imperative, the passive indicating that conformation is something we allow to be done to us, the imperative indicating a command, not a suggestion.

Paul’s gentle but firm command is that we are not to allow ourselves to be conformed to this world. We are not to masquerade as a worldly person, for whatever the reason. J. B. Phillips translates this phrase as “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.” We must not pattern ourselves or allow ourselves to be patterned after the spirit of the age. We must not become victims of the world. We are to stop allowing ourselves to be fashioned after the present evil age in which we live.

New Testament scholar Kenneth Wuest paraphrased this clause: “Stop assuming an outward expression which is patterned after this world, an expression which does not come from, nor is representative of what you are in your inner being as a regenerated child of God” (Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955], 1:206–7).

World translates aiōn, which is better rendered “age,” referring to the present sinful age, the world system now dominated by Satan, “the god of this world (aiōn)” (2 Cor. 4:4). World here represents the sum of the demonic-human philosophy of life. It corresponds to the German zeitgeist (the spirit of the age) and has been well described as “that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale” (G. C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973], pp. 217–18).

It is not uncommon for unbelievers to mask themselves as Christians. Unfortunately, it also is not uncommon for Christians to wear the world’s masks. They want to enjoy the world’s entertainment, the world’s fashions, the world’s vocabulary, the world’s music, and many of the world’s attitudes—even when those things clearly do not conform to the standards of God’s Word. That sort of living is wholly unacceptable to God.

The world is an instrument of Satan, and his ungodly influence is pandemic. This is seen in the prideful spirit of rebellion, lies, error, and in the rapid spread of false religions—especially those that promote self and come under the broad umbrella of “New Age.” “We know that we are of God,” John wrote nearly two thousand years ago, “and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). It clearly still does.

Instead, Paul goes on to say, you should rather be transformed. The Greek verb (metamorphoō) connotes change in outward appearance and is the term from which we get the English metamorphosis. Matthew used the word in describing Jesus’ transfiguration. When “He was transfigured [metamorphōtheē] before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2), Christ’s inner divine nature and glory were, for a brief time and to a limited degree, manifested outwardly. Our inner redeemed nature also is to be manifested outwardly, but as completely and continually as possible, in our daily living.

Like the preceding verb (be conformed), be transformed is a passive imperative. Positively, we are commanded to allow ourselves to be changed outwardly into conformity to our redeemed inner natures. “We all,” Paul assured the Corinthians believers, “with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Although we are to aspire to this outward change, it can be accomplished only by the Holy Spirit working in us, by our being “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

The Holy Spirit achieves this transformation by the renewing of the mind, an essential and repeated New Testament theme. The outward transformation is effected by an inner change in the mind, and the Spirit’s means of transforming our minds is the Word. David testified, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). God’s own Word is the instrument His own Holy Spirit uses to renew our minds, which, in turn, He uses to transform our living.

Paul repeatedly emphasized that truth in his letter to Colossae. As he proclaimed Christ, he was “admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28). By receiving Christ as Lord and Savior, we “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (3:10). Consequently, we are to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within [us], with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (3:16).

The transformed and renewed mind is the mind saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. It is the mind that spends as little time as possible even with the necessary things of earthly living and as much time as possible with the things of God. It is the mind that is set “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Whether good or bad, when anything happens in our lives, our immediate, almost reflexive response should be biblical. During His incarnation, Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations by hurling Scripture back into His adversary’s face (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). Only the mind that is constantly being renewed by God’s Spirit working through God’s Word is pleasing to God. Only such a mind is able to make our lives “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual service of worship.”

The Will Must Be Given to God

that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (12:2b)

An implied fourth element of presenting ourselves to God as a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice is that of offering Him our wills, of allowing His Spirit through His Word to conform our wills to the will of God.

The Greek construction makes that you may prove a purpose/ result phrase. That is to say, when a believer’s mind is transformed, his thinking ability, moral reasoning, and spiritual understanding are able to properly assess everything, and to accept only what conforms to the will of God. Our lives can prove what the will of God is only by doing those things that are good and acceptable and perfect to Him.

In using euarestos (acceptable), Paul again borrows from Old Testament sacrificial language to describe the kind of holy living that God approves, a “living sacrifice” that is morally and spiritually spotless and without blemish.

Perfect carries the idea of being complete, of something’s being everything it should be. Our wills should desire only what God desires and lead us to do only what He wants us to do in the way He wants us to do it—according to His will and by His power. Our imperfect wills must always be subject to His perfect will.

A transformed mind produces a transformed will, by which we become eager and able, with the Spirit’s help, to lay aside our own plans and to trustingly accept God’s, no matter what the cost. This continued yielding involves the strong desire to know God better and to comprehend and follow His purpose for our lives.

The divine transformation of our minds and wills must be constant. Because we are still continuously tempted through our remaining humanness, our minds and wills must be continuously transformed through God’s Word and by God’s Spirit.

The product of a transformed mind is a life that does the things God has declared to be righteous, fitting, and complete. That is the goal of the supreme act of spiritual worship, and sets the stage for what Paul speaks of next—the ministry of our spiritual gifts.[2]


12:2 Secondly, Paul urges us not to be conformed to this world, or as Phillips paraphrases it: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” When we come to the kingdom of God, we should abandon the thought-patterns and lifestyles of the world.

The world (literally age) as used here means the society or system that man has built in order to make himself happy without God. It is a kingdom that is antagonistic to God. The god and prince of this world is Satan (2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). All unconverted people are his subjects. He seeks to attract and hold people through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). The world has its own politics, art, music, religion, amusements, thought-patterns, and lifestyles, and it seeks to get everyone to conform to its culture and customs. It hates nonconformists—like Christ and His followers.

Christ died to deliver us from this world. The world is crucified to us, and we are crucified to the world. It would be absolute disloyalty to the Lord for believers to love the world. Anyone who loves the world is an enemy of God.

Believers are not of the world any more than Christ is of the world. However, they are sent into the world to testify that its works are evil and that salvation is available to all who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We should not only be separated from the world; we should be transformed by the renewing of our mind, which means that we should think the way God thinks, as revealed in the Bible. Then we can experience the direct guidance of God in our lives. And we will find that, instead of being distasteful and hard, His will is good and acceptable and perfect.

Here, then, are three keys for knowing God’s will. The first is a yielded body, the second a separated life, and the third a transformed mind.[3]


2 The dedicated life is also the transformed life. Whereas v. 1 has called for a decisive commitment, v. 2 deals with the maintenance of that commitment. The stress provided by the present tenses in this verse points to the necessity of continual vigilance, lest the original decision be vitiated or weakened. The threat to Christians comes from “this world,” whose ways and thoughts are so prevalent and powerful. Paul here uses aiōn (GK 172), essentially a time word meaning “age,” but it has much common ground with kosmos (GK 3180), the more usual term for “world.” Christians have been delivered from this “present evil age” (Gal 1:4), which has Satan for its god (2 Co 4:4). They live by the powers of the age to come (Heb 6:5), but their heavenly calling includes residence among sinful people in this world, where they are to show forth the praises of him who called them out of darkness into God’s wonderful light (1 Pe 2:9). They are in the world for witness but not for conformity to that which is a passing phenomenon (1 Co 7:31).

