Category Archives: Verse of the day

July 9, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

Ver. 27.—The eighth day, and so forward. Omit “so.” With this day the regular sacrificial service should commence. Thence-forward the priests should offer upon the altar the burnt offerings and peace offerings of the people. The omission of sin offerings is explained by Keil, on the principle that “burnt offerings” and “peace offerings” were “the principal and most frequent sacrifices, whilst sin offerings and meat offerings were implied therein;” Kliefoth adding that ch. 44:27, 29; 45:17, 19, 22, 23, 25; and 46:20 show it cannot be inferred that sin offerings were no more to be offered on this altar. At the same time, the prominence given to “burnt” and “peace” as distinguished from “sin offerings” may, as Schröder suggests, have pointed to the fact that the sacrificers who should use this altar would be “a people in a state of grace,” to whom Jehovah was prepared to say, I will accept you, not your offerings alone, but your persons as well; and not these because of those, but contrariwise, those on account of these. Kliefoth’s idea, that the first day symbolized the future day of Christ’s sacrifice, that the seven intermediate days (on his hypothesis) pointed to the period of the Christian Church and that the eighth day looked forward to the time of the end, while not without elements of truth, is open to this objection, that in the period of the Christian Church there should have been “no more sacrifice for sin;” and yet, as Kliefoth admits, “sin offerings” were afterwards to be made upon this altar.[1]


27. The peace offerings (Heb. šĕlāmîm) were more in the nature of communal meals; only the fat parts of the animal were burnt upon the altar, leaving the flesh to be eaten by the offerers (after certain portions had been given to the priests) as an expression of communion between themselves and God. For in both of these most frequently offered sacrifices, the burnt-offerings and the peace-offerings, the religious aim was primary—that the worshippers should be accepted by God. And it was this which he promised that he would do: I will accept you, says the Lord God.[2]


27. I will accept you—(ch. 20:40, 41, “In mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord God, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them;” Rom. 12:1, “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service;” 1 Pet. 2:5, “Ye also … are … an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”).

Remarks.—1. The visible glory of God, which had manifested itself in the first temple, had withdrawn from Jerusalem just before the destruction of that city by Kebuchadnezzar, and has never since returned. But in this chapter it is explicitly foretold that it shall, in God’s good time, return “from the way of the East” (vv. 2, 4), and fill the house of God again. As Christ withdrew His visible presence from the people of Jerusalem shortly before the destruction of both the city and the temple, and ascended from the mount of Olives (Acts 1:9–12), so shall He come in like manner as He went, by the way of the mount of Olives (ch. 11:23; Zech. 14:4). 2. He has declared to the Jews, “Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:35). When, therefore, He does come, it shall be as the universally recognized King of Israel: every Jew shall hail Him, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38), as His typical entry as a King into Jerusalem on the Palm Sunday before His crucifixion implies. Then first shall be fully realized the grand idea of the theocracy, which was only in part represented under the old commonwealth of the people, before they set it aside by asking for an earthly king, instead of retaining God as the Head of their nation. Jehovah-Jesus shall set up His throne, and shall dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever (v. 7), and they shall no more defile His holy name with abominations. He shall reign in righteousness over a people all righteous, as their manifested King, at once perfectly human and perfectly Divine. Such a blessed reign has never yet been seen in this disordered world, whose politics have heretofore been disgraced by the virtual ignoring of God’s supremacy, by self-seeking ambition, pride, and covetousness, and by frequent disregard of the rights of man in respect to justice and mercy. 3. Ezekiel is directed to show to the house of Israel the house of God, that so they may be ashamed of their iniquities (v. 10). Nothing so effectually makes men ashamed of their sins as the revelation to them, by the Holy Ghost, of Christ crucified and Christ glorified, in the hearing of the Word. The height, the depth, the length, the breadth of the love of Christ to His spiritual temple, the elect Church, causes the believer to loathe his past course of life, and henceforth desire to live wholly to Christ, who loved him, and gave Himself for him. Thus believers are prepared for further discoveries of the blessed laws of God’s spiritual house (v. 11). Its all-pervading feature and prominent law is universal sanctity. Nothing that defileth, or worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, direct or implied, can have place in God’s spiritual house. Let the thought of this, its holy and glorious character, constrain us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). 4. Whatever may be the nature of the future “burnt offerings,” “sin offerings,” and “blood sprinklings” (vv. 18, 19, 21), we have no doubt, as concerns ourselves now, that we need no other burnt offering than that one whereby Christ bore for us all the fiery indignation of the righteous God against our sin: His one sin offering whereby God “made Him to be sin for ns, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), causes every believer to become the righteousness of God in Him; so that, as we have remission of all sins through Him, there is no more offering for sin (Heb. 10:18) needed. We have boldness to enter the holiest by a new and living way (Heb. 10:19, 20), and not by dead sacrifices; and so can draw near, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22). We have the altar (Heb. 13:10) of the cross, whereat we can present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God (v. 27; Rom. 12:1), through Jesus Christ. 5. As to the future sacrificial service of Israel, we can well afford to wait till God by the event shall clear up every difficulty: and throughout eternity we shall adoringly wonder at the beautiful variety, and, at the same time, perfect unity of the several parts of the mighty scheme of redemption through the incarnate Son of God.[3]


43:27. From the eighth day and onward the priests will present the people’s burnt offerings … and … peace offerings on the altar. This process will mark the full resumption of God’s fellowship with His people, as then God will accept them. These sacrifices will remind the Israelites of the atonement Messiah Jesus provided to give access to the Father (Heb 10:19–25).

Many questions arise related to the efficacy of these millennial sacrifices in the face of Jesus’ atoning death. Critics of the view espoused in this commentary argue that a return to such sacrifices would be needless or blasphemous, and would detract from the work of Christ (see comments introducing chaps. 40–48). Of the various offerings in chaps. 40–48 (the burnt offering, 45:15, 17, 20; the grain offering, 42:14; 44:29; the peace offering, 43:27; the sin offering, 40:39; 42:13; and the reparation offering, 40:39; 44:29), only the burnt offerings were said to atone for the sins of people (see 45:15, 20). The altar could be “atoned” for as well (vv. 20, 26), but there the sense of the verb “atone” carries the common nuance of “wiping” or “cleansing,” and refers to the purification of the altar so it is fit for use before God. For the relationship between animal sacrifices in the law of Moses and salvation in the OT, see comments on Heb 10:1–18.

Some of those who assert that there will be a millennial temple maintain that the sacrifices that take place there will be largely commemorative of the perfect work of Jesus, much as the celebration of the Lord’s Table is today (see comments on 1Co 11:23–26; and for more on the efficacy of the millennial sacrifices, see comments on Ezk 43:13–17). The early Christians apparently had no problem with going to, worshiping in, and sacrificing at the temple for years following the death and resurrection of the Lord (see Lk 24:53; Ac 3:1; 21:26). They could hardly be accused of distracting or detracting from Jesus’ work. This view is possibly the correct one, but nowhere does Ezekiel make it explicit that the atoning sacrifices in Ezk 45:15 are memorial sacrifices. Instead it appears that they have some level of atoning significance (see 45:15).

Several observations may help in getting at Ezekiel’s meaning in its canonical context. The obvious differences between Ezekiel’s description and the Mosaic covenant indicate that this is not simply a return to the Mosaic covenant. Some of these differences include: The priests were to wear splendid clothes, including dyed cloth of some sort and fine linen with gold threads (Ex 28), while the priests in Ezekiel’s temple were to wear plain linen (Ezr 44:17–19). In the Mosaic covenant, the tabernacle (and later the temple) contained the ark of the covenant, the lampstand, the anointing oil, and the table of the bread of the Presence (see Ex 25), but all of these are missing from the future temple. According to Nm 28:11, the new moon offerings included two bulls, one ram, and seven male lambs, but the book of Ezekiel records one bull, six sheep, and one ram (Ezk 46:6–7). Plainly, Ezekiel is not recording a mere revival of the law of Moses.

Perhaps the best explanation of the sacrifices in chap. 45 is to be found in its parallels with the animal sacrifices for atonement in the law. There are several items to consider.

First, sacrifices, and any deed prescribed by the law, were repugnant to God without the proper attitude. These sacrifices did not save the individual, even if he or she were sincere, since the ceremonial aspects of the law saved no one (see Rm 3:20). But when one trusted in the God of Israel as Abraham did (Gn 15:6), that believer was counted righteous. The offerings of sacrifices were to flow from the life of one rightly related to God by faith, but were not the means of that saving relationship. God said that He would cleanse the believing offerer from his sin when he brought the required sacrifices. Yet, without the heart attitude of trust and repentance (see “humbling one’s soul”—or better “afflicting one’s soul”—in Lv 16:29, 31), the sacrifices meant nothing at best, and at worst were repugnant to God (see Pss 40:6–10; 51:10–18; Is 1:11–15; Mc 6:6–8). The one who offered the sacrifice did not thereby earn God’s favor.

Second, the saved OT believer needed periodic cleansing from sin, just as a NT believer does, and God determined in the OT that the means for this cleansing was through the believer making animal sacrifices. Those sacrifices offered by one who believed resulted in forgiveness by God (see Lv 1:4; 4:26–31; 16:20–22; 17:11; see also, for the general idea of forgiveness without the explicit mention of sacrifices, Pss 25, 32, 51, 103, 130; Is 1:18; Ezk 18:22).

Third, Heb 10 indicates that sacrifices “can never … make perfect” (Heb 10:1), do not cleanse from the consciousness of sin (Heb 10:2), and can never “take away sins” (Heb 10:4, 11). Only the sacrificial death of the Messiah can do this (Heb 10:10–12). Yet Lv 1:4; 4:26–31; 16:20–22, and other passages assign an “atoning” result to sacrifices. How can this be? The answer comes by recognizing that atonement functioned on two levels—the subjective human level and the objective divine level. The OT believer who offered sacrifices or celebrated the Day of Atonement had every reason to feel forgiven subjectively. His sins were “covered,” but they were not exactly “expiated.” However, on the objective, Godward side of it, full forgiveness was not objectively obtained until the death of Jesus.

Fourth, for the OT believer, the outworking of faith included the offering of sacrifices in reliance upon God, who said that the believing offerer would be forgiven. John S. Feinberg writes,

“Performing substitutionary and expiatory sacrifices seems to be more involved with cleansing the sin of a believer than with bringing a person to salvation. Job, when he offered a sacrifice for cleansing (Job 42:7–9), was obviously saved at the time he gave the sacrifice.… A comparison of sanctification in the Old and New Testaments would show that when the NT believer sins, in order to restore fellowship with the Lord [note, restore fellowship, not salvation] he must receive cleansing from the sin. In order to continue to grow, he must confess his sin in faith, believing that on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice God will cleanse him from sin (1Jn 1:9). The OT believer also confessed his sin, but in addition, he brought in faith a sacrifice, believing that God had revealed that sin would be handled in that way. Before Christ’s sacrifice, the public offering had to accompany the repentance of the believer. Once the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ had been made, the repentant believer need not give another sacrifice to have cleansing” (John S. Feinberger, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, ed. John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg [Chicago: Moody, 1981], 69–70).

Rather than the act of offering a sacrifice saving an OT believer, it functioned to impress upon him his profound need for something (or Someone) else to atone for his sin.

Fifth, another prominent feature of animal sacrifices in both the OT and NT was the ritual and physical purification they brought (see Heb 9:13, they “sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,” i.e., one’s body, not one’s fallen nature). Specifically, being cleansed by water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer would ceremonially cleanse one’s physical body if he had contacted a corpse (see Nm 19:13, 20). Otherwise the physical filth remained, one was excluded from the company of his fellow Jews and could not participate in worship, and its corrupting effect continued. But this was a ceremonial cleansing only, not a saving one (see Rm 3:20—no one is saved by the works of the law).

Finally, in attempting to apply this to Ezk 45:15, it would be difficult to assign a different meaning to the word “atonement” from what is implied in other OT uses (see Lv 1:4; 4:26–31; 16:20–22; 17:11) and in light of Heb 9:13 and 10:4, 11. Namely, for the Jewish believer alive during the millennial kingdom, salvation is by faith in the finished work of Christ. The sacrifices performed in faith at that time will provide a subjective experience of forgiveness for sins, a forgiveness ultimately purchased by the death of Christ, and will provide cleansing, whereby fellowship—not salvation—with God is restored, much as the OT sacrifices did for one who had the faith of Abraham.[4]


43:27 The fellowship offering was prescribed on three specific occasions: the Festival of Weeks (Lv 23:19–20), the completion of the Nazirite vow (Nm 6:17–20), and the installation of the priests (Lv 9:18, 22). This offering appears to have been closely associated with the burnt offering, which it followed. Like the burnt offering and often in association with it, the fellowship offering was offered on momentous occasions in Israel’s history (Ex 24:5; Lv 23:19; Dt 27:7; 1Sm 11:15; 1Kg 8:63–65). What was distinctive about the fellowship offering was that the offerer could share in the sacrifice. As such it expressed the joy of fellowship around a shared meal. In this regard it resembles the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.[5]


[1] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ezekiel (Vol. 2, p. 371). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[2] Taylor, J. B. (1969). Ezekiel: an Introduction and commentary (Vol. 22, p. 262). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Fausset, A. R. (n.d.). A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Jeremiah–Malachi (Vol. IV, pp. 367–368). London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited.

[4] Dyer, C. H., & Rydelnik, E. (2014). Ezekiel. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (pp. 1268–1270). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[5] Rooker, M. F. (2017). Ezekiel. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1313). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

July 8, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

God Uses Suffering to Perfect His Power

“for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (12:9b–10)

God not only wanted to display His grace in Paul’s life, but also His power; He not only wanted the apostle to be humble, but also strong. Because “power is perfected in weakness,” it was necessary for the fires of affliction to burn away the dross of pride and self-confidence. Paul had lost all ability, humanly speaking, to deal with the situation at Corinth. He had visited there, sent others there, and written the Corinthians letters. But he could not completely fix the situation. He was at the point when he had to trust totally in God’s will and power.

It is when believers are out of answers, confidence, and strength, with nowhere else to turn but to God that they are in a position to be most effective. No one in the kingdom of God is too weak to experience God’s power, but many are too confident in their own strength. Physical suffering, mental anguish, disappointment, unfulfillment, and failure squeeze the impurities out of believers’ lives, making them pure channels through which God’s power can flow.

Though his circumstances had not changed, Paul could still exclaim, Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. In 1 Corinthians 1:27 he reminded the Corinthians that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” The apostle himself had ministered among the Corinthians “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). Paul’s weakness was not self-induced or artificial; it was not a superficial psychological self-esteem game he played with himself. It was real and God-given. He did not love the pain caused by the false apostles, knowing it was satanic in origin. Yet he embraced it as the means by which God released His power through him.

Verse 10 summarizes the truth of this passage. Eudokeō (well content) could be translated, “pleased,” or “delighted.” He was thrilled with the weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties he endured for Christ’s sake, not because he was a masochist, but because when he was weak, then he was strong.

Having a proper perspective on trouble, trials, and suffering is the cornerstone of Christian living. Focusing all one’s efforts on removing difficulties is not the answer. Believers need to embrace the trials God allows them to undergo, knowing that those trials reveal their character, humble them, draw them closer to God, and allow Him to display His grace and power in their lives. They should heed the counsel of apostle James to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).[1]


9b-10 The conjunctions “Therefore … wherefore” at the beginning of v. 9b and v. 10 respectively signal Paul’s own responses to the Lord’s reply to him (v. 9a). Because Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness, (1) therefore he will all the more gladly boast in weaknesses. (2) Wherefore he takes pleasure in weaknesses.

It should be noted that Paul does not boast in “weakness,” that is, in feebleness. The plural “in my weaknesses” (v. 9b) points to the sufferings “for Christ” listed in 11:23–33, whereas the “weakness,” singular, of v. 9a, the stake/thorn “given” to him by God (v. 7), was the climactic example.

The words “I will boast rather” of weaknesses sound a comparative note. To what is he preferring this “boasting”? In all probability he is recalling once more his flight to Paradise (vv. 4–5). This experience truly occurred; Paul would be a “fool” to deny it. But that experience did not make Paul “more” (hyper) than he is in reality, either as to the “weaknesses” people “see” in him or the word of God they “hear” from him (v. 6). Such an experience, astonishing though it doubtless was, does not accredit his apostleship. He will make nothing of it, that is, “boast of it.” “Rather” than boast of his ecstatic, (non)-revelatory experience, he “will most gladly boast” of his “weaknesses.”

He then gives the purpose for his preferred boast, namely, that Christ’s power “may rest on”39 him. Remarkably, this is the vocabulary of the tabernacle of the old covenant as applied to God “pitching his tent” with his people (Exod 40:34). In turn, this imagery is employed within the NT to describe (1) the incarnate life of the Word of God (“The Word became flesh and dwelt [i.e., ‘pitched his tent’] among us”—John 1:14), and (2) God’s future dwelling with his people (Rev 7:14; 12:12; 13:6; 21:3). In what has been described as a “bold metaphor,” Paul teaches that Christ in his power “pitches his tent” with his saints in their weaknesses.41 Ecstasy has all the appearances of divine power; but the reality is otherwise. Christ draws near to us, and gives his grace and power to us, in weakness.

In v. 10 Paul expresses his “acceptance of” various difficulties, beginning with “in weaknesses,” which is repeated from v. 9b and refers specifically to the stake/thorn. Following “weaknesses” are: (1) “in insults”—found only here in Paul’s writings (possibly they refer to the scandalous treatment of him as a Roman citizen by Romans and as an Israelite by Jews—see 11:24–25), (2) “in hardships” (lit. “necessities”—see on 6:4), (3) “in persecutions” (as described in 11:24–25; cf. Rom 8:35), and (4) “[in] difficulties” (lit. “tight corners”; cf. 6:4; the verb occurs in 4:8; 6:12).

Critical to v. 10 is the inferential “wherefore,” which picks up from the immediately preceding48 “I will boast … of my weaknesses,” which, “on behalf of Christ,” he accepts. The expression “on behalf of Christ I accept weaknesses, etc.” must be read alongside “we beseech you on behalf of Christ, ‘be reconciled to God’ ” (5:20). Because Christ is not physically present, in his place God “has given” the ministry and “entrusted” the word of reconciliation to the apostles (5:18–19). As Christ’s ambassador and apostle, Paul “beseeches” in Christ’s place and suffers in Christ’s place, as this list of sufferings shows (cf. 4:8–9; 6:4–5; cf. 2:16). Christ’s sufferings are replicated and historically extended in the sufferings or weaknesses of his apostle as he bids humankind “Be reconciled to God,” and it is of these—as opposed to triumphalist “visions and revelations”—that Paul “boasts” (v. 9b) and these that he “accepts.”

A connection should also be made between “weaknesses … on behalf of Christ” and his words “be spent on behalf of your souls,” a few verses later (see on v. 15). In both cases the preposition hyper is used. As apostle of divine reconciliation Paul suffers on behalf of the One he represents—though in a qualitatively different way (see on 5:21)—and he does so for the sake of those to whom he ministers. The keyword of the triumphalist “superlative” apostles (11:5; 12:11) is hyper (“more than,” “above”) Paul. It is Paul’s keyword, too. Madman that he is, his “weaknesses” are “more than” theirs (11:23), and those “weaknesses” replicate Christ’s sufferings, and do so on behalf of the churches. His nontriumphalist, servant ministry is again undergirded. He is their “slave” on account of (dia) Jesus (4:5).

Paul concludes the two parts of vv. 9b-10 with an aphorism: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Such strength is not automatic to weakness. Rather, weakness (as of the unremoved stake/thorn—v. 7) creates the human context of helplessness and utter vulnerability in which Paul the minister of Christ pleaded with the risen, powerful Lord—who himself was once utterly “weak,” “sin-laden,” and “poor” (13:4; 5:21; 8:9) in achieving our reconciliation with God—who is now strong in resurrected power to give his grace and power to the one who calls out to him.[2]


12:9b–10 / If Christ’s power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness (and thus indirectly attests to Paul’s revelatory experience and his apostolic authority), then the apostle’s positive response to the revelation of the Lord seems quite logical: he will boast in his weaknesses. This idea of strength in weakness must seem counterintuitive, especially to the opponents, who “take pride in what is seen” (2 Cor. 5:12). However, Paul now realizes that everything that he once regarded as a cause for boasting is nothing in comparison with knowing Christ and sharing in his sufferings, so that he may participate in Christ’s resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:5–11).

Paul boasts in his weakness so that (hina) Christ’s power might rest on him. The verb actually denotes “take up one’s abode, dwell” and may well recall that the presence of God dwelled in the tabernacle and the temple (cf. Exod. 25:8; Ezek. 37:27; 2 Cor. 6:16). If so, the verb ties our passage back to 2 Corinthians 5:1, where Paul refers to his mortal body as “our earthly house of the tent,” alluding to the tabernacle in 1 Chronicles 9:23 lxx. Even during his earthly pilgrimage in the body, the apostle is conscious of the presence of God in his life through the Spirit. He was also conscious that the same power of the resurrected Christ would one day transform his mortal body.

Because Paul is the dwelling-place of the power of Christ, he takes delight in his weaknesses (v. 10a). Rather than continue his prayer for relief from the thorn in the flesh (cf. v. 8), Paul has now come to accept his infirmity and even to delight in it for Christ’s sake. This sounds almost masochistic, as if Paul likes to be abused. Certainly it opens the door to later Christian ideas of asceticism and martyrdom. Yet the apostle has come to his understanding of suffering after realizing that the power of Christ manifests itself most fully and obviously when he is at his weakest. Paradoxically, when I am weak, then am I strong. His light and momentary troubles are achieving for him an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (4:17).

Paul’s weaknesses are explicated in verse 10b by a short tribulation catalogue that resembles similar catalogues in 4:8–12; 6:4–10; and especially 11:23–29. This shows that, in discussing his revelatory experience in 12:1–10, Paul has not really left his theme in 11:23, namely, that he is more a servant of Christ than his opponents because of his greater sufferings. Yet it has become apparent that boasting in weakness and suffering is not so foolish as it might seem at first, for the extremity of his weaknesses only reflects the magnitude of his extraordinary revelatory experience, which is the very foundation of his apostolic authority. Furthermore, his boasting in his weakness is ultimately consonant with his principle of boasting only in the Lord, who gave him both his apostolic prerogative and his weakness (cf. 10:17).[3]


10. I take pleasure in infirmities. There can be no doubt, that he employs the term weakness in different senses; for he formerly applied this name to the punctures that he experienced in the flesh. He now employs it to denote those external qualities, which occasion contempt in the view of the world. Having spoken, however, in a general way, of infirmities of every kind, he now returns to that particular description of them, that had given occasion for his turning aside into this general discourse. Let us take notice, then, that infirmity is a general term, and that under it is comprehended the weakness of our nature, as well as all tokens of abasement. Now the point in question was Paul’s outward abasement. He proceeded farther, for the purpose of showing, that the Lord humbled him in every way, that, in his defects, the glory of God might shine forth the more resplendently, which is, in a manner, concealed and buried, when a man is in an elevated position. He now again returns to speak of his excellences, which, at the same time, made him contemptible in public view, instead of procuring for him esteem and commendation.

For when I am weak, that is—“The more deficiency there is in me, so much the more liberally does the Lord, from his strength, supply me with whatever he sees to be needful for me.” For the fortitude of philosophers is nothing else than contumacy, or rather a mad enthusiasm, such as fanatics are accustomed to have. “If a man is desirous to be truly strong, let him not refuse to be at the same time weak. Let him,” I say, “be weak in himself, that he may be strong in the Lord.” (Eph. 6:10.) Should any one object, that Paul speaks here, not of a failure of strength, but of poverty, and other afflictions, I answer, that all these things are exercises for discovering to us our own weakness; for if God had not exercised Paul with such trials, he would never have perceived so clearly his weakness. Hence, he has in view not merely poverty, and hardships of every kind, but also those effects that arise from them, as, for example, a feeling of our own weakness, self-distrust, and humility.[4]


10. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Paul applies the lesson he learnt from the Lord’s response to his prayers for the removal of the ‘thorn’ to all the difficulties he experienced in his apostolic ministry, whether personal weakness and hardships, or pain inflicted upon him by others. When he says, I delight in weakness …, the verb translated delight in (eudokeō) may also be translated ‘be content with’ (so nrsv), but in neither case should it be construed in such a way as to indicate that Paul was a masochist, enjoying the sufferings he experienced. The reason he delighted in his sufferings was because he knew that Christ’s power would rest upon him in the midst of them.

While Paul’s audience could have gained much by learning of the simultaneity of weakness and power of which Paul speaks in verses 7–10, his motive in setting it out was not limited to that. His opponents had criticized his apostleship on the grounds of his weakness (cf. 10:10), and very likely they regarded the many persecutions and insults that Paul experienced as inconsistent with his claim to be an apostle of the exalted Christ. By setting out the principle of divine power manifested through human weakness, Paul both defended his own claim to apostleship and cut the ground from under the claims of his opponents.[5]


Ver. 10. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities … for Christ’s sake.

The use of infirmities:—“Some of the arable land along the shore on the south-east coast of Sutherland is almost covered with shore stones, from the size of a turkey’s egg to eight pounds weight. Several experiments have been made to collect these off the land, expecting a better crop; but in every case the land proved less productive by removing them; and on some small spots of land it was found so evident, that they were spread on the land again, to ensure their usual crop of oats or pease.” We would fain be rid of all our infirmities which, to our superficial conceptions, appear to be great hindrances to our usefulness, and yet it is most questionable if we should bring forth any fruit unto God without them. Much rather, therefore, will I glory in infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The sanctifying power of sorrow:—“For Christ’s sake,” that is the main point: the apostle took pleasure in pain, not as pain, but for Christ’s sake. In itself sorrow is not sanctifying. It is like fire, whose effect depends upon the substance with which it comes in contact. Fire melts wax, inflames straw, and hardens clay. So it is only in afflictions borne for Christ’s sake, that is, in Christ’s name, and with Christ’s spirit, that we can rejoice. Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered in the flesh, arm yourself likewise with the same mind. The Cross alone extracts life out of pain; without this it is death-giving. (F. W. Robertson, M.A.) For when I am weak, then am I strong.

Weakness a source of strength:

  1. Paul’s weakness. That is a quality which we are not accustomed to associate with the apostle, knowing what we do of his labours; but when we go deeper we discover that one of the most distinctive preparations for the work which he accomplished was his feebleness. Wherein, then, did it consist? 1. It was not intellectual. Even his vilest detractors could not deny his mental superiority. 2. It was not moral. There was no vacillation about him. 3. It was physical. Paul had to contend with some distressing bodily infirmity.
  2. The connection of Paul’s weakness with his strength. 1. There was a strength in his weakness. In the Divine administration there is a wonderful law of compensation. 2. There was strength as the result of his weakness. (1) The consciousness of his own weakness led him to cast himself unreservedly upon the Divine help. (2) But looking toward man, the result of this weakness was in Paul a great outflow of tenderness. One cannot read his letters without feeling the heart-beat of his sympathy. 3. But there was, also, strength surmounting his weakness. In spite of his infirmity, he laboured on just as though he had nothing of the kind about him. He was impelled to do this. (1) By his faith. Men as they looked on Dante when he walked the streets after he had written his “Inferno,” and marked the intensity of his earnest face, said one to another, “See the man who has been in hell.” The apostle moved in the midst of unseen realities. (2) By gratitude. Never was consecration more thorough than his. He felt that he owed everything to Jesus, and to Jesus he yielded all. Conclusion: 1. Here is a use of explanation. You wonder, perhaps, why you have such feebleness. When you see others with robust frames and unbroken health, you are apt to say, “Ah, if I had but their strength how much more might I do for my Saviour!” But you are mistaken. If you had their strength you might not really be so strong as you are now. 2. A use of consolation. You wish to work for the Lord, and think you can do nothing because of your feebleness. Then see in Paul’s life how much can be accomplished, weakness notwithstanding. Nor is he a solitary instance. Think of Calvin and his irritable temper and a fragile and diseased body. 3. A use of direction. We can overcome our weakness only through a faith and a consecration like Paul’s. The one answer that will avail to the cry “Who is sufficient for these things”? is this: “My sufficiency is of God.” “Out of Saul, what has made Paul?” Faith. (W. M. Taylor, D.D.)

Strength in weakness:—Note—

  1. This general law apart from its religious bearings. 1. Weakness is sometimes perfected in strength. Its greatest manifestations are constantly seen in those whom the world deems the strongest. A strong man is likely to be a self-reliant man, and such a man is morally certain to display some weakness. A man, again, who is consciously strong at some point, is likely to think that his strength at that point will make up for his carelessness at other points. For instance, you often see men of great intellect who are morally weak and loose, and who count on their intellectual strength to cover their moral deficiency. The man who is financially strong is now and then tempted to believe that money can carry him over the lack of courtesy or consideration for others. The strong men of the Bible are also its weak men. Abraham’s falsehood, Noah’s excess, Jacob’s worldliness, Moses’ unhallowed zeal, Elijah’s faithless despair, David’s lust and murder, Solomon’s luxuriousness and sensuality—all tell the same story which we read in the biographies of the scholars, statesmen, monarchs, and generals of later times. 2. On the other hand, strength is perfected in weakness. Let an ignorant but conceited man go to a foreign city. He says, “A guide is a nuisance, and I will have none of them. I will find out the objects of interest for myself.” And so he goes blundering along, exposing himself to insult and even to danger, wasting hours in his search for a palace or an art-gallery—a sorry exhibition of weakness. Another man goes into the same city, quite as ignorant, but follows a trustworthy and intelligent guide. He gains new ideas, while the strong man, so independent of help, is standing at street corners and painfully studying his guide-book. When they return home, the man who was weak enough to accept guidance is the stronger man in knowledge. Can you imagine any object more weak and helpless than a blind child, and yet what a strength it wins from that very weakness! Out of weakness the child is made strong. And then there is the familiar fact of the increased power imparted to touch and ear by the very infirmity. Then, again, the consciousness of infirmity often makes its subject so cautious that he really accomplishes more than another who is free from infirmity. The man whose health and strength are exuberant, is likely to be careless of them; while he who rarely knows what it is to be without an aching head or a feverish pulse, therefore works by rule and economises minutes and brings discipline to bear on rebellious nerves and muscles. It is this power of self-mastery wrought out through weakness, which gives such power over other minds and hearts.
  2. The truth on its religious side. 1. Real strength comes only out of that weakness which, distrustful of itself, gives itself up to God. (1) Take the case of Paul. Here is a man beset with various infirmities. And yet at this distance we can see that that very weakness of Paul was his strength. For it gave God’s power its full opportunity. It is a strange gift that we have of preventing God from doing for us all that He would. God often sees fit to use the very elements you and I would throw away. We do not count weakness among the factors of success. The world is at a loss what to do with it; but when God takes hold of weakness it becomes another thing and works under another law. So then Paul, having abandoned the idea of doing anything by himself, God took this weakness and wrought out victory for Christ’s cause and for Paul by means of it. (a) Take the impression which the character and history of Paul make on your own minds. You know something of the power which Luke’s record of his life and labours exerts in stimulating Christian zeal and in educating character. Do not all these things get a stronger hold on you through the very sympathy which the apostle’s sufferings call out? Did not his very infirmities endear him to the churches in his own day? Had not these somewhat to do with the liberal supplies from Philippi, and with the heart-breaking sorrow of the Ephesian elders at Miletus? (b) After all that we read of Paul, we rise from his story and from his writings with a stronger impression of Christ than of him. The radiance of the light eclipses the wonder of the lamp. That is as Paul would have had it. (2) Or go farther back. Christ called Peter a rock; and yet at that stage Peter reminds us rather of those rocks which one meets with in clay-soil regions, which crumble at the touch, and are, least of all stones, fit for foundations. Peter, blustering, forward, boastful, with a great deal of strength of his own, which crumbled into weakness at the first touch of danger—and yet—“On this rock will I build My Church,” &c. The Church which began under the ministry of weak Peter is surely no feeble factor in to-day’s society: but the Peter of Pentecost was not the Peter of Gethsemane. Between these two he had learned a great deal about the weakness of human strength and the strength which God makes perfect in human weakness. The consequence is that whereas in Gethsemane Peter asserts himself, at Pentecost he asserts Jesus. Where he asserts himself the issue is a coward and a traitor. Where he passes out of sight behind Jesus, he is the hero of the infant Church, whom we love and honour. 2. The text is no encouragement to cherish weakness. The object of Christian training is to make men strong: and Paul can do all things, but only through Christ that strengtheneth him. How beautifully the context brings out this thought! What was the ark of the covenant? Nothing but a simple box overlaid with gold, such a thing as any skilful workman could make. And yet, when it fell into the hands of Israel’s enemies, the priest declared “the glory is departed from Israel.” What gave it this importance and meaning? It was that which rested upon it—the glory which made its resting-place the holiest spot in the world. And so, when the power of Christ rests upon a life, all its commonplace, its weakness, are transfigured, and the weak things of the world confound the things which are mighty. Thus it comes to pass that out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God ordains strength. 3. The truth of the text is wider than some of us have been wont to think. It asserts not only that God will assist our weakness, but that He will make our weakness itself an element of strength. We are, naturally, like one who carries round with him a rough precious-stone, ignorant of its value, and ready to throw it away or to part with it for a trifle. This thing, weakness, we should be glad to throw away. Christ comes like a skilful lapidary and shows us its value. I remember a little church among the mountains, which sprang up through the labours of a man the best of whose life was spent in trouble—a church founded among a population little better than heathen; and in the church building there was framed and hung up a magnificent rough agate which he had picked up somewhere among the hills, with the inscription, “And such were some of you.” And that stone tells the story of our text—the story of the Church on earth; a weak, erring church, its leaders stained and scarred with human infirmity, yet with a line of victory and spiritual power running through it like a track of fire: rough stones hewn out of the mountains, carved into polished pillars in the temple of the Lord. (M. R. Vincent, D.D.)[6]

12:10 “Therefore, I am well content with weakness” Paul knows from personal experience (Damascus road) that good intentions and personal effort are not enough. We need grace (cf. v. 9), not power. No human being will usurp the glory of God (cf. 1 Cor. 1:29; Eph. 2:9). God’s grace, power, and glory are accentuated in yielded, inadequate, human vessels.

© “I am well content with weakness” In the remainder of the verse Paul gives a brief summary of his ministry trials, which he has mentioned before in 4:7–11; 6:3–10; 11:24–28. Paul knew fully the meaning of Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:10–12![7]


10. Hence, I take delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul began his discussion about boasting in 11:1 and continued it through his lengthy catalog of hardships in that same chapter. After his revelation of his celestial experience, he returned to his emphasis on weaknesses (vv. 1–6), and now brings his discourse to an appropriate ending.

The repetition of the preceding passage (v. 9b) is evident:

verse 9b

 

verse 10

 

Therefore, all the more gladly

 

Hence,

 

I will boast of my weaknesses,

 

I take delight in weaknesses …

 

so that Christ’s power

 

for the sake of Christ.

 

may dwell in me.

 

For when I am weak,

 

 

 

then I am strong.

 

The apostle gladly accepts the weaknesses that he has to endure: “insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.” This is a shorter list of adversities than the one in the preceding chapter (11:23–29). For the sake of Jesus Christ, Paul joyfully accepts all these sufferings to further the gospel. He knows that he has to suffer much for the name of Jesus (Acts 9:16). But he also knows that he “can do everything through Christ who strengthens [him]” (Phil. 4:13; compare 2 Tim. 4:17).

The conclusion ends on a note of triumph: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” He reiterates what he wrote at the beginning of this verse, namely, that he delights in weaknesses for the sake of Christ. All things are performed through and for Christ, so that he may receive glory and honor.[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 405–406). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Barnett, P. (1997). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 574–577). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians (pp. 230–231). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 379–380). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[5] Kruse, C. G. (2015). 2 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary. (E. J. Schnabel, Ed.) (Second edition, Vol. 8, p. 267). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

[6] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Second Corinthians (pp. 493–496). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[7] Utley, R. J. (2002). Paul’s Letters to a Troubled Church: I and II Corinthians (Vol. Volume 6, p. 295). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[8] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, p. 421). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

July 8, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

The Fellowship of God

And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (18:9–11)

Paul’s friends, both his newfound ones and his old ones, gave much encouragement to him, as did the many Corinthian converts. Yet those very converts brought intensifying opposition from Corinth’s Jewish community—to the extent that Paul was struggling with whether he should continue to preach at Corinth. To encourage His servant at the highest and most strengthening level, the Lord Himself said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent.” This is one of six visions Paul received in Acts (9:12; 16:9–10; 22:17–18; 23:11; 27:23–24), all coming at crucial points in his ministry.

The Lord’s encouraging message, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent” answered the struggle in Paul’s mind. The supernatural vision provided four reasons for him not to give up proclaiming the gospel in that city. First, God commanded it specifically when He said “go on speaking.” Second, God reminded him, “I am with you.” He gave a similar revelation to Joshua when he assumed the leadership of Israel after Moses’ death:

No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Josh. 1:5, 9)

With the Lord’s powerful presence aiding his ministry, Paul could accomplish whatever God intended him to. The Lord stood by him until the very end of his ministry (2 Tim. 4:16–18) and promises His presence to all believers (Matt. 28:20; cf. Isa. 41:10; Jer. 1:17–19).

Third, God promised Paul that “no man will attack you in order to harm you.” Those under God’s protection are invulnerable (cf. Isa. 54:17; Rev. 11:5).

The final reason God gave Paul to keep preaching was that He had many people in this city. All those in Corinth who “had been appointed to eternal life” had not yet “believed” (Acts 13:48). The truth of election expressed in verse 10 balances the truth of human responsibility in verse 6. As always, Scripture presents those two inscrutable truths without attempting to harmonize them. Both are true, and there is no real contradiction between them. (For further discussion of this issue, see the exposition of Acts 13:46, 48 in chapter 3 of this volume.) Here it is clear that some people belong to the Lord who are not yet saved, and they will not be saved without the preaching of the gospel (cf. Rom. 10:13–15). Paul defined his preaching as having the purpose of bringing the elect to faith (cf. Titus 1:1).

