Category Archives: Verse of the day

May 27, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Superiority of God’s Wisdom

For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1:18)

When man elevates his own wisdom he automatically attempts to lower God’s wisdom, which looks to him like foolishness, because it conflicts with his own thinking. That God would take human form, be crucified, and raised in order to provide for man’s forgiveness of sin and entrance into heaven is an idea far too simple, foolish, and humbling for the natural man to accept. That one man (even the Son of God) could die on a piece of wood on a nondescript hill in a nondescript part of the world and thereby determine the destiny of every person who has ever lived seems stupid. It allows no place for man’s merit, man’s attainment, man’s understanding, or man’s pride. This word of the cross is foolishness (moria, from which we get moron). It is moronic, absolute nonsense, to unbelievers who rely on their own wisdom—to those who are perishing. That phrase is a graphic description of Christ rejectors, who are in the process of being destroyed in eternal judgment.

Word in verse 18 is from the same Greek term (logos) as “speech” in verse 17. Paul is contrasting man’s word, which reflects man’s wisdom, and God’s Word, which reflects God’s wisdom. Consequently the word of the cross includes the entire gospel message and work, God’s plan and provision for man’s redemption. In its fullest sense it is God’s total revelation, for His revelation centers in the cross. God’s whole redemption story and His whole redemption process seem foolish to unbelievers. And because Christ’s work on the cross is the pinnacle of God’s revealed Word and work, to reject the cross is to reject His revelation, and to perish.

When Paul first came to Corinth he continued to face the maelstrom of philosophies with which he had contended in Athens (Acts 17:18–21). But he had “determined to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The response of some in Corinth was the same as that of some in Athens: “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, [they] began to sneer” (Acts 17:32). But Paul did not change his message to suit his hearers. The Corinthians, like the Athenians and most other Greeks, had more than enough philosophy. They did not need Paul’s opinions added to their own, and the apostle was determined not to give them his opinions but the word of the cross. He would give them nothing but God’s profoundly simple, but historical and objective, truth—not another man’s complex and subjective speculations.

Human wisdom cannot understand the cross. Peter, for example, did not understand the cross when he first heard Jesus speak of it. In fact Peter took Jesus “aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You’ ” (Matt. 16:22). Peter’s own understanding about the Messiah had no place for the cross. He thought the Messiah would soon set up an earthly kingdom and that everything would be pleasant for His followers. But Peter’s wisdom was contrary to God’s wisdom, and anything contrary to God’s wisdom works for Satan. Jesus’ reply to His disciple was quick and sharp: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (v. 23). When the soldiers came to the garden to arrest Jesus, Peter still did not understand. He still tried to interfere with God’s plan. Drawing his sword, he cut off a slave’s ear—for which Jesus again rebuked him (John 18:10–11). Only after the resurrection and ascension did Peter understand and accept the cross (Acts 2:23–24; 3:13–15). He now had God’s Spirit and God’s wisdom, and no longer relied on his own. Years later he would write, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).

To the natural mind, whether Jewish or Gentile, the cross is offensive and unacceptable. But to us who are being saved it is the power of God. All men are either in the process of being saved (salvation present is not complete until the redemption of the body—Rom. 8:23; 13:11) or of being destroyed. One’s view of the cross determines which.

Paul proceeds (1:19–2:5) to give five reasons why God’s wisdom is superior to man’s: its permanence, its power, its paradox, its purpose, and its presentation.[1]


18 Paul now addresses the quest for wisdom, saying in effect, “Let’s face it. Anyone who loves the way the world works and the wisdom promoted by the scholars of this world would never have dreamed up the message of the cross—that people can be saved through a crucified Messiah. Nor would anyone who loves the world’s way ever follow the message of the cross. Rather, to them it is foolishness, but that only goes to show that they are perishing.”

In other words, the message of Christ crucified “is foolishness” to the world. Why? The answer seems obvious. Who in their right mind would say that the way to get peace with God is to build a relationship with someone who suffered the type of death reserved only for the worst criminals in the Roman Empire? Such an attitude is not unlike suggesting to people today to count as their hero someone condemned to the electric chair or to death by lethal injection.

Yet it is precisely by that means that God has displayed his “power,” his dynamis (GK 1539). This is a favorite word of the apostle, especially as applied to the message of the gospel. For example, the gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Ro 1:16). Or again, God has put his message “in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Co 4:7). Or one more example, Paul prays that believers may know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Eph 1:19–20). If we want true power in our lives—power over sin, death, and Satan—then what we need is Jesus, crucified, risen, and coming again.[2]


1:18 / Paul sets up a rhetorical contrast scheme that captures the heart of the gospel as he understands it. He begins the sentence with the word For, showing that it is an extension of his statement in verse 17. Now Paul explains that declaration more precisely in relation to the theme of “the word of the cross,” or the message of the cross. In speaking of the proclamation of the saving death of Jesus Christ, Paul refers to humanity in two groups. The division he envisions is eschatological, for it supersedes older divisions that were real, but humanly constructed—e.g., Jew and Gentile, Greco-Roman and barbarian, slave and free, male and female—and this eschatological division occurs as an act of God. Thus, on the one hand, there are those who regard the word of the cross as foolishness; Paul says they are perishing. The word typically translated foolishness (Gk. mōria) refers to something stronger or more problematic than that which is merely silliness or simplistic. The English word “moron” comes from the Greek root of this word, so perhaps it should be translated “moronity” to ensure that we see the degree of disdain that those who are perishing have for the message of the cross. On the other hand, there are those who are being saved. Paul includes himself and most likely those to whom he is writing in this group. The passive voice of the verb “being saved” acknowledges that God is the actor, the one who is saving. Moreover, in the scheme of this contrast, perishing versus being saved, one finds foolishness contrasted with the power of God. The natural opposite of foolishness in this context would be “wisdom,” so if the Corinthians are paying careful attention they will be surprised at this.

Paul’s rhetoric trips the logic of his readers. Remarkably, Paul says that it is what God does, not what humans know, that saves. God acted in the cross of Christ, and that action produces a division among humanity that itself reveals God’s unexpected power. Paul is not decrying the value of sensible reflection; rather, he is insisting that humans cannot discern the reality of God through their reason based only upon their own experience. God’s self-revelation in the cross is the key to comprehending God, it is the necessary starting point for valid comprehension of the divine, and without the cross we are bound to misunderstand God. The apostle himself employs reason, but always in reflection on the significance of God’s revelation in and through the cross. Paul’s point was not popular among many in the first-century church—witness the attraction to law-observance in Galatia and the fascination with power in 2 Corinthians. Often today people still do not like this message.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 40–41). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 268–269). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (pp. 39–40). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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May 27, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

From Natural Vices to Supernatural Virtues

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (4:31–32)

The final change Paul mentions is from natural vices to supernatural virtues and amounts to a summary of the other changes.

Man’s natural tendency is to sin, and the natural tendency of sin is to grow into greater sin. And a Christian’s sin will grow just like that of an unbeliever. If not checked, our inner sins of bitterness and wrath and anger will inevitably lead to the outward sins of clamor, slander, and other such manifestations of malice.

Bitterness (pikria) reflects a smoldering resentment, a brooding grudge-filled attitude (see Acts 8:23; Heb. 12:15). It is the spirit of irritability that keeps a person in perpetual animosity, making him sour and venemous. Wrath (thumos) has to do with wild rage, the passion of the moment. Anger (orgē) is a more internal smoldering, a subtle and deep feeling. Clamor (kraugē) is the shout or outcry of strife and reflects the public outburst that reveals loss of control. Slander (blasphēmia, from which we get blasphemy) is the ongoing defamation of someone that rises from a bitter heart. Paul then adds malice (kakia), the general term for evil that is the root of all vices. All of these, he says, must be put away from you.

These particular sins involve conflict between person and person—believer and unbeliever and, worse still, between believer and believer. These are the sins that break fellowship and destroy relationships, that weaken the church and mar its testimony before the world. When an unbeliever sees Christians acting just like the rest of society, the church is blemished in his eyes and he is confirmed still further in resisting the claims of the gospel.

In place of those vices we are rather to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven us. These are graces God has shown to us and they are the gracious virtues we are to show to others. God did not love us, choose us, and redeem us because we were deserving, but purely because He is gracious. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.… While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:8, 10). If God is so gracious to us, how much more, then, should we be kind, … tender-hearted, and forgiving to fellow sinners, especially to one another.

Being unconditionally kind characterizes the Lord, as Luke 6:35b shows: “For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Paul speaks of “the riches of His kindness … that leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). We are to be like our heavenly Father, says Christ, and are to “love [our] enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and [our] reward will be great, and [we] will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35a).

Tender-hearted has the idea of being compassionate, and reflects a feeling deep in the bowels, or stomach, a gnawing psychosomatic pain due to empathy for someone’s need. Forgiving each other is so basic to reflecting Christlike character that it needs little comment. The most graphic illustration of forgiveness is in the parable of Matthew 18:21–35. When Peter asked about the limits of forgiveness, the Lord told him a story of a man with an unpayable debt who was forgiven by his creditor, the king. This was a picture of salvation—God forgiving a sinner the unpayable debt of unrighteous rebellion against Him.

The forgiven man then went to someone who owed him a small amount and had him imprisoned for nonpayment. He who eagerly accepted a massive, comprehensive forgiveness would not forgive a small, easily-payable debt of another person. The incongruity of his action shows the heinousness of a believer’s unforgiving heart, and the man was severely chastened by the Lord for his wicked attitude.

Paul has this same relationship in mind as he calls for believers to forgive just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Can we who have been forgiven so much not forgive the relatively small things done against us? We, of all people, should always be eager to forgive.

The parallel text to this passage, found in Colossians 3:1–17, forms a fitting summation to Paul’s teaching here.

If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in Glory.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.[1]


32 Now Paul moves, at least for the moment, to the positive side of the ledger—to several of the virtues believers must “put on” (recall v. 24; cf. Col 3:12). In contrast to the preceding, they must become kind or benevolent (chrēstos, GK 5982) to one another. (The word is also used of God’s kindness in 2:7; cf. Lk 6:35; Ro 2:4.) They must also be compassionate or tenderhearted (eusplanchnoi, GK 2359). This word’s only other use in the NT occurs in another list of virtues (1 Pe 3:8). It speaks of the need to have tenderhearted feelings toward others in the body of Christ, which naturally leads to the third virtue—forgiveness. Again God is the standard: they are to forgive as God has forgiven them “in Christ.” The corporate body in Christ forms a forgiven people. The word charizō (GK 5919) can mean “to give freely” or “to forgive freely,” but the close parallel in Colossians 3:13 points to the sense of “forgive” here. (Other uses with this sense include 2 Co 2:7, 10; 12:13.) Motivated by God’s incredible generosity (recall 2:7) toward his people in granting them complete forgiveness, they are to extend that to one another.[2]


4:32 / This verse provides a striking contrast to the previous one by emphasizing the virtues that should characterize believers in their interpersonal relationships. Instead of those negative and destructive qualities, believers are admonished to be kind and compassionate to one another. Both of these virtues promote a spirit of acceptance, tolerance, and patience within the congregation.

Beyond that, the readers are to be continually forgiving each other. The word for forgiveness (charizomai) is also the word from which grace (charis) is derived. Within this context, believers are to respond to each other with the same grace, forgiveness, and generosity that they have experienced from God: hence forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Christians have been forgiven by Christ (echarisato, past/aorist tense), but they are to go on forgiving (charizomenoi, present tense) one another on the strength of the example that Christ has provided.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 189–191). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 133). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 254–255). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

May 27, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

The Test Applied

The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: (2:4–5)

In keeping with the nickname Boanerges (“sons of thunder”) that Jesus gave him and his brother James, John thunders at those who claim to have come to know Christ but do not keep His commandments. As he had earlier done in 1:6, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth,” John warns that their claim to fellowship is completely unfounded. Anyone who makes such a claim and lives in disobedience is a liar. The apostle’s epithet boldly exposes the danger of self-deception concerning salvation, which is damning to those who fail to realize their blindness, repent of their sins, and embrace the truth (cf. Gal. 6:7; Titus 3:3).

Plainly, those in God’s kingdom hear His voice and obey it. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37; cf. 1 John 3:18–19). In sharp contrast, those who do not obey His commands demonstrate that the truth is not in them. John therefore exposed the empty pretense of those who assumed they had ascended to a higher level of “divine truth.” For such false teachers, present with the readers, their so-called knowledge elevated them above prosaic earthly matters and rendered unnecessary any concern for moral conduct or godly living. But as James declared, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.… For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 26; cf. Eph. 2:10; Heb. 12:14; 1 Peter 1:14–16). Those whose faith is genuine will obey the truth.

Verse 5 then applies the test for assurance positively. Whoever sincerely and lovingly keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. It is best to understand the phrase translated the love of God as an objective genitive, meaning the loveforGod. John describes the genuine love believers have for God as perfected, not in the sense of finished perfection, but salvation accomplishment. In fact, this Greek verb teteleiōtai is translated “accomplished” in John 4:34; 5:36; and 17:4. It can even mean “initiate.” The supernatural granting of this love (Rom. 5:5) results in obedience to Scripture, and is not merely an emotional or mystical experience.

It is by this genuine love that believers know that they are in Him. The little phrase in Him [Christ] occurs many other places in the New Testament (vv. 8, 27–28; 3:6; 4:13; 5:20; 1 Cor. 1:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:4, 7, 13; 4:21; Phil. 3:9; Col. 2:6–7, 10–11; 2 Thess. 1:12; cf. Col. 1:28) and indicates a central truth of the Christian faith. Commentator John Stott summarized the significance as follows:

The whole context, and especially verse 6, suggests that the phrase in him again refers to Christ. To be “in Christ” is Paul”s characteristic description of the Christian. But John uses it too. To be (or to “abide” verse 6) “in” Him is equivalent to the phrase to “know” Him (3, 4) and to “love” Him (5). Being a Christian consists in essence of a personal relationship to God in Christ, knowing Him, loving Him, and abiding in Him as the branch abides in the vine (Jn. 15:1 ff.). This is the meaning of “eternal life” (Jn. 17:3; 1 Jn. 5:20). (The Epistles of John, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964], 91. Italics in original.)[1]


Two Types of Men (vv. 4–5)

At this point John introduces two types of men, as if to make the test concrete. On the one hand, there is the man who claims to know God but who does not keep his commandments. John calls him a liar. On the other hand, there is the man who obeys God out of a genuine love of him. John does not even say that this man claims to know God; but he does know him, as his conduct indicates.