The positive call is complementary to the negative call. That is, with the command to avoid conformity to the pattern of this world comes the command to “be transformed.” (The striking verb is metamorphoō [GK 3565], used of the transfiguration of Jesus [Mk 9:2 par.] and applied to the Christian in 2 Co 3:18.) The two processes are viewed as going on all the time, as the present tenses indicate—a continual renunciation and renewal. Our pattern here is Jesus, who refused conformity to Satan’s solicitations in the temptation but was transformed to the doing of the will of God and to acceptance of the path that led to Calvary. As the mission of Jesus can be summarized in the affirmation that he had come to do the Father’s will (Jn 6:38), so too the service of Christians can be reduced to this simple description. They are in the present age to “live a new life” (6:4), to “live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Th 2:12), to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph 4:1). But they must “test” what is in accord with the will of God, refusing the norms of conduct employed by the sinful world and reaffirming for themselves the spiritual norms befitting the redeemed. Only from Christ do the redeemed “finally obtain the criteria for that which in the world can be called good, well-pleasing, and perfect” (Stuhlmacher, 189).

Crucial to the process of being transformed is “the renewing of your mind” (tē anakainōsei tou noos, GK 363, 3808)—which seems to indicate the necessity of setting one’s mind on the theological truths of the faith—to the basis of one’s original commitment, reaffirming its necessity and legitimacy in the light of God’s grace. It is by means of this use of the mind that transformation and renewal take place. In this activity, the working of the Holy Spirit should no doubt be recognized (cf. Tit 3:5, where the Holy Spirit is the agent of renewal). It appears from the context that the believer is not viewed as ignorant of the will of God but as needing to avoid blurring its outline by failure to renew the mind continually (cf. Eph 5:8–10). Dedication leads to discernment, and discernment to delight in God’s will. That there is an intimate connection between certifying the will of God and making oneself a living sacrifice is indicated by the use of “pleasing” in each case (cf. Php 4:18; Heb 13:16). For the Christian, the will of God is “good” (agathon, GK 19), “pleasing” (euareston, GK 2298), and “perfect” (teleion, GK 5455).[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 12:2). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1728–1729). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 183–184). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 28 – NEAR TO EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

—1 Kings 8:27

I want to explain briefly what omnipresence is and then show what it means in human experience. That God is omnipresent is of course believed by all churches who believe in the Bible. I am not introducing anything new. Omnipresence means that God is all-present. God is close to (for that is what the word means—“close to, near to, here”) everywhere. He is near to everything and everyone. He is here; He is next to you wherever you may be. And if you send up the furious question, “Oh God, where art Thou?” the answer comes back, “I am where you are; I am here; I am next to you; I am close to everywhere.” That’s what the Bible says….

We talk about God being close to us or about the problem of God being far away. We don’t think right because we think geographically or astronomically; we think in light-years or meters or inches or miles or leagues. We’re thinking of Him as dwelling in space, which He does not. Rather He contains space so that space is in God. There is never any problem about God being anywhere, for the fact is, as the texts say, God is everywhere. AOG118, 120

Lord, help me to take this truth out of the realm of theological concept and to realize the practical implication, today, of Your being right here with me. Amen. [1]


8:27 heaven … cannot contain You. Solomon confessed that even though the Lord had chosen to dwell among His people in the cloud at the temple, He far transcended containment by anything in all creation.[2]


8:27–30 will God indeed dwell on the earth? Though God will dwell in the temple (vv. 10, 13; cf. note on 1 Sam. 4:3–4), it is not to be thought of as the only place where God is, but as a special place where his name is, a place toward which his eyes are open (1 Kings 8:29; cf. Isa. 66:1–3). The hearing of prayer is done in heaven (1 Kings 8:30), which is (if anywhere is) the dwelling place of God. Even then, however, God cannot be limited to any one place; he cannot, strictly speaking, dwell in even the highest heaven (v. 27). He cannot be confined by space.[3]


8:27–30 Although Solomon realized that no temple on earth was adequate to contain the great God, yet he asked that the Lord might recognize this temple and that when he or any of the people of Israel addressed God there, He might hear and forgive.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ki 8:27). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 611). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 364). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 28 – The Resurrection: Motive for Sanctification

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ Become sober–minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”

1 Corinthians 15:33–34

✧✧✧

Trusting in the fact of Christ’s resurrection and looking forward to our own rising from the dead ought to stimulate us toward sanctification.

Like any essential teaching of Scripture, the doctrine of the Resurrection can be studied and discussed from an academic standpoint only. When that happens, we usually acquire a factual understanding of the topic and perhaps some appreciation of how the doctrine supports our faith—but that’s as far as we go.

However, our studies on the Resurrection have already taught us some of the implications this Bible truth ought to have for our conduct. The hope of the Resurrection can give everyone an incentive to be saved and believers an incentive for service. This hope also provides a third incentive: the motivation toward sanctification.

The apostle Paul knew that those in the Corinthian church were being exposed to the heretical theology that there is no real resurrection from the dead. This false teaching was having a bad influence on the Corinthians’ behavior. That’s why Paul tells them in today’s verse, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” It is impossible to be around evil people and not be contaminated both by their ideas and their habits. The apostle goes on to urge those believers who hoped in a resurrection to be a positive influence on others and lead them to the truth.

This glimpse at the situation in Corinth proves that sound doctrine matters and does affect how people live. We see all around us today what results when there is no belief in a resurrection. People become short–sighted and live as they please because ultimately nothing keeps them accountable. This is all the more reason for us to hold firm to the truth of the Resurrection, live in its hope, and proclaim it to others.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: How is the pursuit of holiness coming in your life? Pray that the Lord would increase your diligence and help you especially in an area of weakness.

For Further Study: Read 1 Peter 1. List all the verses that refer to God’s plan for Christ’s death and resurrection. ✧ How does the existence of such a divine plan strengthen your hope? ✧ Write a theme sentence for the chapter.[1]


An Incentive for Sanctification

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Become sober–minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (15:33–34)

The third incentive the hope of resurrection gives is for sanctification. Looking forward to resurrection should lead to more godly living and spiritual maturity. Verses 32 and 33 are closely related. Denying the resurrection destroys the incentives both for service and for sanctification. Why then bother serving the Lord or serving others in His name, and why bother to be holy and pure?

Paul warned the Corinthians that they should not be deceived about the danger of bad company. Homilia (company) basically means an association of people, but also can have the connotation of a lecture or sermon. It seems possible, therefore, that the Corinthians were both listening to some wrong teaching and associating with some evil people. Whether the teaching was in formal messages or not, it was bad and corrupting.

People who think wrongly invariably behave wrongly. Wrong behavior comes from wrong thinking, from wrong beliefs and wrong standards. It is impossible to associate regularly with wicked people without being contaminated both by their ideas and by their habits. The context implies that the bad company was teaching the heretical theology that there is no resurrection of the dead, and that bad theology had corrupted good morals.

Just as hoping in the resurrection is an incentive to obedience and holiness, so disbelief of it is an incentive to disobedience and immorality. As Paul has just pointed out, if there is no resurrection, we might as well eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. If death is the end, what great difference does it make what we do?

Some in the Corinthian congregation had no knowledge of God, and therefore no knowledge of His truth. Their bad theology was leading to bad behavior, especially because they denied the resurrection.

The Greek historian Thucydides reported that when a deadly plague came to Athens, “People committed every shameful crime and eagerly snatched at every lustful pleasure.” They believed life was short and there was no resurrection, so they would have to pay no price for their vice. The Roman poet Horace wrote, “Tell them to bring wine and perfume and the too short–lived blossoms of the lovely rose while circumstance and age and the black threads of the three sisters fate still allow us to do so.” Another Roman poet, Catullus, penned the lines: “Let’s live my Lesbia and let’s love, and lets value the tales of austere old men at a single half penny. Suns can set and then return again, but for us when once our brief light sets there is but one perpetual night through which we must sleep.”

Without the prospect of a resurrection, and of the accountability it brings, there is no incentive for doing anything but what we feel like doing here and now. If behavior has no reward or condemnation, it is uncontrollable.