His strength fully renewed by God’s promise to him, Paul settled in Corinth for another year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. He continued to minister in that strategic location, and the elect continued to be saved and grow in their faith. During that period a certain incident provided the final source of God’s encouragement to Paul.[1]


9–10 Paul had come to Corinth in a dejected mood, burdened by the problems in Macedonia and his dismissal at Athens. He had, of course, been encouraged by the reports and the gift brought by Silas and Timothy, and he was beginning to witness a significant response to his ministry. But a pattern had developed in his Galatian and Macedonian missions of a promising start, which was followed by opposition strong enough to force him to leave. Undoubtedly he was beginning to wonder whether such a pattern would be repeated at Corinth. So one night God graciously gave Paul a vision in which “the Lord” (ho kyrios—evidently Jesus, as in 23:11) encouraged him not to be afraid but to keep on, assured him of his presence, promised him that he would suffer no harm, and told him that “many people” in the city were to be Christ’s own. Here was one of those critical periods in Paul’s life when he received a vision strengthening him for what lay ahead (cf. 23:11; 27:23–24). In this case, it was confirmed by the Gallio incident that followed it.

11 With such a promising start and encouraged by the vision, Paul continued to minister at Corinth for “a year and a half” (eniauton kai mēnas hex)—a figure that should be understood to indicate the entire length of his stay. This period probably stretched from the fall of 50 to the spring of 52, as can be determined from the pericope about Gallio in vv. 12–17. So Luke summarizes the whole of Paul’s original mission at Corinth by telling us that for eighteen months he taught in the city “the word of God” (ton logon tou theou), i.e., the message about Jesus, belief in whom brings forgiveness of sins, salvation, and reconciliation with God.[2]


9–10 Shortly after Paul’s leaving the synagogue, he had an encouraging experience: he received one of the visions which came to him at critical junctures in his life, heartening him for whatever might lie ahead. On this occasion the risen Christ appeared to him by night and assured him that no harm would befall him in Corinth, for all the opposition his witness might stir up. His opponents had made it impossible for him to stay in Thessalonica and Beroea; his opponents in Corinth would not have similar success, however hard they might try to force his departure. He had come to Corinth full of misgivings—“in much fear and trembling,” he says himself (1 Cor. 2:3)—but he should abandon all fear and go on proclaiming the gospel boldly. He would reap an abundant harvest by so doing, for the Lord had many in Corinth who were marked out by him as his own people.[3]


18:9–10 / Despite these encouragements and due to a number of factors, including the opposition of the Jews and the oppressive nature of the city itself, Paul seems to have given way to the fears that had haunted him since he had first come to Corinth (see disc. on v. 1). But in the depths of his depression, the Lord spoke to him in a vision (see disc. on 23:11). The message was couched in the language of the Old Testament (cf., e.g., Exod. 3:12; Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5, 9; Isa. 43:5; Jer. 1:8) and contains a twofold command: first, “stop being afraid” (the force of the Greek) and then, keep on speaking [as he had been doing] and do not be silent (v. 9). This idiom of affirmation and negation—“keep on … do not give up …”—adds a certain solemnity to the utterance. It was backed by a threefold promise: that the Lord would be with him (cf. Matt. 28:19f.); that none would harm him—not that the attempt would not be made, but that he would survive it (cf. vv. 12–17; cf. also Ps. 23:4; Isa. 41:10); and that in this city the Lord had many people (v. 10; cf. 1 Kings 19:18; Hos. 2:23). Significantly, this word (Gk. laos) is that used consistently for the people of God (in the first instance, Israel; see disc. on 15:14), though the people in question here were Gentiles and still pagan. But the Lord knew those whom he had “appointed for eternal life” (13:48; cf. John 10:16).[4]


18:9–11 Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. Paul received personal encouragement during this difficult time from a vision from the Lord. Paul’s Macedonian vision had directed him to new territory (16:6–10). The vision here directs him to stay rather than flee from the looming danger. The phrase “I am with you” recalls God’s pledge to assist or do battle for his people (Gen. 21:22; 26:3; 31:3, 5; Exod. 3:12; Josh. 1:5, 9; Isa. 41:10; 43:5; Acts 7:9; 10:38). Paul obeys God’s command, and God’s presence fortifies him to proclaim the gospel in Corinth for a longer period of time than he has stayed anywhere else.

The reference to God’s “many people” in Corinth again underscores that gentiles who believe also become the people of God (15:14). Membership is based not on race but solely on the response to the grace of God.[5]


Ver. 9.—And the Lord said unto for then spake the Lord to, A.V. A vision (ὅραμα); literally, a thing seen, but always used of a wonderful “sight:” Matt. 17:9 of the Transfiguration, ch. 7:31 of the burning bush. But more commonly of a “vision,” as in ch. 9:10, 12; 10:3, 17, 19; 11:5; 12:9; 16:9. So in the LXX. (Gen. 46:2, etc.). St. Paul received a similar gracious token of the Lord’s watchful care of him soon after his conversion (ch. 22:17–21). He tells us that then he was in an “ecstasy,” or trance. The ἔκστασις describes the mental condition of the person who sees an ὅραμα.[6]


9. And the Lord said. Though the fruit of Paul’s doctrine (in that he gained some daily to Christ) might have encouraged him to go forward, yet is the heavenly oracle added for his farther confirmation. Whence we gather that there were great combats set before him, and that he was sore tossed divers ways. For the Lord did never, without cause, pour out his oracles; neither was it an ordinary thing with Paul to have visions, but the Lord used this kind of remedy when necessity did so require; and the thing itself doth show that there laid upon the holy man a great weight of business, under which he might not only sweat but almost faint, unless he had been set on foot again, and refreshed with some new help. And it is not without cause that he saith that his coming was base and contemptible, and that he was conversant there in fear and trembling, (1 Cor. 2:3.) For mine own part, I think thus, that the wonderful power of the Spirit, wherewith Paul was endued before, was holpen with the oracle. Furthermore, forasmuch as the Scripture distinguisheth visions from dreams, as it appeareth by the twelfth chapter of the book of Numbers, (Numbers 12:6,) Luke meaneth by this word vision, that when Paul was in a trance he saw a certain shape or form whereby he knew that God was present with him. Assuredly, it is not to be doubted but that God appeared by some sign.

Fear not. This exhortation showeth that Paul had cause of fear ministered unto him; for it had been a superfluous thing to correct fear, or to will him not to fear when all was well and quiet, and especially in a man so willing and ready.

Furthermore, when the Lord (to the end he may have his servant to do his duty faithfully and stoutly) beginneth with restraining fear, by this we gather that nothing is more contrary to the pure and free preaching of the gospel than the straits of a faint heart. And surely experience doth show that none are faithful and courageous ministers of the word whom this fault doth hinder; and that those only are rightly prepared and addressed to teach to whom it is granted with boldness and courage of heart to overcome all manner [of] danger. In which respect, he writeth to Timothy that the spirit of fear is not given to the preachers of the gospel, but of power, and love, and sobriety, (2 Tim. 1:7.) Therefore, we must note the connection of words, Fear not, but speak, which is all one as if he should have said, Let not fear let thee to speak. And because fear doth not only make us altogether without tongue, but doth so bind us that we cannot purely and freely speak that which is needful. Christ touched both briefly. Speak, (saith he,) and hold not thy peace; that is, speak not with half thy mouth, as it is in the common proverb. But in these words there is prescribed to the ministers of the word of God a common rule, that they expound and lay open plainly, and without colour or dissimulation, whatsoever the Lord will have made known to his Church; yea, let them keep back nothing which may make for the edifying or increase of God’s Church.[7]


9. Luke does not supply any motivation for the heavenly vision which Paul received at this stage to fortify him for his continuing activity in Corinth. From his knowledge of what happened on earlier occasions in Acts, however, the reader might well conclude that Paul could expect some reprisals from the Jews in view of his success in drawing away their leader and many of their adherents. Perhaps we should also remember how Paul himself comments that on his arrival in Corinth he was ‘in much fear and trembling’ (1 Cor. 2:3) and in need of spiritual encouragement. Haenchen (p. 540) goes so far as to suggest that normally Paul only stayed a short while in any town and would have made a speedy departure if he had not received divine encouragement to stay longer; since, however, Paul needed no such encouragement to stay on in Ephesus in similar circumstances (19:8–10), this hypothesis is false. In fact Paul usually stayed long enough to establish a Christian church unless he was forced to move on by persecution.

Paul’s vision came from the Lord, i.e. from Jesus. It is significant that the message is couched in the language used by God himself in the Old Testament when addressing his servants (Stählin, p. 245, compares 7:9; Exod. 3:12; Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5, 9; Isa. 41:10; 43:5; Jer. 1:8). The New Testament assigns to Jesus a function and status equal to those of God the Father himself. The formula Do not be afraid is regularly used in Old Testament theophanies in order to calm the fears of the recipient of the vision at being addressed by God. Here, however, the words are directed rather at Paul’s fears concerning his own position over against his opponents in Corinth. Instead of fearing what they may do to him, Paul is to proclaim the Word fearlessly. The Greek tenses used may suggest that Paul is to go on preaching as he has already been doing.[8]


18:9 “Do not be afraid any longer This is a PRESENT MIDDLE IMPERATIVE with a NEGATIVE PARTICLE, which usually means to stop an act already in process. Paul was afraid and needed Christ’s encouragement. Luke records these special visions of encouragement in 22:17–18; 23:11; 27:23–24. If a man like Paul grew weary in well-doing, does it surprise you that you do, too? Jesus is with us also! The Great Commission is still the guiding goal, the main thing.

“but you go on speaking and do not be silent” These are both IMPERATIVES (PRESENT ACTIVE and AORIST ACTIVE). Fear must not silence the gospel proclaimer! Our emotions go up and down, but Acts 1:8 is still the guiding light (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2–5).[9]


9. The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision at night: “Do not be afraid, but continue to speak and do not be silent. 10. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11. Paul stayed there a year and a half, teaching the word of God among them.

Paul is discouraged and fearful. He readily admits this in a subsequent letter to the Corinthians: “I was with you in a state of weakness, fear, and much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). Prestigious citizens of Corinth regard him as a person without strength, influence, and privilege because of his trade as a tentmaker. They place Paul on the level of a slave. The Jews want him to stop teaching the people about Jesus, and the threat to his personal safety is always present. The seemingly endless opposition to Paul’s ministry begins to have a depressing effect on his spiritual life.

  1. Command. When Jesus appears to Paul in a vision at night, Paul immediately recognizes him (compare 9:10, 12; 22:18; 23:11; 27:23–24). Jesus speaks directly to the problems Paul faces and gives him three short orders:

Do not be afraid.

Continue to speak.

Do not be silent.

Acute fear in man’s heart often debilitates. In extreme cases such fear can lead to death and in mild cases to a distortion of reality. Fear is used by Satan to make men subservient to him. By contrast, God continually tells his people not to be afraid. To illustrate, Jesus exhorts his disciples to take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33). So in a vision Jesus instructs Paul not to fear. The tense of the verb to fear indicates that Paul indeed suffers from this malady, but Jesus bids him to subdue this fear.

Moreover, Jesus orders Paul to keep talking. He is not referring to the content of Paul’s speeches but to the act of his speaking. To this positive injunction Jesus adds the negative command, “Do not become silent.” He is not saying that Paul is silent, but he warns him not to become quiet. Through the voice of Paul, Christ makes his gospel known to the people and, therefore, he forbids Paul to become reticent.

  1. Promise. In the first verse of Acts, Luke writes that in his first book he told Theophilus all that Jesus began to do and to teach (1:1). He implies that in Acts Jesus continues his work. This is a vivid illustration of Jesus’ direct involvement in the growth of the church. The first reason for Jesus’ threefold order is that he is with Paul in Corinth (refer to Matt. 28:20). He assures Paul that no one is going to lay hands on him to harm him. Paul will not endure the physical hardships that characterized his stay in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.

Jesus gives a second reason for issuing the three commands to Paul: “because I have many people in this city.” What an encouragement for Paul! Jesus himself guarantees that Paul’s labors in Corinth will bear fruit. God himself appoints his people to eternal life (13:48), opens their hearts to the gospel message (16:14), and brings them to salvation. Observes Leon Morris, “They had not yet done anything about being saved; many of them had not even heard the gospel. But they were God’s. Clearly it is he who would bring them to salvation in due course.” God calls Jews and Gentiles to be his own people and builds the church in Corinth (compare 2 Cor. 6:16).

  1. Response. “Paul stayed there a year and a half, teaching the word of God among them.” Luke relates little about Paul’s ministry in Corinth, so we have to glean data from Paul’s epistles. We know that God blessed Paul’s ministry, because there were believers throughout the province of Achaia (2 Cor. 1:1). In the harbor city of Cenchrea some believers founded a church in which Phoebe was a deaconess (Rom. 16:1). And Paul mentions by name some other believers in Corinth itself: Chloe and her household (1 Cor. 1:11), Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Cor. 16:17), and Tertius (Rom. 16:22).

Paul describes the Corinthian worship services and notes that the church enjoyed “a variety of highly diversified ministries: there were apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, ‘governments,’ speakers with tongues.” The Corinthian church continued to expand and develop in the period after Paul’s departure and the time he wrote his letters. But in light of the Lord’s assurance that he had many people in Corinth, we dare say that Paul saw encouraging growth in the year and a half he spent in that city.

Doctrinal Considerations in 18:10

The pastor, the evangelist, and the missionary should never forget that the Lord Jesus Christ is always with them. Jesus is the commander-in-chief who sends his servants into the world to be his ambassadors. Furthermore, he gives them the assurance that he will bless their labors.

Scripture teaches that God the Father has chosen his people from eternity (Eph. 1:4). Through the proclamation of God’s Word and the power of his Spirit, he will bring his people to salvation in Christ. Therefore, preachers who faithfully proclaim the gospel message can put their full confidence in God and ask him for tangible results.

In the midst of opposition,

Let them trust, O Lord, in Thee;

When success attends their mission,

Let Thy servants humblest be.

Never leave them

Till Thy face in heaven they see.

—Thomas Kelly[10]


18:9–11. We have become quite accustomed to visions in Acts. Here is another one. This time the vision came in the midst of spiritual prosperity in the growing church. We should not forget that Paul said he came to Corinth with fear and trembling (1 Cor. 2:3). We may also assume ongoing opposition from the Jews headquartered right next door to the house-church. Unlike the Macedonian vision which moved Paul geographically in a different direction, here the Lord simply assured him of his safety and affirmed the mission already underway. In response, Paul continued in Corinth for a period of eighteen months teaching them the word of God. “The Lord” inevitably refers to Jesus in Acts (23:11), precisely whom Paul had already seen on the Damascus Road.

We should not move too quickly over the phrase I have many people in this city (v. 10). Does this mean people already converted like Elijah’s seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal? Or is the Lord projecting the vast number of believers who would make up the rather large Corinthian congregation before Paul left the city? Marshall suggests, “The saying indicates divine foreknowledge for the success of the gospel in Corinth (cf. 13:48). Fortified by this message, Paul could look forward to its double fulfillment in his safekeeping from persecution (18:12–17) and in successful evangelism (18:11)” (Marshall, 296). Morgan, in typical eloquence, expands the concept of the phrase.

So the Lord speaks of every great city long before the people to whom he refers are manifest to others. Do not put this out of its historic relation. This word was not said when the church had been formed. This was not said of those whom we call saints in Corinth. It was said at the point when this man seemed to be at the end of his work, and was filled with fear, and with trembling of soul, even though there had been a measure of success.… I think from that moment as this man passed through the streets, or talked in the house of Titus Justus, or looked at the curious crowd who came to him, he was forevermore looking, hoping that he might see beneath the exterior that repelled him, because it was so unlike his Lord, those whom his Lord numbered among his own. “I have much people in this city.” What an inspiration for the Christian worker in a great city given over to corruption (Morgan, 429–430).[11]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (Vol. 2, pp. 150–151). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 992–993). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (pp. 350–351). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Williams, D. J. (2011). Acts (p. 316). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Garland, D. E. (2017). Acts. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 186). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books: A Division of Baker Publishing Group.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 2, p. 89). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[7] Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (2010). Commentary upon the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 2, pp. 186–188). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[8] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, pp. 312–313). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] Utley, R. J. (2003). Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts (Vol. Volume 3B, pp. 214–215). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[10] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 655–657). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[11] Gangel, K. O. (1998). Acts (Vol. 5, pp. 305–306). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

July 7, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

11:4 The Lord is in his holy temple … his eyes examine them. The reference to the temple could be to the Jerusalem temple, but the second part (“on his heavenly throne”) seems to suggest God’s heavenly temple, unless “holy temple” is the earthly one, which reflects God’s “heavenly throne,” a symbol of his universal authority (see also 22:3; 99:2; 123:1). Reference to God’s “eyelids” or “eyes” also appears in Jeremiah 9:18. The verb “examine” (bhn) implies testing the quality of an object, as one tests metals (Ps. 66:10; Job 23:10). Here and in 11:5 it means “to subject to close scrutiny.”[1]


4. Reader, it is very true that Jehovah, in his threefold character of person, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, seeth and knoweth all the concerns of his redeemed, and his eyes are upon them for good. But is there not here a special reference to the eyes of the Mediator? Is it not Jesus as the God-man, who is here spoken of as beholding his people? For here, with a double sweetness of consolation, the people of God may find encouragement in the blessed thought, that the eyes of Jesus, as God in our nature, are always beholding and taking part in all the interests of his redeemed.[2]


Ver. 4.—The Lord is in his holy temple. David’s reply to his timid advisers is an expression of absolute faith and trust in God. Saul may reign upon earth; but Jehovah is in his holy temple (or rather, “palace,” הֵיכַל) on high—his throne is in heaven, where he sits and reigns. What need, then, to fear an earthly king? Especially when God is not inattentive to human affairs, but his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men (comp. Pss. 7:9; 17:3; 139:1). His “eyelids” are said to try men, because, when we closely scrutinize a thing, we drop our eyelids and half close our eyes.[3]


4. Jehovah is in the palace of his holiness. In what follows, the Psalmist glories in the assurance of the favour of God, of which I have spoken. Being destitute of human aid, he betakes himself to the providence of God. It is a signal proof of faith, as I have observed elsewhere, to take and to borrow, so to speak, light from heaven to guide us to the hope of salvation, when we are surrounded in this world with darkness on every side. All men acknowledge that the world is governed by the providence of God; but when there comes some sad confusion of things, which disturbs their ease, and involves them in difficulty, there are few who retain in their minds the firm persuasion of this truth. But from the example of David, we ought to make such account of the providence of God as to hope for a remedy from his judgment, even when matters are in the most desperate condition. There is in the words an implied contrast between heaven and earth; for if David’s attention had been fixed on the state of things in this world, as they appeared to the eye of sense and reason, he would have seen no prospect of deliverance from his present perilous circumstances. But this was not David’s exercise; on the contrary, when in the world all justice lies trodden under foot, and faithfulness has perished, he reflects that God sits in heaven perfect and unchanged, from whom it became him to look for the restoration of order from this state of miserable confusion. He does not simply say that God dwells in heaven; but that he reigns there, as it were, in a royal palace, and has his throne of judgment there. Nor do we indeed render to him the honour which is his due, unless we are fully persuaded that his judgment-seat is a sacred sanctuary for all who are in affliction and unrighteously oppressed. When, therefore, deceit, craft, treachery, cruelty, violence, and extortion, reign in the world; in short, when all things are thrown into disorder and darkness by injustice and wickedness, let faith serve as a lamp to enable us to behold God’s heavenly throne, and let that sight suffice to make us wait in patience for the restoration of things to a better state. The temple of his holiness, or his holy temple, which is commonly taken for Sion, doubtless here signifies heaven; and that it does so is clearly shown by the repetition in the next clause, Jehovah has his throne in heaven; for it is certain David expresses the same thing twice.

His eyes behold. Here he infers, from the preceding sentence, that nothing is hidden from God, and that, therefore, men will be obliged to render up to him an account of all that they have done. If God reigns in heaven, and if his throne is erected there, it follows that he must necessarily attend to the affairs of men, in order one day to sit in judgment upon them. Epicurus, and such like him as would persuade themselves that God is idle, and indulges in repose in heaven, may be said rather to spread for him a couch on which to sleep, than to erect for him a throne of judgment. But it is the glory of our faith that God, the Creator of the world, does not disregard or abandon the order which he himself at first established. And when he suspends his judgments for a time, it becomes us to lean upon this one truth—that he beholds from heaven; just as we now see David contenting himself with this consolatory consideration alone, that God rules over mankind, and observes whatever is transacted in the world, although his knowledge, and the exercise of his jurisdiction, are not at first sight apparent. [4]


Verse 4.—The infinite understanding of God doth exactly know the sins of men; he knows so as to consider. He doth not only know them, but intently behold them: “His eyelids try the children of men,” a metaphor taken from men, that contract the eyelids when they would wistly and accurately behold a thing: it is not a transient and careless look.—Stephen Charnock.

Verse 4.—“His eyes behold,” etc. God searcheth not as man searcheth, by enquiring into that which before was hid from him; his searching is no more but his beholding; he seeth the heart, he beholdeth the reins; God’s very sight is searching. Heb. 4:13. “All things are naked and opened unto his eyes,” τετραχηλισμένα, dissected or anatomised. He hath at once as exact a view of the most hidden things, the very entrails of the soul, as if they had been with never so great curiosity anatomised before him.—Richard Alleine, 1611–1681.

Verse 4.—“His eyes behold,” etc. Consider that God not only sees into all you do, but he sees it to that very end that he may examine and search into it. He doth not only behold you with a common and indifferent look, but with a searching, watchful, and inquisitive eye: he pries into the reasons, the motives, the ends of all your actions. “The Lord’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.” Rev. 1:14, where Christ is described, it is said, his eyes are as a flame of fire: you know the property of fire is to search and make trial of those things which are exposed unto it, and to separate the dross from the pure metal: so, God’s eye is like fire, to try and examine the actions of men: he knows and discerns how much your very purest duties have in them of mixture, and base ends of formality, hypocrisy, distractedness, and deadness: he sees through all your specious pretences, that which you cast as a mist before the eyes of men when yet thou art but a juggler in religion: all your tricks and sleights of outward profession, all those things that you use to cozen and delude men withal, cannot possibly impose upon him: he is a God that can look through all those fig-leaves of outward profession, and discern the nakedness of your duties through them.—Ezekiel Hopkins, D.D.

Verse 4.—“His eyes behold,” etc. Take God into thy counsel. Heaven overlooks hell. God at any time can tell thee what plots are hatching there against thee.—William Gurnall.

Verse 4.—“His eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.” When an offender, or one accused for any offence, is brought before a judge, and stands at the bar to be arraigned, the judge looks upon him, eyes him, sets his eye upon him, and he bids the offender look up in his face; “Look upon me,” saith the judge, “and speak up:” guiltiness usually clouds the forehead and clothes the brow; the weight of guilt holds down the head! the evil doer hath an ill look, or dares not look up; how glad is he if the judge looks off him. We have such an expression here, speaking of the Lord, the great Judge of heaven and earth: “His eyelids try the children of men,” as a judge tries a guilty person with his eye and reads the characters of his wickedness printed in his face. Hence we have a common speech in our language, such a one looks suspiciously, or, he hath a guilty look. At that great gaol-delivery described in Rev. 6:16, All the prisoners cry out to be hid from the face of him that sat upon the throne. They could not look upon Christ, and they could not endure Christ should look on them; the eyelids of Christ try the children of men.… Wickedness cannot endure to be under the observation of any eye, much less of the eye of justice. Hence the actors of it say, “Who seeth us?” It is very hard not to show the guilt of the heart in the face, and it is as hard to have it seen there.—Joseph Caryl.[5]


[1] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 76). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Job–Psalms (Vol. 4, p. 195). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 1, p. 71). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[4] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 163–165). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[5] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, pp. 137–138). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

July 7, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain (v. 1). The initial emphasis is not on Zion, but on the God of Zion. The opening invocation sets the theme for the whole psalm as it directs attention to his greatness, and in particular as it is displayed in the symbolism of Mount Zion. The choice of Zion was the Lord’s (Ps. 132:13–14), and from the time that David captured it (2 Sam. 5:6–7) it was central to the theology of the Old Testament. In the wider biblical picture Zion became the model for the New Jerusalem, and in Christian hymnology its imagery is taken over for the church (see John Newton’s ‘Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God’).[1]


48:1 Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise … his holy mountain. The Hebrew expression “most worthy of praise” is the Pual participle from the verb “praise” (hll), plus the adverb “very.” The KJV combines accurate meaning and literary beauty in its translation: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” The phrase “holy mountain” occurs in Isaiah 27:13 and 66:20.[2]


1. The prophet very properly begins with praising the King of Zion, before he enters upon the praise of Zion. Reader! it is always comely to bless the God of our mercies, before we bless God for our mercies. If we really love the gift, how much more ought we to love the giver? Jesus, I adore thee for bringing life and immortality to light through thy gospel. But oh! my Lord, how endeared are both, when both are viewed in thyself.[3]


Ver. 1.—Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; rather, great is the Lord, and greatly is he praised. The psalmist speaks of what is, not of what ought to be. Jehoshaphat had solemnly praised God for the deliverance from the Moabites and Ammonites, both in the valley of Berachah, when he came upon the bodies of the slain (2 Chron. 20:26), and in the temple after his return to Jerusalem (2 Chron. 20:28). In the city of our God (comp. Pss. 46:4; 101:8). In the mountain of his holiness. The “holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:6), on which the temple and a great part of the city stood.[4]


1. Great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised. The prophet, before proceeding to make mention of that special example of the favour of God towards them, to which I have adverted, teaches in general that the city of Jerusalem was happy and prosperous, because God had been graciously pleased to take upon him the charge of defending and preserving it. In this way he separates and distinguishes the Church of God from all the rest of the world; and when God selects from amongst the whole human race a small number whom he embraces with his fatherly love, this is an invaluable blessing which he bestows upon them. His wonderful goodness and righteousness shine forth in the government of the whole world, so that there is no part of it void of his praise, but we are everywhere furnished with abundant matter for praising him. Here, however, the inspired poet celebrates the glory of God which is manifested in the protection of the Church. He states, that Jehovah is great, and greatly to be praised in the holy city. But is he not so also in the whole world? Undoubtedly he is. As I have said, there is not a corner so hidden, into which his wisdom, righteousness, and goodness, do not penetrate; but it being his will that they should be manifested chiefly and in a particular manner in his Church, the prophet very properly sets before our eyes this mirror, in which God gives a more clear and vivid representation of his character. By calling Jerusalem the holy mountain, he teaches us in one word, by what right and means it came to be in a peculiar manner the city of God. It was so because the ark of the covenant had been placed there by divine appointment. The import of the expression is this: If Jerusalem is, as it were, a beautiful and magnificent theatre on which God would have the greatness of his majesty to be beheld, it is not owing to any merits of its own, but because the ark of the covenant was established there by the commandment of God as a token or symbol of his peculiar favour.[5]


48:1. Worthy of praise

The psalm begins with the simple, yet profound, affirmation that the Lord is great, and because he is great, he is worthy of worship (see the similar statement in 96:4). That worship centres on the holy mountain, which is Zion, on which stands the temple, the place where God makes his presence known most intensely among his people. The presence of the temple on Zion is what makes Jerusalem the city of our God.[6]


1. “Great is the Lord.” How great Jehovah is essentially none can conceive; but we can all see that he is great in the deliverance of his people, great in their esteem who are delivered, and great in the hearts of those enemies whom he scatters by their own fears. Instead of the mad cry of Ephesus, “Great is Diana,” we bear the reasonable, demonstrable, self-evident testimony, “Great is Jehovah.” There is none great in the church but the Lord. Jesus is “the great Shepherd,” he is “a Saviour, and a great one,” our great God and Saviour, our great High Priest; his Father has divided him a portion with the great, and his name shall be great unto the ends of the earth. “And greatly to be praised.” According to his nature should his worship be; it cannot be too constant, too laudatory, too earnest, too reverential, too sublime. There is none like the Lord, and there should be no praises like his praises. “In the city of our God.” He is great there, and should be greatly praised there. If all the world beside renounced Jehovah’s worship, the chosen people in his favoured city should continue to adore him, for in their midst and on their behalf his glorious power has been so manifestly revealed. In the church the Lord is to be extolled though all the nations rage against him. Jerusalem was the peculiar abode of the God of Israel, the seat of the theocratic government, and the centre of prescribed worship, and even thus is the church the place of divine manifestation. “In the mountain of his holiness.” Where his holy temple, his holy priests, and his holy sacrifices might continually be seen. Zion was a mount, and as it was the most renowned part of the city, it is mentioned as a synonym for the city itself. The church of God is a mount for elevation and for conspicuousness, and it should be adorned with holiness, her sons being partakers of the holiness of God. Only by holy men can the Lord be fittingly praised, and they should be incessantly occupied with his worship.[7]


[1] Harman, A. (2011). Psalms: A Mentor Commentary (Vol. 1–2, p. 379). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[2] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 360). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Job–Psalms (Vol. 4, pp. 315–316). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 1, p. 372). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[5] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 2, pp. 217–218). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[6] Longman, T., III. (2014). Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary. (D. G. Firth, Ed.) (Vol. 15–16, p. 210). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

[7] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 27-57 (Vol. 2, p. 360). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

July 6, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

A Pure Heart

Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2:22)

This verse presents five characteristics of a pure heart, which itself is a fifth characteristic of an honorable vessel for the Lord. This verse is almost identical to the apostle’s admonition in his previous letter to Timothy: “Flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).

The first attribute of a pure heart is negative, expressed here in the command to flee youthful lusts. Flee is from phuegō, from which “fugitive” is derived. The Greek verb is here a present imperative of command, indicating that fleeing is not optional but is to be persistent. That meaning is reflected in the term “fugitive,” which refers to a person who is continually on the run in order to escape capture. The faithful Christian is continually on the run, as it were, from the sinful passions that started when we were young.

Timothy was some thirty years younger than Paul when this letter was written. He therefore was relatively youthful and was still tempted by many sinful lusts that are characteristic of young people. These lusts involve much more than sinful sexual desire. They also include pride, craving for wealth and power, inordinate ambition, jealousy, envy, an argumentative and self-assertive spirit, and many other sinful lusts.

Timothy was timid and apparently sometimes embarrassed by his close association with the apostle Paul and the uncompromising gospel he proclaimed. He probably was fearful of persecution and may not have boldly confronted all those who compromised and misinterpreted God’s revealed truth. He seems to have been especially intimidated by older men in the church who resented his leadership (1 Tim. 4:12). Losing the battle to youthful lusts would not help him resolve the problem of leadership or effectively correct wrong doctrine and immoral practices but would aggravate the conflict. For his own sake and the sake of the church, he was to flee such temptations and inclinations.

The next four attributes of a pure heart are positive and comprehensive: righteousness, faith, love and peace. To pursue those virtues is the other side of fleeing youthful lusts. As with flee, the Greek verb translated pursue is an imperative. Paul is not making a suggestion.

A believer who does not run from sin and toward righteousness will be overtaken by sin. “When [an] unclean spirit goes out of a man,” Jesus said, “it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (Luke 11:24–26). The only way not to “be overcome by evil” is to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). Understanding that truth, the psalmist wrote, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word” (Ps. 119:9). In whatever age the faithful live, the only infallible and effective guide to righteousness is God’s divine Word. Living a pure life does not involve following an esoteric system of ritual, having a mystical experience, achieving a special level of human wisdom, or making a decision to do so. But by faithfully pursuing and obeying the truth of Scripture, even the most unsophisticated child of God is able to successfully pursue the Lord’s righteousness.

The godly believer also will pursue … faith. In this context, pistis (faith) is better rendered “faithfulness,” as it is of God in Romans 3:3 and of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. The supreme purpose of a believer with a pure heart is to please and glorify God by pursuing integrity, loyalty, and trustworthiness. It was for lack of such “weightier provisions of the law—“justice and mercy and faithfulness”—that Jesus excoriated the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:23). The truly faithful Christian will be loyal to God, to God’s Word, to God’s work, and to God’s people.

He also will pursue … love, the first and foremost fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Of the several words in Greek that are translated love, agapē is the noblest, because it is the word of choice, not of feelings or sentiment, as fine as those sometimes may be. It is the love of the mind and the will, not of emotion or affection even of the highest sort. It is the love of conscious determination, not impulse. It is the love that focuses on the welfare of the one loved, not on self-gratification or self-fulfillment. Agapē love is not based on the attractiveness or worthiness of those who are loved, but on their needs, even when they are most unattractive and unworthy. It is selfless and self-giving.

Agapē love is used countless times of God Himself. It is that love which God the Father has for His own Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:26) and for those who belong to the Son by faith (John 14:21). It is the love which our gracious Lord has for even fallen, sinful mankind (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). Agapē love is so characteristic of God that John twice tells us that He is love (1 John 4:8, 16).

The godly believer also will pursue … peace. Eirēnē (peace) is the word from which we get “serene” and “serenity.” In this context it does not refer to absence of warfare but to harmonious relationships, between men and God and between men and other men, especially between Christians. “If possible, so far as it depends on you,” Paul commands, “be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18).

Although the church at Ephesus was one of the most mature and faithful congregations mentioned in the New Testament, at the time Paul wrote his letters to Timothy it was experiencing serious internal conflict. Paul’s prediction to the elders of the church as they met on the beach near Miletus was already being fulfilled. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you,” he warned, “not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30). Confronting all of that and maintaining peace requires a delicate balance.

Those who call on the Lord is a description of genuine Christians, referring specifically to their calling on the Lord for salvation—for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness. To call on the Lord is the equivalent of placing saving faith in Him. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him,” Paul assures believers in Rome. Quoting Joel 2:32, he then adds, “For ‘Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved’ ” (Rom. 10:12–13). The apostle opens his first letter to the church at Corinth with these words: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (1 Cor. 1:1–2, emphasis added).

But not everyone who calls on the Lord for salvation continues to faithfully serve and obey Him. From a pure heart therefore further identifies the godly believers who qualify as honorable vessels. The term pure comes from the same root word as “cleanses” in verse 21 and takes us back to where Paul’s thought began—to the truth that a clean vessel is a useful one. They continue to call on the Lord for guidance, strength, and wisdom in living for Him. The Christian with a pure heart diligently pursues the righteousness, faith, love, and peace mentioned in the first half of this verse. He is the “vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” mentioned in the previous verse.[1]


22 Paul uses another ministry metaphor: whoever would be used by God must be “the Lord’s servant” (v. 24). The intensity of the apostle’s pleading with Timothy does not let up. Paul urges his foremost disciple to “flee” (pheugō, GK 5771) and “pursue” (diōkō, GK 1503; see comments at 1 Ti 6:11). Negatively, he must flee the “evil desires of youth” (lit., “youthful desires/passions,” neōterikas epithymias, GK 3754, 2123; cf. 3 Macc 4:8; Ignatius, Magn. 3.1], there being no equivalent for “evil” in the original; cf. Josephus, Ant. 16.11.8), in possible contrast with the earlier-mentioned Hymenaeus and Philetus (v. 17; cf. also 1 Ti 4:12). What Timothy must pursue is “righteousness” (moral uprightness), “faith” (trust in God), “love” (a charitable disposition toward others), and “peace” (harmony rather than argumentativeness) (see comments at 1 Ti 1:14).

Likely, the scope of the “youthful desires” Timothy must flee is considerably broader than sexual “lusts” (cf. NASB, “youthful lusts”). If the positive traits mentioned are any indication, Timothy is to shun all unrighteousness (i.e., any form of immorality, including sexual sins, 3:6, and the desire to get rich, 1 Ti 6:9), lack of faith (including self-reliance in conduct or teaching), lovelessness (and the selfishness that is characteristic of the false teachers), and restlessness (often characteristic of youth). Of course, it is not only the young who must flee “youthful desires” (cf. Quinn and Wacker, 696–97). In one word, Timothy is to train himself in “godliness” (eusebeia, 1 Ti 4:7–8). The quest for holiness need not be a lonely enterprise, as though believers ought to retreat to their closets and devote themselves to meditative exercises. Rather, holiness should be pursued in community: “along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (a partial allusion to Joel 2:32; cf. v. 19 above).[2]


22 Following the illustrative centerpiece of the passage, and in light of the call to conversion just sounded, the second set of three imperatives resumes direct instruction to Timothy. In rough parallel with the first half of the section, the three imperatives in this latter half will be supported with a sub-section of rationale (vv. 24–26).

As with the shift back to Timothy in 1 Tim 6:11 (see discussion), the transition here is made by insertion of a traditional teaching device, containing the first two of the imperatives, “flee/pursue.” The function of the pair is to contrast behavior to be shunned with behavior to be embraced. Timothy is to flee from “the evil desires of youth.”

While this forms a contrast with the “good works” referred to in v. 21, it is not entirely clear what range of behavior or attitudes is covered by “the evil desires of youth.” “Desires” may refer to neutral or even positive needs and longings in some contexts (cf. the verb in 1 Tim 3:1), but one development of the term that is prominent in the NT is its reference to negative or neutral desires which if not controlled become excessive and possibly harmful or evil impulses (see on 1 Tim 6:9). That is surely the case here, but the adjective “youthful” does not limit the scope of the content much. Although Timothy’s relative youthfulness is mentioned in 1 Tim 4:12, the reference here is almost certainly not to his own tendencies but to those evident in the church, and especially among the troublemakers. In general, the thought must be of those attitudes or impulses characteristic of youth, and the items to be pursued present a fitting opposite. The present context might imply a tendency to engage in arguments as a part of this “youthful” profile, or, on the basis of another development of the term and cognates, “cravings for innovation.” In any case, sexual lust does not seem to be the focus, and the plurality of the whole construction suggests a broad pattern of behavior, rather than a particular weakness. Various kinds of behavior characterized by impetuous or rash acts without thought to consequences could easily be in view; context suggests it would be those related to argument and abrupt innovation that are uppermost in mind.

The second imperative verb impels Timothy positively to “pursue” the alternative life of faith. This life is characterized by a list of four virtues (cf. 3:10–11; 1 Tim 4:12; 6:11). The first three of these, “righteousness, faith, love,” also occur in the list of 1 Tim 6:11 (see discussion and notes). “Uprightness” (dikaiosynē) was one of the cardinal virtues in Hellenistic thought. Its presentation here in a list of virtues is Greek in style, but its orientation in these letters is specifically grounded in the Christ-event (cf. Titus 2:12). Here it presents a contrast with its antonym adikia in v. 19.

The next two items, “faith” and “love,” occur together nine times in the lists of Christian qualities in the letters to coworkers. Again, while the list-form and some of the items included in the lists correspond to Greek ethical teaching, these two qualities are central to the understanding of authentic Christian existence expressed throughout Paul.139 Together they sum up the Christian life in terms of the “vertical” or mystical faith relationship with God and the “horizontal” or relational outworking of that faith in other-oriented service (see on 1 Tim 1:5).