Profession Without Obedience

John has harsh words for the person who claims to know God but who does not obey his commandments. He calls him a liar. That is, he is neither deceived by someone else nor confused by facts. Rather, he is openly professing something he knows is not true and therefore should rightly be branded a deceiver. Moreover, says John, “the truth is not in him.” This phrase may be no more than a restatement of the claim that the man professing to know God while actually disobeying his commandments is a liar, but it may also mean more than this. It may mean that the truth is not to be found in him in the sense that the one seeking truth should go, not to this man, but rather to another source. If this is the case, then the phrase obviously applies to the false teachers of John’s day (whom true seekers after God should avoid) and to false teachers in our time also. It means that truth should be sought, not from the man who has intellectual qualifications alone, but rather from the man whose claim to know spiritual things is backed up by godlike conduct. Unless there is observable godliness, such a man’s teachings about God should be distrusted.

Obedience Flowing from Love

The second type is the man who obeys God. He is not making great statements of how much he knows God, as the Gnostics did. At least John is not saying that he is making such statements. Nevertheless, he does know God.

Two points are made about this man. First, in this man, rather than the other, love for God is perfected. In Greek the phrase “love for God” contains a genitive (“love of God”), which may be taken in one of three ways. It may be a subjective genitive. If this is the case, God is subject, and the reference is to God’s love for us. It may be an objective genitive. In this case, God is the object, and the reference is to our love for God. Finally, it can be a qualitative genitive, in which case the reference would be to divine love; that is, to love that is of the nature of God. The second meaning is best. The meaning is that if a man loves God, he will seek to please him and keep his commandments.

Anything else is hypocrisy. A number of years ago when the so-called “new morality” was at the peak of its popularity, a number of theologians met to discuss it. Most were in favor. So the discussion centered on the value of being free of any rules and regulations. “But there must be some guidelines,” someone said. This was discussed. At length it was decided that the only acceptable guideline was love. Anything that flowed from love was permissible. Anything was allowed so long as it did not hurt anyone. While the discussion was proceeding along these lines, a Roman Catholic priest, who had been invited to the discussion and was in the room, became very quiet. At length it was noticeable. The others turned to him and asked what he thought. “Don’t you agree that the only limiting factor in any ethical decision is love?” they asked him.

The priest replied, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

The second statement made about the man who obeys God is that he has confidence spiritually, for, says John, “This is how we know we are in him.” It is uncertain whether the phrase “This is how” refers to what has gone before or to what follows. The sentence contains no connecting particles, nor does the one following. So the passage itself is undetermining. Besides, to make the matter more confusing, John apparently uses the phrase “This is how” both ways. Most often it refers to what follows; but sometimes, as in 4:6, it clearly refers to the preceding. The kjv takes it in the latter sense, that is, as referring to the man who obeys God and who therefore has assurance that he is a Christian. Most modern versions view it as an introduction to the concluding verse of this section, finding support in the resulting parallelism between verses 3 and 4, on the one hand, and verses 5 and 6, on the other. Thus, the niv translation reads, “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

Despite the weight of opinion on the other side, I feel that in this instance the kjv is right, for verse 6 is not so much a restatement of the test by which we may know that we know him as it is a conclusion or exhortation addressed to those who do. If this is so, then verse 6 is an independent wrap-up of the entire section, and the phrase “This is how we know we are in him” rightly belongs with the preceding as a second consequence in the life of the man who does obey God. The flow of thought is therefore that (1) the man who obeys God can know (a) that his love for God is being perfected and (b) that he is “in” God. Therefore, (2) everyone who says he abides in God ought to reassure his own heart and others by obeying him.[2]


4–5 John now offers two tests that will obliterate any claim that “knowing God” is a purely intellectual activity. The first test is negative: If someone says, “I know him,” but “does not do what he commands,” then one must conclude that this person is a liar. The reference to such people as liars echoes the language of 1:6, 10. Like 1:10, this test seems to compare something that someone might say to something Jesus has said—a “command.” John is probably thinking of sayings such as John 14:15, 21–24 (“if you love me, you will obey what I command”). Since Jesus said these things and since his word is truth, anyone who would dispute such teaching is a “liar.”

The positive counterpart to the negative test at v. 5 has notoriously complex grammar, making it difficult to determine whether the phrase “this is how we know we are in him” goes with the statement that precedes it or with the one that follows. The NIV places this phrase with v. 6, but it seems more likely it properly belongs with the test in v. 5 (so KJV; cf. Brown, 258; Culpepper 24; Johnson, 40). The grammatical confusion in this case results from the fact that John draws two conclusions from one condition: “If anyone obeys his word” [= obeys the teaching of Jesus], then (1) “God’s love is truly made complete in her,” and (2) “we know we are in [Jesus].”

The statement that “God’s love is truly made complete” in the person who obeys his word has generated considerable controversy. The genitive tou theou (“the love of God”) could be objective or subjective. If subjective, the phrase would mean that God’s love for us becomes complete when we obey him, perhaps because the barrier of sin is removed; if objective, it would mean that our love for God becomes complete when we obey him, stressing that faith must be combined with action. The context suggests that the genitive here is objective: John is thinking of our love for God as that love which expresses itself in obedience. Love of God is thus parallel to knowledge of God in v. 3, the two terms reflecting different aspects of a single Christian experience. The verb teleioō (NIV, “made complete”) suggests that the goal of this experience is a life of obedience. The Johannine Jesus utters this word with his dying breath to indicate that he has finished everything God sent him to accomplish (Jn 19:30).[3]


2:5 / Verse 5 is the positive contrast and answer to v. 4. It is not the disobedient person who truly knows God, but the one who obeys his word. The emphasis is on the continual present tense of the verb, “keeps on obeying.” His word (autou ton logon) is synonymous with “his commands” (tas entolas autou; niv, what he commands) in v. 4. The antithetical style of the author is also seen in the contrast of truly in v. 5 with liar in v. 4.

The Elder’s opponents claimed to know God (v. 4), but their disobedience to God’s commands proved them false. In v. 5, the Elder affirms that the obedient Christian grows in the agapē (love) of God until that love is mature, perfect, or complete. Here, knowing God and growing in God’s love complete the parallelism between the verses. To know God is to experience agapē love, and such knowledge or love (also claimed by the opponents; cf. 4:10) is demonstrated by doing what God has commanded. “The proof of love is loyalty” (Stott, Letters, p. 96), and in the letters of John that means believing in Jesus and loving one’s brother or sister in the community of faith (1 John 3:23; cf. John 6:28–29).

Divine love is truly made complete in the person who obeys his word. Made complete translates teteleiōtai, another favorite Johannine term. It signifies a process of spiritual maturity which begins with faith in Jesus and ends at his appearing in becoming like him (1 John 3:2). Growing in love for God is an important part of spiritual growth, as is love for others, a point the author will make forcefully later (cf. 2:9–11; 4:20–21).

The last part of v. 5 looks forward, as the niv punctuates it, to v. 6. This is how we know we are in him. The “how” is defined in the verse which follows. But we should take note that once again the subject is assurance (a confidence in short supply in the Johannine community because of the threat and boasts of the secessionists). How can we know that we are truly in a right relationship with God? This is what the phrase “to be in him” connotes. It means “fellowship … with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1:3), to “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1:7), and to “know him” (2:3). But how can we know we are in him?[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (pp. 58–59). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2004). The Epistles of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 47–49). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 437). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Johnson, T. F. (2011). 1, 2, and 3 John (p. 41). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

May 26, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Changes in the New Heaven and the New Earth

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, orcrying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (21:4–6a)

Heaven will be so dramatically different from the present world that to describe it requires the use of negatives, as well as the previous positives. To describe what is totally beyond human understanding also requires pointing out how it differs from present human experience.

The first change from their earthly life believers in heaven will experience is that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (cf. 7:17; Isa. 25:8). That does not mean that people who arrive in heaven will be crying and God will comfort them. They will not, as some imagine, be weeping as they face the record of their sins. There is no such record, because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), since Christ “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). What it declares is the absence of anything to be sorry about—no sadness, no disappointment, no pain. There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears over the death of loved ones, or tears for any other reason.

Another dramatic difference from the present world will be that in heaven there will no longer be any death (cf. Isa. 25:8). The greatest curse of human existence will be no more. “Death,” as Paul promised, “is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Both Satan, who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and death itself will have been cast into the lake of fire (20:10, 14).

Nor will there be any mourning, or crying in heaven. The grief, sorrow, and distress that produce mourning and its outward manifestation, crying, will not exist in heaven. This glorious reality will be the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:3–4: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” When Christ bore believers’ sins on the cross, He also bore their sorrows, since sin is the cause of sorrow.

The perfect holiness and absence of sin that will characterize heaven will also mean that there will be no more pain. On the cross, Jesus was “pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). While the healing in view in that verse is primarily spiritual healing, it also includes physical healing. Commenting on Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, Matthew 8:17 says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.’ ” The healing ministry of Jesus was a preview of the well-being that will characterize the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. The glorified sin free bodies believers will possess in heaven will not be subject to pain of any kind.

All those changes that will mark the new heaven and the new earth indicate that the first things have passed away. Old human experience related to the original, fallen creation is gone forever, and with it all the mourning, suffering, sorrow, disease, pain, and death that has characterized it since the Fall. Summarizing those changes in a positive way, He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” The One who sits on the throne is the same One “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (20:11). As noted in chapter 17 of this volume, the present universe will be uncreated. The new heaven and the new earth will be truly a new creation, and not merely a refurbishing of the present heaven and earth. In that forever new creation, there will be no entropy, no atrophy, no decay, no decline, and no waste.

Overwhelmed by all that he had seen, John seems to have lost his concentration. Thus, God Himself, the glorious, majestic One on the throne said to him “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (cf. 1:19). The words John was commanded by God to write are as faithful and true (cf. 22:6) as the One revealing them to him (3:14; 19:11). Though the present “heaven and earth will pass away,” still God’s “words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). There will be an end to the universe, but not to the truth God reveals to His people. Whether or not men understand and believe that truth, it will come to pass.

Also by way of summary, the majestic voice of the One sitting on heaven’s throne said to John, “It is done.” Those words are reminiscent of Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus’ words marked the completion of the work of redemption; these words mark the end of redemptive history. It is the time of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:24–28:

Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

The One who sits on the throne is qualified to declare the end of redemptive history, because He is the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; cf. 1:8), the beginning and the end (cf. Isa. 44:6; 48:12). God started history, and He will end it, and all of it has unfolded according to His sovereign plan. That this same phrase is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in 22:13 offers proof of His full deity and equality with the Father.[1]


5 Now, for the second time in the book, God himself is the speaker (cf. 1:8). From his throne comes the assurance that the one who created the first heaven and earth will indeed make all things new (panta kaina, GK 4246, 2785). This is a strong confirmation that God’s power will be revealed and his redemptive purposes fulfilled. Since these words are, in truth, God’s words (cf. 19:9; 22:6), it is of utmost importance that this vision of the new heaven and the new Jerusalem be proclaimed to the churches.[2]


21:5. In chapter 21 the first speaker was an unidentified voice from the throne. John now hears a second speaker. The throne is the great throne of heaven, first seen in 4:2, but most recently the place of final judgment (20:11). The Judge of the final reckoning was Christ. Now he speaks, as Creator rather than as Judge. Isaiah had foreseen this new creation (Isa. 65:17). During his earthly life Jesus had pledged, “I am going there [to my Father’s house] to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), suggesting a process of creation. Now his statement that I am making everything new emphasizes both the process and settled determination of Jesus to establish this eternal reality.

The angel in charge of this vision had commanded John earlier to write a “blessed” followed by a solemn affirmation of its divine trustworthiness (19:9). Now Jesus himself urges John to write this down, apparently the entire vision sequence. An equally solemn affirmation follows, applying especially to the words just spoken. They are trustworthy and true words because they issue from the one whose name is “Faithful and True” (19:11; the vocabulary is identical in the original).[3]


5. And the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new,” and he said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

The phrase the one seated on the throne is a circumscription of the divine name that recalls the throne room setting (chapter 4). It is a recurring phrase in Revelation and Old Testament passages. Avoiding the use of God’s name, John allocates the origin of the voice to the throne. Now not an angel but God himself speaks and instructs John (vv. 5–8). Several times from his throne God directs a message to his people (v. 3; 1:8; 16:1, 17), but this is the last time in Revelation that he directly utters an announcement.

God tells the readers of the Apocalypse that he is making all things new (compare Isa. 43:19, which lacks the words all things). But here is the glorious outcome of God’s redemptive plan that Christ fulfilled: the renewal of all things. Notice that God calls attention to the fact that he is presently doing it, not that he will eventually do it. This utterance, therefore, is a direct revelation from God, who recreates, and as such it is one of the most important verses in Revelation. God renews sinful human beings through the work of Christ and makes them into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). In addition to human beings all things are renewed. This is God’s promise that points forward to the consummation, the transformation of heaven and earth, and the renewal of his entire creation (see 4 Ezra [=2 Esdras] 7:75).

Once again John is told to write (1:11; 14:13; 19:9), so that the content of Revelation may be preserved for countless generations. The reason for recording these words is that they are faithful and true. They are not hollow sounds, nor words that in time lose their meaning, but they express unqualified and lasting trustworthiness. God, who in Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of this world, will honor his word in bringing about a new heaven and a new earth. The words faithful and true are repeated in 22:6 (compare 19:9).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 268–271). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 780). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 395–396). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 558–559). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

May 26, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Evidence of Reconciliation

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. (1:23)

One of the most sobering truths in the Bible is that not all who profess to be Christians are in fact saved. Our Lord warned, “ ‘Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” ’ ” (Matt. 7:22–23).