Become sober–minded as you ought, and stop sinning, Paul pleads in the imperative. “Those of you who believe in the resurrection know better, and you should be leading those who do not believe in the resurrection into a true knowledge of God, rather than allowing their heresy and their immorality to mislead and corrupt you.” The apostle spoke this to [their] shame. They had the truth, but they did not fully believe it and therefore did not fully follow it. He commands them to cease the sin they were involved in.

What tremendous power the resurrection has, and what wonderful hope it gives! Jesus rose from the dead; He is alive; and we also shall live because one day He will raise us up to be with Him eternally. What greater incentive, what greater motive, could we have for coming to Him, for serving Him, and for living for Him?[2]


15:33 The Corinthians should not be deceived on this score. Evil company corrupts good habits. Paul is referring to the false teachers who had come into the church at Corinth, denying the resurrection. The Christians should realize that it is impossible to associate with evil people or evil teachings without being corrupted by them. Evil doctrine inevitably has an effect on one’s life. False teachings do not lead to holiness.

15:34 The Corinthians should awake to righteousness and not sin. They should not be deluded by these evil teachings. Some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. This verse is commonly interpreted to mean that there are still men and women who have never heard the gospel story, and that Christians should be ashamed of their failure to evangelize the world. However, while this may be true, we believe that the primary meaning of the passage is that there were men in the fellowship at Corinth who did not have the knowledge of God. They were not true believers, but wolves in sheep’s clothing, false teachers who had crept in unawares. It was to the shame of the Corinthians that these men were allowed to take their place with the Christians and to teach these wicked doctrines. The carelessness which let ungodly people enter the assembly resulted in lowering the congregation’s whole moral tone, thus preparing an opening for the intrusion of all kinds of error.[3]


33–34 Paul ends this section with a warning, presumably to those in Corinth who were under the influence of the heretical doctrine of the resurrection. The maxim “bad company corrupts good character” (which can be traced to the Greek poet Menander but was probably a common proverb in Greco-Roman society) reflects essentially the same concern as contemporary sayings about peer pressure, where going along with the crowd can lead an otherwise good person into bad behavior.

Apparently there were some in Corinth who were doing precisely this—being caught up in the “wine, women, and song” philosophy of those who believed there were no consequences for immoral behavior since there was no resurrection of the dead. Such people had no true knowledge of God (in spite of the claim of some in Corinth to be so wise; cf. the “wisdom” section of 1:18–2:16; also 3:18; 8:1–2). As a result, they were being easily led into sinning. In writing this, Paul was intending to shame his readers to whom this applied (see comments on the “honor-shame” culture at 4:14; 11:7–10; 14:35). What he wanted them to do was to sober up and come to their senses.

It appears that the thinking reflected here is similar to what Paul dealt with in 6:12–20. There, too, I argued that part of the problem was a lack of belief in the resurrection of the body. One can even argue that 15:1–35 is an expansion of these earlier verses. So why would Paul not have coupled together these two sections? As noted in the introduction (pp. 251–52), I suggest that Paul probably wrote this letter over a period of time (perhaps a couple of months). After all, he seems to go back and forth between his responses to their written questions to him and things he keeps hearing about as visitors come to him in Ephesus. Rather than start the letter over again when he hears something new about a problem he has already touched on (or do a “cut and paste,” as we do today on computers), Paul simply wrote his sections as the issues came to him. When the letter was finally read, the connections would be clear to the Corinthians.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 429–430). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1808). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 400). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 28 – Illustrating Salvation

[God] waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

1 Peter 3:20

Genesis 6:9 through 8:22 tells how Noah and his family were delivered through the Flood. They were the only people who believed God’s warning of the coming worldwide catastrophe. As a result, all mankind was drowned in judgment, except them.

Noah preached the righteousness of God for the hundred and twenty years it took him to build the ark. The size of a modern ocean liner (Gen. 6:15), it was sure to attract attention. But it must have been discouraging to build that ark and preach its meaning for over a century, yet have only your immediate family believe.

Noah’s tremendous effort was spent on building a vessel he would spend only a year using, but those eight people were safe from God’s judgment when it came. The ark served as their shelter from the encompassing judgment of God. What a graphic illustration of salvation![1]


The biblical account of when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, before sending the Flood, Peter saw as an analogy for the triumphant salvation provided through Jesus Christ. God was patient with the corrupt world, as Genesis 6:3 states: “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” During that 120-year grace period Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) who announced judgment but also offered the way of deliverance. The members of Noah’s family were the only eight persons on earth to heed the divine warning and escape the coming catastrophe of a worldwide flood. Hence only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives were brought safely through the water while the rest of mankind was drowned in God’s act of judgment (Gen. 6:9–8:22).

During the grace period, people witnessed the construction of the ark by Noah and his sons. While its purpose was to rescue Noah and his family from the Flood, the ark also was a vivid object lesson to unbelievers of God’s impending judgment on the world. The lack of responsiveness to the “sermon of the ark” reveals the profound wickedness in Noah’s day: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).[2]


Next Peter refers to Noah. For 120 years this faithful preacher warned that God was going to destroy the world with water. His thanks was scorn and rejection. But God vindicated him by saving him and his family through the flood.

Then there is the problem, “If we are right, why are there so few of us?” Peter answers: “There was a time when only eight people in the world were right and all the rest were wrong!” Characteristically in the world’s history the majority has not been right. True believers are usually a small remnant, so one’s faith should not falter because of the small number of the saved. There were only eight believers in Noah’s day; there are millions today.

At the end of verse 20, we read that a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. It is not that they were saved by water; they were saved through the water. Water was not the savior, but the judgment through which God brought them safely.

To properly understand this statement and the verse that follows, we must see the typical meaning of the ark and of the flood. The ark is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. The flood of water depicts the judgment of God. The ark was the only way of salvation. When the flood came, only those who were inside were saved; all those on the outside perished. So Christ is the only way of salvation; those who are in Christ are as saved as God Himself can make them. Those on the outside could not be more lost.

The water was not the means of salvation, for all who were in the water drowned. The ark was the place of refuge. The ark went through the water of judgment; it took the full brunt of the storm. Not a drop of water reached those inside the ark. So Christ bore the fury of God’s judgment against our sins. For those who are in Him there is no judgment (John 5:24).

The ark had water beneath it, and water coming down on top of it, and water all around it. But it bore its believing occupants through the water to safety in a renewed creation. So those who trust the Savior are brought safely through a scene of death and desolation to resurrection ground and a new life.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 133). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 216–217). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2273). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 27, 2017: Verse of the day

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3:13, 14 Moses anticipated questions from the children of Israel when he returned to them as the Lord’s spokesman, and he wanted to be able to tell them who sent him. It was at this point that God first revealed Himself as Jehovah, the great I AM. Jehovah (more precisely Yahweh) comes from the Hebrew verb “to be,” hāyāh. This sacred name is known as the tetragrammaton (“four letters”). English Jehovah comes from the Hebrew YHWH, with vowel markings supplied from Elohim and Adonai, other names of God. No one knows for sure the true pronunciation of YHWH because the ancient Hebrew spelling used no actual vowels in its alphabet. However, the pronunciation “Yahweh” is probably correct. The Jews consider YHWH too sacred to utter. The name proclaims God as self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, and sovereign. The fuller name I AM WHO I AM may mean I AM BECAUSE I AM or I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE.[1]