The singular occurrence of the fourth element, “peace” (see on 1 Tim 1:2), in an ethical discourse seems to be conditioned by two factors in the immediate context. First, it is an attitude of quiet composure that would have a neutralizing effect upon the combative quarreling of the false teachers (vv. 14, 23–24). Second, it corresponds to the disposition of patience and kind concern (see below) that is intended to lead the opponent to repentance.

It becomes clear in the prepositional phrase that finishes the verse that the qualities listed are meant to typify authentic faith, and that “pursuit” of them is then to be understood as a standard. Believers are then depicted with two terms. First, the phrase “those who call upon the Lord,” which was adopted from the OT, is a frequent designation in the early church for God’s people. Here it resumes the theme initiated at 2:19; the phrase specifically describes Christians as those marked out by their confession of Christ as Lord (“Lord” = Jesus Christ). This identification of authentic believers is strengthened and more sharply focused in the phrase “out of a pure heart,” which views Christian existence from the perspective of the inward cleansing (“heart” = thoughts, emotions, consciousness, volition) associated with conversion (see on 1 Tim 1:5).[3]


2:22 / These two imperatives (flee and pursue), which are identical to those in 1 Timothy 6:11, are closely related to verses 19–21, which emphasize “turning away from wickedness” and “cleansing himself of these things.” But the negative imperative in this case is somewhat surprising in the context. Why here is Timothy told to flee the evil desires of youth?

The answer lies basically in the meaning of the word evil desires (epithymiai; cf. 1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 4:3) in these letters. Rather than “lusts,” it simply means desires, especially evil desires. Thus Paul is not so much speaking of sensual passions as he is those kinds of headstrong passions of youth, who sometimes love novelties, foolish discussions, and arguments that all too often lead to quarrels.

Instead of engaging in the pastimes of the false teachers, Timothy is to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. For these first three items see the discussion on 1 Timothy 6:11. Just as the final items on that list were especially relevant to the context, so here Timothy must also pursue … peace, as do all those who call upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart (not, as gnb, “call out to the Lord for help”; cf. 1 Cor. 1:2). This last phrase is another idiom for God’s people in the ot (cf. 2:10; Titus 2:14); they are those who call upon the Lord, that is, worship Yahweh, the God of Israel, and none other. Along with the modifier out of a pure heart (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5; the same root as the verb “cleanse oneself” in v. 21), this designation sets off the true people of God (who pursue righteousness, etc.) from the false teachers, who do not truly know God (cf. Titus 1:16) but are ensnared by Satan. Perhaps, too, as with verse 19, it is a word of encouragement to Timothy by reminding him that not all “have bowed the knee to Baal.”[4]


2:22. So flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a clean heart.

Paul makes direct application of the previous metaphor to Timothy, instructing him what to flee from and what to run to. The one who seeks to cleanse himself from what is dishonourable (2:21) will first of all ‘flee from youthful passions’. ‘Youthful passions’ may mean either the sensual desires associated with youth, or the youthful infatuation with what is novel and innovative, or possibly even the angry passions and hotheadedness that often characterize youth (cf. 2:23–26)—or perhaps some combination of the three. In contrast, Timothy is to ‘pursue’ proper Christian virtues. The command to pursue ‘righteousness’, ‘faith’ and ‘love’ is almost identical to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 6:11 (see discussion there). Here, however, Paul adds ‘peace’ to the list. This perfectly fits the context, which emphasizes the minister’s duty to be gentle and avoid quarrels, and to seek the peace and purity of the church. Paul concludes this verse by indicating that these instructions are not for Timothy alone—all ‘who call on the Lord from a clean heart’ will pursue these virtues. This final phrase also indicates that righteousness comes only from a transformed heart. God’s work in regeneration must precede any effort towards sanctification.

As in 1 Timothy, Timothy’s responsibility in regard to the false teachers means first of all a concern for his own personal spiritual health and godliness. Then it means combating the false teachers in a godly way. This is important for two reasons. First, personal holiness in life is essential for purity in doctrine. Secondly, a godly response to our enemies is impossible without proper training in personal holiness.[5]


Ver. 22.—But flee for flee also, A.V.; and follow after for but follow, A. V.; love for charity, A.V. Youthful (νεωτερικάς), of or belonging to νεώτεροι young men; “cupiditates adolescentiæ” (Tacit., ‘Hist.,’ i. 15). The word only occurs here in the New Testament, never in the LXX, but is found in Josephus, who speaks of αὐθαδεία νεωτερική, “youthful arrogance,” and is common in classical Greek. Lusts (ἐπιθυμίαι) include, besides the σαρκικαὶ ἐπιθυμίαι of 1 Pet. 2:11, all those ill-regulated passions to which youth is peculiarly liable, such as intemperance, love of company, arrogance, petulance, ambition, love of display, levity, vehemence of action, wilfulness, and the like. Timothy at this time was probably under forty (see note on 1 Tim. 4:12, and Ellicott on ditto). Follow after (δίωκε); as 1 Tim. 6:11, where, as here, it is in contrast with φεῦγε. Eagerness in pursuit, and difficulty in attainment, seem to be indicated by the word. With them, etc. (μετὰ τῶν ἐπικαλουμένων κ.τ.λ.), “With them” may mean either pursue righteousness, etc., in partnership with all who call upon the Lord; i.e. make the pursuit of righteousness, etc., your pursuit, as it is that of all who call upon the Lord; or it may be construed with εἰρήνην, so as to limit the exhortation to peace to those who call upon the Lord, εἰρήνην μετὰ τῶν ἐπικαλουμένων, “peace with those that call,” etc., which is the construction in Heb. 12:14 and Rom. 12:18. It is, however, remarkable that in both these passages, which are referred to for the grammar, the inference from the doctrine goes rather the other way, as they teach “peace with all men.” So does the balance of the sentence here.[6]


22. Flee youthful desires. This is an inference from what goes before; for, after mentioning useless questions, and having been led by this circumstance to censure Hymenæus and Philetus, whose ambition and vain curiosity had led them away from the right faith, he again exhorts Timothy to keep at a distance from so dangerous a plague. And for this purpose he advises him to avoid “youthful desires.” By this term he does not mean either a propensity to uncleanness, or any of those licentious courses or sinful lusts in which young men frequently indulge, but any impetuous passions to which the excessive warmth of that age is prone. If some debate has arisen, young men more quickly grow warm, are more easily irritated, more frequently blunder through want of experience, and rush forward with greater confidence and rashness, than men of riper age. With good reason, therefore, does Paul advise Timothy, being a young man, to be strictly on his guard against the vices of youth, which otherwise might easily drive him to useless disputes.

But follow righteousness. He recommends the opposite feelings, that they may restrain his mind from breaking out into any youthful excesses; as if he had said, “These are the things to which thou oughtest to give thy whole attention, and thy whole exertions.” And first he mentions righteousness, that is, the right way of living; and afterwards he adds faith, and love, in which it principally consists. Peace is closely connected with the present subject; for they who delight in the questions which he forbids must be contentious and fond of debating.

With all that call on the Lord. Here, by a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, “calling on God” is taken generally for worship, if it be not thought preferable to refer it to profession. But this is the chief part of the worship of God, and for that reason “calling on God” often signifies the whole of religion or the worship of God. But when he bids him seek “peace with all that call upon the Lord,” it is doubtful whether, on the one hand, he holds out all believers as an example, as if he had said, that he ought to pursue this in common with all the true worshippers of God, or, on the other hand, he enjoins Timothy to cultivate peace with them. The latter meaning appears to be more suitable.[7]


22. This direct advice to Timothy is closely linked with the general principles stated in verses 20 and 21. There is an implied contrast with the pursuit of good works, as the sequence flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness The rsv translates the latter expression as ‘aim at righteousness’, i.e. set right actions as a goal for living. It need not be supposed that Timothy was beyond the age to need such advice, for as compared with Paul he was still at a stage when adverse influences might lead him astray. One suggestion is that the apostle is here thinking of such passions as impatience, love of dispute and novelties, ambition (Spicq). This is supported by the contrasted virtues to be pursued, righteousness, faith, love and peace, the first three of which have already been urged on Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11. To live at peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart is an indispensable requisite of the Christian minister, as indeed of every Christian, although all too often ignored. The secret is to be found in the concluding words out of a pure heart (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5), for peace and purity are never far apart.[8]


Ver. 22. Flee youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace.

Flee the passions of youth:—Timothy was no longer a young man, but he was still in the strength of his manhood, when he might easily suffer from desires and passions which are comparatively venial in a youth. The juvenilia desideria, the immoderate hilarity, the irregular longings of the flesh and mind, the rashness of judgment, the self-indulgence, the love of admiration, which are weakness and failure of youth, not its beauty nor its charm. (H. R. Reynolds, D.D.)

The Christian young man:—To the word “lust” a specific meaning is now popularly attached, which we do not find in the original; the term there used being much more extensive, and, with the addition of the epithet, “youthful,” much more expressive. It signifies the inclination of the mind; and thus it includes what is evil in the spark as well as in the flame, in the blossom as well as in the fruit, in the deep, though still fountain, as well as in the rolling, turbid, and impetuous stream. And with good reason; for however small and obscure the beginning, the end may be most momentous, most irreparable. Hear it plainly stated: “Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Watch over inclination, lest it become desire; watch over desire, lest it become appetite; watch over appetite, lest it become passion; watch over passion, lest it become, in the evil and extreme sense, “lust.” And this applies equally to voluptuousness, ambition, covetousness, revenge, and all the characteristic vices of youth.

  1. And this is to be done by avoiding, as far as it be possible, the companionship of the ungodly. On this subject, indeed, the wise man, teaching from experience, is earnest even beyond his wont; counselling with an emphatic iteration: “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” It is against the first step that young men should be exhorted especially to guard; to beware of the first act, against which conscience enters and records its solemn protest.
  2. While, however, you “flee youthful lusts” by avoiding companionship with the wicked, flee them also by cultivating companionship with the heart; and weigh well those associations, habits, and pursuits, which give a direction to the mind. Beware lest inclination assume the reins of action; beware lest interest or convenience usurp that supremacy over the purposes and the practices, which ought to be exercised only by conscience and by principle. Test all things by one standard; try all men by one rule; and let that be the Word of God. Whenever, therefore, in a judgment administered upon such principles, and directed to such an end, the bent of the mind and the will are found to be in any particular instance opposed to the great purpose, for which all who bear, by their own consent, the name of Christian, must for that very reason profess to live, it is clear that the course of life must be altered, the stream of thought and desire must be turned, the current must be made to flow in an opposite direction. And if this only be done as soon as the necessity is discerned, it will be done effectually, and it will be done comparatively without an effort.

III. Not only, however, are we exhorted in the text to “flee youthful lusts,” but to cultivate those Christian graces and dispositions, which can never appear to greater advantage than when they are associated with the natural transparency and ingenuousness of youth. 1. Follow, then, after righteousness. Give God what is His due; and you will never withhold from man what is his. 2. Follow not only after righteousness, but, as the apostle exhorts his son Timothy, after “faith.” Account, that as practical righteousness, the rendering of everything that is due to man, so faith is the expectation of all that is needful from God. 3. Next, you are exhorted to follow “charity” or love. Love is the essence of righteousness, for it is “the fulfilling of the law”; it is also the evidence of faith, for “faith worketh by love.” 4. Lastly, in the words of the apostle, “follow after peace.” This, indeed, is the subject of one of the most earnest petitions that ever fell from human lips: “Now the God of peace Himself give you peace always by all means.” Nor can the apostles of the Lord and Saviour better express the fervour of their love for the brethren than by the prayer that “grace, mercy, and peace may be multiplied to them through Jesus Christ.” Yes, peace is indeed an object worthy to be followed by man, a blessing worthy to be multiplied by God. Follow after peace, then, and ye will find it, in all its varieties of excellency and of loveliness. Peace of conscience; for your sins, however multiplied and aggravated, shall be made as though they had never been. Peace of mind; for “great peace have they that love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” Peace with man in life, for “the work of righteousness is peace”; and peace—the “peace that passeth understanding”—in death, for “mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.” Now we have looked upon four objects of moral excellency and social usefulness, which the young Christian is to follow—righteousness, faith, charity, peace. Let us contrast these with four “youthful lusts,” desires, inclinations, or tendencies, call them which you will, from which he is to flee. The love of self, as opposed to righteousness; the pride of philosophical unbelief—unbelief that calls itself philosophical—as opposed to faith; covetousness, or the desire of accumulation, as opposed to charity; and the turbulence of mirth, revelry, and excess, as opposed to peace. (T. Dale, M.A.)

Admonitions to the young:

  1. Consider what you ought to avoid—“Flee youthful lusts.” The objects of abhorrence are distinctly specified in this short but impressive caution. No palliating epithets are employed to divest them of their disgusting qualities. They are not pleaded for by being called, as too many in modern times represent them “mere juvenile indiscretions,”—“youthful follies,” which maturer age will correct; but they are marked by a term, which at once describes and condemns them. Lust, in the language of Scripture, has an extensive latitude of meaning; it is applied to evil desire in general—the desire of what is in itself unlawful and forbidden, or the intemperate desire of what is in itself lawful and allowed. This explanation accords with the assertion of the apostle John in his first Epistle, in which he gives an accurate classification of evil desires: “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.” The passions and appetites of our nature are powerful principles of action. Were they always subjected to the government of enlightened reason, they would become sources of innocent gratification; indulgence would leave no stain, and remembrance would awaken no remorse. But from their fatal predominance over the convictions of the understanding, and the remonstrances of conscience, what streams of sin and misery have inundated the world! To these, as their immediate sources, may be traced innumerable diseases which ruin the body, by causing its premature debility, and securing its inevitable destruction. But their direst evil is that they “war against the soul,” impair the mind, and pollute the heart. In order to render the impression more vivid, let us consider to what evil desires the young are peculiarly exposed; what are the unhallowed passions that require their utmost vigilance and opposition. 1. I would first exhort you, my young friends, to guard against the seductions of sensuality; against what are emphatically termed “fleshy lusts.” On no subject are the sacred writers more frequent, or more alarming in their denunciations than on this. Aware of the wide-spreading nature of the contagion, they continually remind us of its evil, and direct us to the means of counteracting and expelling it. 2. Beware of intemperance. By intemperance, I mean particularly the excessive indulgence of those appetites of our nature on which our existence depends. It is sometimes said that such indulgence, so basely irrational, places a man on a level with the brutes that perish. But it is insulting to brutes to make the comparison. The laws of animal instinct teach them moderation, and the dictates of universal conscience as well as the “grace of God,” should teach men, that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly in this present evil world.” Intemperance is the baneful source of most destructive evils; it is the powerful stimulus to the commission of crimes, which men would shudder to perpetrate in the cool moments of sobriety. 3. Amongst the evil principles which the apostle warns us to avoid, may be included also high-mindedness, for immediately after the exhortation in the text, he says, “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.” And to enforce this impressive caution he predicts the approach of “perilous times,” when all the symptoms of unhallowed self-exaltation should be manifest in the prevailing characters of men. I have adopted a term of extensive application, because it includes the various modifications of pride, haughtiness, conceit, vanity, and ambition. It is worthy of your attentive regard that the admonition in the text is levelled at the very seat and principle of iniquity. The tyranny of the passions is enthroned on the heart; and it is from that interior dominion they must be expelled. The axe is therefore laid at the root of the tree, that all its branches and fruit may be destroyed. The apostle does not merely say, Flee evil habits, impure connections, and all the scenes of temptation, but he says what virtually includes all this, by denouncing their pernicious origin: “Flee youthful lusts”; let not the desire be indulged; “the thought of foolishness is sin.” As the venerable Elisha purified the waters of Jericho, by sprinkling salt on the fountain whence they flowed, so the apostle directs us to cleanse the springs of action; persuaded that they will send forth wholesome streams when healed from the contamination of sin.
  2. Our next general inquiry respects the opposite principles and tempers which ought to form the objects of your constant and unremitting pursuit. What should you follow? He was persuaded that in order to “abhor that which is evil,” we must “cleave to that which is good.” Let us attend to his wise and salutary directions. 1. Follow righteousness. This term frequently occurs in the sacred writings, with various, though connected acceptations. In its most important reference it is applied to that perfect “obedience even unto death,” by which our exalted Lord “magnified the law and made it honourable.” The Scriptures which so clearly reveal this righteousness as the exclusive basis of acceptance with God, announce the method of obtaining its blessings. “Not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” This righteousness, the possession of which justifies a sinner in the sight of God, will infallibly secure as its invariable consequence, an inherent rectitude of principle—that personal righteousness, “without which no man can see the Lord.” In conformity with this statement, I would earnestly exhort you, my young friends, to cultivate all the fruits of righteousness. Aim at the entire agreement of your spirit and actions with the unerring rule of righteousness, laid down in the sacred Word. There you behold its nature clearly defined, and its wide extent unfolded. It is not a variable, shifting principle, adapted to the changes of custom, and the fluctuations of caprice. Its nature and obligations are not dependent on views of expediency, which may happen to agree with its dictates to-day, and suggest an opposite rule of conduct to-morrow. Righteousness is the conformity of the heart and life to the immutable laws of equity which God has established; an equity, unbending in its decisions, and unalterable in its claims. 2. If you “follow righteousness,” your character will be adorned by fidelity. This I conceive is what the apostle meant by “faith”; and the word has precisely this rendering, in the Epistle to Titus, in which servants are exhorted to “show all good fidelity.” Fidelity is an important part of righteousness; it is one of the essential expressions of it, and all pretensions to rectitude without it are but as “tinkling cymbals and as sounding brass.” 3. With “righteousness and fidelity,” the apostle connects charity and peace. The principles and duties of justice are intimately blended with those of benevolence. The latter derive all their value and stability from the former, and give them in return “an ornament of grace—a crown of glory.” Charity, or love, is of essential importance to Christian character. It is often referred to as a decisive test of real religion. It is well described by the apostle Paul as the “bond of perfectness.” It unites and combines all the other graces, “fitly framing them together,” giving them beauty, proportion, and effect. The apostle Paul has presented a full-length portraiture of Charity. Are you surprised that peace should spring from that charity which “endureth all things”? This is its rational and invariable result. The peace which flows from believing, and which consists in reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ, will be connected with a pacific temper and disposition. These are the objects of pursuit exhibited to your attention, in the exhortation of the text. You are commanded to follow them, wherever they may lead you; to aim at attaining them, whatever they may cost you; and with unremitting diligence to persevere in the path which they have prescribed. With peculiar propriety has the apostle connected this wise direction with the preceding caution. Every disposition marked out as the object of pursuit, immediately tends to the subversion of those unhallowed desires which you are warned to avoid. You cannot indulge in one “youthful lust” but you violate the claims of “righteousness, faith, charity, and peace.” Let these holy principles exist, and you will be effectually armed against the enemies of your souls.

III. With whom should you associate? “With them that call on the Lord with a pure heart.” Religion does not extirpate the social affections of our nature; but it directs their exercise, and consecrates them supremely to the glory of God. The fellowship of a Christian Church is designed to bring them under the guidance of those laws which Christ has revealed in His Word, and to regulate all our voluntary associations. The influence of pernicious example is peculiarly felt in the circle of intimate friendship. There your opinions and practices receive their strongest confirmation; and your character and habits, if at first opposed to the prevailing complexion of those with whom you associate, will be almost imperceptibly changed. Consider the infinite importance of being now “numbered with the saints,” “on the Lord’s side,” that you may not be “gathered with sinners” at the day of final separation and unalterable decision! (Jos. Fletcher, M.A.)

Purity:—Antony William Boehme, a German divine, once preached from Exodus 20:14: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” A chevalier, who was one of his hearers, felt himself so much insulted that he challenged Boehme to fight a duel, because he thought his sermon designed entirely to offend him. Boehme accepted the challenge, and appeared in his robes; but instead of a pistol he had the Bible in his hand, and spoke to him in the following manner: “I am sorry you were so much offended when I preached against that destructive vice; at the time I did not even think of you. Here I appear with the sword of the Spirit, and if your conscience condemns you, I beseech you, for your own salvation, to repent of your sins and lead a new life. If you will, then fire at me immediately, for I would willingly lose my life if that might be the means of saving your soul!” The chevalier was so struck with this language that he embraced him and solicited his friendship. A bold man was this preacher, and reminds you of another bold man in English history, Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, who presented to Henry VIII. for a new year’s gift a New Testament, doubled down at the leaf where is written, “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). God’s truth must be told, and not be kept back. The Seventh Commandment concerns our own and our neighbour’s chastity: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” It forbids all acts of uncleanness, with all those fleshly lusts which produce those acts and war against the soul; and all those practices which cherish and excite those fleshly lusts, as looking in order to lust, which Christ tells us is forbidden in this commandment (Matt. 5:28). The eyes, like Jacob’s cattle, too firmly fixed on beautiful objects, make the affections bring forth spotted fruit, and it is as easy to quench the fire of Etna as the thought fixed by lust. Lusting is often the result of looking, as in David, who saw Bathsheba bathing, and in Joseph’s mistress, who set her eyes upon Joseph. Lust is quicksighted. How much better Job, who would not look, lest he should think upon a maid! He had learned to keep in his eyes from roving to wanton prospects. Samson’s eyes were the first offenders that betrayed him to unlawful desire of carnal pleasure; therefore are his eyes first pulled out, and he led a blind captive to Gaza, where before he had with carnal appetite gazed on his Delilah. Among the things which in our baptismal vow we promised to renounce are the sinful lusts of the flesh. The text enforces that promise upon us. Carnal pleasures are the sins of youth; ambition and the love of power the sins of middle age: covetousness and carking cares the crimes of old age. “Flee fornication,” &c. (1 Cor. 6:18, 19). He that commits this sin sinneth against his own body; and inasmuch as his body was created for God’s Holy Spirit to dwell in, it is a defilement of the temple of God. This sin of fornication is, therefore, the more hateful, because by committing it a man sins both against himself, against his fellow-creature, and against his God. By indulging in this sin he debases his noblest faculties; he defiles and destroys God’s handiwork; he makes vile that which God made holy. By the just judgment of God all these irregular and sinful connections are married to death. Neither prostitutes, whoremongers, nor unclean persons of any description can live out half their days Parents! beware of the example of Eli! He was a good man himself, but his children were extremely wicked—he restrained them not. Parents! see that your children do not associate with corrupt companions—“Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Indulged children, like Dinah (Gen. 34), often become a grief and shame to their families. Her pretence was to see the daughters of the land, to see how they dressed, and how they danced, and what was fashionable amongst them; she went to see—she went to be seen too; she went to gain an acquaintance with those Canaanites, and to learn their way. See what came from Dinah’s roving! The beginning of sin is as the letting forth of water—“Give the water no passage, neither an unprotected daughter liberty to gad abroad” (Ecclus). Carefully avoid all occasions of sin and approaches to it. Parents! let your household arrangements be such as never to endanger your children’s purity of character; never let the blush of shame be needlessly raised on their cheeks. Whatever sacrifice it may cost you in other ways, do not put them in jeopardy by crowding your family into too small a space, thus rendering it impossible that a sense of decency and modesty should be preserved. It is a false and fatal economy that would tempt you to do this. Much depends on you, landlords, masters, employers of labour. But whatever may be done by parents or by masters, to you, young men and young women, we must mainly look. The celebrated John Newton, as the commander of a slave-ship, had a number of women under his absolute command, and knowing the danger of his situation on that account, he resolved to abstain from flesh in his food, and to drink nothing stronger than water during the voyage, that by abstemiousness he might subdue every improper emotion. Upon his setting sail, the sight of a certain point of land was the signal for his beginning a rule which he was enabled to keep. (R. A. Taylor, M.A.)

Helps against lusts:—1. Get a sound knowledge of them. 2. Mortify thy carnal members. 3. Labour for a broken heart. 4. Be diligent in thy calling. 5. Abandon lewd companions. 6. And strive to taste deeply of the water of life; favour the best things. (J. Barlow, D.D.)

Youthful lusts:—And thy lusts of youth are principally these: pride, idleness, pleasure, wantonness. To avoid these see thou—1. Set a watch over all thy external senses. In presence, view not, touch not. In absence, talk not, think not on wanton affections. 2. Sleep little, eat little, work much, pray much; for take away the fuel and the fire will be quenched. 3. When wandering cogitations or suggestions reflect on thy fancy, divert them the contrary way. Forget not this. 4. Attend to good counsel, and follow it; and see before thou purpose anything what the best men advise thee. (Ibid.)

A choice between the higher and lower life:—Thou hast a double nature. Choose between the worse and the better that is within thee. Thou hast it in thy power to become the slave of passion, the slave of luxury, the slave of sensual pleasure, the slave of corruption. Thou hast it in thy power to become the free master of thyself, to become the everlasting benefactor of thy country, and the unfailing champion of thy God. (Dean Stanley.)

Passions to be early checked:—There was once an old monk walking through the forest with a little scholar by his side. The old man suddenly stopped and pointed to four plants close at hand. The first was beginning to peep above the ground; the second had rooted itself pretty well into the earth; the third was a small shrub; whilst the fourth and last was a full-sized tree. Then the old monk said to his young companion: “Pull up the first.” The youth easily pulled it up with his fingers. “Now pull the second.” The youth obeyed, but not so easily. “And the third.” But the boy had to put forth all his strength, and to use both arms, before he succeeded in uprooting it. “And now,” said the master, “try your hand upon the fourth.” But lo! the trunk of the tall tree, grasped in the arms of the youth, scarcely shook its leaves, and the little fellow found it impossible to tear its roots from the earth. Then the wise old monk explained to his scholar the meaning of the four trials. “This, my son, is just what happens with our passions. When they are young and weak, one may, by a little watchfulness over self, and the help of a little self-denial, easily tear them up; but if we let them cast their roots deep down into our souls, then no human power can uproot them, the Almighty hand of the Creator alone can pluck them out. For this reason, watch well over the first movements of your soul, and study by acts of virtue to keep your passions well in check.”

The bloom of youthful purity:—There grows a bloom and beauty over the beauty of the plum and apricot, more exquisite than the fruit itself—a soft, delicate flush that overspreads its blushing cheek. Now, if you strike your hand over that, it is gone for ever, for it never grows but once. The flower that hangs in the morning impearled with dew, arrayed as a queenly woman never was arrayed with jewels; once shake it so that the beads roll off, and you may sprinkle water over it as you please, yet it can never be made again what it was when the dew fell silently on it from heaven. On a frosty morning you may see panes of glass covered with landscapes, mountains, lakes, and trees, blended in a beautiful fantastic picture. Now, lay your hand upon the glass, and by a scratch of your finger, or by the warmth of your palm, all the delicate tracery will be obliterated. So there is in youth a beauty and purity of character, which, when once touched and defiled, can never be restored—a fringe more delicate than frost-work, and which, when torn and broken, will never be reembroidered. He who has spotted and soiled his garments in youth, though he may seek to make them white again, can never wholly do it, even were he to wash them with his tears. When a young man leaves his father’s house with the blessing of a mother’s tears still wet upon his brow, if he once lose that early purity of character, it is a spot that he can never make whole again. Such is the consequence of crime. Its effects cannot be eradicated; it can only be forgiven.

Righteousness:—Let me exhort you to put on the righteousness of Christ Jesus, as by application, so in imitation. When thou art to deal with God, and to appeal in His court, see thou have this wedding garment: clothe thy nakedness with the mantle of Jesus; cover thy sinful person with no other robe; wear not linsey-woolsey; mix not thy pigeon feathers with this eagle’s plumes; blend not thy flash water with this fresh wine, lest thy nakedness appear, and death be found in the pot. But with him, who knew what he did (Phil. 3:8, 9), cast off thy rags, trample them under foot, and apparel thyself with the pure linen of Christ our Lord; for Solomon in all his royalty was not clothed like him, who hath put on Christ Jesus. (J. Barlow, D.D.)

Faith:—By faith the righteousness of Christ is unfolded, apprehended, put on. Knowledge, like the eye, may direct us unto the wedding garment. But faith, as the hand, must take hold of it, apparel ourselves with it. What if we be said to live by faith? so are we by our hands. Yet doth any man eat his fingers? No; it is by that which faith applieth; and the motion of the hand procureth and receiveth. (Ibid.)

Following peace:—For thy help take these directions:—1. Be at peace with God; for that will keep thy heart and mind in the acknowledgment and love of the truth (Phil. 4:7, 9). 2. Have peace with thyself. In all things be in subjection to the Spirit (James 3:14, 15). For if wars be in us, peace will not be without us (Gal. 6:16). 3. Depart with part of thine own rights; so did Abraham to Lot (Gen. 13:9). Christ paid tribute to preserve peace (Mat. 17, ult.). And for peace sake we should suffer wrong (1 Cor. 6:7). 4. Abandon self-love, and pray for peace. When men will have their own actions still go forward, without doubt, it is a work of the flesh (Gal. 6:13). For motives—1. Are we not the sons of God? and is not He the King of Peace? (1 Cor. 14:33). 2. Be we not subjects to Him who is the Prince of Peace? (Isa. 9:6). 3. Is not a Christian called to live in peace? (1 Cor 7:15). 4. And if we continue in peace, will not the God of love and peace be with us? (2 Cor. 13:11). (Ibid.)

Self-control inspired by the thought of God:—A heathen may herein teach multitudes of unconverted men and many professing Christians a lesson. We read of Cyrus, that when, after one of his victories, a captive of singular beauty, Panthea, the wife of Abradates, king of Susiana, was taken, he refused to see her, and entrusted her to the keeping of Araspes, giving him a very prudent admonition respecting his conduct, and was thus assured by him; “Fear nothing; I am sure of myself, and I will answer with my life that I shall do nothing contrary to my duty.” This young nobleman was notwithstanding overcome by her beauty, and in danger of basely violating his promise, had not Panthea given Cyrus intelligence of his baseness. Araspes, when cited to appear before his prince, was overwhelmed with shame and fear, and spoke of the control over his desires which he had when in Cyrus’ presence, and his weakness when left to himself (see “Rollin’s Ancient History,” bk. iv., ch. i., sec. iv). If the presence of a fellow-creature, however marked by purity and moderation, availed to curb the passions of a heathen, how much more should the recollection of a pure and holy God! And if love constrain not, the fear of His displeasure should lead us to beware of danger, and to guard our eyes and our hearts, lest we fall into temptation.

Avoiding danger:—Have you never heard the story of a lady who wanted a coachman? Two or three called to see her about the situation, and, in answer to her inquiries, the first applicant said, “Yes, madam, you could not have a better coachman than myself.” She replied, “How near do you think you could drive to danger without an accident?” “Madam, I could go within a yard of it, and yet you would be perfectly safe.” “Very well,” she said, “you will not suit me.” The second one had heard the question upon which the other had been rejected, and therefore he was ready with his answer, “Danger! madam, why I could drive within a hair’s breadth, and yet be perfectly safe.” “Then you will not suit me at all.” When number three came in, he was asked, “Are you a good driver?” “Well,” he replied, “I am careful and have never met with an accident.” “But how near do you think you could drive to danger?” “Madam,” he said, “that is a thing I never tried, I always drive as far away from danger as ever I can.” The lady at once replied, “You are the kind of coachman I want, and I will engage you at once.” Get such a coachman as that yourself, to guide your own heart, and lead your own character. Do not see how near you can go to sin, but see how far you can keep away from it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Abstinence:—A friend who, in the opinion of all who knew him, was very unlikely to take stimulants to excess, and who had very little sympathy with teetotalism, told me the other day that he had given up wine. When I asked him his reason he gave me this suggestive reply: “Because I was beginning to like it and count on it.” It was the wise repression of incipient rebellion before it had asserted itself by overt act. (A. Rowland, LL.B.)

Taken unawares:—We have read that “a debtor seeing a bailiff in quest of him ran three miles to a boundary, beyond which he was safe.” The bailiff, seeming calmly to submit to his failure, stretched out his hand and said, “Well, let us part good friends, at any rate.” The debtor, off his guard, accepted the offered hand, whereupon the bailiff, with a desperate effort, pulled him across the line, and clapping him on the shoulder, said, “You are my prisoner.” So men may be overcome by the evil one when they least expect an assault from him, and think themselves most safe. (Sunday School Teacher.)

Self-control:—Bishop Ryle, in his “Young Men Exhorted,” makes some pungent remarks on this duty of self-control. “Resolve at once,” he writes, “by God’s help, to shun everything that may prove an occasion of sin. It is an excellent saying of good old Bishop Hall: ‘He that would be safe from the acts of evil must wisely avoid the occasions.’ Never hold a candle to the devil. He that would be safe must not come near the brink of danger. He must look upon his heart as a magazine of gunpowder, and be cautious not to handle one spark of temptation more than he can help. Where is the use of your praying, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ unless you are yourselves careful not to run into it?” “Flee”:—Prayer is not enough. Many have prayed, and have not found it sufficient. Therefore the advice in the Bible is rational—Flee. The usual receipt for resisting sin is, Fight; but I venture to say the Bible and common sense recommend flight rather. There are many sins we must not even look at; to turn away and run is the only resource. The Bible says, “Flee youthful lusts,” and “Look not on the wine.” The brave thing, although it looks the cowardly, is to flee. But it is not into space we are to flee. We are to fly upward, to get into a higher mood, and breathe another atmosphere. (Prof. H. Drummond.)

Temptation’s deceits:—In the Fisheries Exhibition the nets were so beautifully hung and draped as to form graceful curtains. How many of Satan’s nets are made to appear charmingly attractive. (H. O. Mackey.)

The conquest of self:—The following epitaph was once placed over a soldier’s grave:—

“Here lies a soldier, whom all must applaud,

Who fought many battles at home and abroad;

But the hottest engagement he ever was in

Was the conquest of self in the battle of sin.”

 

The danger of success:—There is danger in success. St. Bernard astonished an immense congregation, intensely interested in his sermon, by suddenly exclaiming, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” He felt that the devil was tempting him to be proud of his eloquence, as though he would win souls by his own enticing words. And when Lacordaire had enthralled thousands by one of his Lenten sermons in Notre Dame, the young monk who went to summon him to the refectory, found him kneeling before a crucifix, with the tears on his cheeks, and inquired, “Oh, father, why are you so sad?” This was the answer, “My son, I am afraid of success.” Be not high-minded, but fear. (Dean Hole.)

Undiscovered character:—Every man has in himself a continent of undiscovered character. Happy is he who acts the Columbus to his own soul. (Sir J. Stephen.) Peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.—This last “peace” must be joined with the words immediately following: “With them that call on the Lord,” &c. The “peace” here signifies absence of contention; it is well paraphrased by, “that spiritual concord which unites together all who call upon and who love their Lord.” (H. D. M. Spence, M.A.)

The Christian young man:—It will be manifest, at the very first glance, that when the apostle expresses with whom his son Timothy should, he implies with what kind of persons he should not associate; with those who do not “call upon the Lord,” and with those who do indeed appear to call upon the Lord, but not “out of a pure heart.” First, the unbeliever, whether he be such in appearance, or only in practice; and next, the hypocrite, the formalist, the inconsistent, and the insincere. 1. Our first character is that of the avowed and unblushing sceptic; that of the man who contemptuously characterises religion as the business of women, the trade of preachers, and the toy of men; one who mistakes adroitness in contending against truth in argument, for capability of disproving it, and who is as much delighted with himself, when he has hurled a sarcasm or a sneer against the gospel or the Church, as if he had invented an objection which must tend to the overthrow of them both. This class of persons may be ordinarily identified by one generic feature; namely, that they assume everything, and demonstrate nothing. Avoid, then, as far as possible, all intercourse, all communion, with persons such as these. If they interrogate you, answer; but when you have answered, do not argue. 2. I shall next describe the character of the man whose infidelity is practical; who is only not an atheist because he is nothing; who does not avow or advocate false principles simply because he has no principles at all; and who remains just as indifferent to all that concerns his moral responsibility or his religious duty, as if indeed he were the base degraded thing, to which he endeavours to assimilate himself; as if in truth he were “the beast, whose spirit goeth downward to the earth”—not the rational, immortal, intelligible, accountable man, whose spirit, when dismissed from and disencumbered of its earthly tabernacle, must “return to God that gave it.” The root of the evil is, that so far as the interests of the soul are concerned, persons of this class do not think at all. From such, then, as we have now described, such as “separate themselves” from the assemblies of Christian worship, being “sensual, having not the Spirit”; such as do not “call upon the Lord” in the house of prayer, and therefore cannot be presumed to call upon Him in the closet—you ought to separate yourselves as far as possible, on no other ground than the simple knowledge of the fact. They are far more likely to injure you than you are likely to profit them; for they have an ally, an accomplice, in your own sinful nature. 3. There is yet another class of characters, from whom in following out the spirit of the text, we are constrained to counsel separation. It is the inconsistent, the undecided, the manifestly insincere; those who “call on the Lord,” but not “out of a pure heart”; those who observe proprieties, but who disregard principles; who conform to the ritual without imbibing the spirit of the Church; who profess with their lips that they know God, but in works do deny Him—disguising their practices by their profession, and masking their private vices by their public prayers. Those who “call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” But then understand what this means—the heart of such persons is not innately pure; it is not pure from the first. No, nor is it inherently pure by any natural constitution or organisation peculiar to itself. Nor is it independently pure—without the aids of Divine and spiritual operation, or by influence of its own. Nor is it invariably pure—pure without any apprehension of or capability of change. Its purity is derived and imparted from above; purity in the comparative sense, for all human purity is comparative; and produced by the action of the Spirit of God upon the heart. It is first the purposed, attempted, desired separation from all iniquity—because we “name the name of Christ”; the ceasing to regard it with the heart, as well as admit it knowingly into the life. It is next the fixed, settled, honest purpose, to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”; and to postpone all considerations of present pleasure, interest, or inclination to the “one thing” which is supremely “needful,” even to “win Christ and be found in Him.” Purity, indeed, is but another name for what is elsewhere called “singleness of heart”; that which St. Paul exemplified when he declared, “One thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”; and what the Lord Himself delineated when He said, “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” I have already spoken to you about the prudence of avoiding companionship with the ungodly, but this example leads you one step beyond it—to the cultivation of fellowship with the pious. And for this reason: that every friendship, which is formed upon such principles and with such persons, is an additional barrier and defence against the encroachment or aggressions of the enemy. To form a new Christian connection or intimacy is like placing a new warrior within the citadel of the heart, a new sentinel upon the watch-tower, or, it may be, a new defender in the breach. (T. Dale, M.A.)[9]


2:22

NASB, NKJV

 

“Flee … pursue”

 

TEV

 

“Avoid … strive for”

 

NJB

 

“Turn away … concentrate on”

 

These are both PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVES. Believers are to continue to exhibit God’s sanctification (cf. 1 Tim. 6:11).