Of all the marks of a genuine Christian presented in Scripture, none is more significant than the one Paul mentions here. People give evidence of being truly reconciled when they continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast. The Bible repeatedly testifies that those who are truly reconciled will continue in the faith. In the parable of the soils, Jesus described those represented by the rocky soil as “ ‘those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away’ ” (Luke 8:13). By falling away they gave evidence that they were never truly saved. In John 8:31, “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.’ ” Speaking of apostates, the apostle John writes in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”

After hearing some difficult and challenging teaching from Him, many of Jesus’ so-called disciples “withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). By so doing, they gave evidence that they had never truly been His disciples. Perseverance is the hallmark of the true saint. (I discuss the issue further in my books The Gospel According to Jesus [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988] and Saved Without a Doubt [Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1992].)

Lest there be any confusion about what they were to continue in, Paul specifies the content of their faith as the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. The Colossians are to hold fast to the apostolic gospel they had heard; the gospel that had been proclaimed throughout the world; the gospel of which Paul was a minister, commissioned to preach. Those who, like the Colossian errorists, preach any other gospel stand cursed before God (Gal. 1:8).

Perhaps no passage stresses the vital importance of reconciliation more than 2 Corinthians 5:17–21:

If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

In that powerful text we can discern five truths about reconciliation. First, reconciliation transforms men: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (v. 17). Second, it appeases God’s wrath: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (v. 21). Third, it comes through Christ: “All these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ” (v. 18). Fourth, it is available to all who believe: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (v. 19). Finally, every believer has been given the ministry of proclaiming the message of reconciliation: God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18), and “He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (v. 19).

God sends His people forth as ambassadors into a fallen, lost world, bearing unbelievably good news. People everywhere are hopelessly lost and doomed, cut off from God by sin. But God has provided the means of reconciliation through the death of His Son. Our mission is to plead with people to receive that reconciliation, before it is too late. Paul’s attitude, expressed in verse 20, should mark every Christian: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”[1]


23 Paul does not presuppose, however, that the Colossians’ final spiritual standing before God is a given. The “if [indeed]” (ei ge) with which v. 23 begins interjects a degree of contingency and a note of conditionality. Even if Paul can presently rejoice in the good order and stability of the Colossians’ faith (1:4–5; 2:5), he does not assume that they cannot deviate or be diverted from “the hope held out in the gospel” (cf. 1:28; 4:12). Indeed, a purpose for which Paul wrote Colossians was to warn the congregation of the negative spiritual consequences of supplementing or abandoning their received faith. Paul clearly believed that God would empower and enable the Colossians to stand firm in the gospel (1:11). In Paul’s theological understanding, however, divine provision does not preclude human responsibility. As Moule, 73, puts it, “Christ does for us what we could not do for ourselves; but we must do, for our part, what he will not do for us.”

Paul encourages the Colossians to “continue” (remain or stay) in the faith. The precise connotation of “faith” in this verse is debatable. Is it the Colossians’ personal faith to which Paul is referring (so NIV)? Is it the basic beliefs to which the Colossians and other believers hold? Or is it a both/and rather than an either/or? While I am inclined to construe “faith” here primarily as initial and continual trust in God through Christ (1:4; 2:5, 12), as intimated in the NIV, it would be both unwise and unnecessary to dichotomize the act of faith from the facts of faith. In any event, Paul, like Jesus, regarded the saving faith as the continuing faith (cf. Mt 24:13). Assurance of salvation and perseverance in salvation go hand in hand. Spiritual fidelity and eternal security were closer partners for Paul and his Master than some theologians in the (ultra-) Reformed tradition have acknowledged.

Paul depicts how the Colossians should continue in faith by means of three reinforcing images. First of all, the Colossians are to be firmly established or founded like a well-built edifice. The perfect passive participle tethemeliōmenos (“having been established,” GK 2530) intimates that another is assisting and enabling their spiritual construction. If Paul does not intend a divine passive here, then Epaphras through his direct ministry and/or conceivably even Paul himself through his indirect ministry could be in view. Additionally, the Colossians’ faith is to be “firm” or steadfast. The meaning of the root word on which the adjective hedraios (GK 1612) is built is “to sit.” Paul is encouraging the church “to remain firmly seated on the gospel as … a skillful rider on a spirited horse” (Dunn, 111). Furthermore and finally, Paul cautions the congregation “not [to be] moved away from the hope of the gospel that [they had] heard” (NASB). The term metakinoumenos (“being moved away,” GK 3560) is a present passive participle. At this point we may well encounter the first, if subtle, indication that there are those who would lead the Colossians away from “the hope of the gospel” (cf. 2:4, 8). Christian hope, the eager expectation that God will consummate all things in Christ, is part and parcel of the gospel.

Regarding the gospel, three things are said. First, it is the gospel the Colossians had heard in the past (cf. 1:5–6). Hearing the gospel is vital. Indeed, “faith comes from hearing the message” (Ro 10:17). Moreover the gospel, Paul propounds, was preached “to every creature under heaven.” The universal scope of the gospel spoken of in 1:6 (cf. 1:20) is underscored here. Precisely who preached this gospel and where it was proclaimed do not concern Paul at this point. Paul’s confidence in the going forth of the gospel enables him to speak of the historical future as a theological past. Or as Bruce, 79, remarks: “Paul may be engaging here in prophetic prolepsis.” Regardless, Paul describes himself as a “servant” or minister (diakonos, GK 1356) of the good news (cf. Eph 3:7). Paul viewed himself as a servant of God (2 Co 6:4), the new covenant (2 Co 3:6), and the church (Col 1:25). He did not regard himself, however, as the only one suitable to serve. On the contrary, he acknowledged and appreciated such people as Phoebe (Ro 16:1), Apollos (1 Co 3:5), Tychicus (Col 4:7; cf. Eph 6:21), and Epaphras (Col 1:7) as fellow servants of the model servant, Christ (Ro 15:8; Php 2:7). For Paul, as with Jesus, spiritual success was based on sacrificial service, not on ecclesial standing or social status (cf. esp. Mk 10:43b–45).[2]


faith and hope for sinners (v. 23). Perseverance proves faith’s genuine character and is the fruit of reconciliation: ‘… if you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel’ (v. 23). This fruit is brought to maturity through the use of the means of grace. Men cannot add anything to the power of the blood of Jesus Christ by human effort, but God expects believers to exercise faith and embrace the hope that is found in the gospel. Christians are expected to continue believing in Christ Jesus all the days of their earthly life and to die in the hope of eternal life. There was an attempt in the assembly at Colosse to devalue Christ and deny the true way of salvation, so here Paul sounds a warning against backsliding. Christ is all-sufficient for their needs, and the pre-eminent Saviour (Heb. 7:25). False doctrine will come and winds of change will blow, but they (the Colossians) must remain true to Christ and his gospel. Christ is glorified when his redeemed and reconciled people persevere to the end.[3]


1:23 / Lest his readers entertain any idea that their status in Christ can be treated with indifference, Paul emphatically reminds them of an important condition that needs to be kept in mind: if you continue in your faith, established and firm. Salvation, although a free gift from God, must be kept. Thus those who have received Christ are admonished to abide or to persevere in Christ (John 8:31; 15:4–7; Acts 14:22; Rom. 11:22; 2 John 9).

To counter the threat of their eroding faith and shifting hope, Paul draws upon building metaphors that, as elsewhere in Scripture, portray strength, endurance, and security (Matt. 7:24–27; 1 Cor. 3:10–15; Eph. 2:19–22; 1 Pet. 2:4–10). The recipients can only have such a foundation, established and firm, by following in the faith and hope of the gospel that initially was proclaimed to them as well as to the whole world.

With these themes of faith, hope, and the universality of the gospel, Paul returns full circle to ideas expressed in his opening thanksgiving (1:3–8). There, his concern was that the Colossians see this as evidence for the truth of the gospel; here, he admonishes them to apply this truth to their lives continually.

Paul closes this section by stating that he is related personally to this gospel as a servant (diakonos). By doing this, he shows his commitment to the message that the Colossians have heard as well as his identity with his co-workers Epaphras and Tychicus, who likewise are servants of the gospel (1:7; 4:7). The statement also serves as a transition to the following verses where Paul outlines his ministry to the church.[4]


How you must go on (verse 23)

This verse confirms our understanding of Paul’s meaning. The position the Colossians occupy before God as ‘acceptable people’ depends upon one condition—continuance in the faith. This continuance is then defined as faithfulness to the gospel. The gospel is then defined as:

(i) the gospel they had already heard, i.e. which had already proved itself to be living and powerful;

(ii) the gospel the world was also hearing, i.e. which had already proved itself ‘catholic’ or universal;

(iii) the gospel Paul had received and served, i.e. which had already proved itself to be apostolic.

The duty of the Colossians to this gospel is expressed in fine words, whose precise meaning epitomizes the appeal of the whole Colossian letter.

  1. a. They are to be stable, literally, established or well-founded in the truth. To move from the gospel is to move from the foundations on which Christ has built his church, and therefore to lose Christian ‘stability’.
  2. b. They are to be steadfast. This is the great call of 1 Corinthians 15:58, where apostolic truth was again at stake. It means loyalty to the truths by which they were saved.
  3. c. They are not to shift. A unique New Testament word, it literally means that they are not to be dissuaded from the hope of the gospel. This is extremely significant language, specially characteristic perhaps of the captivity epistles. The chief blessing of the gospel is the hope it contains for the future. Meanwhile, in the present, the church lives by faith. Now we have a ‘taste’ of ‘the powers of the world to come’.7 It may be that the new teachers urged the believers not to be content with this ‘taste’, but to claim from God the full heavenly feast. But this, for Paul, is to ‘shift from the hope’. It is to refuse to walk by faith. It is to bring Christ down to earth. It is to give oneself to ‘another’ gospel.

To continue in the faith is to be content with the gospel that first saved and delivered us from spiritual death and estrangement with God, and brought us straightaway to live in his presence, at peace with him. It is to base our lives and our teaching upon the apostolic doctrines of grace. It is for those whose confidence that they are reconciled is in Christ’s work for us, not in Christ’s work in us. It is to be unmoved and immoveable in the face of strong winds of new doctrine, not just when people would deny the apostolic gospel but when, more subtly, they would improve upon it. For the sixteenth-century Anglican Reformers it was the rediscovery of the ‘finished work’ of Christ on the cross as an atonement for the sins of the world that made the medieval Mass so intolerable to them. From experience they knew that the focus of the worshippers’ attention was on the words and actions of the priest at the altar; there is concrete evidence of this in the new consecration prayer prepared for the Holy Communion service in the Book of Common Prayer. The words of this prayer vigorously turn our attention back to what Christ did by his death at Golgotha, ‘who made there … a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice … for the sins of the whole world’. Notice the emphatic there as opposed to here. Communicants are then invited to listen to what Christ said at the institution of the supper, since it is not the mysteriously powerful words of the priest that matter but rather the words Christ spoke by way of explanation for this remembrance of his passion. It is these words that must reach every listening ear and lodge in every worshipper’s mind and heart.

Today the situation is confused for many Christian people. Frequently one meets ‘catholic’ believers who claim with obvious sincerity that they believe and trust in Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice for sins. Shall we not say, therefore, that the old misunderstandings have been removed and that all believers can reasonably look forward to meeting with one heart and mind at the Lord’s table? Only if we can all agree that the finality of the sacrifice on the cross is a cardinal tenet of the New Testament, not only here in Colossians (1:20, 22) but also in the letter to the Hebrews where the imagery is very telling. Christ is pictured as having sat down at the right hand of the Father, his work of offering sacrifice completed, while his presence at the place of honour witnesses to the fact that he is (and therefore those that are ‘in him’ are also) now accepted fully, finally and for ever (Heb. 10:1–18).

It must reluctantly be said that this finality is still contradicted by much Catholic principle and practice even since Vatican II. Granted that the Mass is no independent or additional sacrifice, it remains for many a ‘real’ sacrifice, that is, the same sacrifice which Christ offered, though offered now in a different way. But why is this constant ‘renewal’ of Christ’s sacrifice necessary, even if it is offered in a bloodless manner? The official answer remains unchanged, as in paragraph 29 of Paul VI’s encyclical Mysterium Fidei (1965);

Instructed by the Lord and the Apostles, the Church has always offered it not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions and needs of the faithful still alive, but also for those who have died in Christ but are not yet fully cleansed.

Notice carefully the final phrase ‘not yet fully cleansed’. But this full cleansing of all sin is precisely what Christ by his bloody sacrifice has won for his people. This is the glory of the cross (1:27); this is the hope of the gospel from which we may not shift (1:23); from the enjoyment of this ‘freedom from sin’ we cannot allow ourselves to be recaptured by the chains of ‘religion’ (2:8–15). To those with a heart for this spiritual freedom the official Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass remains intolerable still.

Paul’s teaching remains the only road to spiritual ‘assurance’, a much neglected aspect of Christian truth: indeed it has often been regarded as peculiarly evangelical. Writing of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, Georgina Battiscombe says that

No existing record suggests that at any period of his life did Ashley experience that sudden and definite assurance of salvation which is the classic Evangelical conversion. If he in fact ever had such an experience it most probably would have been during his childhood under the influence of Maria Millis.