3:14 I Am WHO I AM. This name for God points to His self-existence and eternality; it denotes “I am the One who is/will be,” which is decidedly the best and most contextually suitable option from a number of theories about its meaning and etymological source. The significance in relation to “God of your fathers” is immediately discernible: He’s the same God throughout the ages! The consonants from the Heb. word Yhwh, combined with the vowels from the divine name Adonai (Master or Lord), gave rise to the name “Jehovah” in English. Since the name Yahweh was considered so sacred that it should not be pronounced, the Massoretes inserted the vowels from Adonai to remind themselves to pronounce it when reading instead of saying Yahweh. Technically, this combination of consonants is known as the “tetragrammaton.”[2]


3:14 I am who I am. In response to Moses’ question (“What is [your] name?” v. 13), God reveals his name to be “Yahweh” (corresponding to the four Hebrew consonants YHWH). The three occurrences of “I am” in v. 14 all represent forms of the Hebrew verb that means “to be” (Hb. hayah), and in each case are related to the divine name Yahweh (i.e., “the Lord”; see note on v. 15). The divine name Yahweh has suggested to scholars a range of likely nuances of meaning: (1) that God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for his own existence; (2) that God is the creator and sustainer of all that exists; (3) that God is immutable in his being and character and thus is not in the process of becoming something different from what he is (e.g., “the same yesterday and today and forever,” Heb. 13:8); and (4) that God is eternal in his existence. While each of these points is true of God, the main focus in this passage is on the Lord’s promise to be with Moses and his people. The word translated “I am” (Hb. ’ehyeh) can also be understood and translated as “I will be” (cf. ESV footnote). Given the context of Ex. 3:12 (“I will be with you”), the name of Yahweh (“the Lord”) is also a clear reminder of God’s promises to his people and of his help for them to fulfill their calling. In each of these cases, the personal name of God as revealed to Moses expresses something essential about the attributes and character of God.

3:14 The name “I am” anticipates the “I am” sayings of Jesus (see John 8:58), which show his deity.[3]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 91–92). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ex 3:14). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 149). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

April 27 – Are You Avoiding Persecution?

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10).

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If you don’t experience persecution, people probably don’t know you’re a Christian.

I heard of a man who was fearful because he was starting a new job with a group of unbelievers whom he thought might give him a bad time if they found out he was a Christian. After his first day at work his wife asked him how he got along with them. “We got along just fine,” he said. “They never found out I’m a Christian.”

Silence is one way to avoid persecution. Some other ways are to approve of the world’s standards, laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, and smile when it mocks God. If you never confront sin or tell people that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, or if your behavior is so worldly no one can distinguish you from unbelievers, you will probably be accepted and won’t feel the heat of persecution.

But beware, for Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you. … Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory” (Luke 6:26; 9:26). The last thing anyone should want is for Christ to pronounce a curse on them or to be ashamed of them. That’s an enormous price to pay for popularity!

If you take a stand for Christ and manifest Beatitude attitudes, you will be in direct opposition to Satan and the evil world system. And eventually you will experience some form of persecution. That has been true from the very beginning of human history, when Abel was murdered by his brother Cain because Cain couldn’t tolerate his righteousness.

You should never fear persecution. God will grant you grace and will never test you beyond what He enables you to endure (1 Cor. 10:13). Nor should you ever compromise Biblical truth in order to avoid persecution. In Philippians 1:19 Paul says persecution is as much a gift of God as salvation itself. Both identify you as a true believer!

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Memorize 1 Peter 2:20–21. Ask God to continually grant you the grace to follow Christ’s example when difficulties come your way.

For Further Study: Read 2 Corinthians 11:23–33, noting the severe persecution Paul endured for Christ’s sake.[1]


The Persecution

Those who have been persecuted are the citizens of the kingdom, those who live out the previous seven beatitudes. To the degree that they fulfill the first seven they may experience the eighth.

“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Before writing those words Paul had just mentioned some of his own “persecutions, and suffering, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra” (v. 11). As one who lived the kingdom life he had been persecuted, and all others who live the kingdom life can expect similar treatment. What was true in ancient Israel is true today and will remain true until the Lord returns. “As at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also” (Gal. 4:29).

Imagine a man who accepted a new job in which he had to work with especially profane people. When at the end of the first day his wife asked him how he had managed, he said, “Terrific! They never guessed I was a Christian.” As long as people have no reason to believe that we are Christians, at least obedient and righteous Christians, we need not worry about persecution. But as we manifest the standards of Christ we will share the reproach of Christ. Those born only of the flesh will persecute those born of the Spirit.

To live for Christ is to live in opposition to Satan in his world and in his system. Christlikeness in us will produce the same results as Christlikeness did in the apostles, in the rest of the early church, and in believers throughout history. Christ living in His people today produces the same reaction from the world that Christ Himself produced when He lived on earth as a man.

Righteousness is confrontational, and even when it is not preached in so many words, it confronts wickedness by its very contrast. Abel did not preach to Cain, but Abel’s righteous life, typified by his proper sacrifice to the Lord, was a constant rebuke to his wicked brother-who in a rage finally slew him. When Moses chose to identify with his own despised Hebrew people rather than compromise himself in the pleasures of pagan Egyptian society, he paid a great price. But he considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26).

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said of Christians: “Though they be never so meek, merciful, pure in heart, their piety will not shield them from sufferings. They must hang their harp on the willows and take the cross. The way to heaven is by way of thorns and blood. … Set it down as a maxim, if you will follow Christ you must see the swords and staves” (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 259–60).

Savonarola was one of the greatest reformers in the history of the church. In his powerful condemnation of personal sin and ecclesiastical corruption, that Italian preacher paved the way for the Protestant Reformation, which began a few years after his death. “His preaching was a voice of thunder,” writes one biographer, “and his denunciation of sin was so terrible that the people who listened to him went about the streets half-dazed, bewildered and speechless. His congregations were so often in tears that the whole building resounded with their sobs and their weeping.” But the people and the church could not long abide such a witness, and for preaching uncompromised righteousness Savonarola was convicted of “heresy,” he was hanged, and his body was burned.

Persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. Persecution is not incidental to faithful Christian living but is certain evidence of it. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by sending them Timothy, “so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know” (1 Thess. 3:3–4). Suffering persecution is part of the normal Christian life (cf. Rom. 8:16–17). And if we never experience ridicule, criticism, or rejection because of our faith, we have reason to examine the genuineness of it. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake,” Paul says, “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29–30). Persecution for Christ’s sake is a sign of our own salvation just as it is a sign of damnation for those who do the persecuting (v. 28).

Whether Christians live in a relatively protected and tolerant society or whether they live under a godless, totalitarian regime, the world will find ways to persecute Christ’s church. To live a redeemed life to its fullest is to invite and to expect resentment and reaction from the world.

The fact that many professed believers are popular and praised by the world does not indicate that the world has raised its standards but that many who call themselves by Christ’s name have lowered theirs. As the time for Christ’s appearing grows closer we can expect opposition from the world to increase, not decrease. When Christians are not persecuted in some way by society it means that they are reflecting rather than confronting that society. And when we please the world we can be sure that we grieve the Lord (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17).

When (hotan) can also mean whenever. The idea conveyed in the term is not that believers will be in a constant state of opposition, ridicule, or persecution, but that, whenever those things come to us because of our faith, we should not be surprised or resentful. Jesus was not constantly opposed and ridiculed, nor were the apostles. There were times of peace and even popularity. But every faithful believer will at times have some resistance and ridicule from the world, while others, for God’s own purposes, will endure more extreme suffering. But whenever and however affliction comes to the child of God, his heavenly Father will be there with him to encourage and to bless. Our responsibility is not to seek out persecution, but to be willing to endure whatever trouble our faithfulness to Jesus Christ may bring, and to see it as a confirmation of true salvation.