© “from youthful lusts” Every stage of life has its unique temptations (cf. Eccl. 3:1–8; 11:10; 12:1–8).

© “righteousness, faith, love and peace” These are all characteristics of the triune God which need to be developed and exhibited in His people (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5, 14). For “righteousness” see Special Topic at Titus 2:13.

© “who call on the Lord from a pure heart” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE, which implies continuing action. In Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21 and Rom. 10:9–13 this phrase seems to imply an initial response, but in this context it refers to the maturing believers. Our purposeful and continuing association with mature believers is one secret of a faithful, joyful, and peaceful Christian life.[10]


22. The way to cleanse oneself is to become detached from that which is evil and attached to that which is good. Hence, Paul continues: But from the desires of youth flee away, and run after righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call upon the Lord out of pure hearts.

When Paul wrote these words, Timothy must have been 37–42 years of age (see on 1 Tim. 4:12). He was still rather young, especially in relation to the position of trust and responsibility which he occupied. So the apostle warns him against “the (or “those well-known,” note the article) desires of youth.” But just what does he mean?

The word desire that is used in the original, whether in a favorable or unfavorable sense, always indicates strong yearning. As the footnote indicates, it is used far more often in an unfavorable than in a favorable sense. In the present passage, it is definitely sinful desire that is meant (“From the desires of youth flee away”). Such sinful desires, as the footnote also proves, can be classified more or less after the manner of modern psychology (though here these yearnings would hardly be called sinful), as follows:

(1).        Pleasure, etc., the inordinate craving for the satisfaction of the physical appetites: the “lust” for food and drink, pleasure-madness, uncontrolled sexual desire (Rom. 1:24; Rev. 18:14, etc.)

(2).        Power, etc., the ungoverned passion to be Number 1, the lust to “shine” or be dominant. This results in envy, quarrelsomeness, etc. This sinful tendency is included prominently in such references as Gal. 5:16, 24; 2 Peter 2:10, 18; Jude 16, 18.

(3).        Possessions, etc., uncontrolled yearning for material possessions and for the “glory” that goes with them (see 1 Tim. 6:9 in its context).

Objectively speaking, Christ triumphed over the first when in the first temptation he said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:1–4); over the second, when in the second temptation he refused to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:5–7); and over the third, when in the third temptation he refused to receive as a gift out of Satan’s hand “the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matt. 4:8–10). As a result of his triumph he in a far more glorious sense received from his heavenly Father the very things with which the devil had tempted him. (In Christ’s case, however, the temptations were entirely objective; there were no subjective, sinful tendencies.)

Since these inordinate desires often assert themselves more turbulently in youth than in old age—as he grows older a Christian rises above them through the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, bringing him gradually to spiritual maturity—, they are here fittingly called “the desires of youth” (literally, “the youthful desires”).

Two extremes should be avoided. First, it is wrong to construe the reference to be, either exclusively or predominantly, to uncontrolled sexual desire. Secondly, it is not necessary to exclude this evil entirely from view. The term, as here used, must probably be taken in its most general sense, as indicating any sinful yearning to which the soul of a young or relatively young person is exposed. If, within this general connotation, any element of special emphasis must be found, it should be derived from the context. In the present case there was, perhaps, the tendency of the younger man to be somewhat impatient with those who stood in the way. Timothy’s high moral character, coupled with his youthful years, might induce him to act somewhat inconsiderately toward those who were opposing the truth. A person of natural reserve, timidity, and general amiability, such as Timothy, can at times act rather impulsively when at last, contrary to his natural tendency, he is aroused to action. But whether or not in Paul’s mind there was any special reference to this particular danger of youth cannot now be determined. The sinful desires of youth may best be regarded in the most general sense, and thus as the antonyms of the virtues now mentioned: “righteousness, faith, love, and peace.”

Grammatically it is also possible to interpret Paul’s words as meaning no more than this: “Timothy, continue to do exactly as you have always been doing. Keep on in your present course, fleeing away from the desires of youth and pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace,” etc. But, though the tense used in the original permits this interpretation, it does not require it. It is, moreover, in line with Paul’s very practical bent of mind to assume that these crisp commands bear some reference to reality, and were warnings that were actually needed, yes needed even by Timothy because of certain character-weaknesses, however unpronounced they may have been. In our desire to do full justice to the beauty of Timothy’s character, let us not equip him with wings!

Paul’s youthful associate, then, must constantly flee away from the sinful propensities of youth, and must cultivate the habit of running after the virtues that are here enumerated. Note the alliteration—“run after righteousness” (here as in 1 Tim. 6:11)—and the chiastic sentence-structure, with the vices and the virtues (the last one, “peace,” expanded into a compound phrase) at either end of the sentence; and the opposite actions—“flee away from,” “run after”—next to each other in the middle.

Since most of the concepts here mentioned have occurred before, the reader is referred to the more detailed explanation in 1 Tim. 4:12 and 1 Tim. 6:11. Briefly, then, what Paul has in mind may be paraphrased as follows:

From the sinful tendencies of youth flee away, and run after (steadily pursue) the following: a. that state of heart and mind which is in harmony with God’s law (“righteousness”); b. humble and dynamic confidence in God (“faith”); c. deep personal affection for the brothers, including in your benevolent interest even the enemies (“love”); and d. undisturbed, perfect understanding (“peace”) with all Christians (those who in prayer and praise “call upon” the Lord Jesus Christ—cf. Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:12; 1 Cor. 1:2—out of pure hearts). The “pure hearts” (the original has the singular where English prefers the plural) are the inner personalities of those who “stand aloof from unrighteousness” (verse 19) and “have effectively cleansed themselves” (verse 21).[11]


2:22. The bottom line is that each person chooses whether he will befit for God’s use. This sobering thought brought Paul to this urgent plea: Flee the evil desires of youth.

In the first century, the term youth was not confined to the teenage years. In fact, only two phases of life were recognized—youth and old age. Many interpreters believe Timothy was in his late thirties or even in his forties when Paul wrote to him. Perhaps “young” people experience greater temptations toward certain sins which diminish with age, such as haughty independence and selfish ambition. Those seriously committed to Christ must flee anything that smacks of evil or anything that would interfere with faithfulness to God.

Fleeing provides only half the equation, however. As we flee from evil, we must pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. Christianity does not consist merely of prohibitions, but of positive and powerful actions.

Righteousness, faith, love, peace—these are common words, easily tossed around in Christian conversation, but they are the essence of the gospel.

Righteousness means to live uprightly, doing good as empowered by God. Faith rests on trust in God’s revelation and character; it consists of a genuine relationship with God.

Love consists of self sacrifice, living for the good of others with caring actions. Peace demonstrates itself through harmonious relations with God and others.

These qualities are normative for those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Believers look to God and depend upon him in all of life. People who have authentic faith are cleansed within. Paul encouraged Timothy to join with other true believers in persisting in his commitment to righteousness.[12]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 92–95). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 583–584). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Towner, P. H. (2006). The Letters to Timothy and Titus (pp. 543–545). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (pp. 263–264). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Barcley, W. B. (2005). A Study Commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy (pp. 260–261). Darlington, England; Webster, NY: Evangelical Press.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 2 Timothy (p. 23). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[7] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (pp. 231–232). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[8] Guthrie, D. (1990). Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 14, pp. 169–170). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Second Timothy–Titus, Philemon (Vol. 1, pp. 219–227). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[10] Utley, R. J. (2000). Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey: I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy (Vol. Volume 9, pp. 156–157). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[11] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 271–274). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[12] Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 288–289). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

July 6, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

16 The same designation for Orpah’s “gods” is used again in 1:16, where Ruth argues in effect, “your ʾelōhîm will be my ʾelōhîm.” Alastair Hunter (“How Many Gods Had Ruth?” SJT 34 [1981]: 428) notes that Naomi desired Ruth to follow Orpah in serving Moabite gods, and therein he sees an implication that Naomi believed the Moabite gods to be just as real as Yahweh, the Israelite God. “Chemosh and Yahweh were hardly to be distinguished; such difference as there was consisting largely in the social and cultural milieu. It is hardly necessary now to labour the point that the god(s) of Moab are as real as the god of Yahweh.… How many gods had Ruth? Surely one only, under whatever name” (435–36)—i.e., where the name of Yahweh is invoked, Chemosh is tacitly so, too. Hunter argues that in this respect the book of Ruth is a counterweight to the strident anti-idolatry polemic found in much of the remainder of Scripture.

This argument, too, is from silence, since throughout the book of Ruth all divine action is Yahweh’s. Yahweh blesses Moabite women with home and child (1:8–9); it is he who has made Naomi’s life bitter in Moab (1:13, 22). No action at all is ascribed to foreign gods—and it is in Naomi’s bitterness of heart that she urges her daughters to return to those gods. How does the book of Ruth agree with the Bible’s polemic against the gods of the nations? An embittered lady sends Orpah to her gods. “Go back,” she urges in effect. “Go back to your gods.” Go back to your famine. Go back to your widowhood. Go back to your barrenness. The gods of Moab are part of this death-complex. When the two sisters-in-law part, one goes to where death prevails, the other to life and Yahweh. Thus the book of Ruth does not “multiculturally” level the divine playing field by considering equal the gods of the nations and the one, true God. It does, in fact, sharply distinguish between them.[1]


16 The audience senses a decisive, dramatic turning point as attention again shifts to Ruth. One can imagine her loosening her embrace and looking Naomi directly in the eyes. With the ring of poetry, the now familiar words—her very first in the story—soar “on the wings of rhythm.” They still tower as a majestic monument of faithfulness above the biblical landscape. First, Ruth issued a command of her own: Do not pressure me to desert you. Naomi must abandon all attempts to persuade Ruth to leave her. Indeed, to drive the point home, Ruth threw back Naomi’s own phrase from v. 15 (šûḇ ʾaḥa, “to follow”)—but with a revealing difference. For Ruth, to return meant not movement “toward” something (preposition ʾel, v. 15) but “away from” Naomi (preposition min). Why stop the persuasion? Because Ruth was as adamantly disposed to accompany Naomi as Naomi was opposed to her doing so. With carefully chosen words, she affirmed that where you go, I will go, too. Here go (hlk) contradicts Naomi’s repeated go back (šûḇ) and continues the movement toward Judah, not Moab, begun in v. 7 (cf. wattēlaḵnâ). She intended not only to accompany Naomi but also to settle with her permanently (where you lodge, I will lodge, too). Ordinarily, the verb lodge (Heb. lûn) means “to spend the night” (Gen. 19:2; 24:23; Judg. 18:2; etc.), but this context requires a longer, more permanent stay, a nuance the verb also evidences (Josh. 3:1; Judg. 19:4; Ps. 25:13; etc.). Apparently, the narrator chose the more poetic verb lûn over more common ones (yāšaḇ, šāḵan, “to dwell, live”) both to highlight Ruth’s lifelong commitment and to anticipate the verb’s reappearance in 3:13. In sum, Ruth affirmed, “Wherever the future takes us, I will stay at your side.”

Further, replying to Naomi’s own words (“her people and … her god,” v. 15), Ruth chose a destiny opposite to Orpah’s: Your people will be my people, and your god will be my god. She renounced her ethnic and religious roots and adopted the nationality and religion of Naomi. Henceforth, her kinfolk would be Israelites, her god Yahweh. How surprising in view of Naomi’s bitter indictment of her god in v. 13! Further, how unparalleled is this affirmation in the Bible. While some foreign figures praised Israel’s God (queen of Sheba, 1 K. 10:9; Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 2:47; 3:28–29; 4:34 [Eng. 37]; Darius, Dan. 6:27–28 [Eng. 26–27]) or sought his mercy (king of Assyria, Jon. 3:7–9), only two actually confessed loyalty to him (Rahab, Josh. 2:11; Naaman, 2 K. 5:15; cf. v. 17). In any case, one must not minimize the sacrifice and pain involved. Whatever her motivation or her knowledge of Yahweh, she willingly abandoned her family, her familiar surroundings, and her religious traditions.26 She took on the uncertain future of a bitter widow in a land where she knew no one, enjoyed few legal rights, and—given the traditional Moabite-Israelite rivalry—faced possible ethnic prejudice (for details, see the commentary below at 2:2). Such was the character of this young Moabite widow, a character to be emulated. Ruth’s renunciation foreshadows Jesus’ teaching: to be his disciple requires one to renounce all family ties for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matt. 8:21; 10:37; 19:29).[2]


1:16 / In short, neither mother’s house, nor native people, nor ancestral ’elohim can lure Ruth away from Naomi’s side. Even Naomi cannot. Ruth is amazingly ready to walk away from everything important and meaningful in her world. Her response to Naomi is one of Scripture’s greatest declarations of interdependence. It consists of three parts: a negative refusal, a poetic comparison, and an oath.

The negative refusal, Don’t urge me to leave you, is translated in the lxx with a probably ingressive aorist infinitive, “Stop urging me” (this is not the same word translated “leave” by niv in 1:3, 5). The word for “urge” appears to be a pun on the Hebrew root paga’. At root it means “encounter” and can refer to several kinds of “encounter,” good and bad. In Judges 18:25, for example, the Danites warn Micah of possible “attack” (paga’). In Ruth 2:22, Naomi warns Ruth not to leave Boaz’s property, lest she suffer possible attack (paga’). Here Ruth warns Naomi not to encounter her too severely.

Next is the poetic comparison, Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Male-female intimacy is obviously not the context, yet these couplets continue to be a perennial favorite at weddings. “Stay” here means “stay the night” (lun) and ironically parallels the plea of the old man from Gibeah, “Don’t stay the night (lun) in the square!” (Judg. 19:20, my translation). Lun appears in several stories to signal fearful apprehension before chaotic powers (Gen. 19; Judg. 19). Your people will be my people and your God my God. There is no way of knowing what Ruth means precisely by God (’elohim). While many translations (including niv) singularize and capitalize ’elohim as “God,” it is just as likely that Ruth speaks to Naomi as Naomi earlier spoke to her, as one Syro-Palestinian to another, using theological language more at home in the polytheistic world of Mesha, Balaam, and Micah (Judg. 17–18) than in the monotheistic world of the Mishnah or the nt. As a general rule, the interpreters who insist on associating ’elohim with Yahweh here tend to be the same interpreters who insist on positing a conversion from polytheism to monotheism in Ruth.[3]


1:16 your God my God. Ruth’s extraordinary speech to Naomi rings with biblical “cadences of covenant and contract.” Her expression of commitment is primarily to Naomi (cf. 2:11); it is not necessarily a confession of monotheistic theology. When she previously married Mahlon, she married the people and the God of Mahlon. Here she solemnly commits, at a minimum, to continuing the same “package deal”16 by assuming the role of Naomi’s daughter even though she is not obligated to do so. Given Ruth’s foreign background, her remarkable loyalty shines brightly during the dark age of the judges, when the trend was toward syncretism and self-interest. The account of her faithful actions (like those of the foreigners Caleb, Rahab, Othniel, and Jael) could be viewed as an indictment against ethnic Israel, who was better equipped to act faithfully. Ruth’s response to Naomi in verses 16–17 is foundational to the rest of the narrative and serves as her first recorded act of faithfulness through which God shows his own faithfulness to his people.[4]


16–17. In what sweet and engaging language hath the Holy Ghost been pleased to convey to the church, the pious and unalterable resolution of this poor Moabite. No doubt Naomi had brought her well acquainted with the history of the God of Israel; and very many precious things she had learnt concerning the Lord’s care of his people. But Reader! had this been all, Ruth’s resolution would never have been what it was. Doubtless, from an higher power, her mind was constrained into the love of God; and hence, from this one source, the firmness of her principles derived their strength. And may not, ought not indeed, every true believer in Jesus, to feel the same firmness of attachment? Where Jesus goeth I would go. Where Jesus lodgeth I would lodge. His people are my people. His God and Father, is my Father and God in him: and both in life and death would I be with him. Death, indeed, must have parted Ruth and Naomi; but the dying day of thy people, blessed Jesus, is the real wedding-day, in which the marriage supper of the Lamb is consummated in heaven. Lord! help me to cleave unto thee, for thou art my life. May my soul say to Jesus, as Ittai did to David, 2 Sam. 15:21.[5]


Ver. 16.—And Ruth said, Insist not on me forsaking thee: for whither thou goest, I will go. Ruth’s mind was made up. Her heart would not be wrenched away from her mother-in-law. The length of the journey, its dangers, and the inevitable fatigue accompanying it, moved not, by so much as a jot, her resolution. Had not her mother-in-law the same distance to travel, the same fatigue to endure, the same perils to encounter? Might not the aged traveller, moreover, derive some assistance and cheer from the company of a young, ready-handed, and willing-hearted companion? She was resolved. Nothing on earth would separate them. Wheresoever thou lodgest, I will lodge. A better version than Luther’s, “Where thou stayest, I will stay” (wo dubleibest, da. bleibe ich auch). The reference is not to the ultimate destination, but to the nightly halts. לֽוּן is the verb employed; and it is rendered “to tarry all night” in Gen. 24:54; 28:11; 31:54; Judges 19:6, &c. It is the Latin pernoctare and the German übernachten, the former being the rendering of the Vulgate, and the latter the translation in the Berlenburger Bibel. Thy people (is) my people, and thy God my God. There being no verb in the original, it is well to supply the simplest copula. Ruth claims, as it were, Naomi’s people and Naomi’s God as her own already.[6]


16. Ruth’s answer is a classic expression of faithfulness. She declares her undying devotion to Naomi and refuses to leave her now or at any time. She first tells Naomi to cease to entreat her to leave her. Then she affirms her determination to go where Naomi goes, and to stay where Naomi stays. The verb in the expression where thou lodgest, I will lodge (av) is not usually used of a long stay (other than in poetry), but this appears to be Ruth’s meaning. She realizes what this means as the following expression indicates. She will be cut off from her own people Moab, but she will make Naomi’s people her own. And her decision has religious implications of which she is not unaware. Naomi’s God will be her God. This does not mean that she has no religious principles or that she rates friendship above faith. In the very next verse she invokes Yahweh, which indicates that already she has come to trust in him (cf. 2:12). Her trust may not have been well informed, but it was real. Simeon remarks, ‘Her views of religion might not be clear: but it is evident that a principle of vital godliness was rooted in her heart, and powerfully operative in her life. In fact, she acted in perfect conformity with that injunction that was afterwards given by our Lord, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple”.’[7]


Vers. 16, 17. Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return.—Ruth and Naomi:—

  1. I. Every person is tested. Sooner or later, but certainly. The tests will vary in severity with the cases. In every case they will be conclusive, determining the genuineness of the life professed. They cannot be evaded. If one is for Christ, he will continue with Him. The test of God cannot be too severe. The true follower cannot be driven away. To the strongest appeals he replies: “Lord, to whom shall I go?”
  2. II. When tested, an Orpah will go back. Why should she leave so much for so little? Naomi was only her mother-in-law. There was her own mother standing and beckoning in the doorway of the old home. She was not only leaving home and country, she was leaving her God. With much depth of feeling, there was not depth enough to bind her heart.

III. A Ruth, when tested, goes on. What is the difference between her and Orpah, leading to this different conduct?

  1. 1. Her devotion to Naomi. She was less impulsive, perhaps, than her sister, but hers was a love which bore testing. The Greeks and Latins, among their fine discriminations, distinguished between the emotional love of feeling and the intelligent love of choice. Orpah’s love was the former; that of Ruth was the love of choice. It grew out of careful reflection. It was a deep, undying attachment.
  2. 2. The religious foundation of her conduct. This is a trait, if not wholly wanting in her sister, too weak for any mention—a trait beside which Ruth’s exceeding love is wholly secondary. Ruth had chosen her mother’s God.
  3. 3. Her resolute exercise of will. She was moved by Naomi’s appeals. She thought anew of what she was leaving. She heard tender voices calling her, of the living, of the dead: “Come back, come back.” Her heart began to yield. When Orpah returned, she could scarcely resist the impulse to go with her. Then “she strengthened herself.” She summoned her soul. She put forth a supreme exercise of will.
  4. IV. Ruth received her reward. She became an ancestress of the world’s Redeemer. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

Ruth’s choice:—

All the elements of a true choice of God are here described.

  1. 1. It involves the surrender of a false belief. This quiet scene may be placed beside that on Carmel. Ruth’s decision is mightier in its gentleness than Israel’s in its terror. In manner the two are as unlike as the dawn to the earthquake; in results as the clear ray of a planet to the flash of a meteor. In essence they are the same. Our false god has no repulsive name, such as Baal or Chemosh; its real title is self, its worship sin, its wages death. It must be surrendered.
  2. 2. True choice of God involves sacrifice. To start out with Naomi meant not pleasantness, but bitterness. Ruth followed, as she thought, to loneliness, homelessness, perpetual widowhood; against the desire of those she left, without the wish of those to whom she was going; ready to work, to beg, to die if need be, for the one who stood to her as representing God. To-day, Canaan in the Church welcomes even Moab to its circle. Earthly advantages are largely on its side. But a cross seems to wait somewhere in the way, if only that sore surrender of pride and pleasure and will which prompt the soul’s real refusal.
  3. 3. God sends help to a right choice. Providences both of joy and of sorrow; attractions and repulsions of heart; subtle influences of companionship; favour and famine; marriage and mourning; our life is one long plea for Him.
  4. 4. A decision is forced. Somewhere in the way comes a test. On either side example, desire, promise; we must hold to the one and forsake the other.
  5. 5. Right decision has its great rewards. What Ruth feared proved only unsuspected blessings. Losing her life, she found it. Bishop Hall exclaims: “Oh, the sure and beautiful payment of the Almighty! Who ever forsook the Moab of this world for the true Israel, and did not at length rejoice in the change?” (Charles M. Southgate.)

Conduct of Orpah and Ruth contrasted:—

It is the difference between feeling and principle in religion, between emotion and consecration, kissing and cleaving.

  1. I. Emotion has its large appointed place in life. It is the colour and fragrance of the soul’s world. It gives both impulse and reward to action. Emotion has great play in religion. God appeals to it. The character of God is so presented as to excite our emotions. We tremble at His awfulness, adore His greatness. The story of Christ’s life and death has power to move us beyond all else. The insensible heart is usually a selfish heart. But—
  2. II. Emotion will not take the place of consecration. Here distinguish between sensuous and spiritual impressions. There is a peace, a rapture, which the Spirit breathes into the believing soul, the promised manifestation of Christ to him “that hath My commandments and keepeth them.” This is the reward of obedience, not its substitute; is not of nature, but of grace. No degree of feeling about religious things is religion. Natural fondness toward God, as toward parents, may be the mere delight of an emotional nature, a snare to the soul and an affront to Him. What joy to Christ that eyes which overflow for a novel or a play should moisten at the story of Calvary? There is need of searchings of heart and stings of conscience in unsuspected places. Orpah and Ruth feel alike, love alike, but part for ever at the test of following.

III. The true office of emotion is to draw to consecration. Feeling is for the sake of following. The Church has still no realm of mightier influence than a consecrated home. The heaviest condemnation of many in the day of judgment will be that they resisted the influences and withstood the prayers of a godly home.

  1. IV. Choosing God is proved by choosing God’s people. The world estimates our relation to Christ by our relation to His followers. Yet it often seems as if men must be twice converted, first to Christ, and again to His Church. Do not let this woman’s devotion shame us. She gave up, literally, all her world for God. True devotion to Christ turns to His Church with Ruth’s matchless consecration. (Ibid.)

Ruth; or, decision for God:—

  1. 1. An impulsive religion is not always real religion; nay, is very often the reverse. Better, far better, to be quiet and undemonstrative like Ruth, and to have the root of the matter in us, than to be impulsive and demonstrative like Orpah, and in the hour of trial to fail. A straw will show in what direction the stream is flowing. Ask yourself, “How do I act in little things? Is self habitually postponed to God? And this because the Lord is my joy?”
  2. 2. The importance of (nay, the necessity for) an entire surrender of ourselves to God, if we would be Christians indeed. Let us ask ourselves, “Is it thus with me and the Saviour? Have I thus taken Christ to be mine? Do I thus cleave to Him? Is He supreme in my affections?”
  3. 3. The choice which we have been considering must be made with the full determination to abide by it, come weal or come woe, for ever. (Aubrey C. Price, B.A.)

Ruth’s trial and decision:—

It must have been a severe trial to Ruth’s constancy when she beheld her sister-in-law, who had probably been the companion of her youth and the friend of her early widowhood, turning away back to Moab and its idol-gods and leaving her alone with Naomi; for we are greatly influenced for good or for evil by sympathy and numbers. And had her steadfastness now depended on her human relations and affections alone, and had her heart not stricken down and rooted itself in something that was Divine, she would in all likelihood have returned after her sister-in-law. When one flower in a garden is pulled up, it loosens the hold of all the other flowers near it, unless they are much more deeply rooted. And Naomi’s words seemed to give a voice to this temptation: “Behold, thy sister-in-law has gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law.” This was like giving an increased momentum to the stroke, or feathering the arrow and driving it to its mark. But let us not misunderstand the venerable woman in her yearning interest and disguised love. There was a hidden harmony between her treatment of Ruth and the rule to deal gently with young converts as you would do with the early spring blossom or with the new-born child. But she dreaded a choice made from mere temporary impulse or secondary motives. The cable that is to connect the ship with the anchor needs to be tested in every strand or link. One weak point makes all weak, and may be the occasion of death to thousands. Suppose Ruth to go on to Bethlehem-judah, to be brought face to face with the stern realities of penury, and then to regret her choice and to steal away back to Moab, would not the most sacred interests suffer the most? Here, then, was her “valley of decision.” Naomi had anticipated the maxim, “Try before you trust”; but she was equally ready to obey the other part of it, “Trust after you have tried.” (A. Thomson, D.D.)

Whither thou goest, I will go; … thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.—Ruth: Mind, its purposes and powers:—

  1. 1. That private families are as much under the providence of God as the houses of kings.
  2. 2. That whilst religion does not secure from the ordinary trials of life, it does secure their being overruled for good.
  3. 3. That a devout committal of our being to God in His providence will never fail of its reward. In the text we have—
  4. I. A deliberate resolution for the true.
  5. 1. The true in society.
  6. 2. The true in worship.
  7. II. A social influence for the true.
  8. 1. Naomi represented her country, and her people, and her God, to Ruth.
  9. 2. The representation which Naomi gave was most attractive.

(1) Every man’s conduct is a reflection both of his companions and his God.

(2) Heathens are able to identify our companions and our God.

(3) We may give such a view of both as will draw them into our circle.

III. An invincible energy for the time.

  1. 1. This force triumphed over all old associations.
  2. 2. This force overcame all the pleadings of Naomi.
  3. 3. This force changed her social condition and her destiny.

Away with the dogma that man is the creature of circumstances! The soul is a mariner that can so pilot her barque as to make the most hostile winds waft her to the shores on which her heart is set. She is an eagle that can rise above the darkest thundercloud of circumstances, and bask in sunlight, whilst that cloud spends itself in wild tempests beneath her buoyant wing. (Homilist.)

Ruth’s decision:—

  1. I. The circumstances of her decision.
  2. II. The extent of her decision. It comprehends the sum of all her actions, and reaches to the utmost limit of her existence. Profession without principle is nothing.

III. The felicity of her decision. There is no substantial happiness apart from real religion. Application:

  1. 1. Are we Christians? Then we have each a soul to save—a God to serve.
  2. 2. Are we yet undecided? Ruth is our pattern.
  3. 3. Are we indifferent? Then we resemble Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law. ( Ellaby, B.A.)

The faithful choice:—

  1. 1. It was an humble choice. She has nothing to offer but herself. She affects not to bring anything which can make her of any worth. She pleads only for permission to be to Naomi in her future life all that affection and fidelity can make her. She has nothing else to offer. It matters not in what condition of life the child of earth was born, when the Holy Spirit brings her heart to Jesus she comes as a beggar. Parents and sisters may say she has been always the light and comfort of the household. They are ready to think she has never sinned. And yet she feels the burden of guilt, and weeps, and prays over the remembrance of her foolish, wasted life. The preciousness of the faithful saying, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, is her only comfort. The assurance that the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost is her single encouragement and support.
  2. 2. It was an affectionate choice. Her heart is with Naomi. Her desires all reach forward to the land to which Naomi journeys, and thither, on whatever terms, she must and she will go. It is just such a choice to which the Saviour would lead you all. “My daughter, give Me thy heart,” is His tender appeal to you. And our youthful, spiritual traveller freely and affectionately responds, “I give my heart to Thee; Thy face will I seek; hide not Thy face from me.” Her choice is of the Saviour, because she really loves Him. Infinite attractions are gathered around Him. His service seems to her all that she can desire.
  3. 3. Ruth’s choice was an entire one. There was no hesitation in her mind about the decision she should make. She manifested no remaining love for Moab, and no lingering desire to carry something of Moab with her. And it was this entire choice which made the happiness of her future course. She made the exchange, the transfer of herself, freely, completely, and without reserve. And there was nothing left to turn her back to Moab in her possible experience hereafter. When the choice of a Saviour is thus entire, how completely it opens the way for future duty! How it settles all future discussions and difficulties with a single decision! The secret of happiness in religion is just here. Making it the entire, single choice of the heart. The troubles and difficulties in the Saviour’s service habitually arise from the vain attempt to serve two masters.
  4. 4. Ruth’s choice was a determined choice. Lovely and gentle as she appears, and humbly and affectionately as she pleads, there was amazing dignity and firmness in her stand. Some of the most triumphant and remarkable deaths in the history of early martyrdom for Christ are of young and tender virgins who calmly and boldly endured every conceivable torture without a moment’s faltering. “I am a Christian,” was their gentle but firm reply to every solicitation to recant, until, worn out with suffering, they departed to be with Christ. You may never be called to the same sorrows. But you will be always summoned to the same decision. Jesus will always require from you the same unshrinking, determined choice.
  5. 5. Ruth’s choice was an instant choice. She asked no time for consideration. Her mind was made up. Her decision was settled. She staggered not in unbelief, nor wavered amidst conflicting motives. Why should we ever hesitate a moment in our acceptance of the Saviour’s offers? Surely when the Lord sets before us life and death, a blessing and a curse, and bids us choose for ourselves which we will have, we require no time for consideration. It has become a mere question of personal voluntary choice. This can never be settled but by our own personal decision and act. If it is to be settled, it must be finally, in a single moment of time. Why should that moment be delayed? Why should that frank and affectionate choice be postponed? Make an instant choice. Say, “When Thou sayest, Seek ye My face, my heart replies, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Why should any of you hesitate? All the arguments of truth, of interest, of duty, of happiness, are on one side. ( H. Tyng, D.D.)

The noble choice:—

Five choices Ruth made, and five choices must we all make if we ever want to get to heaven.

  1. 1. In the first place, if we want to become Christians, we must, like Ruth in the text, choose the Christian’s God—a loving God; a sympathetic God; a great hearted God; an all-encompassing God; a God who flings Himself on this world in a very abandonment of everlasting affection.
  2. 2. Again, if we want to be Christians, like Ruth in the text we must take the Christian’s path. “Where thou goest, I will go,” cried out the beautiful Moabitess to Naomi. Dangerous promise that. There were deserts to be crossed. There were jackals that came down through the wilderness. There were bandits. There was the Dead Sea. Naomi says: “Ruth, you must go back. You are too delicate to take this journey. You will give out in the first five miles. You have not the physical stamina, or the moral courage, to go with me.” Ruth responds: “Mother, I am going, anyhow. If I stay in this land I will be overborne of the idolaters; if I go along with you I shall serve God. Give me that bundle. Let me carry it. I am going with you, mother, anyhow.”
  3. 3. Again, if we want to become Christians, like Ruth in the text we must choose the Christian’s habitation. “Where thou lodgest, will I lodge,” cried Ruth to Naomi. She knew that wherever Naomi stopped, whether it were hovel or mansion, there would be a Christian home; and she wanted to be in it.
  4. 4. If we want to become Christians, like Ruth in the text we must choose Christian associations. “Thy people shall be my people!” cried out Ruth to Naomi. Oh, ye unconverted people, I know not how you can stand it down in that moping, saturnine worldly association. Come up into the sunlight of Christian society—those people for whom all things are working right now, and will work right for ever. I tell you that the sweetest japonicas grow in the Lord’s garden; that the largest grapes are from the vineyards of Canaan; that the most sparkling floods break forth from the “Rock of Ages.” Do not too much pity this Ruth of my text; for she is going to become joint-owner of the great harvest-fields of Boaz.
  5. 5. Once more, if we want to become Christians, we must, like Ruth in the text, choose the Christian’s death and burial. She exclaimed: “Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried.” I think we all, when leaving this world, would like to be surrounded by Christian influences. You would not like to have your dying pillow surrounded by caricaturists, and punsters, and wine-bibbers. How would you like to have John Leech come with his London pictorials, and Christopher North with his loose fun, and Tom Hood with his rhyming jokes, when you are dying? No, no! What we want is radiation in the last moment. Yes; Christian people on either side the bed, and Christian people at the foot of the bed, and Christian people to close my eyes, and Christian people to carry me out, and Christian people to look after those whom I leave behind, and Christian people to remember me a little while after I am gone. ( De Witt Talmage.)

Trueheartedness and the tests of true-heartedness:—

  1. I. I observe that the conduct of Ruth assures us that there is such a thing as true-heartedness, and thus teaches a lesson of trust in humanity. It reveals certain elements in humanity that are reliable. Much heartlessness, much frivolity and sin, will a wise and good man find as he goes about in the world, much to dissipate the rosy credulousness of his youth, and to sadden his philanthropy; but, on the other hand, something of his faith will be justified, and he will learn that, after all, there are elements in human nature worthy our trust and our love. As the chemist finds some admixture in what seemed to be a simple element, so, doubtless, at the bottom of the purest heart lurks some particle of self, some ingredient of our earthly composition. And if one is disposed to turn a magnifying-glass upon this, it will appear enormous; if he beholds it through the lens of a sad or a foul experience, it will look grimy or distorted; or, if with nothing more than his naked eye he has a mind to notice only the evil that exists among men, he can see plenty of it, and it will look badly enough. But it is an equally correct theory of human nature, and a much more agreeable one, which admits the conviction of some moral loyalty, extant even in the obscurest places, and maintained under all trials.
  2. II. But, having thus vindicated human nature as to the fact of true-heartedness, let us proceed to consider its tests. By what signs or expressions may we be assured of its presence? I reply that the very words of the text, the very ideas to which Ruth referred, afford a sufficient indication of these tests. For consider what these ideas, expressed in the language of Ruth, really are. They are the ideas of home, country, God, and the end of our mortal life. And are there any ideas more vital than these? Surely, if one cherishes any sacred and true thoughts at all, they must cluster around these things.
  3. 1. Home, that has sheltered and nourished you, that encloses your most secret life, that claims the first flow of your affections and their last throb.
  4. 2. Country, that organism which links your individual being to a public interest, that gives you a share in history, a pride in great names, an influence in world-wide issues, and, as a second home, inspires you with a more comprehensive loyalty.
  5. 3. The grave, which bounds all earthly action, and limits every earthly condition, that realm where distinctions of home and country melt away, the bed where all must lie, “the relentless crucible” in which rags and splendour alike dissolve, the gateway to a stupendous mystery.
  6. 4. And God, the Infinite Being to whom the instincts of our souls respond, to whom in our highest consciousness we aspire, the Source and the Interpretation of all existence, the Light that comprehends our darkness, the Strength that sustains our weakness, the Presence to which in our guilt and our adoration we lift our cry, the Nature in which we live and move and have our being—these are great realities; and it appears to me that the words of Ruth are so eloquent, and her devotion seems so great, because of the greatness of the things she spoke of. Indeed, does not this ground of thought and action constitute a grand distinction of our humanity? If in many points man is closely linked to the brute, is he not largely separated by his thoughts concerning these things, and by his action upon them? Ascribe to the animal such affections, such faculties, such power of reasoning, as we may and as we must, surely no one will claim for him such conceptions as man entertains concerning home and country and God and the limitations of his earthly lot. These are manifestations of human nature which project beyond the sphere of mere animal life, and indicate a larger scope of being. They are marks of immortality. Start with any one of these ideas, and see to what it leads. For instance, the relationships of home—is there not an argument for immortality in these? Or start from the idea of country, and is not the same conclusion unfolded? The duties, the achievements, the historical problems, that pertain to nationality, do not they suggest it? And he upon whose mind dawns some apprehension of the Infinite, he who feels assured that he holds communion with the Eternal Spirit, and presses forward towards that perfect excellence, never completely to attain, but always capable of larger attainment—surely in essence he must be imperishable. And the grave itself, dark and silent as it is, to such a conscious soul cannot seem the final barrier of existence, but only the suggestive portal of new achievements. If, then, these great realities, of which Ruth spoke, are associated with all that is deepest and noblest in our humanity, he who proves faithful to even one of these ideas, who holds it as a sacred conviction, and cherishes it with a pure love, has in him the core of true-heartedness, the ground of a principle, and a possibility in which we may trust. And permit me to add that these tests are personal and practical, tests by which we may try not so much the trueheartedness of others, for which we may have very little function, but by which each may try his own. A man can hardly ask himself a more practical question than this: “What are my thoughts, and what is my conduct, respecting home, country, God, and the limitations of my mortal life?”

III. I remark, finally, that these four ideas are not only the tests of personal true-heartedness—they also reveal the great bond of our common humanity. That which is common to men abides in the hearts of men, is linked with the great facts expressed in the text. They thus indicate the natural ground of human unity. And upon these ideas it is the tendency of Christianity to develop a still nobler unity. (E. H. Chapin, D.D.)

A good resolution:—

  1. I. A resolution to pursue the journey to heaven.
  2. 1. It is a narrow way.
  3. 2. It sometimes proves a way of affliction.
  4. 3. It is nevertheless a very pleasant way.
  5. II. A resolution to be satisfied with spiritual entertainments.
  6. 1. The Christian finds a sweet entertainment in communion with his God—in praising Him, which is one of the most delightful exercises of the mind; and in prayer, which is so necessary for the renewing of his spiritual strength.
  7. 2. In the Word of God he finds a delightful repast. He is made wise unto salvation.
  8. 3. In the conversation of his fellow Christians, the believer finds delightful refreshing.
  9. 4. The believer finds also times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord when he takes up his abode in the house of God. He experiences the truth of the promise,” they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”

III. A resolution to cast in the lot with the people of God. Before you make a resolution so to do, count the cost, and consider the nature of the step which you propose to take.