But sudden or gradual, can there be an intelligent and genuine turning to Christ without ‘that definite assurance of salvation’? Alas, it seems that there can, but only because believers do what Paul here forbids and shift from the hope (i.e. assurance) of the gospel by seeking something more than Christ crucified as the sufficient foundation for their soul’s confidence. Assurance of ultimate salvation is God’s intention for every Christian (1 Jn. 5:13), and, incidentally despite his most recent biographer’s hesitations, Shaftesbury certainly enjoyed it. The celebrated minister of St Peter’s, Dundee, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, wrote these words about such Christian certainty:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.[5]


1:23. The if of verse 23 should not be misunderstood. This verse is not saying that we will be presented holy and blameless if we remain faithful, as if our eternal salvation depends on our performance. The Greek construction of the if is not an expression of doubt but an expression of confidence and is better translated as since. Paul is not in doubt about whether the Colossians will remain faithful (see Col. 2:5). He is confident that because they have understood what it means to be reconciled they will remain faithful to the gospel that reconciled them. He writes this as an expression of confidence and as a warning to avoid the religious fads of the false teachers of Colosse.[6]


23. Now in connection with this glorious presentation at the Lord’s return a condition must be fulfilled. Hence, Paul continues: if, indeed, you continue in the faith, founded and firm.… Divine preservation always presupposes human perseverance. Perseverance proves faith’s genuine character, and is therefore indispensable to salvation. To be sure, no one can continue in the faith in his own strength (John 15:5). The enabling grace of God is needed from start to finish (Phil. 2:12, 13). This, however, does not cancel human responsibility and activity. Yes, activity, continuous, sustained, strenuous effort (Heb. 12:14). It should be noted, however, that this is distinctly the activity of faith (cf. 1 Tim. 2:15), a faith not in themselves but in God. Thus they will be “founded and firm,” that is, firmly established upon the one and only true foundation, the foundation of the apostles (through their testimony). Of this foundation Christ Jesus is the cornerstone (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20: Rev. 21:14, 19, 20). The conditional clause continues: and are not moved away from the hope that is derived from the gospel which you have heard. Danger was threatening; and it was of a twofold character, as pointed out earlier (see Introduction, III B; IV A). Hence, the apostle by implication is here warning the Colossians against relapse into their former state with all its soul-destroying vices (Col. 3:5–11) and against the “solution” urged upon them by those who refused to recognize Jesus Christ as the complete and all-sufficient Savior. Let them not allow themselves to be dislodged or shunted away from the hope—ardent expectation, complete confidence, watchful waiting—of which the gospel speaks and to which the gospel gives rise, that gospel which the Colossians “have heard,” that is, to which they have not only listened but to which they have also given heed. See above on Col. 1:6–8. That gospel, moreover, was not meant for a select few—the Colossian errorists may well have considered themselves an exclusive set!—nor was it confined to any particular region; on the contrary, it was the gospel which, in obedience to the Lord’s command (Matt. 28:19; especially Mark 16:15), was preached among every creature under heaven. It recognized no boundaries whether racial, national, or regional. It is always the “whosoever believeth” gospel. Having reached Rome, from which Paul is writing this epistle, it had actually invaded every large center of the then-known world. More on this under verse 6 above. With deep emotion and humble gratitude the apostle concludes this section and links it with the next paragraph by adding: and of which I, Paul, became a minister. The real depth of these words can only be understood in the light of such passages as 1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; and 1 Tim. 1:15–17. A minister of the gospel is one who knows the gospel, has been saved by the Christ of the gospel, and with joy of heart proclaims the gospel to others. Thus he serves the cause of the gospel.[7]


1:23 Now the Apostle Paul adds one of those if passages which have proved very disconcerting to many children of God. On the surface, the verse seems to teach that our continued salvation depends on our continuing in the faith. If this is so, how can this verse be reconciled with other portions of the word of God, such as John 10:28, 29, which declare that no sheep of Christ can ever perish?

In seeking to answer this question, we would like to state at the outset that the eternal security of the believer is a blessed truth which is set forth clearly in the pages of the NT. However, the Scriptures also teach, as in this verse, that true faith always has the quality of permanence, and that one who has really been born of God will go on faithfully to the end. Continuance is a proof of reality. Of course there is always the danger of backsliding, but a Christian falls only to rise again (Prov. 24:16). He does not forsake the faith.

The Spirit of God has seen fit to put many of these so-called “if” passages in the word of God in order to challenge all who profess the name of Christ as to the reality of their profession. We would not want to say anything that might dull the sharp edge of these passages. As someone has said: “These ‘ifs’ in Scripture look on professing Christians here in the world and they come as healthy tests to the soul.”

Pridham comments on these challenging verses as follows:

The reader will find, on a careful study of the Word, that it is the habit of the Spirit to accompany the fullest and most absolute statements of grace by warnings which imply a ruinous failure on the part of some who nominally stand in faith.… Warnings which grate harshly on the ears of insincere profession are drunk willingly as medicine by the godly soul.… The aim of all such teaching as we have here is to encourage faith, and condemn, by anticipation, reckless and self-confident professors.

Doubtless with the Gnostics primarily in mind, the apostle is urging the Colossians not to be moved away from the hope that accompanies the gospel, or which the gospel inspires. They should continue in the faith which they learned from Epaphras, grounded and steadfast.

Again Paul speaks of the gospel as having been preached to every creature (or “all creation”) under heaven. The gospel goes out to all creation, but it has not as yet reached literally every creature. Paul is arguing the worldwide proclamation of the gospel as a testimonial to its genuineness. He sees in this the evidence that it is adaptable to the needs of mankind everywhere. The verse does not mean that every person in the world at that time had heard the gospel. It was not a fact accomplished, but a process going on. Also, the gospel had reached to all the Bible world, that is, the Mediterranean world.

Paul speaks of himself as a minister, a Latin word that simply means “a servant.” It has nothing of officialdom about it. It does not denote a lofty office so much as humble service.[8]


23 Their continuing in the faith shows how real that faith is; so the passage concludes with a condition. If it is true that the saints will persevere to the end, then it is equally true that the saints must persevere to the end. Like a building set on a sure foundation and erected with strong supports, the readers are to remain true to the gospel, and not to shift from the fixed ground of their Christian hope. The claim of Paul’s gospel (which focused on this hope) to be the true message of God is shown by its universal appeal. It has already been preached in representative towns and cities of the empire—Paul does not mean that every single individual has heard.[9]


1:23if indeed you continue in the faith: The perseverance of the Colossians was proof of the reconciling work of Christ on their behalf (vv. 21, 22). every creature under heaven: Paul uses this exaggeration to illustrate the rapid spread of the gospel. Compare Acts 17:6, where the apostles are said to have turned the world upside down, even though their ministry up to that point had been limited to a small portion of the eastern Mediterranean region.[10]


1:23. This reconciliation in Christ comes only by an abiding faith—if you continue in your faith. The Colossians had a settled faith—established (i.e., “grounded” like a building on a strong foundation) and firm (hedraioi, “seated or settled”; cf. 1 Cor. 7:37; 15:58), so Paul did not doubt that they would continue. In fact he spoke of the hope (confident expectation) which this gospel of reconciliation provides not only to them but also to the whole world—to every creature under heaven. This is obviously a figure of speech indicating the universality of the gospel and its proclamation, not that every person on the globe heard Paul preach. In Acts 2:5 this phrase describes a wide range of people from various countries without including, for example, anyone from North or South America (cf. also Gen. 41:57; 1 Kings 10:24; Rom. 1:8).[11]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 65–67). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 297–298). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] McNaughton, I. S. (2006). Opening up Colossians and Philemon (p. 32). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 37). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Lucas, R. C. (1980). Fullness & freedom: the message of Colossians & Philemon (pp. 62–65). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 284). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, p. 85). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1996–1997). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] O’Brien, P. T. (1994). Colossians. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1267). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[10] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1563). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[11] Geisler, N. L. (1985). Colossians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 674–675). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

May 25, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

The God Who Provides

Philippians 4:19

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

I am sometimes asked what I consider to be the best cure for mental and spiritual depression, and I have answered that the best cure for spiritual depression is to feed on the promises of God. Are you depressed or discouraged? Has life gotten you down? If so, somewhere in the Bible there is a promise of God to cover it. I am convinced there is no need, no anxiety, no worry, no dismay for which God has not made dozens of encouraging and uplifting promises.

God’s Promises

Years ago now a delightful old French woman told me a story from her own life that illustrates this principle. In her youth in France she had been taught to make a little box of Bible verses containing a selection of the promises of God from Scripture. Each verse was written on a small piece of paper about the size of a piece of chewing gum, and each was then rolled up to make a miniature scroll. After there were forty or fifty of these small scrolls they were placed on end in a tiny open box. This was the promise box. She had been encouraged as a child to pull out one verse each morning and read it. One day during World War II (when she was much older) she was feeling terribly discouraged by many things that had happened. In her depression her mind turned to the little box of promises that had been long since forgotten. She went to the drawer of the dresser where she kept the box and took it out. She prayed, “Lord, you know how depressed I am. You know that I need a word of encouragement. Isn’t there a promise here somewhere that can help me?” She finished praying and stepped over to the window where the light was better for reading. As she did she tripped over a loose edge of the rug and all the promises spilled out onto the carpet. She immediately got the point and prayed again, joyfully, “Lord, how foolish I have been to ask for one promise when there are so many glorious promises in your Word!”

Think of the breadth and scope of God’s promises. There is John 3:16, a promise of everlasting salvation: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” John 10:9 points out, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:27–28 says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” Some promises concern prayer. Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” First John 5:14–15 tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

We come now to what is perhaps the greatest promise in the entire Bible. It is great because it includes all the other promises. It is Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Do you stand in need of salvation? God will supply salvation. Do you need strength for life’s trials? God will supply strength. If you are lonely, God can meet you and comfort you in your loneliness. If you are discouraged, he can lift you up. No need is left out, for the verse says that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

The God of Israel

A verse like this needs to be savored in each of its phrases, and the place to begin is with the two most important words in the sentence, the subject. The words are “my God.” Who is the one who Paul knew was able to supply the needs of the Philippian Christians? It was not any God, for he did not say “a god” or merely “the god in whom you may happen to believe.” Paul was not referring to the gods of the Greeks, Egyptians, Assyrians, or Romans. When Paul said, “my God,” he was being specific and personal. Paul’s God was Jehovah, the God of Israel who had revealed himself to human beings personally in Jesus Christ. This God is a great God. He is a gracious and effective God. In fact, to the biblical writers all other gods were “no gods” (idols); they were nothing.

The God of Philippians 4:19 is the God who called Abraham out of Mesopotamia when he was an idol worshiper like his contemporaries and sent him on his way to a new land promising that he would be blessed and there would be greater blessing to all people through his descendants. The God of Philippians 4:19 is the God who called Israel out of Egypt, who took her through the Red Sea, who preserved her for forty years in the wilderness, and who finally enabled her to conquer the land of Canaan. He is the God of David, of Elijah, of Jeremiah, of all the prophets. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for our salvation and then triumphed over the tomb. This God stands behind his promises.

The value of a promise depends entirely upon the effectiveness and fidelity of the thing or person believed. Once I was talking to someone about faith, and he asked whether the faith of Christians is any different from the kind of self-delusion that many people practice to escape reality. He wanted to know if faith was not purely subjective. I admitted in reply that there is a subjective element to faith. Faith is personal. Emotionally there probably is very little difference between this type of conviction and delusion. But that is only half the picture. Although there is little or no difference between the two kinds of faith psychologically, there is all the difference in whether or not the object of the belief corresponds to the things believed about it. For instance, there is not much difference between the belief of a person who leans against a papier-mâché column, thinking it is marble and able to hold him up, and the belief of a person who leans on a real one. But the real column will support the person while the artificial one will collapse and let him fall down. The God of whom Paul speaks is a God who will support his people and who will not let down the one who believes in him.

Is he your God? If he is not your God, if you have never come to him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the promises of God’s care in the Bible are not for you. On the other hand, if you do believe in him and wish to obey him, you will find him strong in your need. You will find him entirely and consistently faithful.

Human Needs

The emphasis of the first part of the verse is on God, but the second part speaks of human needs. We must think of this also. What are our needs?

First, there is our need for forgiveness. God provides that abundantly, for he offers forgiveness of sins that are past, present, and future. Forgiveness is made possible for us through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we receive it personally by acknowledging our sin before God and accepting Christ’s sacrifice. The apostle John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

The doctrine of forgiveness through Christ is never taught without some people imagining that a promise of forgiveness is actually an invitation to wrongdoing. The argument goes, “If we know God will forgive us, why can’t we do as we want beforehand?” Fortunately, it does not work that way. I know of a Christian family who raised two fine boys in Philadelphia. Because they were in the midst of the city the boys were often tempted to join one of the gangs that roamed through the neighborhood and destroyed property. The parents might have said, “Look here, Carl (or Robin), if you ever get mixed up in one of those gangs and get hauled in by the police, don’t come running to me for help. Just remember that I warned you about it beforehand.” If they had done that, the boys would likely have taken up bad company in self-defense. Instead, the father said, “I know about the temptations that you will be facing in the city. But I want you to know this. If you ever get into trouble with the gang, never keep it to yourself. Come back here. This is your home. You belong with me and your mother, and we’ll face everything that happens together. Never doubt that we love you and that we’ll forgive you.” In that home the boys grew to be strong Christian men and were pure and honest. How glorious that our heavenly Father treats us in an identical manner!

Forgiveness is not our only need, however. Our second greatest need is for fellowship with God. Without God we are spiritually hungry, empty, and miserable. That is why Saint Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” We do not need to be miserable and spiritually hungry, however. For God longs to be known by us, to fill the spiritual vacuum of our hearts, to commune with us personally, and to meet us in our deep longings. Moreover, he is able to do so abundantly “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

We also need God’s defense against enemies, and God is able to supply that too. David, the first great king of Israel, had enemies within and without, in his own family and in other nations. But when he came to the end of his life and was able to look back thankfully over the years of God’s deliverance from his enemies he said, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent men you save me” (2 Sam. 22:2–3).

A Need for Testing

I must add one other thing, however, for it is sometimes true that in God’s sight we have a need for that which is not so pleasant. We need to be disciplined, taught, or tested. If that is the case, then it is also true that Philippians 4:19 is a promise of God to supply the unpleasant discipline and testing.