The way to avoid persecution is obvious and easy. To live like the world, or at least to “live and let live,” will cost us nothing. To mimic the world’s standards, or never to criticize them, will cost us nothing. To keep quiet about the gospel, especially the truth that apart from its saving power men remain in their sins and are destined for hell, will cost us nothing. To go along with the world, to laugh at its jokes, to enjoy its entertainment, to smile when it mocks God and takes His name in vain, and to be ashamed to take a stand for Christ will not bring persecution. Those are the habits of sham Christians.

Jesus does not take faithlessness lightly. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of us. Christ also warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). To be popular with everyone is either to have compromised the faith or not to have true faith at all.

Though it was early in His ministry, by the time Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount He had already faced opposition. After He healed the man on the Sabbath, “the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). We learn from Luke that they were actually hoping Jesus would heal on the Sabbath “in order that they might find reason to accuse Him” (Luke 6:7). They already hated His teaching and wanted Him to commit an act serious enough to warrant His arrest.

Our Lord made it clear from His earliest teaching, and His opponents made it clear from their earliest reactions, that following Him was costly. Those who entered His kingdom would suffer for Him before they would reign with Him. That is the hard honesty that every preacher, evangelist, and witness of Christ should exemplify. We do the Lord no honor and those to whom we witness no benefit by hiding or minimizing the cost of following Him.

The cost of discipleship is billed to believers in many different ways. A Christian stonemason in Ephesus in Paul’s day might have been asked to help build a pagan temple or shrine. Because he could not do that in good conscience, his faith would cost him the work and possibly his job and career. A believer today might be expected to hedge on the quality of his work in order to increase company profits. To follow His conscience in obedience to the Lord could also cost his job or at least a promotion. A Christian housewife who refuses to listen to gossip or to laugh at the crude jokes of her neighbors may find herself ostracized. Some costs will be known in advance and some will surprise us. Some costs will be great and some will be slight. But by the Lord’s and the apostles’ repeated promises, faithfulness always has a cost, which true Christians are willing to pay (contrast Matt. 13:20–21).

The second-century Christian leader Tertullian was once approached by a man who said, “I have come to Christ, but I don’t know what to do. I have a job that I don’t think is consistent with what Scripture teaches. What can I do? I must live.” To that Tertullian replied, “Must you?” Loyalty to Christ is the Christian’s only true choice. To be prepared for kingdom life is to be prepared for loneliness, misunderstanding, ridicule, rejection, and unfair treatment of every sort.

In the early days of the church the price paid was often the ultimate. To choose Christ might mean choosing death by stoning, by being covered with pitch and used as a human torch for Nero, or by being wrapped in animal skins and thrown to vicious hunting dogs. To choose Christ could mean torture by any number of excessively cruel and painful ways. That was the very thing Christ had in mind when He identified His followers as those willing to bear their crosses. That has no reference to mystical devotion, but is a call to be ready to die, if need be, for the cause of the Lord (see Matt. 10:35–39; 16:24–25).

In resentment against the gospel the Romans invented charges against Christians, such as accusing them of being cannibals because in the Lord’s Supper they spoke of eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood. They accused them of having sexual orgies at their love feasts and even of setting fire to Rome. They branded believers as revolutionaries because they called Jesus Lord and King and spoke of God’s destroying the earth by fire.

By the end of the first century, Rome had expanded almost to the outer limits of the known world, and unity became more and more of a problem. Because only the emperor personified the entire empire, the caesars came to be deified, and their worship was demanded as a unifying and cohesive influence. It became compulsory to give a verbal oath of allegiance to caesar once a year, for which a person would be given a verifying certificate, called a libellus. After publicly proclaiming, “Caesar is Lord,” the person was free to worship any other gods he chose. Because faithful Christians refused to declare such an allegiance to anyone but Christ, they were considered traitors-for which they suffered confiscation of property, loss of work, imprisonment, and often death. One Roman poet spoke of them as “the panting, huddling flock whose only crime was Christ.”

In the last beatitude Jesus speaks of three specific types of affliction endured for Christ’s sake: physical persecution, verbal insult, and false accusation.

Physical Persecution

First, Jesus says, we can expect physical persecution. Have been persecuted (v. 10), persecute (v. 11), and persecuted (v. 12) are from diōkō, which has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.

All of the other beatitudes have to do with inner qualities, attitudes, and spiritual character. The eighth beatitude speaks of external things that happen to believers, but the teaching behind these results also has to do with attitude. The believer who has the qualities required in the previous beatitudes will also have the quality of willingness to face persecution for the sake of righteousness. He will have the attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. It is the lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness that says, “I will be in this world what Christ would have me be. I will say in this world what Christ will have me say. Whatever it costs, I will be and say those things.”

The Greek verb is a passive perfect participle, and could be translated “allow themselves to be persecuted.” The perfect form indicates continuousness, in this case a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living. This beatitude speaks of a constant attitude of accepting whatever faithfulness to Christ may bring.

It is in the demands of this beatitude that many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord, because here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is here where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems that we know obedience will bring.

But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christ life costs nothing. A synthetic gospel, a man-made seed, produces no real fruit.[2]


5:10 The next beatitude deals with those who are persecuted, not for their own wrongdoings, but for righteousness’ sake. The kingdom of heaven is promised to those believers who suffer for doing right. Their integrity condemns the ungodly world and brings out its hostility. People hate a righteous life because it exposes their own unrighteousness.[3]


10 It is no accident that Jesus should pass from peacemaking to persecution, for the world enjoys its cherished hates and prejudices so much that the peacemaker is not always welcome. Opposition is a normal mark of being a disciple of Jesus, as normal as hungering for righteousness or being merciful (see Jn 15:18–25; Ac 14:22; 2 Ti 3:12; 1 Pe 4:13–14; cf. the woe in Lk 6:26). Lachs (“Textual Observations,” 101–3) cannot believe Christians were ever persecuted because of righteousness; so he repoints an alleged underlying Hebrew text to read “because of the righteous One”—a reference to Jesus. But he underestimates how offensive genuine righteousness, “proper conduct before God” (Przybylski, Righteousness in Matthew, 99), really is (cf. Isa 51:7). The reward of these persecuted people is the same as the reward of the poor in spirit—namely, the kingdom of heaven, which terminates the inclusio (see comments at v. 3).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 130). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 220–224). Chicago: Moody Press.

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

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

APRIL 27 – ENOCH ESCAPED DEATH

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death…he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Hebrews 11:5

The Genesis record concerning Enoch should speak to us of our own troubled times—for that is the purpose of the Word of God. It should be our concern that we hear and that we obey!

The faith and deportment of the man Enoch compose a vivid picture—a powerful object lesson—to encourage every believer in his or her faith. There is only one conclusion to be drawn—Enoch was translated into the presence of God because of his faith, and thus he escaped death!

It is my strong conviction that Enoch’s experience of translation is a type, or preview, of the coming rapture of the Church, the Bride of Christ, described in the Scriptures.

It is evident that there was no funeral for Enoch. Perhaps members of his family did not fully understand his walk with God, but they could answer with the facts! “He is gone! We thought he was extreme in his beliefs but now he is gone, and we are still here in a troubled world!”

Lord, some days it is especially good to know that there will be an eternal reward for those who walk in close fellowship with You.[1]


The second hero of faith is Enoch. Whereas Abel exemplifies worshiping by faith—which must always come first—Enoch exemplifies walking by faith.

God never intended works as a way for men to come to Him. He intended works to be a result of salvation, not a way of salvation. At no time has man been able to approach God on the basis of works. Rather, God has always intended that works be a product of the salvation men receive when they approach Him on the basis of faith.

And Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Gen. 5:21–24)

Here we see a new concept in the book of Genesis. Abel knew what it was to worship by faith, but he did not really understand the concept of walking with God. Revelation in Scripture is progressive. Abel received some revelation, and Enoch received more.

Adam and Eve had walked and talked with God in the Garden, but when they fell and were thrown out of the Garden, they ceased to walk with Him. The ultimate destiny of man is reinstituted with Enoch, who stands as an illustration for all men of what it is to be in fellowship with God. In Enoch the true destiny of man is again reached, as he experienced the fellowship with God that Adam and Eve had forfeited.

I believe Enoch’s faith included everything Abel’s included. Enoch had to have offered a sacrifice to God, symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, because sacrifice is the only way into God’s presence. He could not have walked with God unless he had first come to God, and a person cannot come to God apart from the shedding of blood. The principle has not changed from the days of Abel and Enoch until today.

Hebrews 11:5–6 shows us five features in Enoch’s life that were pleasing to God: he believed that God is; he sought God’s reward; he walked with God; he preached for God; and he entered into God’s presence.[2]


11:5 Sometime during his life Enoch must have received a promise from God that he would go to heaven without dying. Up to that time everyone had died—sooner or later. There was no record of anyone ever having been taken away without dying. But God promised and Enoch believed. It was the most sane, rational thing that Enoch could do; what is more reasonable than that the creature should believe his Creator?

And so it happened! Enoch walked with the invisible God for three hundred years (Gen. 5:21–24) and then he walked into eternity. Before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. The life of faith always pleases God; He loves to be trusted.[3]


5 Among the human ancestors listed before the flood, Enoch stands out as special. The very brief account of him (Ge 5:21–24) includes twice over the statement that he “walked with God,” an accolade he shares only with Noah (Ge 6:9). He is also distinguished by the relatively short span of his life (365 years compared with an average of some 900 before the flood), which is explained by the enigmatic phrase “he was not, for God took him,” the LXX version of which our author quotes: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away” (TNIV rightly puts these words in quotation marks). In Jewish tradition, this was taken to mean he bypassed death, as did Elijah (2 Ki 2:11) and (according to tradition, though not according to Dt 34:5–7) Moses. As one who was taken alive to heaven, Enoch became a significant figure in Jewish thought, and a rich variety of late Jewish apocalyptic material is presented as Enoch’s accounts of his visions. (There are three lengthy apocryphal “Books of Enoch,” the first of which consists of material probably originating between 200 BC and AD 100.) Our author explains this special privilege of Enoch by the fact that he is twice said to have “pleased God” (the LXX version of “walked with God”). In this case too, therefore, “faith” consists in a close relationship with God that linked earth with heaven in a single continuum.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 304–306). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2195–2196). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] 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. 150–151). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 27 – CHRISTIAN COUPLES: HEIRS TOGETHER OF THE GRACE OF LIFE

…Giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life….

1 PETER 3:7

The Scriptures teach that the Christian husband and wife are heirs together of the grace of life—that they are one in Jesus Christ, their Saviour!

I suppose there are many Christian husbands whose prayers are not being answered and they can think up a lot of reasons. But the fact is that thoughtless husbands are simply big, overbearing clods when it comes to consideration of their wives.

If the husband would get himself straightened out in his own mind and spirit and live with his wife according to knowledge, and treat her with the chivalry that belongs to her as the weaker vessel, remembering that she is actually his sister in Christ, his prayers would be answered in spite of the devil and all of the other reasons that he gives.

A husband’s spiritual problems do not lie in the Kremlin nor in the Vatican but in the heart of the man himself—in his attitude and inability to resist the temptation to grumble and growl and dominate!

There is no place for that kind of male rulership in any Christian home. What the Bible calls for is proper and kindly recognition of the true relationships of understanding and love, and the acceptance of a spirit of cooperation between the husband and wife.[1]


The Husband’s Responsibility

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (3:7)

In the same way refers again to the duty of submission (2:13, 18; 3:1). This time it is the believing husband who submits to serve his wife. Husbands obey that duty by adhering to three basic responsibilities in caring for their wives’ needs: consideration, chivalry, and companionship.

consideration

live with your wives in an understanding way, (3:7a)

First, husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way, which means they must be considerate. Understanding speaks of being sensitive and considering the wife’s deepest physical and emotional needs. The word translated live (sunoikountes) means “dwelling together” and refers to living with someone in intimacy and cherishing them. Believing husbands must constantly nourish and cherish their wives in the bond of intimacy:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. (Eph. 5:25–28; cf. Prov. 5:18–19; 1 Cor. 7:3–5)

chivalry

as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; (3:7b)

A believing husband should also be chivalrous to his wife, realizing she is someone weaker, since she is a woman. Just as submission does not imply inherent inferiority for the ones who submit (see the discussion of verse 1 of this passage), so the word weaker does not mean the wife is intrinsically weaker in character or intellect than her husband. The word (rendered “weaker vessel” by the King James and New King James translators) also does not mean that women are spiritually inferior to men (cf. Gal. 3:28). It just means that women generally possess less physical strength than men. With that in mind, Christian husbands are the sacrificial providers and protectors of their wives (cf. 1 Sam. 1:4–5; Eph. 5:23, 25–26; Col. 3:19; 1 Tim. 5:8), whether or not the wives are believers.

companionship

and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (3:7c)

Third, the husband is to be a companion for his wife as a fellow heir sharing in the grace of life, which refers not to eternal life, but to the true and intimate friendship that belongs only to those who are possessors of God’s most blessed gift in this life—marriage. Peter labels marriage the grace of life because grace (charis) means “unmerited, undeserved favor” (cf. Rom. 1:5; 3:24; 5:15, 17; 12:3; 15:15; 2 Cor. 8:1; 9:8; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 2:7; 3:2, 7; 4:7; 4:29; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 4:16; James 4:6). Marriage is a divine providence given to man regardless of his attitude toward the Giver. Intimate companionship in marriage, the richest blessing of this life, was a foreign concept to the Greco-Roman culture of Peter’s day. Husbands were generally uninterested in friendship with their wives, expecting them to merely maintain the household and bear children. In contrast, the Christian husband is to cultivate all the richness God designed into the grace of marriage by showing honor to his wife in loving consideration, chivalry, and companionship. So that his prayers will not be hindered is the reward God promises to the loving, caring husband (cf. Ps. 66:18; Isa. 59:2; John 9:31; James 4:3). The prayers in view may be specifically for the salvation of an unbelieving wife, but nothing in the text limits it to that. The warning is clearly given that if a husband in Christ is not fulfilling his responsibilities toward his wife, God may not answer his prayers. No more serious divine threat could be given to a believer than that—the interruption of all the promises of prayers heard and answered (cf. John 14:13–14). That is severe, cutting off the divine blessing, which shows how critical is Christian husbands’ loving care of their partners in this grace of life.

The key to having a positive witness to an unsaved spouse is living an exemplary Christian life as a faithful, submissive spouse. That obedience pleases God and provides the testimony that honors Jesus Christ before the unsaved partner.[2]


As a Husband in Relation to His Wife (3:7)

Now the apostle turns to husbands and shows the corresponding duties they must fulfill. They should live considerately with their wives, showing love, courtesy, and understanding. They should bestow the tender regard on their wives that is appropriate for members of the weaker sex.

In this day of the women’s liberation movement, the Bible might seem out of step with the times in speaking of women as the weaker vessels. But it is a simple fact of life that the average woman is weaker than the man physically. Also, generally speaking, she does not have the same power to control her emotions and is more frequently guided by emotional reactions than by rational, logical thought. The handling of deep theological problems is not characteristically her forte. And, in general, she is more dependent than the man.