  1. 1. The people of God have generally been a persecuted people.
  2. 2. The people of God are an afflicted people.
  3. 3. The people of God are a holy people.
  4. 4. We have said that the people of God are a persecuted and an afflicted people, but they are nevertheless a people of the best prospects, so that they are truly wise, and consult their own best interests, who cast in their lot among them.
  5. IV. A resolution to choose the service of God. When a sinner is truly converted from his sin he cleaves unto the Lord with purpose of heart. “Thy God shall be my God,” is the resolution which he expresses to the Church of Christ; and in doing so—
  6. 1. He resolves to cast away his idols.
  7. 2. He who makes this resolution receives God in Christ as his God—God in the person of the Mediator.
  8. 3. He who chooses God for his God resolves to devote himself to the active service of God.
  9. V. A resolution to be faithful unto death. What is necessary to faithfulness unto death?
  10. 1. Begin aright.
  11. 2. Persevere as you begin, for Christ is not only the Door but the Way. Often repair to the fountain of His blood for peace; constantly resort to His throne of grace for spiritual strength; often sit at the feet of Jesus to learn the mysteries of the kingdom of God. To conclude—
  12. 1. We admire the constancy and perseverance of Ruth.
  13. 2. We learn from this passage of Scripture that we ought to be faithful to those who are inquiring the way to Zion with their faces thitherward.
  14. 3. The inquiring and anxious sinner should persevere whatever difficulties may present themselves. If the difficulties and trials of the way were tenfold, it would still be his interest as well as his duty to endure unto the end. (Essex Remembrancer.)

Ruth the true-hearted:—

That strong and brave decision on the hills of her native Moab, where she resolves to cling to her aged and sorrow-stricken mother-in-law, reveals a character of no ordinary quality. There is in her what, for want of a better phrase, I must call depth of nature. Her character is rooted in a deep, rich soil of true humanity. A woman whose whole being is on the surface, who has no hidden deeps of feeling and thought and aspiration and love—a tree decked with showy blossoms, but never hung with golden fruit—is felt to be false to her true nature and Heaven-appointed mission. Ruth reveals to us a character nourished and strengthened from the unseen depths of an affluent nature which we love to associate with woman. The shallow woman exhibits no such heroism as that of Ruth. Here, too, we discover in her that most essential characteristic of a true woman—heart. She thinks and speaks and acts like one whose inspiring life-force is a heart aglow with the fires of feeling, throbbing with the pulsations of love and beneficence; and her whole outward life is but the spontaneous outflow of this full, fresh fountain within. A nature thus endowed and animated is rich in its own resources, and bestows its abundant benefactions upon all who come within its charmed sphere. The heart is the true regulator and benefactor of life. Sometimes neither art nor intellect predominates, but the throne which the heart should occupy is held by the ungracious goddess of Stoicism—a stolid form, which no prayer can move to sympathy, and from which no loving word ever proceeds. How desolate is the nature over which either of these three false powers presides! How impoverished is every life encompassed by the chilling atmosphere of such a nature! On the other hand, how enriched are all they who breathe the genial air which surrounds one with a nature like that of Ruth, in which the heart sits queen on her rightful throne, and dispenses her regal gifts to all. Hence the importance of true heart-culture in education. The neglect of this essential part of genuine culture, and the giving of exclusive attention to the intellect is one of the most perilous tendencies of this age. Such a process may produce a Lucretia Borgia in one sphere, and a George Eliot in another; but a Madame Guyon, a Mary Lyon, and an Elizabeth Fry will seldom or never come forth to bless mankind under its false reign. It is Madame De Stael who wisely says that “life is valuable only so far as it serves for the religious education of the heart.” Let us note another feature in the character of Ruth. Devoted affection like that of this young Moabitess to her aged mother-in-law deserves our highest tribute. There is an utter unselfishness in this devotion that is beautiful to contemplate. A selfish, exacting, suspicious passion, misnamed love, is the curse of its possessor; a love pure and unselfish is the perpetual joy of the heart in which it glows, and of all who feel its Divine warmth. Orpah can speak loving words; Ruth can do heroic deeds. A selfish person cannot interpret unselfish love. Two hearts must be in happy accord to read the meaning of each aright. Blessed are they who can discern and feel true goodness. Blessed are those homes where true-hearted Ruths preside and Love reigns, goddess of the happy home circle. Yes, it is heart-power, and not any other force, that is most impressive and most enduring even in this unappreciative world. Courage pays its devotion at the shrine of suffering love; physical force surrenders to the higher power of the heart. “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but upon what foundations did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded His empire upon love, and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.” We must rear monuments in human hearts, by true love and devotion to humanity, if we would live through succeeding ages. The crowning grace of Ruth’s character, as it is that of every other human being, is her piety. Love to man is crowned and glorified by love to God. (C. H. Payne, D.D.)

True decision:—

We have just stood at the line which separates Moab from Judah. Orpah has gone. We shall trace her course no longer. We would gladly never see her example followed by others. We must now confine ourselves to the beautiful decision and faithful choice of Ruth. She stands before us a sincere youthful convert to the Lord’s service. She has decided the question for her soul by gratefully accepting the offers of a Saviour’s love. She sets out upon an untried journey alone. Naomi, indeed, is with her. And her heart is affectionately bound to her mother-in-law. But Ruth has many cares, trials, and remembrances of which Naomi is not conscious. To Naomi the journey is a well-known return. To Ruth every step is untried and new. She was born in Moab. She knows nothing of Judah. Thus is it with every youthful convert. The experienced and aged Christian has much acquaintance with the way in which you go. The new-born child of grace takes every step on ground unknown and untried. This is the way in which all must go who would walk with God. “This people shall dwell alone.” Each one, be the multitude ever so great, is a hidden one with God. Multitudes may be travelling in the same direction, but the feelings and experience of each are solitary. Ruth must make her decision in her own secret heart, and make it for herself alone. Her earthly friends must all be left. They are in Moab, from whence she takes now her final departure. This separation is not to be made without a trial of her faith. The more affectionate she is in her real choice, the more she will feel the separation from those whom she leaves behind. Religion cannot destroy our earthly affections, our interest in those who are dear to us in natural ties. Nay, it much increases the warmth and power of our love. This decision may often meet with much opposition from those with whom you dwell. Your dearest earthly connections may oppose. They love you. But they do not love your religion. You must follow the Lord fully though you follow Him alone among your earthly connections; and He will make those who oppose at peace with you. Be faithful to Him, and your fidelity shall be the source of increased confidence and respect, even from the worldly who appear to reject and despise you. As we trace the history of Ruth, we find her meeting with new trials of her faith and decision after she sets out alone. Orpah has gone. But still Naomi proves the spirit of Ruth. Your sister has gone back to her people and her gods. If you mean ever to go back, now is your best time to go. Remember, I have nothing to offer you. If you go with me it must be to be a partner of my griefs and wants. Thus God often proves the young disciple with new trials. He sends His east wind upon the young trees of His planting; not to weaken or destroy, but to give greater strength and endurance for the time to come. Our real conversion to Him is an hour of peace and blessedness; but it is not an end of trial. Nay, it is the very beginning of new contests; and our fidelity in the decision we have made is to be proved at once, and to be proved constantly, by new dispensations of the will of God. Be really faithful and sincere, and God will prove your faith, to strengthen, settle, and stablish you for ever. Be truly gold, and then the refiner’s fire will only purify and make you bright. This faithful decision Ruth was obliged to make in the face of backsliding in others. She sees Orpah go back, yet she perseveres. When a child of the world comes out on the side of Christ, and pursues, in the midst of the evil examples of many, a course of simple, faithful devotion to the Saviour, how it honours His truth! How it strengthens His cause! How it impresses even those who oppose! How such faithfulness is owned and prospered by the Lord, to whom it is offered, in the usefulness to others of the life which is adorned by it. (S. H. Tyng, D.D.)

Ruth deciding for God:—

  1. I. Affection for the godly should influence us to godliness. Many forces combine to effect this.
  2. 1. There is the influence of companionship.
  3. 2. The influence of admiration. Let us therefore copy the saints.
  4. 3. The influence of instruction. When we learn from a teacher we are affected by him in many ways. Instruction is a kind of formation.
  5. 4. The influence of reverence. Those who are older, wiser, and better than we are create in us a profound respect, and lead us to follow their example.
  6. 5. The influence of desire to cheer them.
  7. 6. The influence of fear of separation. It will be an awful thing to be eternally divided from the dear ones who seek our salvation.
  8. II. Resolves to godliness will be tested.
  9. 1. By the poverty of the godly and their other trials.
  10. 2. By counting the cost.
  11. 3. By the drawing back of others.
  12. 4. By the duties involved in religion. Ruth must work in the fields. Some proud people will not submit to the rules of Christ’s house, nor to the regulations which govern the daily lives of believers.
  13. 5. By the apparent coldness of believers. Naomi does not persuade her to keep with her, but the reverse. She was a prudent woman, and did not wish Ruth to come with her by persuasion, but by conviction.
  14. 6. By the silent sorrow of some Christians. Naomi said, “Call me not Naomi, but call me Bitterness.” Persons of a sorrowful spirit there always will be; but this must not hinder us from following the Lord.

III. Such godliness must mainly lie in the choice of God.

  1. 1. This is the believer’s distinguishing possession: “Thy God shall be my God.”
  2. 2. His great article of belief: “I believe in God.”
  3. 3. His ruler and lawgiver: “Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments” (Psa. 119:38).
  4. 4. His instructor: “Teach me Thy way, O Lord” (Psa. 28:2).
  5. 5. His trust and stay (see chap. 2:12): “This God is our God for ever and ever, He will be our guide even unto death” (Psa. 48:14).
  6. IV. But it should involve the choice of His people: “Thy people shall be my people.” They are ill spoken of by the other kingdom. Not all we could wish them to be. Not a people out of whom much is to be gained. But Jehovah is their God, and they are His people. Our eternal inheritance is part and parcel of theirs. Let us make deliberate, humble, firm, joyful, immediate choice for God and His saints; accepting their lodging in this world, and going with them whither they are going. ( H. Spurgeon.)

The influence of friends:—

It is not improbable that Ruth was in heart a Jewess, and that, for reasons which looked beyond the mere temporalities of life, she desired to cast in her lot with the descendants of Abraham. It may be that the religion which her mother-in-law brought with her into Moab had become the daughter’s hope; and, discerning in it those elements of truth which were wanting in the faith of her own fathers, she naturally concluded that the people who were guided by its promises and commands would have power and blessing from above. When we add to this the fact that this woman was to be one in that line of generation through which passed the seed of the Shiloh, that the child yet to be born to her was to be the father of David’s sire, we may see how direct is the conclusion that this heathen woman did, in her conduct, obey not merely the impulses of nature, but the influences of grace. It does not appear probable that God, having such a work for her to do, would leave her to herself; that He would trust to her unguided will and emotion the part which He designed her to act in His great scheme of love. The decision of Ruth, then, supplies us with this proposition: those who are striving to serve the Lord should cling to those who are the disciples of the same Master. The law of dependence, as it acts upon this world of human beings, and resolves itself into the other laws of influence and of sympathy, is found in all the relations of man. In itself it is a beautiful thing, this leaning of one upon another, this clasping of hand to hand in the great circle of human brotherhood, and feeling the electric spark as the touch of a single finger sends a thrill through the multitude. Man was born for this thing, even when he was born without sin; and that would be a high life where this law of sympathy was at work, with no power but the power of doing good. With us, however, the kindest laws of heaven have felt the disturbing force of sin; and sin has so perverted them that they act against their design, and in opposition to themselves. The influences, then, of one upon another may be for evil, as well as for good; the best intentions may be counteracted, and the best efforts frustrated, by those with whom we stand connected under the laws of social life. If we desire to serve God and be the sincere followers of our Lord we must break away from those who are serving other gods, and seek the companionship of those who serve the God of Israel. If, in times past, our associations have been with worldly persons, if we have moved in that circle of life where there is no God save the passions, and no law save the will, we must break out from this circle and enter another where life takes a higher form. We must surround ourselves with those whose thoughts and aims are upward, like our own, that thus our strivings may be aided, and our efforts sustained, by those with whom we have to do. This counsel touches some of the most delicate points in the social state. It enters into the family circle, and draws its lines between those who have a common interest in the things which concern the body. It sweeps through all our connections, from the highest to the lowest, and demands that everywhere, and under every form, its authority be acknowledged and its injunctions obeyed. Now, of these ties of nature, some are voluntary, and others are not. Of the latter I will not now speak; while concerning the former I have something more to say. The tie of marriage is a voluntary tie, and I here confess my amazement at the readiness with which Christians yoke themselves with unbelievers. I know of few greater hindrances to a consistent walking with God than an irreligious husband or an irreligious wife. We say, and the remark is applied to religious things, that the husband can go his way, and the wife her way; but this proves, in the trial, to be about as practicable as for the parts of the body to separate and move off in opposite directions. The tie forbids this independence; and there is not a Christian wife or husband in the world who can so overcome the law which holds them as to act with entire freedom in the face of indifference or opposition. It is time for some one to tell the people that marriage is an institution of the Most High God, and that in its laws it touches the interests which are eternal as well as those which are temporal. (S. Cooke, D.D.)

Ruth’s spiritual affinity with Naomi:—

This family feeling reigns among all the true sons of God under every dispensation. It operates with all the steadiness of an instinct. Apart altogether from Divine commands, believers exercise mutual attraction like planets that move round the same central orb. They are conscious of “the unity of the Spirit.” Under the Old Testament, “they that feared the Lord spake often one to another”; under the New Testament, “they that believed were together.” There is not an instance recorded in the whole inspired history of Christians preferring to live in isolation from their brethren. If there were only two believers in the same city, they would be irresistibly drawn to each other just in the degree in which they were believers. And those who are thus mutually attracted shed many mutual blessings, like flowers growing contiguous to each other in a garden that drop the dew around each other’s roots. And now her God-inspired resolution strengthening and glowing as she proceeds, culminates in a solemn vow of undying constancy, in which she imprecates Heaven’s righteous retribution upon herself should she fail to keep it: “The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (A. Thomson, D.D.)

Influence:—

The Bible affirms that no man liveth to himself. Each life has an influence. What is influence? It is that subtle something which resides in our deeds, words, spirit, and character. It is a shadow of ourselves, our impersonal self. It is to us relatively what the fragrance is to the flowers, what light is to the star. We are all sensitive to influence: our hearts are open to goodness, beauty, genius. There is never a day when perhaps unconsciously we do not receive and reflect a thousand shadowy forms. Some are more receptive of influences than others, just as there are certain soils that drink in more greedily sunshine and shower; and as there are certain bodily conditions more open to disease, so there are certain mental and moral dispositions more open to good and evil, truth and error. There are men like clay—you can mould them as you will; others are like rock—you must chisel them as you can. Naomi was not perfect, but she exerted a great influence upon her daughters-in-law.

  1. I. Some of the lines along which her influence was transmitted.
  2. 1. There was relationship. Naomi was mother-in-law to Ruth. This link was sanctified to the salvation of Ruth. Relationship is to-day one of the most powerful aids to moral influence. See it in the Gospels: Andrew first finds his own brother Simon; Philip findeth Nathanael. Most children are open to maternal influences. Native missionaries are the best. Influence follows love.
  3. 2. There was sorrow. These women had shared a common grief: they had watched at the same bed of death; participated in the same hopes and fears. Naomi would comfort Ruth with her Jewish hope and consolation. Sorrow fits for influence. The heart is plastic. The wax is melted and receives the impress of the seal. The mind is filled for the teaching. Such opportunities for transmission of holy influence are constantly occurring.
  4. 3. There was humanity. Relationship and sorrow are accidental; humanity is the essential fact, and binds the world together. Angelic influence is impeded by difference in nature. Our hands fit into each other’s palm, our faces reflect similar features. We have common wants and ways. Influence runs along the lines of our human brotherhood.
  5. II. Some of the impediments that might have interrupted her influence. There were considerations adverse to her influence.
  6. 1. Nationality. Ruth was a Moabitess. Israel and Moab were ancient enemies. The Turk will not readily yield to the English influence. Yet so great is the power of moral influence that it overcame this barrier.
  7. 2. Education. Ruth had grown up to womanhood before she came under the influence of Naomi; her habits were formed. She was a devout idolatress. Here was a strong impediment for moral influence to overcome. Virgin soil may be easily cultivated as we wish; not so the land long covered with weeds. When the whole man is overrun with noxious principles it is not easy to exterminate and implant new ideas and habits. This the good life of Naomi accomplished in Ruth.
  8. 3. Adverse example. Orpah went back to Moab. The good influence may fail even where its power has been felt strongly. Who can estimate the power of adverse example to-day! How many are turned by it from the ways of religion! Naomi may be counteracted by Orpah.

III. The success of the good influence. The success was not absolute. Orpah returned, Ruth continued. See her wisdom. She in her turn becomes influential and useful—a help to Naomi. She becomes a permanent factor in the redemptive history. See the wisdom of yielding to high moral influences. (E. Biscombe.)

The power of Christian character

shining through the life of a Christian man is strikingly illustrated in the following incident: “An Afghan once spent an hour in the company of Dr. William Marsh, of England. When he heard that Dr. Marsh was dead, he said: ‘His religion shall now be my religion; his God shall be my God; for I must go where he is and see his face again.’ ”

If ought but death part thee and me.—Religion a powerful bond:—

  1. 1. Such and so powerful is the bond of religion that it makes the saints of God not only desirous, but even resolute also, both to live and die together.
  2. 2. All persons and people should so live as those that do expect that they and their relations may die. So Ruth did here expect it, both for her mother and for herself. “Alas, I never thought of his death.” So there be others that live so licentiously as if they should never die, never come to judgment, as if they were to have an eternity of pleasure of sin in this world (as Psa. 49:10–13).
  3. 3. As burial is one of the dues of the dead, so dear friends desire to be buried together. Ruth desires to be buried with her godly mother. It is very observable that the first purchase of possession mentioned in Scripture history was a place to bury in, not to build in (Gen. 23:9).
  4. 4. Death is the final dissolution of all bonds of duty, whether natural, civil, or religious. The wife is no longer bound to her husband (Rom. 7:1–4), children to parents, subjects to princes, and people to pastors. ( Ness.)[8]

[1] Schwab, G. M. (2012). Ruth. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, p. 1317). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Hubbard, R. L. (1988). The Book of Ruth (pp. 117–118). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Moore, M. S. (2012). Ruth. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Joshua, Judges, Ruth (pp. 321–322). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Way, K. C. (2016). Judges and Ruth. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 189). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books: A Division of Baker Publishing Group.

[5] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Deuteronomy–2 Samuel (Vol. 2, p. 432). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ruth (p. 19). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[7] Cundall, A. E., & Morris, L. (1968). Judges and Ruth: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, pp. 251–252). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Joshua, Judges, and Ruth (Vol. 3, pp. 26–35). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

July 5, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

The New Covenant Is Energized by the Spirit

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (3:17)

There was nothing in the old covenant to energize obedience. The Law was a jailer, locking up sinners and condemning them to death and hell. But the new covenant liberates through the power of “the Spirit [who] gives life” (3:6).

Paul’s declaration that the Lord is the Spirit strongly affirms the deity of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 5:3–4). The same God who gave the old covenant gave the new covenant. The same God who gave the Law is the God who brings salvation under the new covenant. The almighty Yahweh of the Old Testament is the same God who grants liberty in the new covenant from the futile attempts to earn salvation by keeping the Law. It is the Spirit of the Lord who brings the liberty of salvation to repentant sinners of any age—liberty from bondage to the Law (Rom. 7:1–6), Satan (Heb. 2:14–15), fear (Rom. 8:15), sin (Rom. 6:2, 7, 14), and death (Rom. 8:2).

There has been much confusion about the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the Old Testament. Some believe that His ministry in some economies or dispensations was different than in others. But there is a consistency in the Spirit’s ministry throughout redemptive history. The Holy Spirit’s ministry in the Old Testament can be summarized in four categories.

The first ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was creation. Genesis 1:2 records that “the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving (lit. “hovering”) over the surface of the waters.” In Psalm 104:30 the psalmist wrote of the Holy Spirit’s role in creation, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the ground.” Isaiah asked rhetorically,

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? (Isa. 40:12–13)

The Spirit of God was involved in the creation not only of the physical world, but also of man: “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).

The second ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was empowerment. The Old Testament frequently records that the Spirit of the Lord came upon various individuals (and that He departed from the rebellious King Saul; 1 Sam. 16:14). That, of course, was not referring to the normal relationship of the Holy Spirit to Old Testament believers; all true children of God must have the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9), because the divine life imparted in regeneration is not humanly sustainable. The Old Testament references to the Holy Spirit coming upon people describe the Spirit’s empowering specific people to perform special tasks. Four categories of people received the Spirit’s special empowering: judges (Othniel [Judg. 3:9–10], Gideon [Judg. 6:34], Jephthah [Judg. 11:29], Samson [Judg. 14:6, 19; 15:14; cf. 13:25]); craftsmen (Bezalel [Ex. 31:2–3; 35:30–31], Oholiab [Ex. 31:6; 35:34] and others [Ex. 36:1], Hiram [1 Kings 7:13–14]); prophets (Balaam [Num. 24:2], Amasai [1 Chron. 12:18], Jahaziel [2 Chron. 20:14], Zechariah the son of Jehoiada [2 Chron. 24:20], Ezekiel [Ezek. 11:5]); and civic leaders (Moses [Num. 11:17], the seventy elders of Israel [Num. 11:25–26], Joshua [Num. 27:18], Saul [1 Sam. 10:6, 10; 11:6; cf. 1 Sam. 16:14], David [1 Sam. 16:13; cf. Ps. 51:11]).

The third ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was revelation. He is the divine Author of the Old Testament Scriptures. Zechariah 7:12 laments concerning rebellious Israel, “They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts” (cf. Neh. 9:30). The Old Testament was written by “men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21).

The fourth and most significant ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was regeneration. Some maintain that regeneration or the new birth is foreign to the Old Testament. But the evidence clearly shows that Old Testament believers were regenerated. The convicting work of the Spirit, which precedes regeneration (cf. John 16:8), is not restricted to the New Testament. In Genesis 6:3 “the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ ” The Spirit of God striving with sinful hearts to bring conviction of sin is not unique to the New Testament.

Further, total depravity has defined the human condition since the Fall. In fact, Paul’s classic description of total depravity in Romans 3:10–18 comes entirely from the Old Testament. There is no clearer statement of total depravity anywhere in Scripture than the one found in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Since fallen, totally depraved people are incapable of saving themselves, no one in any age could be saved apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

How could a totally depraved person exclaim, “O how I love Your law!” (Ps. 119:97, 113, 163) apart from regeneration? How could Noah be “a righteous man, blameless in his time” (Gen. 6:9) if he were unregenerate? How can the New Testament hold up Abraham as a model of faith (Rom. 4:1–16; Gal. 3:6–9) unless he was regenerated by the Holy Spirit? How could the Old Testament say that “David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and [did not turn] aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5; cf. 3:14; 11:4, 33) if he were not regenerate? How could the Old Testament figures listed in Hebrews 11 have lived such exemplary lives of faith if the Holy Spirit had not regenerated them? The transformed lives of the Old Testament saints testify to their having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ conversation with the noted Jewish teacher Nicodemus offers convincing proof that Old Testament believers experienced regeneration. The conversation took place before the ratification of the new covenant with Jesus’ death (Luke 22:20). Yet Jesus declared to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.… Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Thus Old Testament conversion involved being “born again,” and being “born of water (cf. the new covenant text of Ezek. 36:24–27) and the Spirit.” Salvation in any age has always been through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

The difference between the Holy Spirit’s ministry under the old and new covenants is one of degree. Jesus implied that when he told His disciples, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16–17). As old covenant believers, the disciples already possessed the Holy Spirit, as Jesus’statement, “He abides with you” indicates. Yet there was a fullness of the Spirit’s presence and ministry in their lives that awaited the ratification of the new covenant. Then, Jesus declared to them, the Spirit “will be in you.” He also spoke of that coming fullness in John 7:37–39:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

There is a degree to which new covenant believers experience the power and the enabling of the Spirit that goes beyond that of old covenant believers. In addition, the Spirit unites believers into one body in the church (1 Cor. 12:13). But the essential work of the Holy Spirit in salvation was the same in the old covenant as in the new.[1]


17 Outside of its context this verse might suggest that Paul is identifying the risen Christ with the Spirit (as W. Bousset and others have held). But v. 17 explains v. 16. “The Lord” referred to in the quotation from Exodus 34:34, to whom the Jew must now turn for the removal of the veil, is in the present era none other than the life-giving Spirit of the living God (cf. vv. 3, 6, 8). This is an affirmation about the Spirit, not about Christ; it describes his function, not his identity (as though the Spirit were the Lord [= Yahweh] of v. 16).

Another view finds here a functional equivalence between Christ and the Spirit: in v. 14 it is Christ who removes the veil; in v. 16 it is the Spirit. Again, some believe that Christ (ho kyrios, GK 3261) is being identified as “life-giving Spirit” (1 Co 15:45; cf. 2 Co 3:6).

Paul’s point in v. 17b is that though the Spirit is Lord, who has the right to exercise authority, his presence brings liberation, not bondage (cf. Ro 8:15). Not only does he remove the veil of ignorance about Christ and bring freedom of access into God’s presence without fear; he also sets a person free from bondage to sin, to death, and to the law as a means of acquiring righteousness.[2]


17 In this verse Paul says who is the “Lord” of the previous verse to whom one “turns.” That verse was Paul’s reformulation of his OT text (Exod 34:34). His opening words, “Now the Lord …,” which pick up a keyword from the OT citation, signal that an interpretation of that keyword now follows. The verse is stated in two sentences: (1) “The Lord”—to whom one “turns” (v. 16)—“is the Spirit,” and (2) “where the Spirit of the Lord is, [there is] freedom.”

Earlier references are repeated here: (1) “Spirit” from an earlier passage about the new covenant (vv. 3–7), (2) “Lord” from the previous verse, and (3) “freedom” (probably) from “boldness”/“openness” (v. 12). On the other hand, key concepts—“Lord” and “Spirit”—reappear in the climactic next verse (as “the Lord who is the Spirit”), along with, in all probability, “freedom,” expressed as “with unveiled face.” Verse 17, therefore, forms an important transition from the earlier passages of the chapter to its finale, v. 18.

The difficult phrase “the Lord is the Spirit” has been understood in several ways, including: (1) the pneumatological, which neatly identifies “Lord” = “the Spirit,” and (2) the associational,21 in which “the Spirit” identifies the “Lord” to whom one turns under the new covenant as “Spirit,” or “spiritual.”

On the face of it, the former understanding appears to be correct: one turns to the Lord; the Lord is the Spirit; therefore, one turns to the Spirit. This seems to be consistent with vv. 3 and 6, where the Spirit is “the essential characteristic of the transforming power of the new covenant.” However, there are a number of problems with this view. One is that, in the echoes we hear of apostolic preaching in the NT, it is the Lord Jesus Christ to whom the hearer “turns” (see on v. 16, where “[anyone] turns to” the Lord [Jesus Christ]). Moreover, the NT teaches that Christ is the Spirit-giver (e.g., John 4:14; 7:37–39; 15:26; 16:7; 19:30; Acts 2:33) and that the Spirit is given in consequence of hearing a message centered on Christ (e.g., Acts 10:44; 19:2; Gal 3:1–5; Eph 1:13). To be sure, the believer is not to grieve the Spirit once he has been given (see Eph 4:30; but cf. Eph 1:13), but the notion of “conversion to the Spirit” (Thrall’s phrase—1.274) is alien to the thought of the NT.

The latter option, the associational, is to be preferred because, (a) for Paul, Christ is “the last Adam … a life-giving Spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), (b) the covenant in which Jesus is Lord (4:5) is that new covenant in which, according to prophecy, the Spirit of God comes (3:3, 6, 8), (c) “the Spirit” comes in consequence of the hearing of the gospel (4:5; 8:5) and turning to the Lord Jesus (1:19–22; 3:16), and (d) the Spirit is associated with that “righteousness” imputed to those who are “in” the sinless one who was “made sin” for them (5:21; cf. 3:8–9).

So understood, Paul’s words continue, as from v. 17, his gloss on the original passage (Exod 34:34). Thus restated, the “Lord” in that passage (Yahweh) is to be understood as “the Lord Christ” (cf. v. 14), and that Lord “is the Spirit,” that is, the Lord of the “new covenant … of the Spirit” (v. 3; cf. vv. 6, 8). Had Paul simply reproduced the words “turn[s] to the Lord,” “Lord” could have been taken to refer to the “Lord” (= Yahweh) of the old covenant, suggesting that that covenant still applied. To assert that “the Lord is the Spirit,” however, points to the Spirit’s coming as the fulfillment of the promises of God (1:20–22; 6:2; cf. Ezek 36:27; Jer 31:33). This is an eschatological affirmation that the age of the Spirit has come, the evidence for which is the changed hearts and converted lives of the Corinthians (see on v. 3).

Closely connected is the probability that, as from 2:17, Paul has been responding to the countertheology of his Jewish opponents. It seems likely that they are affirming that there is no new covenant, only the one covenant, which is still in force, in which Jesus as an observant Jew was a member (cf. on 11:4). As one who belonged to the “now” time of this the “day” of God’s salvation, as part of the “new creation” (5:15–17; 6:2), Paul did not “know Christ according to the flesh,” but—by inference—according to the Spirit. But these Jewish missionaries know Christ only “according to the flesh,” as if still belonging to the old covenant. Based on this reconstruction of their understanding, they would have had no interpreted conviction about the coming of the Spirit as the fulfillment of the promises and the inauguration of the new covenant (see on vv. 3, 6; 1:20–22; 6:2). On this interpretation, Paul’s reference to the Lord as “the Spirit” is quite pointed.

The phrase “the Lord is the Spirit” does not equate that “Lord” with “the Spirit,” as is clear from the expression in the second sentence, “the Spirit of the Lord.” “The Lord” to whom one “turns” and “the Spirit of the Lord” are separate “persons.”27 Since “the Lord” to whom one “turns” is “the Lord Jesus Christ,” it must mean that “the Spirit of the Lord” is his “Spirit,” who must in turn be identified with “the Spirit of the living God” referred to earlier in the chapter (v. 3). The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of God (see Rom 8:9, 10).

References to the Spirit are eschatological, pointing both to the now-realized fulfillment of prophecy and onward to the end time. The earlier references to the Spirit in this chapter (vv. 3, 6) indicate that the “new covenant” prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel have now come to pass (see on those verses). At the same time it is clear that Paul regards the Spirit as anticipatory of the future glory of God. Thus Paul declares, with reference to the future, that “God … anointed us (lit. “christed us”), sealed us [and] gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (1:22; cf. 5:5). The Spirit must be linked with eschatology, whether in relationship to the present fulfillment of past prophecy as seen in the changed lives of the new covenant people (v. 2), or in their enjoyment of the blessings of present relationships with God in anticipation of the full realization of those blessings.

What, then, is meant by “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”? What is this “freedom”? Since “freedom” and related vocabulary do not appear elsewhere within 2 Corinthians, our most likely source of understanding lies in references to the Spirit earlier in this chapter.29 In our view it is a “freedom” from “the letter”; “letter” is the antithesis of “the Spirit” (v. 6). “The letter … inscribed in stones”—the dispensation of law—is “a ministry of death” that “kills” the people bound by covenant to it because it is “a ministry of condemnation” (vv. 3, 6, 7, 9). The new covenant—“a ministry of the Spirit … and of righteousness” (vv. 8, 9)—brings “life” in place of “death” and “condemnation” (vv. 6, 7, 9). On this basis “freedom” is, in the first instance, from the implied metaphorical “slavery” under God’s just condemnation of a people who break his covenant, a freedom achieved by the righteousness of God in the death of the righteous One who “became sin” for his people (5:21). As a consequence, this spells “freedom” from the obligation to observe the covenantal “letter” as the means of righteous acceptance with God.

Nonetheless, this “freedom” is not to be understood as moral or spiritual permissiveness (Gal 5:13–14; 1 Cor 8:9). It is “freedom” from the “condemnation” arising from inability through “the flesh” to keep the Law of God (cf. Rom 7:7–12). Furthermore, it is a Spirit-empowered freedom, arising from the “righteousness” of those dedicated to God “in Christ” (1 Cor 6:11; 2 Cor 3:8; 5:21) to fulfill the “righteous” requirement of the Law (Rom 8:4). The new covenant as promised by the prophets was not a covenant of lawlessness, but a covenant under which the people would be moved by the Spirit to “follow [God’s] decrees and be careful to keep [his] laws” (Ezek 36:27), to have “[his] law in their minds … [written] in their hearts” (Jer 31:33). Jesus, followed by Paul, however, did not interpret the “fulfillment” of the Law under a new covenant as characterized by legalism—as in the legalism of the Judaism of that epoch. Rather, he understood it as observing the true intention of the Law (Matt 5:17–20), in particular, the obligation to love—to love God and neighbor and to forgive one’s enemies (Mark 12:29–31; Matt 5:43–48; Rom 12:9–21; 13:8–10; Gal 5:14). This is the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2), the “royal law … the law of liberty” (Jas 2:8, 12). Thus Paul can speak of “not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ” (1 Cor 9:21, RSV).33[3]


3:17 / Paul proceeds to explain (Now, de) the removal of the veil as providing access to the presence of the Lord through the Spirit. This extremely obscure and controversial statement seems to equate the Lord with the Spirit (cf. John 4:24). As we have seen, Lord can refer either to God or to Christ in Paul’s writings, for they act together or interchangeably. Hence, the Spirit is closely identified with both God and Christ (cf. 13:14). On the one hand, it is called “the Spirit of God” (Rom. 8:9, 14; 1 Cor. 2:11, 14; 3:16; 6:11; 7:40; 12:3; Phil. 3:3), “the Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor. 3:3), or “the Spirit which is from God” (1 Cor. 2:12); and on the other hand, it is called “the Spirit of (Jesus) Christ” (Rom. 8:9; Phil. 1:19) or “the Spirit of his Son” (Gal. 4:6; cf. Rom. 8:14). In fact, Romans 8:9 uses “the Spirit of God” interchangeably with “the Spirit of Christ.” The fact that 2 Corinthians 3:17a refers to the same close identification of the Spirit with God and/or Christ is signaled by the expression the Spirit of the Lord in verse 17b. In emphasizing the identification between the Lord and the Spirit, Paul shows the historical continuity between Moses’ encounter with the Lord in the tent of meeting and believers’ experience of the presence of the Lord through the Spirit of God.

The presence of the Spirit of the Lord spells freedom as a result of the new covenant situation in Christ. Upon returning to the Lord and receiving a new heart through the Spirit of the Lord, those who have been enslaved in exile receive freedom. The proclamation of liberty to captives is at the very core of the ot’s “good news” for Israel (cf. Isa. 52:2–10; 61:1–2). Of particular interest is Isaiah 61:1, where the “Spirit of the Lord” (pneuma kyriou) who comes upon the prophet, sends him “to preach good news” (euangelisasthai) to the poor and to proclaim “release” (aphesin; mt, derôr, “liberty, freedom”) to the captives. We find the same idea developed elsewhere in Paul (cf., e.g., Gal. 3:10–14; 4:1–7, 21–31; Rom. 8:14–16, 21).[4]


3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. The consensus of recent scholarship understands this sentence as an explanation of the previous verse, applying it to the setting of his readers: “Now, this ‘Lord’ of the Exodus story means for us the Spirit.” The life-giving (3:6), new covenant Spirit (3:7–8) who brings righteousness (3:9) and unsurpassed glory (3:10–11) also brings “freedom” and transformation (3:17–18). Paul does not explain what type of freedom the Spirit brings, and it is possible that in not qualifying the expression he may intend it quite broadly. The immediate context, however, suggests that Paul may have in mind freedom from the written code of the old covenant (3:6–10, 14), freedom from death and condemnation (3:7–9), or freedom to approach the Lord with unveiled boldness (3:12–17). Verses 17 and 18 provide the grounds for the assertion of verse 12: we are very bold (v. 12) because the Spirit gives us freedom (v. 17) and is transforming us into God’s image (v. 18).[5]


Ver. 17.—Now the Lord is that Spirit. The “but” (Authorized Version, “now”) introduces an explanation. To whom shall they turn? To the Lord. “But the Lord is the Spirit.” The word “spirit” could not be introduced thus abruptly and vaguely; it must refer to something already said, and therefore to the last mention of the word “spirit” in ver. 8. The Lord is the Spirit, who giveth life and freedom, in antithesis to the spirit of death and legal bondage (see ver. 6; and comp. 1 Cor. 15:45). The best comment on the verse is Rom. 8:2, “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” All life and all religion had become to St. Paul a vision of all things in Christ. He has just said that the spirit giveth life, and, after the digression about the moral blindness which prevented the Jews from being emancipated from the bondage of the letter, it was quite natural for him to add, “Now the Lord is the Spirit to which I alluded.” The connection in which the verse stands excludes a host of untenable meanings which have been attached to it. There is liberty. The liberty of confidence (ver. 4), and of frank speech (ver. 12), and of sonship (Gal. 4:6, 7), and of freedom from guilt (John 8:36); so that the Law itself, obeyed no longer in the mere letter but also in the spirit, becomes a royal law of liberty, and not a yoke which gendereth to bondage (Jas. 1:25; 2:12)—a service, indeed, but one which is perfect freedom (Rom. 5:1–21; 1 Pet. 2:16).[6]


17. The Lord is the Spirit. This passage, also, has been misinterpreted, as if Paul had meant to say, that Christ is of a spiritual essence, for they connect it with that statement in John 4:24, God is a Spirit. The statement before us, however, has nothing to do with Christ’s essence, but simply points out his office, for it is connected with what goes before, where we found it stated, that the doctrine of the law is literal, and not merely dead, but even an occasion of death. He now, on the other hand, calls Christ its spirit, meaning by this, that it will be living and life-giving, only if it is breathed into by Christ. Let the soul be connected with the body, and then there is a living man, endowed with intelligence and perception, fit for all vital functions.6 Let the soul be removed from the body, and there will remain nothing but a useless carcase, totally devoid of feeling.

The passage is deserving of particular notice, as teaching us, in what way we are to reconcile those encomiums which David pronounces upon the law—(Psalm 19:7, 8)—“the law of the Lord converteth souls, enlighteneth the eyes, imparteth wisdom to babes,” and passages of a like nature, with those statements of Paul, which at first view are at variance with them—that it is the ministry of sin and death—the letter that does nothing but kill. (2 Cor. 3:6, 7.) For when it is animated by Christ, those things that David makes mention of are justly applicable to it. If Christ is taken away, it is altogether such as Paul describes. Hence Christ is the life of the law.3

Where the Spirit of the Lord. He now describes the manner, in which Christ gives life to the law—by giving us his Spirit. The term Spirit here has a different signification from what it had in the preceding verse. There, it denoted the soul, and was ascribed metaphorically to Christ. Here, on the other hand, it means the Holy Spirit, that Christ himself confers upon his people. Christ, however, by regenerating us, gives life to the law, and shows himself to be the fountain of life, as all vital functions proceed from man’s soul. Christ, then, is to all (so to speak) the universal soul, not in respect of essence, but in respect of grace. Or, if you prefer it, Christ is the Spirit, because he quickens us by the life-giving influence of his Spirit.