Early in his ministry Harry Ironside had an experience that illustrates this provision. On one occasion he had acted on faith, as he often did, to preach for two weeks in Fresno, California. But the time came, surprisingly to him, when he was entirely out of money and had no funds with which to eat. He was even forced to check out of his hotel room and leave his suitcase at a drugstore to be picked up later. There was some complaining and bitterness. When the thought of Philippians 4:19 crossed his mind—“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”—his spirit rebelled. “Why then doesn’t he do it?” he questioned. It seemed that God had promised, but he was no longer keeping his word.

That night, as he settled down under a tree on the lawn of the courthouse in Fresno, God spoke to Ironside concerning things about which he had grown careless. In his prayer and meditation he experienced a spiritual awakening. From that time on the work went better. Old friends appeared, first to invite him to lunch and later to provide accommodation. The church to which he was ministering took a collection to help him out on his return journey.

At the end he went to the post office and found a letter from his father, much to his surprise. He opened it, and there staring him in the face was a postscript that said, “God spoke to me through Philippians 4:19 today. He has promised to supply all our need. Some day he may see that I need a starving! If he does, he will supply that.” Ironside says, “Oh, how real it all seemed then! I saw that God had been putting me through that test in order to bring me closer to himself, and to bring me face to face with things that I had been neglecting.” He wrote later that he wished to share the experience with others who may be going through similar times of testing.

God’s Riches in Glory

The final phrase of our text speaks of the measure of the supply of God for our need. The measure is this: “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Every so often the world is witness to some new space spectacular. I suppose that every time an astronaut goes off into space there are millions of people who wish they could share this experience. Suppose that one of these persons would ask one of the astronauts to bring back a sample of space. Well, he could take up a small canister, seal it in space, and bring it back. There is a sense in which the canister would contain a sample. But it would not even begin to capture the immensity and grandeur of space. If it were to hold more, it would be necessary to enlarge the container. But even then it could never even begin to exhaust that immensity.

In a parallel sense God has promised to fill the need of the believer in Jesus Christ out of his infinite wealth and resources. He will expand us as time goes on, and we shall come to hold more. We shall become more and more like Jesus Christ. But even at the greatest extent of our enlarged capacity we shall only touch his resources slightly. There will always be infinite resources beyond the ones we experience.

Do you think that you can exhaust the riches of God by your needs, however great they may be? Can the finite exhaust the infinite? Can that which is corrupt exhaust that which is incorruptible? Can the part exhaust the whole? Can human beings exhaust God? It is impossible. In this life, as in the next, God shall supply all our needs, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus, and still there will be inexhaustible resources beyond.[1]


19 Paul reinterprets all gifts as gifts from God and counts on God’s unlimited grace and generosity to reward the Philippians. Their gift has made him full (v. 18, plēroō, GK 4444; NIV, “amply supplied”), but he cannot reciprocate in his current circumstances. He says that “my God” will now assume his obligation for reciprocating and will make them full (plēroō; NIV, “will meet”), and they will obviously have the better of it. Every need of theirs will be met. Most important, they will be “filled [plēroō] with the fruit of righteousness” (1:11, see 3:9) when they stand before God’s tribunal. Paul thereby recasts social customs in his theological forge. The gospel embraces everything, including friendship, and reshapes it. To make certain that his acceptance of the gift is not misinterpreted because of Greco-Roman assumptions about gift exchanges, he uses theological categories to create a new attitude toward gifts and giving that accords more with a Christian mind-set. The idea of a divine reward for giving was absent from Greco-Roman customs. The spiritual union among Christians as the basis of sharing material goods and the idea that God will reward persons for their generosity to others are new concepts.

Paul commends the Philippians for their Christian maturity, affirms that they are receiving spiritual benefits from giving, and that my God (not he himself) will repay them (2 Co 9:8). Paul was deeply imbued in Scripture, which makes clear that relationships between giver and receiver also involve God. Giving is encouraged as praiseworthy behavior that God will reward. He therefore triangulates their relationship. Their gift to him is a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God, and God is the one who will reciprocate. Paul’s concluding remarks in the letter are therefore more than a recognition of their gift, because he intends to teach them what sharing gifts with others means for those who are Christians.[2]


Paul expresses an assurance (v. 19)

This verse has often been misunderstood. It does not tell us that God’s people will never experience or feel a need. It rather tells us that God will supply the needs of his people. He sometimes does this by meeting the need and sometimes by giving his people the strength to face the need, as the apostle has already testified (v. 13).

Israel’s great king David says to the Lord:

For by you I can run against a troop.

And by my God I can leap over a wall.

(Ps. 18:29).

We prefer always to leap over the wall of need, leaving it behind. But we should not despise the other possibility—that is, God enabling us to run against or go through a troop. Sometimes God takes us right through the need, giving us strength as we go. David himself experienced this on several occasions, most notably when he went out to meet the giant Goliath. God could have removed Goliath, causing him to vaporize as David approached. Instead God gave David the strength to face and to defeat him.

Needs that simply get vaporized may seem more glamorous, but strength to face and meet needs is just as much from God.[3]


4:19 / They may rest assured, says Paul, that what they have given to God will be amply repaid by him from the limitless resources of his riches. Paul cannot even think of the divine riches now without linking them with Christ Jesus. he is the mediator through whom all God’s blessings are communicated to men and women. Paul speaks of my God (cf. 1:3) because he had long since experienced his power to meet all his personal needs, and to supply them through Christ. At a time when he was most painfully conscious of his own inadequacy he received the assurance from the risen Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9), and in effect it is that assurance that he now imparts to his friends.[4]


4:19. Their obedience and generosity will bring God’s reward. This is Paul’s promise to the Philippians, according to the niv. However, other translators follow different manuscript evidence or interpret the Greek tense differently and read this as Paul’s prayer that God may fulfill all their needs. Either reading gives encouragement and expectation to the readers. As they met all of Paul’s needs (v. 16), so God will meet all their needs. God does this out of the abundance of his treasury, a glorious resource without limits. How does one draw from these unlimited resources? Through Christ Jesus. Only those in him have access to God’s account and can ask him to meet their needs.[5]


19. Approaching the end of his epistle Paul now assures the addressees that God will supply their every need: And my God will gloriously supply every need ofyours according to his riches in Christ Jesus. Had not God’s care rested in a marvelous manner upon the apostle himself, during this very imprisonment? Note Paul’s later testimony regarding this care: “But the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength in order that through me the message might be fully heralded, and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued out of (the) mouth of (the) lion” (2 Tim. 4:17). So also this same compassion would bless the Philippians. Touching is the expression “my God.” See on Phil. 1:3. It was the God who meant so very, very much to Paul. This God will not fulfill every wish but will supply every need! He will do this “in glory,” which in the sense of gloriously must in all probability be construed as modifying the verb supply; hence, “God will gloriously supply.” Paul is not primarily thinking of what God will do for believers when they have entered the glory of heaven, but what he will do for them in this earthly realm of needs, as they present these needs to him. These he will fulfill not merely out of his riches (as a millionaire might do when he donates a trifling sum to a good cause, subtracting the amount from his vast possessions) but according to his riches, so that the gift is actually in proportion to God’s infinite resources! Of course, this loving care, this glorious help in need, is based on the merits of Christ Jesus. “How vast the benefits divine which we in Christ possess” (cf. Rom. 8:32). It is only because believers are in vital union with him that they receive all these bounties.

The assurance of this manifestation of God’s very special providence does not mean that the Philippians would now be justified in becoming lazy, disregarding or even rejecting every means and avenue of caring for themselves. “God’s word does not advocate fanaticism, nor does it say that one should throw his pocketbook into the nearest river and then announce that he is going to live by faith” (Tenney). To be sure, God was taking care of Paul, but one of the ways in which he was providing for him was the gift from Philippi which Paul here acknowledges.

Among the many passages in which this tender and loving care of God for his children in the here and now is described, passages which have given comfort to God’s people in many generations, are also the following: Gen. 28:15; 50:20; Exod. 33:14; Deut. 2:7; 32:7–14; 33:27; Josh. 1:9; 1 Sam. 7:12; 1 Kings 17:6, 16; 2 Chron. 20:17; Ps. 18:35; 23; 31:19; 91; 121; Isa. 25:4, 32:2; 40:11; 41:10; 43:1, 2; 46:3, 4; Joel 2:21–27; Mal. 3:10; Matt. 6:32; 14:20; 23:37; Luke 6:38; 12:7; 22:35; John 10:27, 28; 17:11; Rom. 8:28, 31–39; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:18; 1 Peter 5:7.[6]


[1] Boice, J. M. (2000). Philippians: an expositional commentary (pp. 256–261). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 259–260). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Ellsworth, R. (2004). Opening up Philippians (pp. 90–91). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] Bruce, F. F. (2011). Philippians (pp. 155–156). Peabody, MA: Baker Books.

[5] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 265). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Philippians (Vol. 5, pp. 209–210). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

May 25, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

From Natural Vices to Supernatural Virtues

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (4:31–32)

The final change Paul mentions is from natural vices to supernatural virtues and amounts to a summary of the other changes.

Man’s natural tendency is to sin, and the natural tendency of sin is to grow into greater sin. And a Christian’s sin will grow just like that of an unbeliever. If not checked, our inner sins of bitterness and wrath and anger will inevitably lead to the outward sins of clamor, slander, and other such manifestations of malice.

Bitterness (pikria) reflects a smoldering resentment, a brooding grudge-filled attitude (see Acts 8:23; Heb. 12:15). It is the spirit of irritability that keeps a person in perpetual animosity, making him sour and venemous. Wrath (thumos) has to do with wild rage, the passion of the moment. Anger (orgē) is a more internal smoldering, a subtle and deep feeling. Clamor (kraugē) is the shout or outcry of strife and reflects the public outburst that reveals loss of control. Slander (blasphēmia, from which we get blasphemy) is the ongoing defamation of someone that rises from a bitter heart. Paul then adds malice (kakia), the general term for evil that is the root of all vices. All of these, he says, must be put away from you.

These particular sins involve conflict between person and person—believer and unbeliever and, worse still, between believer and believer. These are the sins that break fellowship and destroy relationships, that weaken the church and mar its testimony before the world. When an unbeliever sees Christians acting just like the rest of society, the church is blemished in his eyes and he is confirmed still further in resisting the claims of the gospel.

In place of those vices we are rather to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven us. These are graces God has shown to us and they are the gracious virtues we are to show to others. God did not love us, choose us, and redeem us because we were deserving, but purely because He is gracious. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.… While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:8, 10). If God is so gracious to us, how much more, then, should we be kind, … tender-hearted, and forgiving to fellow sinners, especially to one another.

Being unconditionally kind characterizes the Lord, as Luke 6:35b shows: “For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Paul speaks of “the riches of His kindness … that leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). We are to be like our heavenly Father, says Christ, and are to “love [our] enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and [our] reward will be great, and [we] will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35a).

Tender-hearted has the idea of being compassionate, and reflects a feeling deep in the bowels, or stomach, a gnawing psychosomatic pain due to empathy for someone’s need. Forgiving each other is so basic to reflecting Christlike character that it needs little comment. The most graphic illustration of forgiveness is in the parable of Matthew 18:21–35. When Peter asked about the limits of forgiveness, the Lord told him a story of a man with an unpayable debt who was forgiven by his creditor, the king. This was a picture of salvation—God forgiving a sinner the unpayable debt of unrighteous rebellion against Him.

The forgiven man then went to someone who owed him a small amount and had him imprisoned for nonpayment. He who eagerly accepted a massive, comprehensive forgiveness would not forgive a small, easily-payable debt of another person. The incongruity of his action shows the heinousness of a believer’s unforgiving heart, and the man was severely chastened by the Lord for his wicked attitude.

Paul has this same relationship in mind as he calls for believers to forgive just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Can we who have been forgiven so much not forgive the relatively small things done against us? We, of all people, should always be eager to forgive.

The parallel text to this passage, found in Colossians 3:1–17, forms a fitting summation to Paul’s teaching here.

If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in Glory.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.[1]


32 Now Paul moves, at least for the moment, to the positive side of the ledger—to several of the virtues believers must “put on” (recall v. 24; cf. Col 3:12). In contrast to the preceding, they must become kind or benevolent (chrēstos, GK 5982) to one another. (The word is also used of God’s kindness in 2:7; cf. Lk 6:35; Ro 2:4.) They must also be compassionate or tenderhearted (eusplanchnoi, GK 2359). This word’s only other use in the NT occurs in another list of virtues (1 Pe 3:8). It speaks of the need to have tenderhearted feelings toward others in the body of Christ, which naturally leads to the third virtue—forgiveness. Again God is the standard: they are to forgive as God has forgiven them “in Christ.” The corporate body in Christ forms a forgiven people. The word charizō (GK 5919) can mean “to give freely” or “to forgive freely,” but the close parallel in Colossians 3:13 points to the sense of “forgive” here. (Other uses with this sense include 2 Co 2:7, 10; 12:13.) Motivated by God’s incredible generosity (recall 2:7) toward his people in granting them complete forgiveness, they are to extend that to one another.[2]


4:32 / This verse provides a striking contrast to the previous one by emphasizing the virtues that should characterize believers in their interpersonal relationships. Instead of those negative and destructive qualities, believers are admonished to be kind and compassionate to one another. Both of these virtues promote a spirit of acceptance, tolerance, and patience within the congregation.

Beyond that, the readers are to be continually forgiving each other. The word for forgiveness (charizomai) is also the word from which grace (charis) is derived. Within this context, believers are to respond to each other with the same grace, forgiveness, and generosity that they have experienced from God: hence forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Christians have been forgiven by Christ (echarisato, past/aorist tense), but they are to go on forgiving (charizomenoi, present tense) one another on the strength of the example that Christ has provided.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 189–191). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 133). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 254–255). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

May 25, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

“36:27 I will give my spirit into your inner parts The new spirit is Yahweh’s Spirit. Total transformation from rebellion to obedience requires divine intervention. Acts 2:4 and Romans 8:9 give a more concrete example, with God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in those who believe in Christ. An immediate application demonstrating the life-giving effects of Yahweh’s Spirit comes in Ezek 37:1–14 (Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones).”