But the fact that a woman is weaker in some ways does not mean that she is inferior to man; the Bible never suggests this. Neither does it mean that she might not actually be stronger, or more competent in some areas. As a matter of fact, women are generally more devoted to Christ than men. And they usually are better able to bear prolonged pain and adversity.

A man’s attitude toward his wife should recognize the fact that she is a fellow heir of the grace of life. This refers to a marriage in which both are believers. Though weaker than the man in some ways, the woman enjoys equal standing before God and shares equally the gift of everlasting life. Also she is more than her husband’s equal in bringing new physical life into the world.

When there is discord, prayers are hindered. Bigg says: “The sighs of the injured wife come between the husband’s prayers and God’s hearing.” Also it is very difficult for a couple to pray together when something is disrupting their fellowship. For the peace and welfare of the home it is important for the husband and wife to observe a few basic rules:

  1. Maintain absolute honesty in order to have a basis of mutual confidence.
  2. Keep lines of communication open. There must be a constant readiness to talk things out. When steam is allowed to build up in the boiler, an explosion is inevitable. Talking things out includes the willingness for each to say, “I am sorry” and to forgive—perhaps indefinitely.
  3. Overlook minor faults and idiosyncrasies. Love covers a multitude of sins. Don’t demand perfection in others when you are unable to produce it in yourself.
  4. Strive for unity in finances. Avoid overspending, installment buying, and the lust to keep up with the Joneses.
  5. Remember that love is a commandment, not an uncontrollable emotion. Love means all that is included in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is courteous, for instance; it will keep you from criticizing or contradicting your partner in front of others. Love will keep you from quarreling in front of your children, which could undermine their security. In these and a hundred other ways, love creates a happy atmosphere in the home and rules out strife and separations.[3]

7 Following his exhortations to wives, the writer addresses husbands. Four requirements are noted. The first of the four is strikingly suggestive, with the text literally reading, “living together according to knowledge” (synoikountes kata gnōsin), hence, “being considerate.” In the context of day-to-day marital relations, this imperative is sweeping. Living with a woman “according to knowledge” stands in marked contrast to living with a woman out of “sheer thoughtlessness” (so Barclay, 223). Waltner, 99, encompasses the full range of female needs when he writes that this exhortation “constitutes a call to respect the full personhood of the woman in a marriage relationship.”

Second, husbands are to “treat [their wives] with respect as the weaker partner” (hōs asthenesterō skeuei tō gynaikeiō). How the woman is “weaker” is the subject of varied—and fancied—explanation by commentators. Whether asthenēs (“weak,” GK 822) has physical, psychological, or emotional application is debatable but beside the point. Marshall, 103–4, strikes a reasonable balance: husbands, cognizant of the wives’ situation, are to treat them with courtesy; given their station, they are more vulnerable. Christian faith has a revolutionary effect not only on the way men treat women but also on how they view them. What is incontestable about the plight of married women in the ancient world is that they possessed no authority and influence beside their husbands. Hence, Christian husbands are doubly sensitive to this “weakness,” consequently treating them with timē, “honor” (NIV, “respect”; GK 5507). This social reality also explains why the verb hypotassō (“submit,” GK 5718), appearing in 2:13; 2:18; 3:1 (and later in 3:22; 5:5), is not used in 3:7, since husbands already exercise a natural social authority over their wives. This authority, in the Petrine scheme, must be accompanied by deference and courtesy. Husbands are to honor rather than exploit, since exploitation likely is the norm.

Third, husbands are to keep in mind that their wives are “heirs with [them] of the gracious gift of life” (synklēronomois charitos zōēs). If indeed wives, in the social scheme of antiquity, were without rights and considered of inferior status, Christian faith elevated the status of women, so that in Christ male and female are coequal (1 Co 12:13; Gal 3:28). The full blessing, peace, and welfare that arise from Christian faith are shared by both husband and wife. They are partners in the riches and benefits of the gospel (similarly, 2 Pe 1:1). There exist equality and complementarity within the social scheme of things.

The fourth quality issues out of the prior three. A husband who is inattentive to his wife, failing to show her consideration, honor, and respect, finds that a barrier is erected between him and his God. For this reason, husbands are to be attentive to the needs of their wives, “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Advice of a similar nature is given by Paul to the Corinthians in the sphere of marital relations (cf. 1 Co 7:4–5). Harmony in the relationship is predicated on a principle enunciated by Jesus: if our relationships are not right, we are to “leave [the] gift there in front of the altar” (Mt 5:24; cf. also 18:15) until the block has been removed. This is all the more applicable in marital union and is likely the principal rationale for calling men “everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer” (1 Ti 2:8; cf. 1 Co 11:29).[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 181–183). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2268–2269). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 328–329). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

APRIL 27 – THAT’S JUST THE WAY GOD IS

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

—Jude 6

There are two ways to think about the grace of God: One is to look at yourself and see how sinful you were and say, “God’s grace must be vast—it must be huge as space to forgive such a sinner as I am.” That’s one way and that’s a good way—and probably that’s the most popular way.

But there’s another way to think of the grace of God. Think of it as the way God is—God being like God. And when God shows grace to a sinner He isn’t being dramatic; He’s acting like God. He’ll never act any other way but like God. On the other hand, when that man whom justice has condemned turns his back on the grace of God in Christ and refuses to allow himself to be rescued, then the time comes when God must judge the man. And when God judges the man He acts like Himself in judging the man. When God shows love to the human race He acts like Himself. When God shows judgment to “the angels which kept not their first estate” (Jude 6), He acts like Himself.

Always God acts in conformity with the fullness of His own wholly perfect, symmetrical nature. AOG106

Father, I’m thankful that You always act like Yourself—with grace and justice. Your constancy produces great peace within me. Amen. [1]


the apostate angels

And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, (6)

The second example that Jude gave was that of apostate angels. The fact that these angels are not specifically identified indicates that Jude assumed his audience was already familiar with the details of their extraordinary defection.

Commentators have offered three main views as to the identity of these angels. Some argue that Jude’s reference is to an episode his readers knew nothing about. But that does not fit the larger context in which, as noted above, Jude reminded his readers of things they already knew (cf. v. 5). Thus one has to assume that Jude wrote of an Old Testament account that was generally familiar to his audience.

Others assert that Jude referred to the original fall of Satan (Isa. 14:12–15; Ezek. 28:12–17; cf. Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:7–10). That is a possible interpretation, but it fails to explain Jude’s mention of eternal bonds, which does not apply to the current status of Satan and demons. The apostle Peter correctly wrote that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8; cf. Job 1:6–7). Therefore it is unlikely that Jude is referring to Satan’s fall.

A third and most plausible viewpoint is that Jude referred to an extraordinarily heinous infraction by some of the fallen angels. That sin, recorded in the Old Testament (Gen. 6:1–4), was so severe that God placed the offending demons in chains to prevent them from committing such perversity ever again. (For more discussion of the sin committed by those angels, see the comments on 2 Peter 2:4 in chapter 6 of this volume and the lengthier section in John MacArthur, 1 Peter, MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 2004], 209–16.)