He makes mention, also, of the blessing that we obtain from that source. “There,” says he, “is liberty.” By the term liberty I do not understand merely emancipation from the servitude of sin, and of the flesh, but also that confidence, which we acquire from His bearing witness as to our adoption. For it is in accordance with that statement—We have not again received the spirit of bondage, to fear, &c. (Rom. 8:15.) In that passage, the Apostle makes mention of two things—bondage, said fear. The opposites of these are liberty and confidence. Thus I acknowledge, that the inference drawn from this passage by Augustine is correct—that we are by nature the slaves of sin, and are made free by the grace of regeneration. For, where there is nothing but the bare letter of the law, there will be only the dominion of sin, but the term Liberty, as I have said, I take in a more extensive sense. The grace of the Spirit might, also, be restricted more particularly to ministers, so as to make this statement correspond with the commencement of the chapter, for ministers require to have another grace of the Spirit, and another liberty from what others have. The former signification, however, pleases me better, though at the same time I have no objection, that this should be applied to every one according to the measure of his gift. It is enough, if we observe, that Paul here points out the efficacy of the Spirit, which we experience for our salvation—as many of us, as have been regenerated by his grace.[7]


17. Now the Lord is the Spirit. These words have given rise to much debate. If the Lord is taken to refer to Christ, then it may be asked whether Christ is equated with the Spirit—with all the implications such an identification would have for the doctrine of the Trinity. However, the meaning of the statement can be determined only by seeing it in the wider context of Paul’s argument in this chapter.

It needs to be remembered that Paul’s main concern in chapter 3 is to highlight the greater glory of the new covenant of the Spirit (cf. vv. 3, 6, 8, 18), which he contrasts with the lesser glory of the old covenant of the law. Paul’s Jewish contemporaries related to God through the law, but believers relate to God through the Spirit. Further, it must be recalled that in verse 16 ‘the Lord’ refers to God, not Christ, and therefore in verse 17 it is to be understood in the same way. The thrust of the two verses, then, is that when people turn to God, the veil over their minds is removed, and they realize that the time of the old covenant of the law has come to an end and that of the new covenant of the Spirit has begun. So, when under the new covenant they turn to the Lord, they experience him as the Spirit. The expression the Lord is the Spirit is not a one-to-one identification, but rather a way of saying that under the new covenant we experience the Lord as the Holy Spirit.

And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. It is significant that Paul refers to the Spirit as the Spirit of the Lord (pneuma kyriou), an expression found only here in his letters, but twenty-two times in the lxx, where, for the most part, it refers to the Spirit of God (Yahweh), confirming that when Paul says, the Lord is the Spirit, he is referring to God, not Christ, in this context.

This statement, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, must be understood within the overall context of chapter 3, where the new covenant of the Spirit is contrasted with the old covenant of the law. Under the new covenant, where the Spirit is the operative power, there is freedom. Under the old covenant, where the law reigns, there is bondage. Probably the best commentary on this freedom is Galatians 3:23–25, where the apostle describes the Jewish people as those ‘held in custody under the law’, the law being their ‘guardian until Christ came’. But once they come to faith in Christ, they are no longer under the law’s guardianship, and in this freedom Paul says they must ‘stand firm’ and not allow themselves to ‘be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’ (Gal. 5:1).[8]


Ver. 17. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Christ the Spirit of Christianity:

  1. Note the great principles in the text. 1. Christianity is a spirit. (1) There is a “letter” and a “spirit” in everything. These two things are quite distinct. The letter may be changed, the spirit may be unchangeable. The same spirit may require for its expression to different minds different letters. The spirit may not only cease to be represented, but may be positively misrepresented, by its form. Christ, e.g., enjoined the washing of one another’s feet where washing the feet was a common service; but we smile at the professed obedience to this precept every year of his holiness of Rome. (2) The Old Testament was a letter in which there was a spirit. The very idea of a letter supposes that something is written. And, further, that spirit, so far as it went, was the same as in the gospel; the law represented the same ideas and sentiments as the gospel, but in a different way, and with different results, so as to justify the calling of one a “letter” and the other a “spirit.” The first, though not without spirit, had more letter in it; and the second, though not without letter, has more spirit in it. Christianity is like a book for men, which assumes many things that children must have in most explicit statement. It is more suggestive than explanatory, trusts more to conscience than to argument, and appeals more to reason than to rule. Its doctrines are principles, not propositions; its institutions are grand outcomes, not precise ceremonies; its laws are moral sentiments, not minute directions. 2. Christ is the Spirit of Christianity. (1) The fact of there being a revelation at all is owing to Christ. But for Him the beginning of sin would have been the end of humanity. But God had, in anticipation of the fall, devised a plan of redemption. Forfeited life was continued because of Christ. Whatever was done was for Him. The great events of past times were preparatory to Him. Prophets spoke of Him, kings ruled for Him, priests typified Him. According to Christ’s contemplated work men were treated. But if the law was through Christ as its grand reason, how much more is the gospel! For now He is not the secret but the revealed agent of God’s providence. What was done before was done because of Him, what is done now is done directly by Him. He realised the conceptions expressed by Judaism, made its figures facts, its predictions history. (2) Christ is the Spirit of Christianity, as He is the personal representation of its truths. The gospel is Christ. It shines in Him as in a mirror, it lives in Him as in a body. Is God the prime idea of all religion? “He that has seen Me has seen the Father.” Is the moral character of God as important as His existence? Behold “the image of the invisible God” as “He goes about doing good.” Is reunion with God the great need of humanity? It is consummated in the Incarnation. Do we want law? “Walk even as He walked.” Do we die? “Christ, the firstfruits of them that slept.” Are we sighing for immortality? “This is the eternal life.” (3) The Holy Spirit, by whom spiritual blessings are conveyed, is emphatically the Spirit of Christ. This Spirit, the closest and most quickening contact of God with our souls, is the fruit of the reconciliation with God effected by Christ. That effected, Christ went to heaven that He might give us this “other Comforter, even the Spirit of truth.” 3. Christ, as the Spirit of Christianity, is the Spirit of liberty.” The genius of a spiritual life is to be free. “The law was not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient.” The more spiritual men are, the less do they require external regulations; and one of the most striking features of Christianity is its comparative freedom from such. It is a “law of liberty,” in the sense of leaving us at liberty upon many points; moral excellence is its requirement, not ceremonial exactness. Its law is summed up by love to God and man. You do not need to fetter a loving child with the rules you lay upon a hireling. The gospel is spiritual in its form, because it is spiritual in its power. In the following verse a sublime truth is set before us. The liberty of the gospel is holiness. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”: only the Spirit can do this. The letter may keep sin down, but the spirit turns it out. The letter may make us afraid to do it, the spirit makes us dislike to have it. And is not that liberty, when we are free to serve God in the gospel of His Son, free to have access to Him with the spirit of adoption, free to run the way of His commandments, because “enlarged in heart”? He is the slave whose will is in fetters; and nothing but the Spirit, the Lord, can set that free.
  2. The subject is fruitful in reflections and admonitions. 1. The text is one of a large class which intimate and require the divinity of Christ. The place assigned to Christ in the scheme and providence of God is such that only on the supposition of His Divine nature can it be understood and explained. Destroy Him, take Him away, and you do not merely violate the language, but annihilate the very life of God’s covenant. If Christianity be what we are accustomed to regard it, He who is its Spirit, in the way and for the reasons which itself explains, can be no other than the “true God and eternal life.” 2. We see the greatness of the privileges with which, as Christians, we have been favoured, and the source of their derivation. The apostles do employ language severely depreciating in its tone, when contrasting previous economies with our own. “Darkness,” “flesh,” “letter,” “bondage,” “the world,” are set against “light,” “spirit,” “grace,” “liberty,” and “the kingdom of God” and “of heaven.” And the reason of our being so blessed is to be found in Christ. Shall we not be grateful? And shall not gratitude express itself in holiness? “Ye are not under the law, but under grace,” and the great worth of this position is in the facilities for sanctification which it affords. 3. Let us give to the personal element in Christianity its proper place and power. In the apostles’ writings there was an indestructible connection of every principle of the gospel with the personal Christ. Everything was “in Him.” Christ was Christianity. He is “the Truth,” “the Way,” “the Life,” the “peace,” “hope,” and “resurrection” of men; He is their “wisdom,” “righteousness,” “sanctification,” and “redemption.” Religion is not merely a contemplation of truth, or a doing of morality; it is fellowship with God and with His Son. We are to love Christ, not spiritual beauty; to believe in Christ, not spiritual truth; to live to Christ, not spiritual excellence. 4. Our subject instructs and encourages us in connection with the diffusion of our religion through the earth. The gospel is a spirit. Well, indeed, might we despond, when contemplating the powers of darkness, if we could not associate with our religion the attributes of spirit. But, said Christ, “the words that I speak unto you are spirit and life.” And our subject also teaches charity. Can there be any heart unaffected when the promise of “liberty,” in its highest state and completest measure, is before us? Can you dwell upon the hard bondage of the souls of men, both in civilised and uncivilised conditions, and not long to “preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound”? (A. J. Morris.)

Liberty of the spiritual life:—The heavenly life imparted is liberty and truth and peace; it is the removal of bondage and darkness and pain. So far from being a mechanical constraint, as some would represent, it is the removal of the iron chain with which guilt had bound the sinner. It acts like an army of liberation to a down-trodden country, like the warm breath of spring to the frost-fettered tree. For the entrance of true life or living truth into man’s soul must be liberty, not bondage. (A. Bonar.)

The spirit of liberty:—1. It is remarkable that, when our Lord expounded in the synagogue of Nazareth, He chose a passage of which two-fifths related to “liberty.” Between that passage and my text there is a singular connection. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” &c. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

  1. We are all of us so constituted that there must be a certain sense of freedom to make a play of the affections. 1. Satan knew this quite well when he destroyed the loving allegiance of our first parents by introducing first into their minds the thought of bondage. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not cat of every tree of the garden?” And so the poison had worked. “You are not free.” In catching at a fictitious freedom the first Adam lost the true. The second Adam made Himself a “servant of servants,” that He might restore to us a greater freedom than Adam lost. 2. But still the same enemy is always trying to spoil our paradises by making us deny our freedom. He has two ways of doing this. Sometimes he gives us a sense of bondage, which keeps us back from peace, and therefore holiness. Sometimes he gives us an idea of imaginary “liberty,” of which the real effect is that it leaves us the slave of a sentiment or of a passion. 3. Some persons are afraid of “liberty,” lest it should run into “licentiousness.” But I do not find in the whole Bible that we are warned against too much “liberty.” In fact, it is almost always those who have felt themselves too shut up who break out into lawlessness of conduct. Just as the stopped river, bursting its barrier, runs into the more violent stream.
  2. That you should “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free,” understand what your real “liberty” is. 1. “By and by,” somebody says, “when I have believed and prayed a little more, and lived a little more religiously, then I hope God will forgive me.” So every night he has to consider whether he is yet good enough to justify the hope that he is a child of God; and the consequence is that man prays with no “liberty.” But, all the while, what is the fact? God does love him. All he wants is to take facts as facts. It needs but one act of realisation, and every promise of the Bible belongs to that man. This done, see the difference. He feels himself a child of God through God’s own grace, and his “liberated” mind leaps to the God who has loved him. Now the right spring is put into the machinery of his breast. He works in the freedom of a certainty. And from that date that man’s real sanctification begins. 2. There are many whose minds are continually recurring to old sins. They have prayed over them again and again, but still they cannot take their thoughts off them. But the freeman of the Lord knows the meaning of those words—“He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” All he feels he has to do is to bring his daily sins to that Fountain where he has washed all the sins of his former life. And do not you see that that man will go with a lightened feeling? 3. See the nature of that man’s forgiveness. To obey the command of any one we love is pleasant, but to obey because it will please him, though he has not commanded it, is much happier. The spirit of the law is always better than the law. Deuteronomy is better than Leviticus. Now this is the exact state of a Christian. He has studied the commands till he has reached to the spirit of the commands. He has gathered “the mind of God,” and he follows that. A command prescribes, and whatever prescribes circumscribes, and is so far painful. But the will of God is an unlimited thing, and therefore it is unlimiting. (1) And when man, free because “the Son has made him free,” goes to read his Bible, like a man who has got the free range of all its pastures, to cull flowers wherever he likes, he is free to all the promises that are there, for he has “the mind of Christ.” (2) Or hear him in prayer. How close it is! How boldly he puts in his claim! (3) The fear of death never hurts that man. Why? Because his death is over. (4) And, because he is so very free, you will find there is a large-heartedness and a very charitable judgment in that man. He lives above party. (J. Vaughan, M.A.)

The liberty of the Spirit:—How much is made of earthly liberty—the shadow of true freedom. How true it is that, whilst many men “profess to give liberty to others, they themselves are the slaves of corruption.” Men are content to be slaves within who would be very indignant at any attempt to make them slaves without. The apostle, speaking of the bondage of the law, said that, when the heart of the Jew shall turn to the Lord, then, and not till then, shall they come to the true freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is—

  1. Liberty from condemnation. If a man is under sentence of death he cannot find liberty. He may forget his imprisonment in mirth and feasting, but it is not the less real because he forgets it. The morning will come when he will be dragged off to his fearful doom. We are under the sentence of God’s broken law. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” How beautiful, then, the language of the apostle! (Rom. 8:1).
  2. Liberty from law. The law knows nothing of mercy and forgiveness, nor does it afford the least help to holiness. Its command is, “Do this, and live; break this in the least, and die.” Therefore, “by the deeds of the law” shall no man have peace with God. But “what the law could not do,” &c. (Rom. 8:2–4).

III. Liberty to obey. Many think they are free, and that they will do as they like; but they do not like to do what they ought to like, and therefore they are slaves after all. The way in which a man may convince himself of his slavery is to try to be what he ought to be. He can do nothing of himself, and he must be brought to feel that he can do no good thing without God. But what the flesh cannot do the Spirit will enable him to do. “It is God which worketh in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure”; therefore “work out your own salvation,” &c.

  1. Liberty to fight the good fight of faith. A man can do battle with his corrupt nature, he can win the victory over the principalities and powers of darkness, and his sword is a sword of liberty. The drunkard becomes sober, the impure chaste, the vindictive forgiving, by the power of the Spirit of God.
  2. Liberty of access to God. The one true and living way is open, but it cannot be discerned except a man has it revealed to him by the Spirit of God. Through Christ we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
  3. Liberty of holy boldness and fortitude in the service of God. (H. Stowell, M.A.)

The freedom of the Spirit:—1. To possess the Lord Jesus Christ is to possess the Holy Ghost, who is the minister and guardian of Christ’s presence in the soul. The apostle’s conclusion is that those who are converted to Jesus have escaped from the veil which darkened the spiritual intelligence of Israel. The converting Spirit is the source of positive illumination; but, before He enlightens thus, He must give freedom from the veil of prejudice which denies to Jewish thought the exercise of any real insight into the deeper sense of Scripture. That sense is seized by the Christian student of the ancient law, because in the Church of Christ he possesses the Spirit; and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ because He is sent by Christ, and for the purpose of endowing us with Christ’s nature and mind. His presence does not supersede that of Christ: He co-operates in, He does not work apart from, the mediatorial work Of Christ. To possess the Holy Spirit is to possess Christ; to have lost the one is to have lost the other. Accordingly our Lord speaks of the gift of Pentecost as if it were His own second coming (John 14:18). And, after telling the Romans that “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His,” St. Paul adds, “Now if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin.” Here Christ’s “being in” the Christian, and the Christian’s “having the Spirit of Christ,” are equivalent terms. 3. Freedom is not an occasional largess of the Divine Spirit; it is not merely a reward for high services or conspicuous devotion. It is the very atmosphere of His presence. Wherever He really is, there is also freedom. He does not merely strike off the fetters of some narrow national prejudice, or of some antiquated ceremonialism. His mission is not to bestow an external, political, social freedom. For no political or social emancipation can give real liberty to an enslaved soul. And no tyranny of the state or of society can enslave a soul that has been really freed. At His bidding the inmost soul of man has free play. He gives freedom from error for the reason, freedom from constraint for the affections, freedom for the will from the tyranny of sinful and human wills. 4. The natural images which are used to set forth the presence and working of the Holy Spirit are suggestive of this freedom. The Dove, which pictures His gentle movement on the soul and in the Church, suggests also the power of rising at will above the dead level of the soil into a higher region where it is at rest. The “cloven tongue like as of fire” is at once light and heat; and light and heat imply ideas of the most unrestricted freedom. “The wind” blowing “where it listeth”; the well of water in the soul, springing up, like a perpetual fountain, unto everlasting life—such are our Lord’s own chosen symbols of the Pentecostal gift. All these figures prepare us for the language of the apostles when they are tracing the results of the great Pentecostal gift. With St. James, the Christian, no less than the Jew, has to obey a law, but the Christian law is “a law of library.” With St. Paul, the Church is the Jerusalem which is “free”; in contrast with the bondwoman the Christian is to stand fast in a liberty with which Christ has freed him; he is “made free from sin, and become the servant of righteousness.” St. Paul compares “the glorious liberty of the children of God” with the “bondage of corruption”; he contrasts the “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” which gives us Christians our freedom, with the enslaving “law of sin and death.” According to St. Paul, the Christian slave is essentially free, even while he still wears his chain (1 Cor. 7:22). Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is—

  1. Mental liberty. 1. From the first God has consecrated liberty of thought by withdrawing thought from the control of society. Society protects our persons and goods, and passes judgment upon our words and actions; but it cannot force the sanctuary of our thought. And the Spirit comes not to suspend, but to recognise, to carry forward, to expand, and to fertilise almost indefinitely the thought of man. He has vindicated for human thought the liberty of its expression against imperial tyranny and official superstition. The blood of the martyrs witnessed to the truth that, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is mental liberty. 2. In the judgment of an influential school dogma is the enemy of religious freedom. But what is dogma? The term belongs to the language of civilians; it is applied to the imperial edicts. It also finds a home in the language of philosophy; and the philosophers who denounce the dogmatic statements of the gospel are hardly consistent when they are elaborating their own theories. Dogma is essential Christian truth thrown by authority into a form which admits of its permanently passing into the understanding and being treasured by the heart of the people. For dogma is an active protest against those sentimental theories which empty revelation of all positive value. Dogma proclaims that revelation does mean something, and what. Accordingly dogma is to be found no less truly in the volume of the New Testament than in Fathers and Councils. It is specially embodied in our Lord’s later discourses, in the sermons of His apostles, in the epistles of St. Paul. The Divine Spirit, speaking through the clear utterances of Scripture, is the real author of essential dogma; and we know that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 3. But is not dogma, as a matter of fact, a restraint upon thought? Unquestionably. But there is a notion of liberty which is impossible. Surely a being is free when he moves without difficulty in the sphere which is assigned to him by his natural constitution. If he can only travel beyond his sphere with the certainty of destroying himself, it is not an unreasonable tax upon his liberty whereby he is confined within the barrier that secures his safety. Now truth is originally the native element of human thought; and Christian dogma prescribes the direction and limits of truth concerning God and His relations to man. (1) Certainly the physical world does not teach us that obedience to law is fatal to freedom. The heavens would cease to “declare the glory of God” if the astronomers were to destroy those invariable forces which confine the movement of the swiftest stars to their fixed orbits. And when man himself proceeds to claim that empire which God has given him over the world of nature, he finds his energies bounded and controlled by law in every direction. We men can transport ourselves to and fro on the surface of this earth. But if in an attempt to reach the skies we should succeed in mounting to a region where animal life is impossible, we know that death would be the result of our success. Meanwhile our aeronauts, and even our Alpine climbers, do not “complain of the tyranny of the air.” (2) So it is in the world of thought. Look at those axioms which form the basis of the freest and most exact science known to the human mind. We cannot demonstrate them, we cannot reject them; but the submissive glance by which reason accepts them is no unworthy figure of the action of faith. Faith also submits, it is true; but her submission to dogma is the guarantee at once of her rightful freedom and of her enduring power. (3) So submission to revealed truth involves a certain limitation of intellectual licence. To believe the dogma that God exists is inconsistent with a liberty to deny His existence. But such liberty is, in the judgment of faith, parallel to that of denying the existence of the sun or of the atmosphere. To complain of the Creed as an interference with liberty is to imitate the savage who had to walk across London at night, and who remarked that the lamp-posts were an obstruction to traffic. 4. They only can suppose that Christian dogma is the antagonist of intellectual freedom whose misery it is to disbelieve. For dogma stimulates and provokes thought—sustains it at an elevation which, without it, is impossible. It is a scaffolding by which we climb into a higher atmosphere. It leaves us free to hold converse with God, to learn to know Him. We can speakof Him and to Him, freely and affectionately, within the ample limits of a dogmatic definition. Besides this, dogma sheds, from its home in the heart of revelation, an interest on all surrounding branches of knowledge. God is everywhere, and to have a fixed belief in Him is to have a perpetual interest in all that reflects Him. What composition can be more dogmatic than the Te Deum? Yet it stimulates unbounded spiritual movement. The soul finds that the sublime truths which it adores do not for one moment fetter the freedom of its movement.
  2. Moral liberty. 1. There is no such thing as freedom from moral slavery, except for the soul which has laid hold on a fixed objective truth. But when, at the breath of the Divine Spirit upon the soul, heaven is opened to the eye of faith, and man looks up from his misery and his weakness to the everlasting Christ upon His throne; when that glorious series of truths, which begins with the Incarnation, and which ends with the perpetual intercession, is really grasped by the soul as certain—then assuredly freedom is possible. It is possible, for the Son has taken flesh, and died, and risen again, and interceded with the Father, and given us His Spirit and His sacraments, expressly that we might enjoy it. 2. But, then, we are to be enfranchised on the condition of submission. Submission! you say—is not this slavery? No; obedience is the school of freedom. In obeying God you escape all the tyrannies which would fain rob you of your liberty. In obeying God you are emancipated from the cruel yet petty despotisms which enslave, sooner or later, all rebel wills. As in the material world all expansion is proportioned to the compression which precedes it, so in the moral world the will acts with a force which is measured by its power of self-control. 3. As loyal citizens of that kingdom of the Spirit which is also the kingdom of the Incarnation, you may be really free. “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Political liberty is a blessing; liberty of thought is a blessing. But the greatest blessing is liberty of the conscience and the will. It is freedom from a sense of sin when all is known to have been pardoned through the atoning blood; freedom from a slavish fear of our Father in heaven when conscience is offered to His unerring eye by that penitent love which fixes its eye upon the Crucified; freedom from current prejudice and false human opinion when the soul gazes by intuitive faith upon the actual truth; freedom from the depressing yoke of weak health or narrow circumstances, since the soul cannot be crushed which rests consciously upon the everlasting arms; freedom from that haunting fear of death which holds those who think really upon death at all, “all their lifetime subject to bondage,” unless they are His true friends and clients who by the sharpness of His own death has led the way and “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” It is freedom in time, but also, and beyond, freedom in eternity. In that blessed world, in the unclouded presence of the emancipator, the brand of slavery is inconceivable. In that world there is indeed a perpetual service; yet, since it is the service of love made perfect, it is only and by necessity the service of the free. (Canon Liddon.)

Spiritual liberty:—Liberty is the birthright of every man. But where do you find liberty unaccompanied by religion? This land is the home of liberty, not so much because of our institutions as because the Spirit of the Lord is here—the spirit of true and hearty religion. But the liberty of the text is an infinitely greater and better one, and one which Christian men alone enjoy. He is the free man whom the truth makes free. Without the Spirit of the Lord, in a free country, ye may still be bondsmen; and where there are no serfs in body, ye may be slaves in soul. Note—

  1. What we are freed from. 1. The bondage of sin. Of all slavery there is none more horrible than this. “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me” from it? But the Christian is free. 2. The penalty of sin—eternal death. 3. The guilt of sin. 4. The dominion of sin. Profane men glory in free living and free thinking. Free living! Let the slave hold up his fetters and jingle them, and say, “This is music, and I am free.” A sinner without grace attempting to reform himself is like Sisiphus rolling the stone up hill, which always comes down with greater force. A man without grace attempting to save himself is engaged in as hopeless a task as the daughters of Danaus, when they attempted to fill a vast vessel with bottomless buckets. He has a bow without a string, a sword without a blade, a gun without powder. 5. Slavish fear of law. Many people are honest because they are afraid of the policeman. Many are sober because they are afraid of the eye of the public. If a man be destitute of the grace of God, his works are only works of slavery; he feels forced to do them. But now, Christian, “Love makes your willing feet in swift obedience move.” We are free from the law that we may obey it better. 6. The fear of death. I recollect a good old woman, who said, “Afraid to die, sir! I have dipped my foot in Jordan every morning before breakfast for the last fifty years, and do you think I am afraid to die now?” A good Welsh lady, when she lay a-dying, was visited by her minister, who said to her, “Sister, are you sinking?” But, rising a little in the bed, she said, “Sinking! Sinking! Did you ever know a sinner sink through a rock? If I had been standing on the sand I might sink; but, thank God! I am on the Rock of Ages, and there is no sinking there.”
  2. What we are free to. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” and that liberty gives us certain rights and privileges. 1. To heaven’s charter. Heaven’s Magna Charta is the Bible, and you are free to it—to all its doctrines, promises, &c. You are free to all that is in the Bible. It is the bank of heaven: you may draw from it as much as you please without let or hindrance. 2. To the throne of grace. It is the privilege of Englishmen that they can always send a petition to Parliament; and it is the privilege of a believer that he can always send a petition to the throne of God. It signifies nothing what, where, or under what circumstances I am. 3. To enter into the city. I am not a freeman of London, which is doubtless a great privilege, but I am a freeman of a better city. Now some of you have obtained the freedom of the city, but you won’t take it up. Don’t remain outside the Church any longer, for you have a right to come in. 4. To heaven. When a Christian dies he knows the password that can make the gates wide open fly; he has the white stone whereby he shall be known as a ransomed one, and that shall pass him at the barrier. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Signs of spiritual liberty:—Wheresoever the Spirit of God is, there is—

  1. A liberty of holiness, to free us from the dominion of sin (Luke 1:75). As children can give a bird leave to fly so it be in a string to pull it back again, so Satan hath men in a string if they live in sin. The beast that runs away with a cord about him is catched by the cord again; so, having Satan’s cords about us, he can pull us in when he lists. From this we are freed by the Spirit.
  2. A blessed freedom and an enlargement of heart to duties. God’s people are a voluntary people. Those that are under grace are “anointed by the Spirit” (Psa. 89:20), and that spiritual anointment makes them nimble. Otherwise spiritual duties are as opposite to flesh and blood as fire and water. When we are drawn, therefore, to duties, as a bear to a stake, for fear, or out of custom, with extrinsical motives, and not from a new nature, this is not from the Spirit. For the liberty of the Spirit is when actions come off naturally, without any extrinsical motive. A child needs not extrinsical motives to please his father. So there is a new nature in those that have the Spirit of God to stir them up to duty, though God’s motives may help as the sweet encouragements and rewards. But the principle is to do things naturally. Artificial things move from a principle without them, therefore they are artificial. Clocks and such things have weights that stir all the wheels they go by, and that move them; so it is with an artificial Christian. He moves with weights without him; he hath not an inward principle of the Spirit to make things natural to him.

III. Courage against all opposition whatsoever, joined with light and strength of faith, breaking through all oppositions. Opposition to a spiritual man adds but courage and strength to him to resist. In Acts 4:23, seq., when they had the Spirit of God, they encountered opposition; and the more they were opposed, the more they grew. They were cast in prison, and rejoiced; and the more they were imprisoned, the more courageous they were still. There is no setting against this wind, no quenching of this fire, by any human power. See how the Spirit triumphed in the martyrs. The Spirit of God is a victorious Spirit (Rom. 8:33, 34; Acts 6:10; Acts 6:15).

  1. Boldness with God himself, otherwise a “consuming fire.” For the Spirit of Christ goes through the mediation of Christ to God. That familiar boldness whereby we cry, “Abba, Father,” comes from sons. This comes from the Spirit. If we be sons, then we have the Spirit, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” (R. Sibbes, D.D.)[9]

17. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” The clauses are short and the words are uncomplicated, but the meaning of this relatively short verse is profound. Identifying the Lord with the Holy Spirit touches the doctrine of the Trinity. Is Paul referring to God the Father or to Christ? The answers to this question are numerous and varied. Nearly all the studies on verse 17a can be placed in two categories: those that present God as the Lord, and those that understand Christ to be the Lord. The close link that this verse has with the preceding one (v. 16) and its interpretation determines to a large extent the choice for the exegete. That is, one’s interpretation of verse 16 has an unavoidable bearing on verse 17.

If we interpret verse 16 to suggest strictly its Old Testament setting at the time of Moses, the word Lord means God. Whenever Moses turned to the Lord God, he removed the veil (Exod. 34:34). One translation explains verse 17 in a paraphrase, “Now the Lord of whom this passage speaks is the Spirit” (REB). God, then, is the Spirit and the word Lord in verse 18, as an expansion of verse 16, points to God.

If we take the term Lord in verses 16–18 as a reference to Christ (see v. 14), we interpret the passage to mean that Paul was addressing his Jewish contemporaries. As Moses approached God, so the Jew of Paul’s day is invited to turn to Christ. If the Jew responds affirmatively to this invitation, the veil that covers his heart is removed. Throughout this passage (vv. 16–18), Paul does not use the word God in connection with “the Lord.” Next, the purpose of verse 18a appears to focus attention on Christ: “And all of us with uncovered face are reflecting the glory of the Lord” (compare 4:4, 6). It is Paul’s intention to point his readers to Jesus Christ. And last, the flow of verses 16–18 calls for the identification of Christ with the Lord.

Let us briefly retrace some of Paul’s emphases in chapter 3. One of these is the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul mentioned the life-giving Spirit who works in people’s hearts in a ministry of glory that surpassed that of Moses (vv. 3, 6, 8). Next, in a following section he considered the difference between the old and the new covenants. Third, he does so in terms of a veil that either remained or was removed in Christ (vv. 13–15). Whenever Paul’s fellow Jews turn to Christ, the veil is lifted and they are able to accept the new covenant. Now Paul has to complete his earlier discussion on the Holy Spirit. He accentuates the nuance of the Spirit who in Christ takes away the veil from the reading of the old covenant.

The Holy Spirit works in the heart of all believers who are in Christ, for only in Christ is the veil removed (v. 14b). Without identifying the Lord and the Spirit, Paul sees the Holy Spirit at work in all the people who are in Christ. The Spirit is breathing life into the words of the new covenant. Without the veil that covered the old covenant, believers meet the Christ of the Scriptures. Paul views the Lord to be the Spirit at work in giving the believers the correct understanding of God’s revelation. Through the Word, the Spirit changes a person’s heart, fosters life, and leads a believer to freedom in Christ. In slightly different wording Paul utters the same thought at another place:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. [Rom. 8:1–2]

  1. “And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” With the second clause in verse 17, Paul makes it plain that he does not identify the Lord with the Spirit. This second clause clarifies the first, for the phrases Spirit of the Lord, of Jesus, of Christ, and of Jesus Christ occur many times in the New Testament. Paul notes a close correlation between Christ and the Holy Spirit when he writes, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Some scholars attempt to revise this part of the text, but their emendations are unconvincing. Conjectures are considered viable only when a reading makes no sense at all. This is not the case here. Nevertheless, some scholars wish to change the reading of the text. For example, Jean Héring seeks perfect parallelism and with conjectures contrives the following lines:

There where the Lord is, is the Spirit.

There where the Spirit is, is the liberty of the Lord.

He admits that for the reading of the first line, textual support is entirely lacking. Without this evidence, we must reject his emendation. And we question his proposed reading of the second line for its lack of textual witnesses. Early and old Latin versions, Syriac and Coptic translations, and manuscripts of the Western text stress the word there in the reading: “However, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” With respect to Héring’s second line, the evidence is wanting. His proposal is speculative, and we do well to stay with the biblical formula the Spirit of the Lord.

What is the meaning of “freedom”? The context suggests that Jews bound to the old covenant cannot fully understand God’s revelation. The hardness of their heart is a veil that prevents them from understanding the Scriptures. But when they turn to the Lord, the Spirit removes that veil. Through the Spirit of the Lord believers enjoy freedom within the setting of the new covenant, because God has written his law on their hearts and minds (Jer. 31:33). In Christ, they have been set free from the bondage to the law (Rom. 7:3–6; 8:3; Gal. 5:1), from the enslavement of sin that leads to death (Rom. 6:18–23), and from their old nature (Rom. 6:6: Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). Believers are able to lead a joyful life, for the Spirit of God lives within them (1 Cor. 3:16).[10]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 113–116). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 464). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Barnett, P. (1997). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 199–203). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians (p. 81). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Hubbard, M. V. (2017). 2 Corinthians. (M. L. Strauss, Ed.) (p. 58). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books: A Division of Baker Publishing Group.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 2 Corinthians (p. 61). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[7] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 184–186). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[8] Kruse, C. G. (2015). 2 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary. (E. J. Schnabel, Ed.) (Second edition, Vol. 8, pp. 134–135). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

[9] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Second Corinthians (pp. 103–109). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[10] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 124–127). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

July 4, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Promise of Eternal Blessing

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself. (2:11–13)

A fourth motivation for faithfulness to Christ is the promise of eternal blessing.

Paul uses the phrase It is a trustworthy statement five times in the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus), but it is found nowhere else in the New Testament. He seems to have used it to introduce a truth that was axiomatic, a truism in the early church that was commonly known and believed. The long sentence beginning For if we died with Him and continuing through verse 13 may have been used as a creed in the early church. Its parallelism and rhythm suggest that these two verses (like 1 Timothy 3:16) may have been sung as a hymn, and it is for that reason that some Greek texts and several modern translations set it in verse form.

If we died with Him may refer to the spiritual death of which Paul speaks in Romans. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death,” he explains, “in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, … for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Rom. 6:4–5, 7–8).

But the context of 2 Timothy 2:11 seems to suggest that Paul here has martyrdom in mind. In that case, if someone has sacrificed his life for Christ, that is, has died with Him, that martyrdom gives evidence that he had spiritual life in Him and will live with Him throughout eternity. The martyr’s hope is eternal life after death.

In the same way, if we endure persecution and hostility without being killed, we give evidence that we truly belong to Christ and that we shall also, therefore, reign with Him. That is also the hope of believers who live in difficulty—the eternal kingdom. Basileuō means literally to rule as a king (basileus). The verb here is the compound sumbasileuō, which means to reign with. The other side of that truth is that those who do not endure give equally certain evidence that they do not belong to Christ and will not reign with Him.

Although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,” Paul explained to believers at Colossae, “yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister” (Col. 1:21–23). Only if Christ is Lord of a life, can He present that life before His Father “holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” The only life that can endure is an obedient life. A life that will not serve Him will never reign with Him.

Jesus promised the Twelve, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28; cf. Luke 22:29–30). Believers also have positions of authority in the millennial kingdom, as 1 Corinthians 6:2–3 indicates: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?” (1 Cor. 6:2–3). Speaking of all Christians in the final glory, Paul declared, “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

To endure, or persevere, with Christ does not protect salvation, which is eternally secured when a person trusts in Him as Savior and Lord. We can no more ensure salvation by our own efforts or power than we first gained it by our own efforts or power.

The next two conditions and promises are negative and are parallel, at least in form, to the preceding positive ones.

First, Paul says, If we deny Him, that is, Jesus Christ, He also will deny us. The Greek verb rendered deny is in the future tense, and the clause is therefore more clearly rendered, “If we ever deny Him” or “If in the future we deny Him.” It looks at some confrontation that makes the cost of confessing Christ very high and thereby tests one’s true faith. A person who fails to endure and hold onto his confession of Christ will deny Him, because he never belonged to Christ at all. “Anyone who … does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). Those who remain faithful to the truth they profess give evidence of belonging to God.

“What about Peter’s denial?” we may ask. “Can a true believer deny the Lord?” (cf. Matt. 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:54–62; John 18:16, 25–27). Obviously believers like Peter can fall into temporary cowardice and fail to stand for the Lord. We all do it in various ways when we’re unwilling to openly declare our love for Christ in a given situation.

Confronted by the cost of discipleship, Peter was facing just such a test as Paul had in mind. Did he thereby evidence a lack of true saving faith? His response to the denial, going out and weeping bitter tears of penitence (Matt. 26:75), and the Lord’s restoration of him in Galilee (John 21:15–17) lead one to conclude that Peter was truly justified, though obviously not yet fully sanctified. And until Pentecost, Peter did not have the fulness of the Holy Spirit. After the Spirit came to live in him in New Covenant fullness, however, his courage, boldness, and willingness to face any hostility became legendary (cf. Acts 1:5, 8; 2:4, 14–36; 3:1–6, 12–26; 4:1–4, 8–13, 19, 21, 31). Peter died a martyr, just as Jesus had foretold he would—faithful in the face of execution for his Lord (John 21:18–19). Tradition holds that, by his own request, he was crucified upside down, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

So perhaps the answer to the issue of Peter’s denial is that his was a momentary failure, followed by repentance. He did not as yet have the fullness of the Spirit, but during the rest of this life after Pentecost he boldly confessed Christ, even when it cost him his life.

Jesus Himself gave the sobering warning, “Whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). There is a settled, final kind of denial that does not repent and thereby evidences an unregenerate heart. After the lame man was healed near the Beautiful gate of the temple, Peter testified to the seriousness of denying Christ. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus,” he said, “the one whom you delivered up, and disowned [denied] in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned [denied] the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:13–15).

The most dangerous of those who deny Christ are “false teachers … who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). They are, in fact, no less than antichrists. To those who claim to belong to God as Father without belonging to Christ as His Son, John unequivocally says, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22–23).

In the present text, however, Paul’s warning could include those who once claimed Christ but later deny Him when the cost of discipleship becomes too high. Such were the “disciples [who] withdrew and were not walking with Him [Jesus] anymore” (John 6:66). It is about such false Christians that the writer of Hebrews says: “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame” (Heb. 6:4–6).