Faithlife Study Bible


Ezekiel 36:27 (CSBSB:N): 36:27 More than any other prophet, Ezekiel emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s role in regeneration. When God places his Spirit in his people, they will be able to follow his decrees and keep his laws. Thus, the people will be transformed, never again to profane God’s holy name. This work of the Spirit is attested in many passages of Scripture (11:19–20; 18:31; 37:14; 39:29; Jl 2:28–29; Ac 2:17–18; 2Co 3:16–18; Gl 5:16–26). This work of God to transform lives through the implementation of a new heart and a new spirit is referred to in the NT as the “new birth” or being “born again” (Jn 3:3–8).

CSB Study Bible

May 24, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Aspects of Blessing

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (1:3)

Paul here presents six aspects of the divine blessing he is about to unfold: the blessed One, God; the Blesser, also God; the blessed ones, believers; the blessings, all things spiritual; the blessing location, the heavenly places; and the blessing Agent, Jesus Christ.

the blessed one—god

Such gracious truth is introduced appropriately by praise to the One who has made such provision: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. From eulogeō (blessed) we get eulogy, a message of praise and commendation, the declaration of a person’s goodness. Because no one is truly good but God (Matt. 19:17), our supreme eulogy, our supreme praise, is for Him alone.

Goodness is God’s nature. God the Father not only does good things, He is good in a way and to a degree that no human being except His own incarnate Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, can be. Consequently from Genesis to Revelation, godly men, recognizing the surpassing and humanly unattainable goodness of God, have proclaimed blessing upon Him. Melchizedek declared, “Blessed be God Most High” (Gen. 14:20). In the last days, “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them” will be “heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever’ ” (Rev. 5:13).

Nothing is more appropriate for God’s people than to bless Him for His great goodness. In all things—whether pain, struggle, trials, frustration, opposition, or adversity—we are to praise God, because He is good in the midst of it all. For that we praise and bless Him.

the blesser—god

Consistent with His perfection and praiseworthiness, the One who is to be supremely blessed for His goodness is Himself the supreme Blesser who bestows goodness. It is He who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift,” James reminds us, “is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Paul assures us “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God blesses because He is the source of all blessing, of every good thing. Goodness can only come from God because there is no source of goodness outside of God.

the blessed ones—believers

The us whom God has blessed refers to believers, “the saints … in Christ Jesus” Paul addresses in verse 1. In His wonderful grace, marvelous providence, and sovereign plan God has chosen to bless us. God has eternally ordained that “those who are of faith are blessed” (Gal. 3:9).

When we bless God we speak good of Him. When God blesses us, He communicates good to us. We bless Him with words; He blesses us with deeds. All we can do is to speak well of Him because in ourselves we have nothing good to give, and in Himself He lacks no goodness. But when He blesses us the situation is reversed. He cannot bless us for our goodness, because we have none. Rather, He blesses us with goodness. Our heavenly Father lavishes us with every goodness, every good gift, every blessing. That is His nature, and that is our need.

the blessings—everything spiritual

Our heavenly Father blesses us with every spiritual blessing. In the New Testament pneumatikos (spiritual) is always used in relation to the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it does not here refer to immaterial blessings as opposed to material ones but to the divine origin of the blessings—whether they help us in our spirits, our minds, our bodies, our daily living, or however else. Spiritual refers to the source, not the extent, of blessing.

Many Christians continually ask God for what He has already given. They pray for Him to give them more love, although they should know that “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). They pray for peace, although Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). They pray for happiness and joy, although Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). They ask God for strength, although His Word tells them that they “can do all things through Him who strengthens” them (Phil. 4:13).

God’s “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). It is not that God will give us but that He has already given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” He has blessed us already with every spiritual blessing. We are complete “in Him” (Col. 2:10).

Our resources in God are not simply promised; they are possessed. Every Christian has what Paul calls “the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). God cannot give us more than He has already given us in His Son. There is nothing more to receive. The believer’s need, therefore, is not to receive something more but to do something more with what he has.

Our heavenly position and possession are so certain and secure that Paul speaks of God’s having already “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).

the location of blessing—the heavenly places

These abundant, unlimited blessings from God are in the heavenly places. More than heaven itself is included. The heavenly places (cf. 1:20; 2:6; 3:10) encompass the entire supernatural realm of God, His complete domain, the full extent of His divine operation.

Christians have a paradoxical, two-level existence—a dual citizenship. While we remain on earth we are citizens of earth. But in Christ our primary and infinitely more important citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Christ is our Lord and King, and we are citizens of His realm, the heavenly places. That is why we are to pursue “things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).

Because we are members of God’s dominion, unlike the “sons of this age” (Luke 16:8), we are able to understand the supernatural things of God, things which the “natural man does not accept” and “cannot understand … because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14).

When an American citizen travels to another country, he is every bit as much an American citizen as when he is in the United States. Whether he is in Africa, the Near East, Europe, Antarctica, or anywhere else outside his homeland, he is still completely an American citizen, with all the rights and privileges that such citizenship holds.

As citizens of God’s heavenly dominion, Christians hold all the rights and privileges that citizenship grants, even while they are living in the “foreign” and sometimes hostile land of earth. Our true life is in the supernatural, the heavenly places. Our Father is there, our Savior is there, our family and loved ones are there, our name is there, and our eternal dwelling place and throne are there.

But we are presently trapped in the tension between the earthly and the heavenly. Paul reflected that tension when he said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed … as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 4:8–9; 6:10).

The key to living as a heavenly citizen while living in an unheavenly situation is walking by the Spirit. “Walk by the Spirit,” Paul says, “and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). When we walk in His power He produces His fruit in us: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (vv. 22–23). We receive our heavenly blessings by living in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

the blessing agent—jesus christ

Christians possess every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places because they are in Christ. When we trust in Him as Lord and Savior, we are placed in a marvelous union with Jesus Christ. “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17). Our unity as Christians is more than simply that of common agreement; it is the unity of a commonness of life, the common eternal life of God that pulses through the soul of every believer (cf. Rom. 15:5–7).

All that the Lord has, those in Christ have. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16–17). Christ’s riches are our riches, His resources are our resources, His righteousness is our righteousness, and His power is our power. His position is our position: where He is, we are. His privilege is our privilege: what He is we are. His possession is our possession: what He has, we have. His practice is our practice: what He does, we do.

We are those things and have those things and do those things by the grace of God, which never fails to work His will in those who trust Him (1 Cor. 15:10).[1]


All Good in Christ

Ephesians 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

I have been a pastor in one place or another for more than two decades, and during that time I have probably put together between 1,300 and 1,400 worship services. These services have had various elements, all important: the sermon, Scripture readings, hymns, prayers, congregational responses, and other items. I value each of these. But as I have reflected on the worship of Christian people over this long period, I have come to believe that one of the most important aspects of all the various parts of worship is hymn singing. Why? Because it is in hymn singing that the congregation itself actively voices praise to God.

The sermon is important. We learn from the sermon. But doctrine, if it is rightly understood, leads to doxology. If we discover who God is and what he has done for us, we will praise him.

Praise to the Father

Paul must have understood this well, for most of his letters begin early on with a hymn of praise (and prayer) to God. We all know that Paul’s letters tend to divide into two sections: teaching and application or, as we could also say, faith and life. Doctrine is followed by duty. But usually, long before he gets to the duty section, Paul revels in what God has done for us by praising him. Romans reviews basic doctrine and praises God for it. Second Corinthians is another example. The same thing occurs in Galatians (briefly), Philippians, Colossians, and other letters. Of all these letters, none is so overflowing with this initial praise to God for his great blessings as Ephesians.

This is a remarkable section of Paul’s letter. To begin with, it is all one sentence—from verse 3 to verse 14. English translations generally break the words up for ease of reading, but in the Greek Paul simply begins with a note of praise to God for “every spiritual blessing” and then keeps going, adding phrase upon phrase and doctrine upon doctrine, as he lists these benefits. One commentator calls this “a magnificent gateway” to the epistle. Another calls it “a golden chain of many links.” A third calls it “a kaleidoscope of dazzling lights and shifting colors.”

John R. W. Stott, who lists these and other descriptions of Paul’s great paragraph of praise, summarizes: “A gateway, a golden chain, a kaleidoscope, a snowball, a racehorse, an operatic overture and the flight of an eagle: all these metaphors in their different ways describe the impression of color, movement and grandeur which the sentence makes on the reader’s mind.”

But it is not just a great panorama of color and movement that we are confronted with in these verses. We also meet with a vast display of doctrines. In fact, they are interconnected, which makes it hard to analyze the paragraph.

Some commentators have noticed that the work of God the Father is chiefly described in verses 3–6, the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in verses 7–10, and the work of the Holy Spirit in verses 11–14. They have divided the paragraph along Trinitarian lines. John Stott provides a temporal outline—the past blessing of election (vv. 4–6), the present blessing of adoption (vv. 5–8), and the future blessing of unification (vv. 9–10)—followed by a section on the “scope” of these blessings. E. K. Simpson lists the blessings: election, adoption, redemption, forgiveness of sins, wisdom and understanding, the unification of things in Christ, and the seal of the Holy Spirit.3 In his very extensive commentary, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones abandons any attempt to provide a neat outline and simply goes through the section significant word or phrase by significant word or phrase.

Probably the Trinitarian framework is most helpful. Paul is saying that the blessings listed come from God the Father, become ours in Jesus Christ, and are applied by the Holy Spirit. We notice, for example, that God the Father is the subject of nearly every verb in the section, and that the phrase “in Christ” or “in him” occurs throughout.

All Spiritual Blessings

I have said that in Greek, Ephesians 1:3–14 is one sentence. But it is appropriate that the New International Version (and some others) make verse 3 a sentence to itself. It states a theme and highlights what is to come. The verse says God “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” and praises him for it.

What are we to make of the word “spiritual” in this sentence? The word could mean either of two things. It could mean that the blessings come to us by means of the Holy Spirit. The last verses of this section (vv. 11–14) certainly teach that. Or it could mean that these are spiritual rather than material blessings. The phrase “in the heavenly realms” which also occurs in this sentence, suggests that Paul is probably thinking of “spiritual” in the second sense. That is, he is thinking of blessings related to heaven rather than earth and is declaring that these blessings are freely given to us.

It is not that God does not give material blessings as well. He does. Jesus promised that his disciples would be provided with all things needful (see Matt. 6:25–34). The apostle Paul said, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). But these material provisions are relatively unimportant when measured against spiritual riches. Besides, although in this life we may have more or less material possessions, in spiritual terms we have not merely some but all blessings in Christ.

Ephesians 1:4–14 is a listing of these blessings. We will be looking at many of these in greater detail as our study unfolds, but it is worth looking ahead to the entire scope of them now.

  1. Election. Paul says that “he [that is, God] chose us in him [that is, Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (v. 4). This troubles some people, because they suppose that if God elects individuals to salvation, as this verse and others clearly declare he does, then the value of human choices is destroyed and the motivation for a holy life vanishes. This is not what happens. Instead of destroying the value of human choices, election gives us a capacity for choosing that we did not possess previously as unregenerate persons.

Before we were made alive in Christ we had a human will. But it was directed against God, not toward him. We could choose, but we always chose wrongly. When we were made alive in Christ we received a new nature, according to which God, who before was undesirable to us, now became desirable, and we willingly submitted ourselves to him. Again, so far as living a holy life is concerned, we are told in another text that God wills our holiness. So, far from being an excuse for unholiness, election actually guarantees the opposite. The only way we can know whether we are among the elect ultimately is whether we are living a holy life.

Election teaches that “salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). Indeed, Paul makes this clear in this passage. He teaches that God “chose” (v. 4), “predestined” (v. 5), “gave” (v. 6), “forgave” (v. 7), “lavished grace” (vv. 7–8), “made known his will” (v. 9), “purposed” (v. 9), “included” (v. 13), and “marked” us with the seal of the Holy Spirit (v. 13). It is God’s work from beginning to end.

  1. Adoption. The second spiritual blessing in Christ is adoption, for “in love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (v. 5). Adoption means becoming God’s sons and daughters with all the privileges implied. On this basis we are said to be “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17) and have the privilege of bringing all things to God in prayer and of being heard by him.
  2. Redemption. Redemption means being delivered from the slavery of sin by the death of Christ, which Paul indicates by saying: “In him [that is, Christ] we have redemption through his blood” (v. 7). In antiquity a person could become a slave in one of three ways. He could be born a slave; children of slaves were automatically slaves too. He could become a slave by conquest; the citizens of a city or nation captured by another city or nation would be enslaved. He could become a slave through debt; a person who could not pay a debt could be enslaved as the last possible resource for payment.

Significantly, the Bible speaks of people being slaves of sin in each of these ways. We are born in sin, receiving a sinful nature from our parents (“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me,” Ps. 51:5). We are conquered by sin (“Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me,” Ps. 19:13). We are also slaves of sin through debt (“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 6:23).

Redemption means Jesus delivering us from this slavery to sin by his work on the cross. Before, we were held captive and could not break free to do God’s bidding. We did not even want to. Now we are freed to serve God by Jesus’ death. As Peter writes, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19).

  1. Forgiveness of sins. Paul links forgiveness of sins to redemption, writing, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 7). But although they are closely linked, forgiveness of sins is something different from redemption. Redemption means being freed from sin’s power, so that it no longer rules over us. Forgiveness means having God wipe the slate clean. The Bible seems to go out of its way to magnify the wonder of this forgiveness. David wrote, God “forgives all my sins” (Ps. 103:3). Jeremiah quotes God as saying, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jer. 31:34). John declared, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  2. The revelation of God’s purpose in history. Now Paul reaches the greatest heights of wonderment and rapture when he speaks of God’s great purpose in history, namely, “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (vv. 9–10). Paul lived in a very broken world, as we do. He saw Greek pitted against Roman, Jew against Gentile, rich against poor, aristocrat against commoner. He saw people struggling for themselves and, above all, struggling against God. “Is this to go on forever?” he might have asked. Fortunately, Paul knew the answer to that question. The disharmony of the world is not to go on forever, for the same God who has predestined us to salvation in Jesus Christ has also predestined all things to be brought together in submission to him.