Peter said they sinned, whereas Jude described two closely related aspects of the fallen angels’ sin. First, they did not keep their own domain. Instead of staying in their own realm of authority given by God, they went outside it. Second, they abandoned their proper abode. With Lucifer they rebelled against their created role and place in heaven (cf. Isa. 14:12, nkjv). When God expelled them from heaven for that rebellion (cf. Rev. 12:4, 9), some continued their downward fall to the point of taking masculine human form and cohabitating with human women to produce a generation of demon-influenced, thoroughly corrupt children (cf. Gen. 6:11–13). God sent those particular apostate angels (demons) to a place under darkness for the judgment of the great day. Peter wrote that God “committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).[2]


6 The second example of rebellion and apostasy is the angels who sinned. All we know about them for certain is that they did not keep the domain that was assigned to them, they abandoned their own abode, and they are now restrained in everlasting chains under darkness for their final judgment.

It seems from Scripture that there have been at least two apostasies of angels. One was when Lucifer fell and presumably involved a host of other angelic beings in his rebellion. These fallen angels are not bound at the present time. The devil and his demons are actively promoting war against the Lord and His people.

The other apostasy of angels is the one referred to by Jude and also by Peter (2 Pet. 2:4). There is considerable difference of opinion among Bible students as to what event is referred to here. What we suggest is a personal viewpoint, not a dogmatic assertion of fact.

We believe that Jude is referring to what is recorded in Genesis 6:1–7. The sons of God left their proper estate as angelic beings, came down to the earth in human form, and married the daughters of men. This marital union was contrary to God’s order and an abomination to Him. There may be a suggestion in verse 4 that these unnatural marriages produced offspring of tremendous strength and wickedness. Whether or not this is true, it is clear that God was exceedingly displeased with the wickedness of man at this time and determined to destroy the earth with a flood.

There are three objections to this view: (1) The passage in Genesis does not mention angels, but only “sons of God.” (2) Angels are sexless. (3) Angels do not marry.

It is true that angels are not specifically mentioned but it is also true that the term “sons of God” does refer to angels in Semitic languages (see Job 1:6; 2:1).

There is no Bible statement that angels are sexless. Angels sometimes appeared on earth in human form, having human parts and appetites (Gen. 18:2, 22; compare 19:1, 3–5.

The Bible does not say that angels do not marry but only that in heaven they neither marry nor give in marriage (Matt. 22:30).

Whatever historical incident may lie behind verse 6, the important point is that these angels abandoned the sphere which God had marked out for them and are now in … chains and in darkness until the time when they will receive their final sentence to perdition.[3]


The Fallen Angels (6)

Commentary

6 The angels are said to have “abandoned” their heavenly home. (Note the prefix apo– in the participle apolipontas, denoting movement away.) They fell from a domain of divine liberty and light to imprisonment and darkness. Jude’s readers are to be mindful of the lesson of the angels: punishment is proportionate to privilege. In heavenly realms the angels were exposed to great light; now they are consigned to the gloom of darkness. Having chosen not to “keep” their unique and exalted status, they are consequently being “kept” in chains of darkness awaiting a fate—“the great Day”—which should cause humans to shudder. Like Israel of old, they departed from their “allotted” place. Apostasy in the Christian community has both earthly and heavenly antecedents.

Neither the OT nor the NT makes any explicit statements as to the fall of the rebellious angels. The NT implies at most that Satan, a fallen angel chief among many (cf. Eph 2:2), was hurled down (Lk 10:18; Jn 12:31; Rev 12:4, 7, 9, 10), yet it gives no clear time or explanation for the fall. Some hold Jesus’ words in Luke 10:18 to refer to an original fall; others interpret the statement to be a dramatic way of expressing Satan’s certain ruin (so G. Aulen, Christus Victor [New York: Macmillan, 1956], 111). Still others view the fall as coinciding with Jesus’ earthly ministry (so G. B. Caird, Principalities and Powers [Oxford: Clarendon, 1965], 31).

Virtually all commentary—past and present—has related Jude 6 (and 2 Pe 2:4) to Genesis 6:1–4 in some way or another. This interpretation of “the sons of God” (Ge 6:2), following the lead of Clement of Alexandria, is largely due to two reasons: (1) a mistaken linking of the angels in Jude 6 with Sodom and Gomorrah in v. 7 and (2) the association of demons with Genesis 6:1–4 that began to emerge in second-century BC Jewish interpretation. In 1 Enoch (second–first century BC?), for example, we find perhaps the most elaborate expansion of this connection between the angels’ fall and sexual promiscuity.

The sin of the angels, though veiled to humans, was very real. The point of Jude’s witness, however, is not the precise nature of their sin. Rather, the angels of v. 6, mentioned parenthetically, share something in common with Israel of v. 5 and the cities of the plain in v. 7, namely, a radical disobedience and total disenfranchisement. The reader must be careful to note what Jude, in his borrowing of apocalyptic motifs, stresses and what he omits. Contrary to the view of numerous commentators, there is nothing concerning angels in Genesis 6 that is mentioned in Jude; rather, the conceptualization of the angelic realm in Jude is simply an extension of that which emerged during the intertestamental era. The Jewish apocalypticist was inclined to assimilate pagan mythology into his conceptualization of the angelic world. Biblical writers, on the other hand, by nature were nonmythological, i.e., they wrote from a divine revelatory and prophetic posture, even when they utilized the apocalyptic literary mode for their own purposes.

Jude employs apocalyptic motifs without necessarily embracing Jewish apocalyptic theology. The central point of his illustration involving the angels is the fact that they were dispossessed, not how or specifically why they were dispossessed. This basic interpretive premise is confirmed by the grammar and syntax of v. 6. The issue at hand is apostasy, not fornication (see my Literary Strategy in the Epistle of Jude, 108–16). All three examples in Jude 5–7 underscore the fact of enduring loss. Any speculation as to the particular nature of the sins of the angels, intriguing as it may be, is of secondary importance. The point of Jude’s allusion to the angels is that they exercised their free will wrongly—to their own discredit.

Notes

6 While angels in the OT figure prominently in certain historical narratives, during and following Israel’s exile they acquire increasing importance and a more clearly defined function (e.g., Eze 9:2.; 40:3.; 43:6.; Da 3:28; 4:13; 6:22; 7:16; 8:13; 10:5–6.; 12:1; Zec 1:8; 2:1; 3:1 4:1; 5:5; 6:4). In Jewish intertestamental literature, the depiction of angels becomes far more systematic, with a particular number having their names and functions expressly stated, a prime example being 1 Enoch.

6 Corresponding typology to the fallen angels of Jude might well be drawn from several prophetic oracles in the OT—oracles serving as graphic illustrations of fall or ruin: Isaiah 14:5–23, a taunt against the king of Babylon; Isa 24:21–22, a symbolic representation of Yahweh’s judgment; and Ezekiel 28:1–19, a prophetic funeral dirge against the king of Tyre. The oracles in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 reflect, as in Jude, utter fall from glory. Significantly, several elements are present in all three sources: (1) there is a conspicuously abrupt transition from the earthly plane to the heavenly; (2) a correlation is made between the earthly and heavenly realms; and (3) the objects of condemnation all tumble from the heavens as “stars” (cf. v. 13). Falling from glory, whether it is an arrogant king or those to whom truth has been committed, has an extraordinary antecedent in the heavenly realm.

6 The imprisonment of spirits, undefined in the OT, is a prominent theme in Jewish apocalyptic literature (notably in 1 En.; 2 Bar.; Jub.) and surfaces in the book of Revelation. Within the apocalyptic tradition, a frequent pattern tends to emerge: (1) war erupts in heaven, often depicted in astral terms; followed by (2) a spilling over of this rebellion to earth; culminating in (3) ultimate vindication and punishment by the king of heaven (see P. D. Hanson, “Rebellion in Heaven, Azazel, and Euhemeristic Heroes in 1 Enoch 6–11,” JBL 96 [1977]: 208).[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 164–165). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2341). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). Jude. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 554–555). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.