Later in 2 Timothy, Paul describes such false Christians as “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (3:2–5). In his letter to Titus, he says of such people that “they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). Continual disobedience inevitably confirms faithlessness by eventuating in denial.

The second negative condition and promise are: If we are faithless, Christ remains faithful. In this context, apisteō (are faithless) means lack of saving faith, not merely weak or unreliable faith. The unsaved ultimately deny Christ, because they never had faith in Him for salvation. But He remains faithful, not only to those who believe in Him but to those who do not, as here. God’s divine assurance to save “whoever believes in Him [Christ]” (John 3:16) is followed almost immediately by another divine assurance that “he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Just as Christ will never renege on His promise to save those who trust in Him, He also will never renege on His promise to condemn those who do not. To do otherwise would be to deny Himself, which His righteous and just nature cannot allow Him to do.

It was on the basis of Christ’s absolute faithfulness that Paul declared earlier in this letter, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). It was on that basis that the writer of Hebrews admonished, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,” and then exulted, “for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).[1]


11 “If we died with him, we will also live with him.” The language and thought is thoroughly Pauline, resembling especially Romans 6:8: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (cf. 6:5; Gal 2:20). In light of these parallels, “died with him” likely refers to the believer’s spiritual union with Christ rather than to martyrdom (cf. Knight, 403), though readiness for martyrdom may be implied on a secondary level. Likewise, “live with him” does not refer primarily to the believer’s eternal state but his present possession of spiritual life (cf. Knight, 404).[2]


11 As we approach what appears to be a theological affirmation, it is important to bear in mind that we are still in the midst of a section of parenesis. The theological material that follows in vv. 11–13 is both supportive and illustrative of the command “remember” given in v. 8. Although Timothy (and other readers/hearers) could deduce from the command and the descriptions of Jesus and Paul where the instructions were headed, this insertion of theological affirmations makes the obligation to join in suffering impossible to miss and too serious to dismiss. Before we examine the contents and their implications, however, some matters of structure and logic need to be considered.

The introductory phrase “here is a trustworthy saying” calls attention to the authority and possibly traditional character of the material about to be rehearsed by (see 1 Tim 1:15 Excursus). Assuming the formula is meant as a preface, its relation to the lines that follow is loose (cf. 1 Tim 4:9), and its effect within the flow of the passage is abrupt and thus more emphatic. The first line of the “saying” is connected to what precedes with the conjunction gar (“For if we died with him …”);  the connection thus forms a logic that bypasses the introductory formula, and suggests that the series of conditional statements (vv. 11b–13) draws out the ethical implications of vv. 8–10 (or some part thereof).

Some of the material in vv. 11b–13 does reflect the influence of traditional sources (see below), but it has all the marks of having been shaped by Paul for insertion here: (1) the compound form of the verb “died with” Corresponds closely to the “participation in suffering” motif already established and expressed with the similar compound “suffer with” (2:3; 1:8); (2) the vocabulary is typical of the letters to Timothy; and (3) the resonance of the two parts of the passage (vv. 8–10 and vv. 11b–13) and of vv. 11b–13 to the rest of the letter is manifest. All of this is simply to say that while Paul gives the contents of the faithful saying a “formulated,” symmetrical look, it is more because of the rhetorical role it plays within this passage than because he is citing a well-known piece verbatim.

The Greek connective intends to link vv. 11b–13 with what has gone before, in order to ground the parenetic illustrations (Jesus and Paul) and the model of suffering and endurance in well-known, accepted theological affirmations and warnings. The extent of the preceding material grounded in this way is also debated. But whether we take vv. 11b–13 to be providing a basis for all of vv. 8–10 or just v. 10a, we have already seen how vv. 8–10 form a complex unity, so that v. 10a cannot be easily divided from the preceding; indeed, if we disconnect the command to “remember” (v. 8a) from the illustrations and rationale that follow (vv. 8b–10), the exhortatory nature of the teaching is lost. Paul is not inserting the traditional material simply to remind himself why he “endures” (v. 10a), but to provide a theological basis for the behavior Timothy must seek to emulate.

Paul’s symmetrical presentation of the material in vv. 11b–13 gives it rhetorical impact and gravity. Four conditional statements (“if—then”) are made in succession, with only the final condition departing from the form in that it supplies a reason for the apodosis (the “then” phrase). The form is similar to 1 Cor 15:12–19, in which a forceful argument is mounted by means of a succession of conditional statements. Johnson compares the function of the statements made here with “sentences of holy law” that emphatically reminded readers that human actions call forth appropriate divine responses. In combination with the solemn introductory formula, this genre emphasizes the certainty of the promises and warnings spelled out for Timothy.

The first line of the material enters the mysterious region of “dying and rising” with Christ: “If we died with [him], we will also live with [him].” The carefully balanced compound verbs of each half of the condition (“died with,” “will live with”) require the inclusion of the implied participant, which, as v. 8 (as well as the tradition) makes manifest, is Jesus Christ. In fact within the broader section, this line forms an interpretive link with the statement about Jesus Christ’s resurrection in v. 8; i.e. it points to the promise of vindication that Paul wants Timothy to associate closely with the reality of Christian suffering. Strengthening these connections is the conscious interplay of this line with the parallel statement in Rom 6:8 (“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that”) with which Timothy (and, in some form or another, probably any Pauline community) was almost certainly familiar (Rom 16:21). The meaning of the line hinges on the answers to two questions.

The initial verb means “to die with [someone].” It has been taken in two senses. First, in the present context, where Paul’s suffering has been a focal point (vv. 9–10) and Timothy is called to follow in that pattern (2:3; 1:8, 12; 4:5), it has been popular to understand the verb to refer to a martyr’s death. Typically, this teaching is seen as a post-Pauline application of the Romans passage, which is designed to present Paul here as the martyr whose martyrdom is then elevated to a central place within the gospel. But the past tense of the verb and the time sequence from the first to second lines (past—present) speak against this interpretation and suggest instead a metaphorical “death with Christ.”49 This is not to say that death may not accompany the one who “endures” in the gospel ministry (in fact that possibility is very much in view), but the thought of martyrdom (or the canonization of Paul’s death) as such is not in this text. It is far more likely that the thought of Rom 6:8 is a better guide to the sense intended here. There, Paul introduces the idea of “death with Christ” (as a past act, aorist) as a way of identifying the symbolic significance of the baptism-initiation-conversion experience. The aorist tense of the verb in the present text corresponds equally to a past event such as entrance into the faith and the community initiatory event of baptism that signifies participation in Christ’s death to sin (Rom 6:6, 7, 12).

As in Rom 6:8, death with Christ is followed by the promise of life with him. For this the antonym of the preceding verb (in future tense) gives the sense “we will live with [him].” The second question involves the time reference in the future tense—whether it refers solely to the eschatological future,51 or also includes the believer’s present experience “in Christ,” as in Rom 6:8. With the thought of Christ’s vindication/resurrection in mind as a model for Timothy (v. 8), the eschatological aspect of this promise is probably uppermost in mind, though this accent need not exclude the implicit understanding that present Christian living is “union with Christ” in his death and resurrection. Nevertheless, the requirements of the parenesis determine the emphasis on the certainty of resurrection as a solid foundation for Timothy’s present endurance; moreover, the “futurity” of this promise’s full realization may have served as an antidote to the misconceptions surrounding resurrection being spread by the false teachers (2:18). The first line of the saying portrays the entire scope of Christian existence, from conversion to glorification, in terms of “dying and rising” with Christ.[3]


2:11–13 / As a way of wrapping up this segment of the argument (appeal), and thereby reinforcing the appeal itself (which now includes God’s people), Paul “cites” a fifth (and last) trustworthy (“faithful”) saying. On the formula itself, see the discussion on 1 Timothy 1:15 (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1; 4:10; Titus 3:8).

Because the saying in this instance begins with a connective gar (“for,” untranslated in the niv), some have argued that the saying is actually verse 8 or 10 or that logos does not mean saying here but refers back to God’s word in verse 9 or that the “for” was an original part of a borrowed saying that was thus incorporated by Paul, but without meaning for the present context. However, the rhythmic balance of the four lines that follow gives them the clear character of a “saying” (perhaps an early Christian poem or hymn, more likely from Paul himself or from his churches). The gar is probably explanatory—and thus intentional—but does not refer to this is a trustworthy saying. Rather it goes back to all of the appeal in verses 1–10. “Take your share of suffering,” Paul says; “keep in mind your risen Lord,” he further reminds him, “because if we have died with him, we shall also live with him,” and so on.

The poetic nature of the saying can be easily seen. It is a quatrain of conditional sentences. Each protasis (“if”-clause) deals with the believers’ actions (all in the first person plural, the language of confession); each apodosis (“then”-clause) gives the results in terms of Christ, with the final apodosis having an additional explanatory coda. It may be that couplets are intended, since the first two lines deal with positive actions and the second two with negative. However, there is also a progression of tenses (past, present, future) and ideas in the first three lines, whereas the final line exhibits some remarkable shifts (both verbs are present; no also in the apodosis; a surprising turn to the apodosis).

The most likely interpretation of the first three lines is that they progress from Christian conversion (line 1) through perseverance and its eschatological prize (line 2) to a warning about the dire consequences of apostasy (line 3). Although there are considerable differences among scholars about line 4, it probably responds to line 3 as a word of hope. Our faithfulness or disloyalty cannot alter the greater reality of Christ’s faithfulness (to us, being implied).

Before examining each line, one should note that the language and thought of the whole is thoroughly Pauline—to the detail. If he did not compose it, then it was certainly composed in his churches. In the final analysis there is no reason to think that the man who wrote 1 Corinthians 13 and Romans 8:28–39 could not also have written this marvelous piece.

Line 1: If we died with him, we will also live with him. This clearly mirrors Romans 6:8 (cf. Col. 2:20; 3:1), and there is no reason to think that it means anything different here from what it does there. Using baptismal imagery, Paul is reflecting again on Christian conversion as a dying and rising with Christ. The future, we will also live with him, has primarily to do with life in Christ in the present (as it does in Rom. 6:8–11), although such language always has latent in it the thought of the eschatological fulfillment yet to be realized. After all, the present life with him is the result of his resurrection, the primary eschatological event that has already set the future in motion.

In the present context, however, the language of dying and living in Christ is perhaps also to be heard with the broader implications of Christian martyrdom. What was true figuratively at one’s baptism would also be true of a “baptism” of another kind. One might well guess that the implication of this was not lost on Timothy.

Line 2: If we endure, we will also reign with him. This line is the basic reason, along with its warning counterpart in line 3, for citing the saying. It speaks directly to the concern throughout the whole appeal (1:6–2:13) that Timothy remain loyal, even in the face of suffering. The verb to endure, although it clearly implies persevering, is especially used by nt writers of holding one’s ground patiently in trouble or affliction (cf. Mark 13:13; Rom. 12:12). That is certainly the sense here.

The apodosis also speaks directly to the context, namely, the promise of the eschatological victory alluded to in the three analogies in verses 4–6. To reign with Christ is a Pauline way of expressing the “eternal glory” that awaits those who are faithful to the end (cf. 1 Cor. 4:8; cf. also Rev. 3:21).

Line 3: If we disown [lit., “shall disown”] him, he will also disown us. With this line there is a shift to negative actions of believers. The content stands in clear contrast to line 2 as its opposite. Therefore, it also almost certainly presupposes the context of suffering and persecution (i.e., “being ashamed” of Christ in the time of trial). Thus it is both warning—to Timothy and “the elect” (v. 10; hence the future tense) and judgment—on those such as the Asians of 1:15 who have already deserted.

The language of this line precisely reflects the saying of Jesus found in Matthew 10:33 (par. Luke 12:9). Thus the subject in the apodosis changes from “we” to an emphatic he (Gk. demonstrative pronoun, “that one”).

Lines 2 and 3 together, therefore, form the basic reason for the citation: promise and warning attached to a call for endurance in the face of suffering and hardship.

Line 4: If we are faithless, he will remain faithful (cf. Rom. 3:3). This line is full of surprises, and it is also the one for which sharp differences of opinion exist regarding its interpretation. Some see it as a negative, corresponding to line 3. If we are faithless (i.e., if we commit apostasy), God must be faithful to himself and mete out judgment. Although such an understanding is possible, it seems highly improbable that this is what Paul himself intended. After all, that could have been said plainly. The lack of a future verb with the adverb “also,” as well as the fact that God’s faithfulness in the nt is always in behalf of his people, also tend to speak out against this view.

What seems to have happened is that, in a rather typical way (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 8:3), Paul could not bring himself to finish a sentence as it began. It is possible for us to prove faithless; but Paul could not possibly say that God would then be faithless toward us. Indeed, quite the opposite. If we are faithless (and the context demands this meaning of the verb apistoumen, not “unbelieving,” as kjv, et al.), this does not in any way affect God’s own faithfulness to his people. This can mean either that God will override our infidelity with his grace (as most commentators) or that his overall faithfulness to his gracious gift of eschatological salvation for his people is not negated by the faithlessness of some. This latter seems more in keeping with Paul and the immediate context. Some have proved faithless, but God’s saving faithfulness has not been diminished thereby. So Timothy and the people should continue to endure that they might also reign with him. Thus all four lines cohere as an exposition of “the salvation that comes through Christ Jesus and brings eternal glory” (v. 10).

The final coda simply explains why the final apodosis stands as it does: because he cannot disown himself. To do so would mean that God had ceased to be. Hence eschatological salvation is for Paul ultimately rooted in the character of God.

With this great affirmation, in the context of equally severe warning, this first appeal to loyalty comes to a conclusion. The defections in Asia, the warnings in this text, plus the raising of his sights in verse 10 to include “the elect,” all coalesce to turn Paul’s attention one final time to the false teachers (see 1 Tim. 1:3–11, 18–20; 4:1–5; 6:3–10) and Timothy’s responsibilities (2:14–3:9).[4]


The Song Of The Martyr

2 Timothy 2:11–13

This is a saying which can be relied upon:

If we die with him,

we shall also live with him.

If we endure,

we shall also reign with him.

If we deny him,

he too will deny us.

If we are faithless,

he remains faithful

For he cannot deny himself.

This is A particularly precious passage because in it is enshrined one of the first hymns of the Christian Church. In the days of persecution, the Christian Church put its faith into song. It may be that this is only a fragment of a longer hymn. Polycarp (To the Philippians, 5:2) seems to give us a little more of it when he writes: ‘If we please Christ in the present world, we shall inherit the world to come; as he has promised to raise us from the dead, and has said:

“If we walk worthily of him,

So shall we reign with him.” ’

There are two possible interpretations of the first two lines—‘If we die with him, we shall also live with him.’ There are those who want to take these lines as a reference to baptism. In Romans 6, baptism is likened to dying and rising with Christ. ‘Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.’ ‘But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him’ (Romans 6:4, 6:8). No doubt the language is the same; but the thought of baptism is quite irrelevant here; it is the thought of martyrdom that is in Paul’s mind. Martin Luther, in a great phrase, said: ‘Ecclesia haeres crucis est’, ‘The Church is the heir of the cross.’ Christians inherit Christ’s cross, but they also inherit Christ’s resurrection. They are partners both in the shame and in the glory of their Lord.

The hymn goes on: ‘If we endure, we shall also reign with him.’ It is the one who endures to the end who will be saved. Without the cross, there cannot be the crown.

Then comes the other side of the matter: ‘If we deny him, he too will deny us.’ That is what Jesus himself said: ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 10:32–3). Jesus Christ cannot vouch in eternity for someone who has refused to have anything to do with him in time; but he is always true to those who, however much they have failed, have tried to be true to him.

These things are so because they are part of the very nature of God. We may deny ourselves, but God cannot. ‘God is not a human being that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind’ (Numbers 23:19). God will never fail those who have tried to be true to him; but not even he can help someone who has refused to have anything to do with him.

Long ago in the third century, the Church father Tertullian said: ‘The man who is afraid to suffer cannot belong to him who suffered’ (De Fuga, 14). Jesus died to be true to the will of God; and Christians must follow that same will, whatever light may shine or shadow fall.[5]


2:11. This saying is faithful; for,

if we died with him, we shall also live with him …

Paul here introduces one more ‘faithful’ saying (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9). These sayings, as we have seen, were commonly-known expressions in the early church. The structure of verses 11b–13 suggests that this was an early church hymn or confession, as does the constant repetition of the pronoun ‘we’. These verses contain four lines, each beginning with a conditional clause (‘if …’). The first three ‘then’ clauses (apodoses, or main clauses), all contain the word ‘also’. The verbs in the ‘if’ clauses move from past to present to future, and back to present again. The fourth and final line contains an added explanatory clause, indicating that it is the climactic thought in the confession. As a whole, this ‘faithful saying’ expounds on the believer’s union with Christ and its results. Paul employs it here no doubt to pick up on the theme of ‘enduring’ from verse 10 and to encourage Timothy and the church to faithfulness.

The word ‘for’ has caused interpreters some consternation and has led many to suggest that the faithful saying is what has just been said and that verses 11–13 are explanatory. But the rhythmic and confessional nature of these verses suggests otherwise. ‘For’ most likely indicates that what follows is the basis for Paul’s earlier instructions to suffer hardship and to endure.

The first line begins, ‘If we died with him …’ Some have taken this as a reference to martyrdom, which would fit the larger context. But the past tense seems to point to the believer’s death with Christ at conversion, sometimes linked to baptism (Gal. 2:19–20; Rom. 6:3–8; 2 Cor. 5:14). The phrase, ‘we shall also live with him’, is difficult to interpret with certainty. It could refer to the believer’s present life ‘in Christ’, or it could refer to future resurrection. Either way, the point is the certainty of new life with Christ, both now and into eternity.[6]


11–13. Let the Reader particularly attend to the statement here made, for it is most blessed. Here is a presupposed case, the child of God is dead with Christ. And so he is. For by regeneration he is brought forth into spiritual life, proving thereby his being chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world. Ephes. 1:4, 5. And redeemed by Christ, as a member of his mystical body, Ephes. 1:7. And, regenerated by the Holy Ghost, he is quickened to a new and spiritual life in Christ. Hence he is dead with Christ. For when Christ was crucified, all his members were crucified with him. Gal. 2:20. When Christ died; he died, not in a private capacity, but publicly, as the head of his body the Church whom he represented as their Surety; and consequently each member in the eye of the law, died with him. Coloss. 3:3. So that from that moment the whole body of Christ is dead, in a legal sense to a covenant of works. And therefore it must follow, that as in him they were all crucified, and died; so they are equally from their oneness with him, interested in his life. And, oh! what a faithful saying this is?

Some of God’s children have been not a little alarmed, at what is said of the Lord’s denying them if they deny him. As if Christ’s love of his people depended upon their love of him. But blessed be God! our love of Christ forms no standard for his love of us. 1 John 4:19. It is not the weakness and infirmity of Christ’s dear children, in their daily frail and imperfect walk of faith that is here alluded to, which may truly be said to be a denial of Christ. For when I doubt his word, or call his providences or his promises in question, no doubt that these things proceed from unbelief. Such was the case of the Church. Isaiah, 49:14; Lament. 3:18. But this is not the denial the Apostle had in contemplation. The apostacy of hypocrites, and the false profession of those who call themselves christians, which are so only in name, who deny Christ’s Godhead, redemption by his blood, and the works of the Spirit; these, with others of a like nature, are the points Paul had in view, when speaking of the denial of Christ, which calls for his denial of us. And beyond all question, such denials must be followed with destruction. For so Christ hath said. Matt. 10:32, 33; Mark 8:38.

But what a sweet relief is the following verse, to comfort the feeble minded who would rather die than intentionally deny Christ: If we believe not yet he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself. Reader! cherish the blessed assurance, for it is most blessed. God’s faithfulness doth not depend upon man’s belief. His yea, and Amen, are founded in himself, and not in our improvement. It is indeed blessed and refreshing to the soul, when a regenerated child of God enjoys those love-tokens of God in Christ, by the lively actings of faith upon him. But the Lord’s grace is not founded in human merit; and therefore depends not upon human improvement. Oh! the preciousness of an unchangeable God’s purposes in Christ. Jer. 32:40; Heb. 6:16, to the end.[7]


11. A faithful saying. He makes a preface to the sentiment which he is about to utter; because nothing is more opposite to the feeling of the flesh, than that we must die in order to live, and that death is the entrance into life; for we may gather from other passages, that Paul was wont to make use of a preface of this sort, in matters of great importance, or hard to be believed.

If we die with him, we shall also live with him. The general meaning is, that we shall not be partakers of the life and glory of Christ, unless we have previously died and been humbled with him; as he says, that all the elect were “predestinated that they might be conformed to his image.” (Rom. 8:29.) This is said both for exhorting and comforting believers. Who is not excited by this exhortation, that we ought not to be distressed on account of our afflictions, which shall have so happy a result? The same consideration abates and sweetens all that is bitter in the cross; because neither pains, nor tortures, nor reproaches, nor death ought to be received by us with horror, since in these we share with Christ; more especially seeing that all these things are the forerunners of a triumph.

By his example, therefore, Paul encourages all believers to receive joyfully, for the name of Christ, those afflictions in which they already have a taste of future glory. If this shocks our belief, and if the cross itself so overpowers and dazzles our eyes, that we do not perceive Christ in them, let us remember to present this shield. “It is a faithful saying.” And, indeed, where Christ is present, we must acknowledge that life and happiness are there. We ought, therefore, to believe firmly, and to impress deeply on our hearts, this fellowship, that we do not die apart, but along with Christ, in order that we may afterwards have life in common with him; that we suffer with him, in order that we may be partakers of his glory. By death he means all that outward mortification of which he speaks in 2 Cor. 4:10.[8]


11. Another trustworthy saying is added at this juncture, at least if we follow the majority of commentators and attach the formula to what follows. Some have attempted to apply it to the antecedent passage but not convincingly (see Spicq for details). There is so marked a rhythmic pattern in the words that follow, that it must be considered more natural to attach the formula to verses 11–13. A difficulty occurs in the inclusion in the first line of the conjunction gar (for), which niv and rsv It would seem that some back reference is involved, but the explanation may be that part only of the original hymn has been preserved, and that the antecedent is therefore now lost. Most scholars agree that the words here are derived from a Christian hymn, although there is dispute among some scholars whether all of the words are authentic. Since the words form a rhythmic pattern there is no reason to regard them as anything other than a unity.

The connection of thought between the hymn and the preceding passage may possibly be found in the idea of glory. There are great things to look forward to in Christian experience even if hardship is the present lot. Some have seen in this hymn an encouragement to martyrdom (cf. Bernard), but the alternative view which holds that ‘baptismal death’ is in mind is much more likely (cf. Jeremias). This is confirmed by the close connection between this passage and Romans 6:8, in which baptism is used to illustrate the union between the exalted Lord and the believer. The idea is therefore in complete accord with Pauline thought, and seems to be brought in here to illustrate the worthwhileness of enduring everything for the sake of the elect (verse 10).

The tense of the verb translated we died with him (synapothnēskō) indicates that a past event is in view; and if this event was the moment of baptism, the apostle is reminding himself and Timothy of that experience of identification with Christ which forms the basis of Christian living and hence of Christian courage and endurance.[9]


Our common Christian experience (verses 11–13)

Paul now quotes a current saying or fragment of an early Christian hymn which he pronounces reliable. It consists of two pairs of epigrams, which are general axioms of Christian life and experience. They apply equally to all believers. The first pair relates to those who remain true and endure, the second pair to those who become false and faithless.

‘If we have died with him, we shall also live with him;

if we endure, we shall also reign with him’ (11b, 12a).

The death with Christ which is here mentioned must refer, according to the context, not to our death to sin through union with Christ in his death, but rather to our death to self and to safety, as we take up the cross and follow Christ. The former Paul describes in Romans 6:3 (‘do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?’); the latter he expresses both in 1 Corinthians 15:31 (‘I die every day’) and in 2 Corinthians 4:10 (‘always carrying in the body the death of Jesus’). That this is the meaning in the hymn fragments seems plain from the fact that to ‘have died with Christ’ and to ‘endure’ are parallel expressions.

So the Christian life is depicted as a life of dying, a life of enduring. Only if we share Christ’s death on earth, shall we share his life in heaven. Only if we share his sufferings and endure, shall we share his reign in the hereafter. For the road to life is death, and the road to glory suffering (cf. Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 4:17).

‘If we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself’ (12b, 13).

This other pair of epigrams envisages the dreadful possibility of our denying Christ and proving faithless. The first phrase ‘if we deny him, he also will deny us’ seems to be an echo of our Lord’s own warning: ‘whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt. 10:33).

What then of the second phrase ‘if we are faithless, he remains faithful’? It has often been taken as a comforting assurance that, even if we turn away from Christ, he will not turn away from us, for he will never be faithless as we are. And it is true, of course, that God never exhibits the fickleness or the faithlessness of man. Yet the logic of the Christian hymn, with its two pairs of balancing epigrams, really demands a different interpretation. ‘If we deny him’ and ‘if we are faithless’ are parallels, which requires that ‘he will deny us’ and ‘he remains faithful’ be parallels also. In this case his ‘faithfulness’ when we are faithless will be faithfulness to his warnings. As William Hendriksen puts it: ‘Faithfulness on his part means carrying out his threats … as well as his promises.’1 So he will deny us, as the earlier epigram asserts. Indeed, if he did not deny us (in faithfulness to his plain warnings), he would then deny himself. But one thing is certain about God beyond any doubt or uncertainty whatever, and that is ‘he cannot deny himself’.

The idea that there may be something which God ‘cannot’ do is entirely foreign to some people. Can he not do anything and everything? Are not all things possible to him? Is he not omnipotent? Yes, but God’s omnipotence needs to be understood. God is not a totalitarian tyrant that he should exercise his power arbitrarily and do absolutely anything whatsoever. God’s omnipotence is the freedom and the power to do absolutely anything he chooses to do. But he chooses only to do good, only to work according to the perfection of his character and will. God can do everything consistent with being himself. The one and only thing he cannot do, because he will not, is to deny himself or act contrary to himself. So God remains for ever himself, the same God of mercy and of justice, fulfilling his promises (whether of blessing or of judgment), giving us life if we die with Christ and a kingdom if we endure, but denying us if we deny him, just as he warned, because he cannot deny himself.

Looking back over the first half of this chapter (verses 1 to 13), the apostle Paul seems to have been hammering home a single lesson. From secular analogy (soldiers, athletes, farmers) and from spiritual experience (Christ’s, his own, every Christian’s) he has been insisting that blessing comes through pain, fruit through toil, life through death, and glory through suffering. It is an invariable law of Christian life and service.

So why should we expect things to be easy for us or promise an easy time to others? Neither human wisdom nor divine revelation gives us such an expectation. Why then do we deceive ourselves and others? The truth is the reverse, namely ‘no pains, no gains’ or ‘no cross, no crown’.

It is this principle which took Jesus Christ through a lowly birth and a shameful death to his glorious resurrection and heavenly reign. It is this principle which had brought Paul his chains and prison cell, in order that the elect might obtain salvation and glory. It is the same principle which makes the soldier willing to endure hardship, the athlete discipline and the farmer toil. It would be ridiculous, therefore, to expect our Christian life and service to cost us nothing.

In the second part of 2 Timothy 2 (verses 14–26), Paul continues his vivid portrayal of Timothy in his role of teaching and transmitting the faith, and therefore by derivation of every Christian minister, teacher or worker. He now uses three more metaphors—the ‘workman who has no need to be ashamed’ (15), the ‘vessel for noble use’ (21) and ‘the Lord’s servant’ (24). Each adds a further feature to the portrait.[10]


Vers. 11, 12 If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.

Union with Christ in death and life:—I. The first branch of this “faithful saying” is, “If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.” There seem to be two ways chiefly in which the soul “is dead with Christ.” If we look at the operation of the law as a manifestation of the justice of God, the law was the cause of the death of Christ—that is to say, the law being broken by the Church in whose place Christ stood, He, as a Substitute and a Surety, stood under its curse, and that curse was death. If, then, we are to die with Christ, we must die under the law just as Jesus died under the law, or else there is no union with Christ in His death. But further, Christ died under the weight of sin and transgression. Every living soul then that shall die with Christ spiritually and experimentally, must die too under the weight of sin—that is, he must know what it is so to experience the power and presence of sin in his carnal mind, so to feel the burden of his iniquities upon his guilty head, and to be so overcome and overpowered by inward transgression, as to be utterly helpless, and thoroughly unable to deliver himself from the dominion and rule of it in his heart. But there is another way in which the soul dies with Christ. Christ not only died under the law and died under sin, but He died unto the law, and He died unto sin. But in living with Christ, there will be, if I may use the expression, a dying life, or a living death, running parallel with all the experience of a child of God, who is brought to some acquaintance with the Lord Jesus. For instance, the apostle says, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” II. But we go on to consider another branch of this vital union with Christ. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” There can be no suffering with Christ, until there is a vital union with Christ; and no realisation of it, until the Holy Ghost manifests this vital union by making Christ known, and raising up faith in our hearts, whereby He is embraced and laid hold of. And there is no “reigning with Christ,” except there first be a “suffering with Christ.” I believe that reigning not only signifies a reigning with Him in glory hereafter, but also a measure of reigning with Him now, by His enthroning Himself in our hearts. III. “If we deny Him, He also will deny us,” that is the next branch. The words have a twofold meaning; they apply to professors, and they apply to possessors. There were those in the Church who would deny Him, for there were those who never knew Him experimentally, and when the trial came, they would act as Judas acted. And then there were those who were real followers of Him, but when put to the test might act as Peter acted. (J. C. Philpot.)

Christ and the Christian:—In matters of great worth and difficulty prefaces are used: so here. Whence observe we, that—

  1. Afflictions are not easy to be endured,
  2. God’s Word is faithful.

III. Christ and a Christian are fellow-sufferers.

  1. Christ and a Christian shall live together. (J. Barlow, D.D.)

Dead with Christ:—In the fourth century a young earnest disciple sought an interview with the great and good Macarius, and asked him what was meant by being dead to sin. He said, “You remember our brother who died and was buried a short time since. Go to his grave, and tell him all the unkind things you ever heard of him. Go, my son, and hear what he will answer.” The young man doubted whether he understood; but Macarius only said, “Do as I tell you, my son; and come and tell me what he says.” He went, and came back, saying, “I can get no reply; he is dead.” “Go again, and try him with flattering words—tell him what a great saint he was, what noble work he did, and how we miss him; and come again and tell me what he says.” He did so, but on his return said, “He answers nothing, father; he is dead and buried.” “You know now, my son,” said the old father, “what it is to be dead to sin, dead and buried with Christ. Praise and blame are nothing to him who is really dead and buried with Christ.” (Christian Herald.)

Dead with Christ:—“Believe, my dear Pris, what I am just beginning to learn, and you knew long ago, that the death of Christ is far, very far, more than a mere peace-making, though that view of it is the root of every other. But it is actually and literally the death of you and me and the whole human race; the absolute death and extinction of all our selfishness and individuality. So St. Paul describes it in Rom. 6 and in every one of his Epistles. Let us believe, then, what is the truth and no lie—that we are dead, actually, absolutely dead; and let us believe further that we are risen and that we have each a life, our only life, a life not of you nor me, but a universal life—in Him. He will live in us and quicken us with all life and all love; will make us understand the possibility, and, as I am well convinced, experience the reality, of loving God and loving our brethren.” (F. D. Maurice to his sister.)

Suffering and reigning with Jesus:

  1. Suffering with Jesus, and its reward. To suffer is the common lot of all men. It is not possible for us to escape from it. We come into this world through the gate of suffering, and over death’s door hangs the same escutcheon. If, then, a man hath sorrow, it doth not necessarily follow that he shall be rewarded for it, since it is the common lot brought upon all by sin. You may smart under the lashes of sorrow in this life, but this shall not deliver you from the wrath to come. The text implies most clearly that we must suffer with Christ in order to reign with Him. 1. We must not imagine that we are suffering for Christ, and with Christ, if we are not in Christ. 2. Supposing a man to be in Christ, yet it does not even then follow that all his sufferings are sufferings with Christ, for it is essential that he be called by God to suffer. If a good man were, out of mistaken views of mortification and self-denial, to mutilate his body, or to flog his flesh, as many a sincere enthusiast has done, I might admire the man’s fortitude, but I should not allow for an instant that he was suffering with Christ. 3. Again, in troubles which come upon us as the result of sin, we must not think we are suffering with Christ. When Miriam spoke evil of Moses, and the leprosy polluted her, she was not suffering for God. When Uzziah thrust himself into the temple, and became a leper all his days, he could not say that he was afflicted for righteousness’ sake. If you speculate and lose your property, do not say that you are losing all for Christ’s sake; when you unite with bubble companies and are duped, do not whine about suffering for Christ—call it the fruit of your own folly. If you will put your hand into the fire and it gets burned, why, it is the nature of fire to burn you or anybody else; but be not so silly as to boast as though you were a martyr. 4. Be it observed, moreover, that suffering such as God accepts and rewards for Christ’s sake, must have God’s glory as its end. 5. I must mind, too, that love to Christ, and love to His elect, is ever the main-spring of all my patience; remembering the apostle’s words, “Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 6. I must not forget also that I must manifest the spirit of Christ, or else I do not suffer with Him. I have heard of a certain minister who, having had a great disagreement with many members in his church, preached from this text, “And Aaron held his peace.” The sermon was intended to pourtray himself as an astonishing instance of meekness; but as his previous words and actions had been quite sufficiently violent, a witty hearer observed, that the only likeness he could see between Aaron and the preacher was this, “Aaron held his peace, and the preacher did not.” I shall now very briefly show what are the forms of real suffering for Jesus in these days. (1) Some suffer in their estates. I believe that to many Christians it is rather a gain than a loss, so far as pecuniary matters go, to be believers in Christ; but I meet with many cases—cases which I know to be genuine, where persons have had to suffer severely for conscience’ sake. (2) More usually, however, the suffering takes the form of personal contempt. (3) Believers have also to suffer slander and falsehood. (4) Then again, if in your service for Christ you are enabled so to sacrifice yourself, that you bring upon yourself inconvenience and pain, labour and loss, then I think you are suffering with Christ. (5) Let us not forget that contention with inbred lusts, denials of proud self, resistance of sin, and agony against Satan, are all forms of suffering with Christ. (6) There is one more class of suffering which I shall mention, and that is, when friends forsake, or become foes. If you are thus called to suffer for Christ, will you quarrel with me if I say, in adding all up, what a very little it is compared with reigning with Jesus! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” When I contrast our sufferings of to-day with those of the reign of Mary, or the persecutions of the Albigenses on the mountains, or the sufferings of Christians in Pagan Rome, why, ours are scarcely a pin’s prick: and yet what is the reward? We shall reign with Christ. There is no comparison between the service and the reward. Therefore it is all of grace. We are not merely to sit with Christ, but we are to reign with Christ.
  2. Denying Christ, and its penalty. “If we deny Him, He also will deny us,” In what way can we deny Christ? Some deny Him openly as scoffers do, whose tongue walketh through the earth and defieth heaven. Others do this wilfully and wickedly in a doctrinal way, as the Arians and Socinians do, who deny His deity: those who deny His atonement, who rail against the inspiration of His Word, these come under the condemnation of those who deny Christ. There is a way of denying Christ without even speaking a word, and this is the more common. In the day of blasphemy and rebuke, many hide their heads. Are there not here some who have been baptized, and who come to the Lord’s table, but what is their character? Follow them home. I would to God they never had made a profession, because in their own houses they deny what in the house of God they have avowed. In musing over the very dreadful sentence which closes my text, “He also will deny us,” I was led to think of various ways in which Jesus will deny us. He does this sometimes on earth. You have read, I suppose, the death of Francis Spira. If you have ever read it, you never can forget it to your dying day. Francis Spira knew the truth; he was a reformer of no mean standing; but when brought to death, out of fear, he recanted. In a short time he fell into despair, and suffered hell upon earth. His shrieks and exclamations were so horrible that their record is almost too terrible for print. His doom was a warning to the age in which he lived. Another instance is narrated by my predecessor, Benjamin Keach, of one who, during Puritanic times, was very earnest for Puritanism; but afterwards, when times of persecution arose, forsook his profession. The scenes at his deathbed were thrilling and terrible. He declared that though he sought God, heaven was shut against him; gates of brass seemed to be in his way, he was given up to overwhelming despair. At intervals he cursed, at other intervals he prayed, and so perished without hope. If we deny Christ, we may be delivered to such a fate. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Deniers of Christ:

  1. Difficult duties are greatly to be pressed.
  2. To conceive the estate of a Christian is to have an eye to his latter end.

III. God’s method and the devil’s differ. He begins with death, ends with life: but Satan the contrary.

  1. Christ is not to be denied.
  2. The deniers of Christ shall be denied. Helps against this sin—1. Deny thyself. 2. Never dispute with flesh and blood. 3. Look not on death as death: but on God’s power, which is manifest in our weakness. 4. Consider the examples of so many martyrs. (J. Barlow, D.D.)

The encouragement to suffer for Christ, and the danger of denying Him:—“It is a faithful saying.” This is a preface used by this apostle to introduce some remarkable sentence of more than ordinary weight and concernment. I shall begin with the first part of this remarkable saying: “If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” 1. What virtue there is in a firm belief and persuasion of a blessed immortality in another world, to support and bear up men’s spirits under the greatest sufferings for righteousness’ sake; and even to animate them, if God shall call them to it, to lay down their lives for their religion. 2. How it may be made out to be reasonable to embrace and voluntarily to submit to present and grievous sufferings, in hopes of future happiness and reward; concerning which we have not, nor perhaps are capable of having, the same degree of certainty and assurance which we have of the evils and sufferings of this present life. Now, granting that we have not the same degree of certainty concerning our future happiness that we have of our present sufferings, which we feel, or see just ready to come upon us; yet prudence making it necessary for men to run this hazard does justify the reasonableness of it. This I take to be a known and ruled case in the common affairs of life and in matters of temporal concernment; and men act upon this principle every day. The matter is now brought to this plain issue, that if it be reasonable to believe there is a God, and that His providence considers the actions of men; it is also reasonable to endure present sufferings, in hope of a future reward: and there is certainly enough in this case to govern and determine a prudent man that is in any good measure persuaded of another life after this, and hath any tolerable consideration of, and regard to, his eternal interest. In the virtue of this belief and persuasion, the primitive Christians were fortified against all that the malice and cruelty of the world could do against them; and they thought they made a very wise bargain, if through many tribulations they might at last enter into the kingdom of God; because they believed that the joys of heaven would abundantly recompense all their sorrows and sufferings upon earth. And so confident were they of this, that they looked upon it as a special favour and regard of God to them, to call them to suffer for His name. So St. Paul speaks of it (Phil. 1:29). If we could compare things justly, and attentively regard and consider the invisible glories of another world, as well as the things which are seen, we should easily perceive that he who suffers for God and religion does not renounce happiness; but puts it out to interest upon terms of the greatest advantage. I shall now briefly speak to the second part of this remarkable saying in the text. “If we deny Him, He also will deny us”; to which is subjoined in the words following, “if we believe not; εἰ ἀπιστοῦμεν, if we deal unfaithfully with Him; yet He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself”; that is, He will be constant to His word, and make good that solemn threatening which He hath denounced against those who, for fear of suffering, shall deny Him and His truth before men (Matt. 10:33). If fear will move us, then, in all reason, that which is most terrible ought to prevail most with us, and the greatest danger should be most dreaded by us, according to our Saviour’s most friendly and reasonable advice (Luke 12:4, 5.) (J. Tillotson, D.D.) If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.