Paul wrote to the Philippians: “At the name of Jesus every knee [shall] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [shall] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).

  1. Sealing by the Holy Spirit. Seals authenticate documents and declare that the promises contained in them are good. This is what the Holy Spirit does for Christians. So when Paul says, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (v. 13), he is saying that God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is an authentication that believers are truly God’s and that none of the promises God has made to them will fail.
  2. An inheritance. The Holy Spirit, though a seal on the document, so to speak, is actually more than certification of God’s promises. He is himself a portion of our inheritance. Paul speaks of this when he terms the Holy Spirit “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (v. 14). This is a nice turn of phrase. According to this verse, Christians are God’s inheritance. But the Holy Spirit, who is God, has been given to us as a down payment on the fullness of the inheritance which is already ours in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Only

The last part of verse 3 tells us that the spiritual blessings given by God are “in Christ,” which means, “in Jesus only.” In the last chapter I alluded to the importance of the phrases “in Christ,” “in him,” or their equivalents, pointing out that they occur, in all, 164 times in Paul’s writings. This is a difficult idea, but there is hardly a more important concept in the New Testament, since it is only by means of our union with Christ that any of these great spiritual blessings come to us. Even our election is in Christ, for God “chose us in him before the creation of the world” (v. 4).

We will be coming back to the phrase again and again as we work through this letter, and we will be looking at some of the more mystical aspects of the phrase then. Here it is more important to stress that these blessings can only be given to us through Jesus.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it well: “If you leave out the ‘in Christ,’ you will never have any blessings at all. … Every blessing we enjoy as Christian people comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. God has blessings for all sorts and conditions of men. For instance, the Sermon on the Mount gives our Lord’s teaching that God ‘maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good’ (Matt. 5:45). There are certain common general blessings which are enjoyed by the whole of humanity. There is what is called ‘common grace,’ but that is not what the apostle is dealing with here. Here he is dealing with particular grace, with special grace, the blessings that are enjoyed by Christian people only. The evil as well as the good, the unjust as well as the just, enjoy common blessings, but none but Christians enjoy these special blessings. People often stumble at this truth, but the distinction is drawn very clearly in the Scriptures. The ungodly may enjoy much good in this world, and their blessings come to them from God in a general way, but they know nothing of the blessings mentioned in this verse. Paul is writing here to Christian people, and his concern is that they should understand and grasp the special blessings and privileges possible to them as Christians; and so he emphasizes that all those blessings come in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, and in and through him alone. You cannot be a Christian without being ‘in Christ.’ Christ is the beginning as well as the end. He is Alpha as well as Omega. There are no blessings for Christians apart from him.”

What does anyone have apart from Jesus Christ? Paul answers just a chapter further on in this letter: “Separate from Christ, [you are] excluded from citizenship in Israel and [are] foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

What is the situation when we are “in” him? We have “every spiritual blessing” and so praise God the Father, as Paul himself does, exuberantly. We will ask for our daily bread here, and other things besides. But if we suffer want here, in the final analysis it will be all right, because we still possess every spiritual blessing “in the heavenly realms.” John Calvin summed it up wisely: “Whatever happens to us, let us always assure ourselves that we have good cause to praise our God, and that even if we are poor and miserable in this world, the happiness of heaven is enough to appease us, to sweeten all our afflictions and sorrows, and to give us such contentment that we may nevertheless have our mouths open to bless God for showing himself so kindhearted and liberal towards us as even to adopt us as his children, and to show us that the heritage which has been purchased for us by the blood of his only Son is ready for us, and that we cannot miss it, seeing that we go to it with true and invincible constancy of faith.”[2]


3 The doxology begins with eulogētos (GK 2329), a word best translated as “blessed be” or “praise be,” which corresponds to a Jewish berakah—an extended blessing frequent in the OT and in Jewish prayers. Paul also employs this tactic in 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 (cf. Ro 1:25; 9:5; 2 Co 11:31 for his other uses of the Greek term). The one to be praised is both God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The designation “Father” became a Christian way of understanding God after Jesus called God “Abba.” Neither “God” nor “Father” identifies his name: “God” expresses deity, and “Father” specifies his role in relation to Jesus. Again, this Jesus Christ is “Lord.” Paul adds the reason why God is to be blessed: he has “blessed” (from eulogeō) Christians with “blessings” (from eulogia), a Semitic pleonasm (redundancy). The verb “blessed” and the noun “blessing” are cognate to the first verb, translated “praise be.” “Blessings” are the benefits God has bestowed on his people. Paul adds both the location of those blessings and their extent.

The location of those blessings is truly unexpected: he has blessed believers “in the heavenly realms.” Paul uses this spatial expression here and at 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12. In the first three texts, believers enjoy a position in the heavenly realms with God or Christ; in the other two, rulers, authorities, and evil spiritual forces reside in the heavenly realms. Is this a literal location or a metaphor for some reality? While evil forces may well be said to inhabit some literal heavenly realms, and though Christ is literally in heaven somewhere, this can hardly be true for believers now in the same literal sense. So rather than presenting some arcane cosmology or topography of the heavenly spheres, Paul’s reference is more likely soteriological and eschatological. Though believers are not yet literally resurrected and seated with Christ (1:20; 2:6), the spiritual transaction that will eventuate in these realities has occurred. Through what Christ accomplished in his resurrection and exaltation, the “age to come” has overlapped the present so that those “in Christ” in this age experience the spiritual benefits that will be consummated in the next age. And because believers are still in “this age,” they continue to contend with their and God’s enemies until the end. I referred to this earlier as “realized” eschatology.

God’s blessings are boundless. Paul says God has spared nothing when it comes to blessing his people spiritually. The key lies in the addition of “in Christ.” They lack nothing in the spiritual realm because they are in him. The preposition “in” may also have an instrumental sense—the blessings come through Christ, and this certainly is true. The rest of the letter will show, however, that the locative sense of inclusion in Christ is the dominant sense. Lincoln, 22, puts it succinctly: “Believers experience the blessings of the heavenly realms not only through Christ’s agency but also because they are incorporated into the exalted Christ as their representative, who is himself in the heavenly realms.” Paul will unpack the implications of this corporate solidarity in more detail as he proceeds.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 7–10). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 8–13). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

[3] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 47–48). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 24, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Reliability

For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. (1:19–20)

Throughout the history of the church, heretics have always assaulted the nature of Christ, and the false apostles at Corinth appear to be no exception in their effort to diminish Him. Having slanderously accused Paul of being untrustworthy because of his change in travel plans, they also alleged that his teaching on the Lord Jesus was untrustworthy. Responding to their attack on his Lord, Paul emphasized Christ’s nature as the God-man by using the full, rich title the Son of God, Christ Jesus.

Paul was not the only one who preached the truths of the Son of God to the Corinthians; Silvanus and Timothy had preached the message to them. Silvanus (Silas) was a prominent leader in the Jerusalem church. The Jerusalem Council entrusted him to carry its decision to the church at Antioch (Acts 15:22). He later became Paul’s companion on the apostle’s second missionary journey, replacing Barnabas (Acts 15:39–40). Timothy was Paul’s beloved son in the faith. As the son of a Jewish Christian mother and a pagan Gentile father (Acts 16:1), he was uniquely qualified to minister alongside the apostle. Both Silvanus and Timothy had ministered with Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:5). Their preaching was not untrustworthy, it was not yes and no, but was a firm, unwavering, resounding yes to God’s truth in Jesus Christ.

Then Paul sums up the glory of Christ by reminding the Corinthians that as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes. All of God’s salvation promises—of blessing, peace, joy, goodness, fellowship, forgiveness, strength, and hope of eternal life—are yes, meaning they all come true, in Christ. They are all made possible by His person and work. After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, “All things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). In 1 Corinthians 1:30 Paul declared that “Christ Jesus … became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” To the Colossians he wrote, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.… For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 1:19; 2:9). It was the realization of “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [as his] Lord” that made Paul willing to suffer “the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that [he might] gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

Then Paul drove home the point of his argument by reminding the Corinthians, Therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. Amen is a solemn affirmation of the truthfulness of a statement (cf. Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:27; Gal. 1:5; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11; 5:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 25; Rev. 1:6; 7:12). When Paul, Silas, and Timothy preached the gospel, it was all about Christ, who by His glorious work brings to pass all salvation realities. The Corinthians probably even had joined in saying Amen to the glory of God. The congregation had affirmed that the preachers reliably spoke God’s truth about Christ when they believed the gospel message Paul and his companions preached, and it transformed their lives. How utterly absurd, Paul argued, to accept and experience the gospel message as reliable, but consider those who preached it unreliable. How ridiculous to trust Paul’s word about eternal things, but not about mundane things like travel plans.

The apostle who was exacting in communicating the true gospel of Christ was also exacting in the lesser matters of life. God did not choose an unstable, unreliable apostle to preach His truth.[1]


1:20 / In verse 20a Paul explains (For, gar) why his message of Jesus Christ as Son of God was unequivocally confirmed to the Corinthians. Just as in verse 18 the faithfulness of God substantiates the veracity of Paul’s general apostolic “word” (including statements about his travel plans), so also here divine promises substantiate Paul’s more specific apostolic message of the gospel.

As Paul has mentioned repeatedly and in various ways in the previous context, the Corinthians are sons of God and thus brothers with Paul (cf. vv. 1, 2, 3). Hence, when Paul refers here to the “promises” that have already been confirmed to the Corinthians, he may have in view particularly the divine adoption of sons (cf. 2 Cor. 6:18, quoting 2 Sam. 7:14) that the Corinthians enjoy in Christ, the messianic Son of God promised beforehand through the ot prophets (Rom. 1:2–4). The only other use of the term in the letter comes at 2 Corinthians 7:1 and refers to an ot messianic adoption text (2 Sam. 7:14) as among the promises that Paul and the Corinthians already have. This does not, of course, exclude other promises from resonating with the text, especially since divine adoptive sonship includes Abrahamic heirship (cf. Gal. 3:26, 29; 4:1–7; Rom. 8:15, 17). Paul’s message of Jesus Christ as Son of God was unequivocally confirmed to the Corinthians, for the latter participate in the sonship of the Son of God, in whom the promises are affirmed by their fulfillment (“Yes”).

In verse 20b Paul draws an inference (And so, dio kai) from the fact that in Christ the Corinthians participate in the promises through Paul’s preaching. Whatever this line may mean in particular, it seems clear that Paul portrays himself as a revelatory mediator. Amen is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that serves to confirm what has been said before. The Corinthians were familiar with this use of Amen (cf. 1 Cor. 14:16). Here, the Amen is spoken by Christ (through him) in that the promises spoken beforehand are fulfilled in him. That affirmation is, in turn, communicated by Paul (by us) to others, including the Corinthians. All of this has a doxological purpose (to the glory of God).[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 43–44). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians (pp. 40–41). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

May 24, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

11:32 the people who know their God shall be strong: Mattathias, father of five sons, refused to offer sacrifices in a profane manner and killed the king’s agents. He and his sons then fled to the mountains and began the famous Maccabean revolt.[1]


11:32 — “ … but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”

Our intimacy with God—his highest priority for our lives—determines the impact of our lives. The better we know and love God, the more “exploits” we will do—not in our own power, but in His.[2]


11:32 the people who know their God. Jews loyal to God (called Hasideans) stood on firm convictions, suffering death rather than compromising (v. 33; as also 1 Macc. 1:62, 63). Judas Maccabeus, helped by Rome, led them in a successful revolt.[3]


11:32 and will take action

Probably does not refer to the Maccabean revolt. Daniel never unambiguously endorses the revolt; rather, he prefers the instructive methodology of the wise men (see v. 33).[4]


11:32 the people who know their God. Daniel speaks of those who opposed the Hellenizers and were ready to die for their faith (1 Macc. 1:60–63).[5]


[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1023). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[2] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Da 11:32). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Da 11:32). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 11:32). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1234). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

May 23, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

We Are Led by the Spirit

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (8:14)

The first inner confirmation of adoption is the believer’s being led by the Spirit of God. A person who is truly experiencing the leading hand of God at work in his life can be certain he is God’s child.

It is important to note the tense Paul uses here. Are being led translates the present passive indicative of agō, indicating that which already exists. The phrase are being led does not, however, indicate uninterrupted leading by the Spirit. Otherwise the many New Testament admonitions and warnings to Christians would be meaningless. But the genuine believer’s life is basically characterized by the Spirit’s leading, just as it is basically characterized by Christ’s righteousness.

A merely professing Christian does not and cannot be led by the Spirit of God. He may be moral, conscientious, generous, active in his church and other Christian organizations, and exhibit many other commendable traits. But the only accomplishments, religious or otherwise, he can make claim to are those of his own doing. His life may be outstandingly religious, but because he lives it in the power of the flesh, he can never be truly spiritual and he will never have the inner conviction of God’s leading and empowering.

When someone confides in me that he has doubts about his salvation, I often respond by asking if he ever senses God’s leading in his life. If he answers yes, I remind him of Paul’s assurance in this verse: All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

God’s children are secure in Him even when they are not as responsive and obedient to His leading as they ought to be. But that is not to say that a child of God will always feel secure. The Christian who neglects study of Scripture, who neglects God in prayer, who neglects fellowship with God’s people, and who is careless about His obedience to God will invariably have doubts about his salvation, because he is indifferent to God and the things of God. Even for the obedient child of God, doubts about his relationship to God can easily slip into the mind during times of pain, sorrow, failure, or disappointment. Satan, the great accuser of God’s people, is always ready to take advantage of such circumstances to plant seeds of uncertainty.