Suffering with Christ:—In the olden time when the gospel was preached in Persia, one Hamedatha, a courtier of the king, having embraced the faith, was stripped of all his offices, driven from the palace, and compelled to feed camels. This he did with great content. The king passing by one day, saw his former favourite at his ignoble work, cleaning out the camel’s stables. Taking pity upon him he took him into his palace, clothed him with sumptuous apparel, restored him to all his former honours, and made him sit at the royal table. In the midst of the dainty feast, he asked Hamedatha to renounce his faith. The courtier, rising from the table, tore off his garments with haste, left all the dainties behind him, and said, “Didst thou think that for such silly things as these I would deny my Lord and Master?” and away he went to the stable to his ignoble work. How honourable is all this! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ’s martyrs:—Christ’s true martyrs do not die, but live. (E. Thring.)

Ennobled in death:—Henry V. on the evening of Agincourt found the chivalric David Gamm still grasping the banner which through the fight his strength had borne and his right arm defended. Often had the monarch noticed that pennon waving in the foremost van of the men of England who that day pierced, broke, and routed the proud ranks of France. The king knighted him as he lay. The hero died, but dying was ennobled!” (S. Coley.)

Cyril, the boy martyr:—Let me tell you of a young soldier of His, who bore much for his Lord. We must go back to the early days of Christianity, and picture a martyr being led to death in the city of Antioch. At the place of execution is the judge surrounded by a guard of soldiers. The man about to die for his love to his heavenly King says to the judge—“Ask any little child here whether we ought to adore the many false gods whom you serve, or the one living and true God, the only Saviour of men, and that child will tell you.” Close by there stood a Christian mother and her boy of ten years old named Cyril. She had brought her son there to see how a true servant of God could die for his Lord. As the martyr spoke, the judge spied the lad, and asked him a question. To the surprise of all, Cyril answered—“There is but one God, and Jesus Christ is one with Him.” At these words the judge was very angry. “Wretched Christian,” he said, turning to the martyr, “it is thou who hast taught the boy these words.” Then more gently, he said to the child—“Tell me, who taught thee this faith?” Little Cyril looked lovingly up to his mother, and answered, “The grace of God taught my mother, and she taught me.” “Well, we will see what this grace of God can do for thee,” cried the judge. He signed to the guards, who, according to the custom of the Romans, stood with their sheaves of rods. They came near and seized the child. Passionately the mother pleaded that she might give her life for that of her son. But none heeded her entreaties. And all that she could do was to cheer her child, reminding him of the Lord who loved him and died for him. Then cruel strokes fell upon the bare little shoulders of Cyril. In a tone of mocking, the judge said—“What good is the grace of God to him now?” “It can enable him to bear the same punishment which his Saviour bore for him,” answered the mother decidedly. One look from the judge to the soldiers, and again the cruel blows fell on the tender flesh of the boy. “What can the grace of God do for him now?” again asked the pitiless judge. Few of the spectators could hear unmoved the mother, who, with heart bleeding at the sight of her boy’s sufferings, answered—“The grace of God teaches him to forgive his persecutors.” The child’s eyes followed the upward glance of his mother, as she raised her pleading for him in earnest prayer. And when his persecutors asked whether he would not now worship the gods they did, that young soldier answered—“No, there is no other God but the Lord, and Jesus is the Redeemer of the world. He loved me, and I love Him, because He is my Saviour.” Stroke after stroke fell upon the boy, and at last he fell fainting. Then he was handed to his mother, and the question was once more repeated: “What can the grace of God do for him now?” Pressing her dying child to her heart, she answered—“Now above all, the grace of God will bring him gain and glory, for He will take him from the rage of his persecutors to the peace of His own home in heaven.” Once more the dying boy looked up and said, “There is only one God, and one Saviour, Jesus Christ—who—loved—me.” And then the Lord Jesus received him in His arms for evermore. The boy martyr went in to be with his King, that Saviour “who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Suffering for Christ rewarded:—Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, once expressed a desire that his friend Caligula might soon come to the throne. Old Tiberius, the reigning monarch, felt such a wish, however flattering to Caligula, to be so little kindly to himself, that he threw the author of it into a loathsome dungeon. But the very day Caligula reached Imperial power, Agrippa was released. The new emperor gave him purple for his rags, tetrarchies for his narrow cell, and carefully weighing the gyves that fettered him, for every link of iron bestowed on him one of gold. Think you that day Agrippa wished his handcuffs and his leg-locks had been lighter? Will Jesus forget the wellwishers of His kingdom, who, for His sake, have borne the burden and worn the chain? His scales will be forthcoming, and assuredly those faithful in great tribulation shall be beautified with greater glory. (S. Coley.)

Happy ending of a suffering life:—We have sometimes watched a ship entering the harbour with masts sprung, sails torn, seams yawning, bulwarks stove in—bearing all the marks of having battled with the storms, and of having encountered many a peril. On the deck is a crew of worn and weather-beaten men, rejoicing that they have reached the port in safety. Such was the plight in which many believers of old reached the haven of rest. They met with dangers and encountered difficulties. But if their course was toilsome, their end was happy. It was their joy to labour and suffer for their Lord’s sake, and they are now sharing His kingdom and His glory. (Bp. Oxenden.) If we deny Him, He also will deny us.Denying Christ:—There are many ways of denying Christ, both by word and action. We may take the part of His enemies, or ignore His supreme claim to our allegiance; we may transform Him into a myth, a fairy tale, a subjective principle, or find a substitute in our own life for His grace; and we may assume that He is not the ground of our reconciliation, nor the giver of salvation, nor the sole Head of His Church. If so, we may reasonably fear, lest He should refuse to acknowledge us when upon His approval our eternal destiny will turn. (H. R. Reynolds, D.D.)[11]


2:11 “if” This is the last of the five “trustworthy statements” in the Pastoral Letters (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; Titus 3:8). This one appears to be a quote from a creed or hymn.

  1. a series of four “if” clauses (FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCES, cf. vv. 11, 12, 13 twice)
  2. the first two are positive; the last two are negative
  3. the third and fourth clauses have an extra line

© “we died with Him” This is one of several syn compounds in II Timothy. It speaks of the biblical metaphor of baptism by immersion (cf. Rom. 6:1–11; Gal. 2:20). This exact form only occurs here, in Mark 14:31 and 2 Cor. 7:3.

© “we shall live with Him” This is another rare syn compound (cf. Rom. 6:8; 2 Cor. 7:3). This refers to the believers’ confidence of sustained fellowship with Jesus, not only now by faith but one day (and every day) face to face.

The first three “if” clauses end in FUTURE TENSE VERBS which assume an eschatological (i.e. end time) setting. The entire NT has this same already-but-not-yet tension. The kingdom of God has come (inaugurated) in Jesus but it has not been consummated. Believers experience many aspects of the Kingdom now, but others are reserved for the Second Coming.

© “if we endure” This grammatical construction (FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE) assumes believers will persevere.[12]


11–13. Accordingly, Paul is willing to endure all things—hardship even to bonds, with the prospect of death—in order that through his steadfast ministry the elect may obtain their full, everlasting, Christ-centered salvation (see verses 3, 9, 10). It is necessary to keep this connection in mind. Otherwise what follows may be misinterpreted.

In harmony with what the apostle has just stated, he now introduces the fourth of five “reliable sayings” (see on 1 Tim. 1:15). The opinion that the lines which he quotes were taken from an early Christian hymn, a cross-bearer’s or martyr’s hymn, is probably correct. It is evident that he does not quote the entire hymn (unless γάρ here is not “for”; but in the present case “for” is probably right). Now, the word “for” indicates that in the hymn something preceded. The probability is that the unquoted line which preceded was something like, “We shall remain faithful to our Lord even to death,” or, “We have resigned ourselves to reproach and suffering and even to death for Christ’s sake.” In either case the next line, the first one quoted by Paul, could then be: “For, if we have died with (him), we shall also live with (him).” Note that this feature of the quotation is similar to that which we encountered in connection with the lines quoted in 1 Tim. 3:16. Also in that case something that was not quoted must have preceded the quoted portion. In that case the line which presumably immediately preceded the beginning of the quotation probably ended with the word Logos or Christos or Theos (see on that passage).

Here in 2 Tim. 2:11–13, after the introductory formula (explained in connection with 1 Tim. 3:16):

Reliable is the saying,

the quoted lines are as follows:

For if we have died with (him), we shall also live with (him);

if we endure, we shall also reign with (him);

if we shall deny (him), he on his part will also deny us;

if we are faithless, he on his part remains faithful.

In the first two lines the if-clause describes the attitude-and action which proceeds from loyalty to Christ: we have died with (him), we endure (remain steadfast). In the last two lines the if-clause describes the attitude-and-action which proceeds from disloyalty.

The first two lines are clearly illustrations of synthetic or constructive parallelism. They do not express an identical thought, but there is progressive correspondence between the two propositions. As to the if-clauses, the persons who are assumed to have died with Christ are also the ones who endure, being faithful to death. And as to the conclusions, not only will such persons live with Christ, but they will also reign with him. These two go together. Note that in all the four clauses of these two lines the subject is we (“we … we …; we … we”).

The last two lines, describing the course of disloyalty, differ in form from the first two. Here we have not “we … we,” but twice “we … he.” In the third line (“If we shall deny him, he on his part will also deny us”), the conclusion is the expected one (just as in lines one and two). In the fourth line, however, the conclusion comes as somewhat of a surprise. It takes careful reflection before we realize that the surprising conclusion is, after all, the only possible one. Once we grasp its meaning, we understand that also lines three and four express a parallel thought, and are illustrations of synthetic parallelism.

Before a detailed analysis of these four lines is attempted, it should be stressed that taken as a whole they convey one main thought, namely, Loyalty to Christ, steadfastness even amid persecution, is rewarded, and disloyalty is punished. This is in harmony with the idea of the entire chapter (see the Outline).

The meaning of the individual lines:

Lines 1 and 2

After the connective “For,” which has been explained, line 1 immediately confronts us with a difficulty. There are two main lines of interpretation—there are also others which we shall pass by because even on the surface they are unreasonable—; and the first of these two main lines is subdivided into two main branches or forms:

The first main line of interpretation, in its first form, is as follows: “If we have (that is, “If we shall have,” or, “If at any time we have”) experienced physical death, having been put to death because of our loyalty to Christ, we shall also live with him in glory.” The reference in the if-clause would then be to a violent death, the kind of death Christ also suffered. In the case of believers this would be the martyr’s death.

This interpretation is surely possible. It does not clash with the context. The apostle desires that Timothy be willing to endure bonds along with other faithful servants of God (verse 3). Paul has just stated that he himself is suffering hardship even to bonds as an evil-doer, and that he endures all things for the sake of the elect (verses 9, 10). All this suffering has been imposed from without. Hence, when now in verse 11 he continues, “For if we have died with (him),” he could well have been thinking of that final form of physical affliction (the martyr’s death) which may at any time be imposed upon Christ’s loyal servants.

It is possible, however, that this interpretation is in need of some modification. This brings us to the second form in which the first main line of interpretation presents itself. Here, too, just as in the first form of this main line, the martyr’s death is in the picture. But according to this view the sense would not be that believers (including Paul and Timothy) are pictured as having at any time already experienced the martyr’s death but rather as being fully resigned to it and to all the afflictions which precede it. Paul then would be saying, “For Christ’s sake and in harmony with his example we have given ourselves up once for all to a life that involves exposure to pain, torture, reproach, and finally to the martyr’s death. We have, accordingly, died to worldly comfort, ease, advantage, and honor. If, then, we have in that sense died with (him), we shall also live with (him), here and now, even more by and by in heavenly glory, and especially after the Judgment Day in the new heaven and earth.” Along this line Calvin, Ellicott, and Van Andel (for titles see Bibliography).

In favor of this interpretation are the following considerations:

(1) This also is not in conflict with the context which, as was noted, describes deprivation to which believers are exposed.

(2) It is in complete harmony with the line which immediately follows, for the person who has given up earthly ambition and has resigned himself for Christ’s sake to reproach, suffering, and if need be to violent death, is the very man who “endures,” that is, who “remains steadfast to the end.”

(3) It is in agreement with Paul’s thought as expressed elsewhere. See especially 2 Cor. 4:10: “always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” With this compare 1 Cor. 15:31, “I die daily” (explained by verse 30: “we stand in jeopardy every hour”).

If this be the correct interpretation—and I believe that it has much in its favor—, the thought which Paul, in quoting from the hymn, is conveying, is the one with which we ourselves are familiar. It has been expressed poetically in the beautiful lines:

“Hence with earthly treasure!

Thou art all my pleasure,

Jesus, all my choice.

Hence, thou empty glory!

Naught to me thy story,

Told with tempting voice.

Pain or loss or shame or cross

Shall not from my Savior move me,

Since he deigns to love me.

Hence, all fear and sadness!

For the Lord of gladness,

Jesus enters in.

Those who love the Father,

Though the storms may gather,

Still have peace within.

Yea, whate’er I here must bear,

Thou art still my purest pleasure,

Jesus, priceless treasure.”

(Johann Frenck, 1653; translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863)

The interpretation given, in either of its two forms, is surely preferable to the second main line of interpretation, according to which here in 2 Tim. 2:11 the apostle is referring in general (without any reference to the martyr’s death) to the process of dying unto sin, that process of conversion and sanctification which is symbolized by the rite of baptism. This is a very popular view, in support of which an appeal is usually made to the similar-sounding passage, Rom. 6:8.

But the present passage, 2 Tim. 2:11, occurs in an entirely different context. Romans 6 deals, indeed, with “death unto sin.” The theme of the beginning of that chapter is that of spiritual renewal (“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live in it?… Our old man was crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed,” etc.) And from verse 10 on to the end of that chapter the word sin (noun or verb) or its synonym occurs in every verse!

Accordingly, the contexts of the two passages (Rom. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:11) are entirely different. The one deals with sanctification in general; in the other cross-bearing and the martyr’s death are in view.—Things which differ should not be confused!

Line 2 is not difficult once line 1 has been correctly interpreted. It means, “If we remain steadfast to the very end (for the meaning of endurance see N.T.C. on I and II Thessalonians, p. 198), we shall be kings in close association with him.”

If Interpretation 1, Form 1, is adopted, the living and reigning would have to refer solely to the believer’s existence after death. If Interpretation 1, Form 2, is preferred, the living and reigning pertains in principle even to the period before death, but comes to fruition immediately after death (cf. Matt. 10:32; Rev. 20:4), reaching its everlasting climax on and after the Judgment Day, when the saints will live and reign with Christ with respect to both body and soul (Dan. 7:27; Matt. 25:34; Rev. 22:5).

To live with Christ means to be with him, to have fellowship with him, to delight in him, to be like him, to love him, and to glorify him (see, for example, John 17:3; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:1–4; 1 John 3:2; 5:12; Rev. 14:1; Rev. 19:11, 14; 22:4).

To reign with Christ means to experience in one’s own life the restoration of the royal office. By virtue of creation man held the threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. As prophet his mind was illumined so that he knew God. As priest his heart delighted in God. As king his will was in harmony with God’s will. This threefold office, lost through the fall, is restored by God’s grace. The joyful response of the believer’s will to the will of Christ, that response which is true freedom, is the basic element in this reigning with Christ. Moreover, even during the period before death Christians rule the world by means of their prayers, in the sense that again and again judgments occur in answer to prayer (Rev. 8:3–5). In heaven they are even closer to the throne than are the angels (Rev. 4:4; 5:11). In fact, they sit with Christ on his throne (Rev. 3:21), sharing his royal glory. And when Christ returns, the saints sit and judge with him (Ps. 149:5–9; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3).

Lines 3 and 4

Having stated in the first two lines what will happen to those who endure or are willing to endure hardship even to violent death, the last two lines of the quoted portion of the hymn take up the case of those who, having confessed Christ (at least with the lips), become disloyal to him. “If we shall deny (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8) him, he on his part will also deny us.” When a person, because of unwillingness to suffer hardship for the sake of Christ and his cause, disowns the Lord (“I do not know the man!”), then, unless he repents, he will be disowned by the Lord in the great day of judgment (“I do not know you”). See Matt. 26:72; then Matt. 25:12; also Matt. 10:33.

To deny Christ means to be faithless. (The parallelism and also the conclusion—“he … remains faithful”—show that here the meaning of the verb used in the original cannot be: to be unbelieving.) Hence, the hymn continues: “If we are faithless, he on his part …,” but obviously the continuation cannot be “will also be faithless.” One can say, “If we shall deny him, he on his part will also deny us,” but one cannot say, “If we are faithless, he on his part will also be faithless.” Nevertheless, the conclusion of the fourth line corresponds in thought with that of its parallel, the third line; for, the clause “he on his part remains faithful” (line four) is, after all, the same (even more forcefully expressed!) as, “he on his part will also deny us,” for faithfulness on his part means carrying out his threats (Matt. 10:33) as well as his promises (Matt. 10:32)! Divine faithfulness is a wonderful comfort for those who are loyal (1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Thess. 3:3; cf. 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; Phil. 1:6; Heb. 10:23). It is a very earnest warning for those who might be inclined to become disloyal.

It is hardly necessary to add that the meaning of the last line cannot be, “If we are faithless and deny him, nevertheless he, remaining faithful to his promise, will give us everlasting life.” Aside from being wrong for other reasons, such an interpretation destroys the evident implication of the parallelism between lines three and four.

The final clause of verse 13 is probably to be regarded as a comment by Paul himself (not a part of the hymn): … for to deny himself he is not able. If Christ failed to remain faithful to his threat as well as to his promise, he would be denying himself, for in that case he would cease to be The Truth. See also Num. 23:10; Jer. 10:10; Titus 1:2; Rev. 3:7. But for him to deny himself is, of course, impossible. If it were possible, he would no longer be God![13]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 63–66). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 577–578). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Towner, P. H. (2006). The Letters to Timothy and Titus (pp. 506–510). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (pp. 248–251). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Barclay, W. (2003). The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated, pp. 189–191). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

[6] Barcley, W. B. (2005). A Study Commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy (pp. 249–250). Darlington, England; Webster, NY: Evangelical Press.

[7] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s New Testament Commentary: Philippians–Revelation (Vol. 3, pp. 161–162). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[8] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (pp. 217–218). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[9] Guthrie, D. (1990). Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 14, pp. 162–163). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[10] Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (pp. 63–65). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[11] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Second Timothy–Titus, Philemon (Vol. 1, pp. 173–178). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[12] Utley, R. J. (2000). Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey: I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy (Vol. Volume 9, pp. 149–150). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[13] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 254–260). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

July 4, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

The Reason

so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:12)

The ultimate purpose of Paul’s prayer was not for them, but for the name of our Lord Jesus to be glorified in their lives. The phrase the name of our Lord, reminiscent of the familiar Old Testament phrase “the name of the Lord” (cf. Gen. 4:26; Ex. 33:19; Deut. 5:11; Isa. 42:8), clearly and unequivocally identifies Jesus as Yahweh of the Old Testament. To glorify the name of the Lord means to honor and exalt all that He is.

To do so should be the deepest desire of His people. At the end of his magnificent prayer for Israel’s restoration from captivity, Daniel cried out, “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (Dan. 9:19). Daniel’s primary concern was not the misery of his people, but the reputation of his God. Paul’s concern was that those who bear the name of the Lord Jesus should honor it; that they “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Jesus instructed believers, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Paul described Titus and the men who accompanied him as “a glory to Christ” (2 Cor. 8:23).

When believers glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, they in turn will be glorified in Him. Paul has in view here both eternal glory and temporal honor. First Samuel 2:30 expresses this same spiritual principle: “The Lord declares … ‘Those who honor Me I will honor.’ ” In John 12:26 Jesus promised, “If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” Christ will honor those whose lives honor Him.

Paul closed the passage by reminding his readers that the ability to glorify Jesus Christ comes only through the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Like salvation itself, everything in the Christian life comes by grace—God’s unmerited favor (cf. Gal. 3:3). It is grammatically possible to translate this final phrase “our God and Lord Jesus Christ,” which would indicate Paul had only the Second Person of the Trinity in view. Both translations affirm Christ’s deity; He is either called God or put on an equal footing with the Father.

Praying for the right things is inseparably linked with holy living. The godly Puritan John Owen noted, “He who prays as he ought, will endeavor to live as he prays” (The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded [reprint; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977], 59). The dedication such prayer should engender in the believer’s life is illustrated by one of most fabled organizations in American history—the Pony Express:

The Pony Express was a private express company that carried mail by an organized relay of horseback riders. The eastern end was St. Joseph, Missouri, and the western terminal was in Sacramento, California. The cost of sending a letter by Pony Express was $2.50 an ounce. If the weather and horses held out and the Indians held off, that letter would complete the entire two-thousand-mile journey in a speedy ten days, as did the report of Lincoln’s Inaugural Address.

It may surprise you that the Pony Express was only in operation from April 3, 1860, until November 18, 1861—just seventeen months. When the telegraph line was completed between two cities, the service was no longer needed.

Being a rider for the Pony Express was a tough job. You were expected to ride seventy-five to one hundred miles a day, changing horses every fifteen to twenty-five miles. Other than the mail, the only baggage you carried contained a few provisions, including a kit of flour, cornmeal, and bacon. In case of danger, you also had a medical pack of turpentine, borax, and cream of tartar. In order to travel light and to increase speed of mobility during Indian attacks, the men always rode in shirtsleeves, even during the fierce winter weather.

How would you recruit volunteers for this hazardous job? An 1860 San Francisco newspaper printed this ad for the Pony Express: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk [death] daily. Orphans preferred.”

Those were the honest facts of the service required, but the Pony Express never had a shortage of riders.…

Like the Pony Express, serving God is not a job for the casually interested. It’s costly service. He asks for your life. He asks for service to Him to become a priority, not a pastime. (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life [Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1991], 109–10. Italics in the original.)[1]


12 Next Paul states the purpose of his prayer—the glorification of Christ in believers and they in him (cf. Isa 66:5). This is an intermediate step toward the final recognition of the Lord’s own worthiness and majesty and the saints’ participation in those recognitions with him. “Name” refers to the dignity, majesty, and power of the Lord’s revealed character.

Several have chosen to understand “in you … in him” causally: “because of you … because of him” (so Frame, 241; Best, 271–72); i.e., glory comes to the Lord because of the saved and to the saved because of the Lord. To resort to this rare meaning of en (“in”) is unnecessary, however. The more common locative meaning allows this to be the “en of mystic indwelling” (Robertson, Grammar of the New Testament, 587–88). This is a technical expression initiated by Jesus (Jn 15:4; 17:21), and Paul takes up this usage and develops it more completely (Ro 6:11, 23; 1 Co 1:5; 2 Co 13:4; et al.). The thought is that of reciprocity resting on the union of the Lord with his people. They are to share the future moment of glorification together—as a unit.

As Paul elsewhere shows a continuing zeal to exclude merit from the salvation process (Ro 4:16; 11:5–6; Eph 2:5, 8), so here too “grace” is the source of everything (cf. Lightfoot, 107). Grace is from both the Father and the Son, as in the salutation. We pray for such things as these, and God answers our prayers in harmony with the working of his grace.[2]


12 The purpose of all this is now given: “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.” The name in biblical times was much more than a means of distinguishing one person from another. It summed up the person’s whole character. An instructive verse for an understanding of the name reads, “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it” (Rev. 2:17). To our way of thinking a name that nobody knows is useless. The whole purpose of a name is to designate a person. But in the Revelation the name nobody knows is very much in point. It signifies a new character that is given to the person in question, something that is a secret between his Lord and himself.

Thus when prayer is made that the Thessalonians may so live that glory may be brought to the name of the Lord, the meaning is not that the angels may name his name “with loud acclaims” (Frame). Rather, it is that there may be such virtues manifest in the believers that glory will accrue to him who is ultimately responsible for these virtues. The Thessalonians will be such a bright and shining testimony to the reality of their salvation that the Savior will be seen to be the wonderful Being he is. The character in which he will be glorified is the double one of Lord (appropriate in this context so full of allusions to the second advent) and Jesus (with all its association of the human Jesus who stooped so low for us). Then there is another aspect to this glory. The Thessalonians, too, will be glorified. Their glory will result from their association with the Lord, and thus Paul speaks of their being “in” him in this connection. On that day, just as he will be glorified in them on account of what they have become, so they will be glorified in him on account of what he is.53

Again and again Paul comes back to the great thought that Christians owe all that they have and all that they are to God. So now he adds to this picture of glory the thought that all is according to the grace of God. Grace is one of the great Christian words, and Paul uses it often (see on 1 Thess. 1:1). It carries with it thoughts of the joyous free favor of God, and of his unmerited kindness to people. This is operative in the whole process of salvation, and if it is more usual in the New Testament to find it used of the initial stages of salvation, there is no reason for thinking that it will be absent from the final stages. The glory of the last time will be due to God’s grace to his people.

It seems that NIV is correct in its rendering of the closing words of this chapter. But since there is an article before “our God” and none before “Lord Jesus Christ,” it is possible to understand the expression to mean, “our God and Lord, Jesus Christ”54 (GNB mg.). However, the expression “Lord Jesus Christ” occurs so frequently that it has almost the status of a proper name. Therefore, when “Lord” is used of Jesus it is not necessary for it to have the article. This being so, it seems likely that we should understand the present passage to refer to both the Father and the Son. At the same time we should not overlook the fact that Paul does link them very closely indeed. That there can be this doubt as to whether one or both are meant is itself indicative of the closeness of their connection in the mind of Paul. He makes no great distinction between them (see further on 1 Thess. 3:11).[3]


12  Finally, verse 12 gives the reason for all of this, namely, that Christ himself will be glorified through those who walk in his ways and thus bear and share his glory. In so doing Paul once more appropriates language from the Septuagint where the divine name Yahweh has been rendered Kyrios and applies it to Christ. In this case the borrowed language echoes Isaiah 66:5, so that Paul thus concludes with an echo from the same Isaianic oracle with which he began in verse 7.

Paul:

 

so that

 

might be glorified

 

the name of our Lord Jesus

 

in/among you

 

Isa.:

 

so that

 

the name of the Lord

 

might be glorified

 

Although at first sight this usage may seem more tenuous as a case of genuine “intertextuality,” there are especially good reasons for viewing it as such. First, Paul’s language is that of the Septuagint Isaiah, a book with which Paul shows thoroughgoing acquaintance. Furthermore, second, Paul has just used language from this oracle earlier in verse 7. Third, Paul’s wording in this instance differs considerably from the Hebrew, since the Septuagint translator was here trying to make sense of some difficult lines in the Hebrew text. Thus original words of taunt by the postexilic “aristocratic religious” to Yahweh’s faithful ones (“Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!”) had been turned by the translator into a promise to the faithful that “the name of the Lord might be glorified” and their persecutors will thus be brought to shame.

What is significant in this case is the similarity of the Isaianic context with that of the Thessalonians. Toward the end of his “thanksgiving” Paul had set forth the demonstration of God’s justice (vv. 7–10) with echoes from this same Isaianic oracle. At the same time he also picked up language from Isaiah 2 and from the Psalter to emphasize the contrasting eschatological futures of the Thessalonian believers and their tormentors. “Indeed,” he says, God intends for Christ “to be glorified in his saints.” Now Paul prays for the fulfillment of that promise by returning to Isaiah 66—with language spoken into a context similar to theirs. And again, “the Name = YHWH” now belongs to Christ Jesus through the Septuagint’s use of the anarthrous Kyrios for the divine name.

But Paul’s concern is for reciprocity of “glory”; that is, his primary prayer is for the name of the Lord to be glorified in you (believers). Although there is often an inherent ambiguity to this phrase in Greek, as to whether it means “in” or “among,” in this case that ambiguity seems to be removed by what follows immediately, where Paul prays that they in turn will be glorified in him (the Lord Jesus). And all of this is in keeping with divine grace, grace which, as in the salutation, is simultaneously that “of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This would hardly need further comment, except for the note in the TNIV: “Or [the grace of] our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Although this note renders what is a grammatical possibility, two matters stand strongly against it as a probability. First, despite how some would read this passage, as well as Romans 9:5 and Titus 2:13, there is simply no incontrovertible evidence (a) that Paul ever used theos to refer to Christ—rather, it is the word he used exclusively to refer to the Father—and (b) that Paul ever used kyrios to refer to the Father, since this divine name is reserved exclusively for Christ. The definitive moment for these distinctions in Paul occurs in his next letter, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, where the theos of the Shema is applied to God the Father and the kyrios to Christ the Son. Second, this doubling of God and Christ is so thoroughgoing in these two letters that one would need especially strong evidence to think otherwise here, and such evidence is precisely what is lacking. So while my theological sensitivities would love to have it so, my exegetical sensitivities will not allow it—even as an alternative in this case.

Thus indirectly through prayer Paul concludes these opening matters to his letter by anticipating his final concerns in 3:6–15. But before that he must deal with an issue that has brought about considerable distress within the community—the timing of the day of the Lord.

As always there is much to learn from Paul’s prayer reports. Thus even though this prayer could easily be cast off from its contextual moorings and still be understandable—and useful—it is especially significant in its present context. One can thus learn a great deal about prayer for others from this example. In the midst of the Thessalonian believers’ pain and suffering, Paul’s prayer for them focuses ultimately on God and his glory. Yet God’s glory will be manifest as he fulfills in his people the desire of this prayer. And one should never lose sight of the fact that God’s glory is intimately tied to Christ’s being glorified in and among his people.[4]


1:12 / The section ends with a partial return to the thought of verse 10. The missionaries’ prayer of the previous verse is to the end (hopos), says Paul, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you. The name signifies the person; the purpose of their prayer, then, is that the Lord Jesus himself may be glorified by the holy and godly lives of his people. The difference between this and verse 10 is that, where the latter refers to the Parousia, this concerns (typically of the nt) the present. Even now, despite the restriction of a mortal body and a hostile environment (cf. Rom. 8:22f.; 1 John 3:2), enough should be seen of Christ in us to redound to his glory and, in a secondary sense, to our own: and you in him (—should be, but is it?). Paul intends, however, not to emphasize our glorification as such, but rather to disclose what is ours in Christ (cf. John 17:10, 21–23). The final phrase leaves no doubt where Paul’s emphasis lies. Even if in a reflected sense we have a glory, there is no room for self-satisfaction, for all that we have is according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The niv marginal reading, “Our God and Lord, Jesus Christ,” is possible in terms of the Greek, where the one definite article governs both “God” and “Lord,” but it is unlikely in terms of Paul’s style. The one article should be seen rather as drawing the two persons of the Godhead together in the grace that has saved us (see disc. on 1 Thess. 1:1 and 5:28, and for the titles Lord and Christ, the note on 1 Thess. 1:1).[5]


Ver. 12.—That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; or simply, of our Lord Jesus, “Christ” not being in the original. The “name of our Lord Jesus” is not a mere periphrasis for the Lord Jesus himself, but the name denotes his nature and character. The second petition of our Lord’s prayer is “Hallowed be thy Name,” and this the apostle applies to Christ; he prays that his Name may be hallowed among the Thessalonians—an incidental proof of his divinity. My be glorified in you, and you in him; a twofold glorification: Christ is glorified in believers, when by their holiness they promote his cause and reflect his glory; and believers are glorified in Christ, when they receive out of his infinite fulness. According to the grace of our god and the Lord Jesus Christ. Some suppose that the epithet “God” also belongs to Jesus Christ, but the construction hardly bears this meaning.[6]


12. That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may he glorified. He calls us back to the chief end of our whole life—that we may promote the Lord’s glory. What he adds, however, is more especially worthy of notice, that those who have advanced the glory of Christ will also in their turn be glorified in him. For in this, first of all, the wonderful goodness of God shines forth—that he will have his glory be conspicuous in us who are covered over with ignominy. This, however, is a twofold miracle, that he afterwards irradiates us with his glory, as though he would do the same to us in return. On this account he adds, according to the grace of God and Christ. For there is nothing here that is ours either in the action itself, or in the effect or fruit, for it is solely by the guidance of the Holy Spirit that our life is made to contribute to the glory of God. And the circumstance that so much fruit arises from this ought to be ascribed to the great mercy of God. In the mean time, if we are not worse than stupid, we must aim with all our might at the advancement of the glory of Christ, which is connected with ours. I deem it unnecessary to explain at present in what sense he represents the glory as belonging to God and Christ in common, as I have explained this elsewhere.[7]


12. The name in biblical times stood for the whole person; to ‘glorify the name’ was thus to exalt the person. Paul thus looks for the Thessalonians so to produce the qualities of Christian character that the Saviour who has produced such works of mighty power within them will be exalted. Some see in the glorification of the name of Christ a reference to the parousia (so Best), but, while the parousia is not out of mind, the primary emphasis at this point is on the quality of life produced in the Thessalonians by the indwelling Christ (Rigaux argues for the present). For being glorified in you, and you in him, cf. Jesus’ own words (John 17:1, 10, 21–23); they are to be glorified not ‘with’ him, but ‘in’ him, and he is to be in them. This is the closest of unions.

All this is according to the grace of God. Everything is ascribed to its basic cause in God. The Thessalonians do not have the power to bring glory to the Lord, but they can do this by grace (see comment on 1 Thess. 1:1). Grace emphasizes the favour God shows to the unworthy, a favour made available through the work of Christ, and further, the gifts he bestows on people. The purpose of such gifts is that people may live the life just spoken of.

It is grammatically possible to understand our God as synonymous with the Lord Jesus Christ, since one article covers both; indeed, Nigel Turner says bluntly, ‘ “Our Lord and God Jesus Christ” would be the correct rendering’ (cf. gnb mg., ‘our God and Lord Jesus Christ’). But kyrios (Lord) often occurs without the article, like a proper name. Most commentators take this sense here and understand the expression to refer to both the Father and the Son. This is probable, but the other possibility cannot be excluded. And in any case we should notice the closeness of Christ and God.[8]


Meanwhile Jesus Christ must begin to be glorified in us (1:12)

We have seen how Paul, immediately after stating the stark alternative between participation and non-participation in the glory of Christ, went on to pray that through God’s powerful work within the Thessalonians ‘the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in’ them, and they in him (12). The very same word for ‘glorified’ is used in verse 12 as in verse 10. For the glorification of Jesus in his people, and their consequent glorification, are not a transformation which is entirely reserved for the last day. The process begins now. Indeed, it must begin now if it is to be brought to its proper end when Christ comes. That day will not suddenly reverse the processes which are going on now; it will rather confirm and complete them.

Jesus seems to have taught this same progression in the Upper Room. He prayed that he might be glorified by means of his death and resurrection and that his own people might see his glory in heaven. But between these two termini he could make the astonishing statement ‘I am glorified in them’.24[9]


12. Moreover, the missionaries are interested in something else besides the salvation of the Thessalonians. They desire that every resolve prompted by goodness and every work resulting from faith be brought to fulfilment and that the readers may finally be counted worthy of entering the state of ultimate perfection in order that (ὅπως) an even higher goal may be attained, as is expressed in verse 12: in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him according to the grace of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What it means for our Lord Jesus to be glorified in his disciples (or saints) has been explained in connection with verse 10 above. Here in verse 12, however, it is the name of the Lord that is glorified. Christ’s name is Christ himself as he has revealed himself: for example, as God’s Anointed One, the Savior and Lord of his own. Hence, when they share in his anointing, accept his salvation, and recognize his Lordship, then his name is glorified in them. And this, in turn, reflects glory on them. (We accept the rendering “in him,” though “in it”—i.e., in the name—is also possible, with very little difference in meaning.)

This “he in you” and “you in him” is probably based directly upon the teaching of Jesus. See N.T.C. on John 17:10, 22; then also on John 15:4. It indicates the closeness of the fellowship between the Lord and those who are his own. His work in their hearts reflects glory on him. Their nearness to him means glory for them. Moreover, the glory which they receive is not given according to the standard of human merit, for then there would be none. It is given according to the standard of “the grace of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That grace (see on 1 Thess. 1:1) is derived from God our Father as the Fountain, and, being mediated through the Lord Jesus Christ (see on 1 Thess. 1:1), may be said to be derived also from him.

The translation preferred by some, namely, “according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ,” so that the entire expression would refer to the second person of the Trinity, and so that it would be another proof-text for the deity of Christ, has little in its favor. In the epistles to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:1, 2; 2 Thess. 1:2) grace is pictured as proceeding from a twofold source, namely, God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no solid reason to introduce a change here. It is definitely not true that grammar necessitates such a change.[10]


1:12. The point of this prayer is that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him. The purpose and driving energy in history is the glory of God in Christ Jesus: “To bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Eph. 1:10). Our lives in the present prepare us for the future. In the future, the glory of God will be proclaimed through the redemption and worthiness of his people. We will be his glory. Because we are coheirs with him, we will also receive glory, sharing in the honor of our Lord.

How do we explain the glorification of the believer? How is it that enemies of God are made children of God, that people of disobedience become the servants of Christ, that those dead in sin are made alive in Jesus, that suffering turns to joy, that poverty inherits God’s riches? Only by the grace of God. There is no other explanation. Both mystery and glory, it is beyond understanding. We can only receive it with awe and thanksgiving. “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!” (Jude 24–25).[11]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2002). 1 & 2 Thessalonians (pp. 259–261). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Thomas, R. L. (2006). 2 Thessalonians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 459–460). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Morris, L. (1991). The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (pp. 210–211). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Fee, G. D. (2009). The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (pp. 266–268). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] Williams, D. J. (2011). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (p. 119). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 2 Thessalonians (p. 4). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[7] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (p. 321). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[8] Morris, L. (1984). 1 and 2 Thessalonians: An introduction and commentary (Vol. 13, p. 123). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Thessalonians: the gospel & the end of time (pp. 154–155). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[10] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of I-II Thessalonians (Vol. 3, pp. 163–164). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[11] Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 94). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.