But our heavenly Father wants His children to be certain at all times that they belong to Him and are secure in Him. As Paul has just stated (Rom. 8:13), a person who is succeeding in putting to death sin in his life is not doing so in his own power, that is, in the power of the flesh, but by the power of the Spirit. Those who see victory over sin in their lives, who see their sinful desires and practices diminishing, can be certain they are sons of God, because only God’s Spirit can bring victory over sin. In the same way—when we begin to understand biblical truths that have long puzzled us, when we experience God’s convicting our consciences, when we grieve for the Lord’s sake when we sin—we have the divine assurance that we are sons of God, because only the indwelling Spirit of God can instill such understanding, conviction, and godly sorrow.

Our finite minds cannot comprehend how the Spirit leads a believer, just as we cannot fully understand any of the supernatural work of God. We do, however, know that our heavenly Father does not force His will on His children. He seeks our willing obedience, which, by definition, cannot be coerced. It is when we are genuinely submissive to Him that our Lord supernaturally reshapes and redirects our will into voluntary conformity with His own.

God saves men through their faith in Him, and He leads those he saves through the same human channel of faith. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding,” the writer of Proverbs counsels. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5–6). The seeking, willing, and obedient heart is open to the Lord’s leading. David prayed, “Make me know Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation; for Thee I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:4–5). Later in that psalm he reminds us that God “leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way” (Ps. 25:9). In another psalm he entreated the Lord, “Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God; let Thy good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Ps. 143:10).

Isaiah assures us that if we truly seek the Lord’s will, He is already standing beside us, as it were, ready to say, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isa. 30:21). The prophet was not speaking necessarily of an audible voice, but the voice of the believer’s God-directed conscience, a conscience instructed by God’s Word and attuned to His Spirit. Isaiah also assures us that the Lord is continually ready and eager to lead His people in the right way. Prophesying in the name of the preincarnate Christ, the prophet declared, “Come near to Me, listen to this: from the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go’ ” (Isa. 48:16–17). Jeremiah acknowledged, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Even the child of God cannot discern divine truth by his own intelligence or obey it in his own power.

God’s Spirit sovereignly leads His children in many ways, sometimes in ways that are direct and unique. But the primary ways by which He promises to lead us are those of illumination and sanctification.

In the first way, God leads His children by illumination, by divinely clarifying His Word to make it understandable to our finite and still sin-tainted minds. As we read, meditate on, and pray over Scripture, the indwelling Spirit of God becomes our divine interpreter. This begins with the conviction of sin that leads through saving belief into the whole of the Christian life.

Although Joseph was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit as are believers under the New Covenant, even the pagan Egyptian ruler recognized him as a man “in whom is a divine spirit.” Consequently, “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are’ ” (Gen. 41:38–39).

The Old Testament saint who wrote Psalm 119, which so eloquently glorifies God’s Word, knew he needed the Lord’s divine help both to understand and to obey that Word. Every believer should continually pray with the psalmist: “Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, for I delight in it” (Ps. 119:35), and, “Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me” (Ps. 119:133).

During the Upper Room discourse, shortly before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus told the apostles, “These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:25–26). That promise had special significance for the apostles, who would become Christ’s uniquely authoritative witnesses to His truth after His ascension back to heaven. But the promise also applies in a general way to all believers after Pentecost. From that time on, every believer has been indwelt by Christ’s own Holy Spirit, whose ministry to us includes that of shedding divine light on scriptural truths that otherwise are beyond our comprehension.

During one of His postresurrection appearances, Jesus said to the eleven remaining apostles, “ ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44–45). Again Jesus’ words had unique significance for the apostles, but in a similar way the Lord opens the minds of all His disciples “to understand the Scriptures.”

On behalf of the Ephesian believers Paul prayed that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Eph. 1:17–19). Later in that epistle Paul offered a similar prayer, asking that God “would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God” (3:16–19).

Paul assured the saints at Colossae that “we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). His devotion to them was again expressed in the loving words: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (3:16).

Perhaps the most definitive passage on the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit is in Paul’s first letter to Corinth. “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,” he asserts; “for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:14–16). In other words, even God’s own children could not understand their heavenly Father’s Word apart from the illuminating work of His Spirit within them.

The second major way in which the Spirit leads God’s children is by their sanctification. The Spirit not only illuminates our minds to understand Scripture but divinely assists us in obeying it, and that obedience becomes another testimony to our salvation. The humble child of God knows he cannot please his Lord in his own power. But he also knows that, when he sincerely labors in the Lord’s work in accordance with the commands and principles of Scripture, the Holy Spirit will bless that work in ways far beyond what the believer’s own abilities could have produced. It is then that our heavenly Father is deeply pleased with us, not for what we have accomplished but for what we have allowed Him to accomplish in and through us. It is not our work in itself but our spirit of obedience to Him and dependence on Him as we do His work that brings joy to our heavenly Father’s heart. It is through our faithful obedience that we experience the gracious working of the Spirit in our lives. And, as with His divine illumination, His divine work of sanctification gives us assurance that we are indeed sons of God.

“I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh,” Paul admonished the Galatians. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Gal. 5:16–17). And because “we live by the Spirit,” he goes on to say, “let us also walk by the Spirit” (v. 5:25).

As with illumination and all other divine works, we cannot understand exactly how God accomplishes His sanctifying work in us. We simply know from His Word, and often from experience, that He performs spiritual works in and through us that are not produced by our own efforts or power. Often we become aware of the Spirit’s activity only in retrospect, as we see His sanctifying power bearing fruit in our lives from seeds planted long beforehand. We also have the blessed assurance that, although we are not consciously aware of the Spirit’s work in us at all times, He is nevertheless performing His divine work in us at all times. He not only gives and sustains our spiritual life, He is our spiritual life.

It is our heavenly Father’s great desire for His children to submit to the leading of His Spirit, for the sake of His glory and for the sake of their spiritual fruitfulness, well-being, and peace.[1]


The Family of God

Romans 8:14

… because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

One of the things I have said about Romans 8, as we have been working our way through it, is that basically Paul is not teaching anything new here but is instead reinforcing what he already stated. The general theme is assurance of salvation, but that doctrine was laid out in chapter 5. And, as I have explained, chapters 6 and 7 were a digression to answer several important questions growing out of chapter 5, after which the apostle picked up where he left off earlier.

But true as that is in general, we find something new when we come to Romans 8:14. This verse tells us that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” and here the idea that we are “sons of God” appears in Romans for the first time.

This is not merely an incidental thought, although it would be possible for a new idea to appear at some point simply by accident, as it were. There is nothing accidental about this reference. Paul is talking about assurance of salvation and is arguing that one basis for this is our new relationship to God, which is a family relationship. Moreover, having introduced the theme in our text, he then elaborates upon it in verses 15–17, speaking of such related concepts as “sons,” “sonship,” “children,” and “heirs.” Some of the words reappear later on in verses 19, 21, and 23. The idea is so important that a number of commentators, such as John R. W. Stott, treat verses 14–17 as a separate section, in spite of the fact that verse 14 is linked to the preceding verse by the word because, or for.

Technically, verse 14 is introduced as proof of what has gone immediately before. Calvin saw this and said, “The substance … amounts to this, that all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God; all the sons of God are heirs of eternal life; and therefore all who are led by the Spirit of God ought to feel assured of eternal life.” Therefore, Romans 8:14 is meant to be both a test of spiritual life and a comfort.

Verse 14 is one of those amazing verses, found often in the Bible, which is literally loaded with important teachings. I want to list five of them.

Two Fathers, Two Families

The first point is a negative one: Not everyone is a member of God’s family. The reason this is important is that we have an idea in western thought, a product of older liberalism, which said that human beings are all sons or daughters of God and that therefore we are all members of one family. The popular way of putting this has been to speak of “the universal fatherhood of God” and “the universal brotherhood of man.” I am sure you have heard those expressions.

There is a sense, of course, in which all human beings are brothers and sisters, having been created by the one God. This is the way the apostle Paul spoke in Athens when he quoted the Greek poets Cleanthes and Aratus to say to that particularly intellectual audience that “we are [all] his [that is, God’s] offspring” (Acts 17:28). But that is not the way the words “sons of God” are used in Scripture, and it is certainly not the way the apostle is speaking here. When Paul writes of “those who are led by the Spirit of God,” he is distinguishing between those who are led by the Spirit and those who are not led by the Spirit, which means that only a portion of humanity are God’s spiritual children.

The clearest statement of this important truth is from the mouth of Jesus Christ. The relevant passage is John 8:31–47. Jesus had been teaching the people and had made a statement similar to what Paul has been saying in Romans: “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This offended his Jewish listeners, because they did not like to think of themselves as enslaved. “We have never been slaves of anyone,” they said.

Their statement was absurd, of course. They had been enslaved by many nations during their long history, and even then were under the domination of the Roman Empire.

But Jesus ignored that point and answered instead that he had been speaking spiritually. “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. … I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father” (vv. 34, 38).

They answered that Abraham was their father.

Jesus denied it, saying that if they were Abraham’s children, they would be like Abraham and would not be determined to kill him, which they were. He said again that, instead, they were acting like their true father.

They then replied that God himself was their only Father, at which point Jesus became most explicit: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. … You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. … The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (vv. 42, 44, 47).

It cannot be said any clearer than that. In these words Jesus made clear that there are two families and two fatherhoods, and that only those who love and serve God are God’s children.

Born of God

This leads to the second important teaching of this verse. In fact, it is the main one: All Christians are members of God’s family. This involves a change that is radical, supernatural, and far-reaching.

  1. It is radical. To become a child of God means that the individual has experienced the most radical or profound change possible. This is because, before a person becomes a son or daughter of God, he or she is not a member of God’s family but is a member of the devil’s family (to use Jesus’ terminology in John 8) or is merely “in Adam” (to use Paul’s earlier teaching in Romans). We do not need to review Paul’s earlier teaching in detail, because it was covered thoroughly in our studies of chapters 5 and 6. To be “in Adam” means to be in sin, a slave to wickedness, under divine judgment, and destined for eternal death. To be “in Christ” is the reverse. It means to be delivered from sin and its judgment, to be growing in holiness, and to possess eternal life. The change is as radical as passing from a state of slavery to freedom or from death to life.
  2. It is supernatural. This change is not only radical. It is supernatural, too, which means that it is done for us from above by God. Here again we are helped by the very words of Jesus Christ, as recorded in John 3. He had been approached by Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and had told Nicodemus that he would never be able to understand spiritual matters unless he was “born again.”

This puzzled the Jewish ruler, so he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (vv. 5–8). In these words Jesus made clear that becoming a child of God is a matter of spiritual birth and that this is something only the Spirit of God can do. The Greek word translated “again” implies that this birth is “from above,” rather than from below, which means that this new spiritual life is divinely imparted.

  1. It is far-reaching. This point will be developed more as we proceed through this section, but it is important to say here that the end of this spiritual rebirth is not only deliverance from sin’s judgment—or, as many in our day seem to think, happiness now—but glorification. This is where chapter 5 began, and it is where chapter 8 will end. It is the point of this section of Romans: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (v. 17).

In his exceptional study of these verses, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones stresses that the apostle’s interest “is always in glorification,” bemoaning the fact that the interest of today’s church has settled on sanctification “because we are so miserably subjective.”

A Practical Result

Not every characteristic of our age is bad, however, though super subjectivity undoubtedly is a troublemaker. One potentially good characteristic is modern-day practicality. We are a down-to-earth people and want to see results. So I ask, what is the practical result of this important change that has happened to us? What does being a Christian mean in one’s daily life?

Here is where Romans 8:14 provides us with a third important doctrine: To be a Christian means to be led by God’s Spirit. Up to this point the doctrines I have been explaining might be thought to refer to a change of status only—before, we were “in Adam”; now we are “in Christ.” Before, we were under condemnation; now we are delivered from condemnation. Before, we were spiritually dead; now we are spiritually alive. All that is true, of course, and Paul has taught it. But it is not the only truth he is teaching. Because our change of status has been accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who lives within every genuine Christian, being a Christian also means that we will be led by that same Spirit. Or, as I have said in different words, it means that we will be growing in holiness increasingly.

This is the way verse 14 is tied to the preceding one. Verse 13 said that we will live spiritually, now and forever, “if by the Spirit [we] put to death the misdeeds of the body.” Now verse 14 adds that we will indeed do that if the Spirit is within us, for this is the direction the Holy Spirit is leading.

A Test of Spiritual Paternity

From time to time we read in the papers of a “paternity suit,” in which a mother sues for support of her child on the grounds that a certain man is the father though he denies it. In earlier ages this was a matter usually impossible to prove, which made a situation like this extremely difficult for the woman. But today a test can be made of both the alleged father’s and the child’s genetic makeup, and the relationship can be established (or disproved) with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

This introduces the fourth important teaching in this verse, which is, we might say, a test of paternity. It tells us how we can know we are in God’s family. We are in God’s family if the Spirit of God is leading us in our daily lives.

Do you remember what I said earlier about this being a new idea and a new section of Romans 8? Here I have to confess that it is not such a new idea after all, since we have really been noting this point all along. It is only another way of saying that those who are Christians will necessarily live accordingly. They are on the path of discipleship. Therefore, although they may fall while walking along that path, they also inevitably get up again and go forward. They grow in holiness.

A big question still remains: How does the Holy Spirit lead us?

People have a lot of ideas at this point, many of them unbiblical. Some answer in terms of outward circumstances, suggesting that God orders external events to direct us in the way we should go. Others look for special intimations or feelings or perhaps even special revelations. Some think of guidance almost magically, expecting God’s Spirit to direct them to some verse supernaturally or to let them overhear some human remark that is actually from God. We have to be careful in this area since it is futile to deny that God does indeed sometimes lead in “mysterious” ways. Saint Augustine was converted by hearing a neighbor’s child singing the words, “Tole lege (Take, read).” He received it as a word from God, picked up a Bible and, turning to a passage at random, fell upon verses that spoke to his specific need, and so was converted. We dare not say that this was not from God.

But is that sort of guidance what we are to expect normally? If so, the majority of us have not experienced it. If being “led by the Spirit” is what it means to be a Christian, and if that is what it means to be led, then most of us are not Christians! Of course, this is not what Paul is saying.

The place to start is by recognizing that the Holy Spirit works within us or, as we might say, “internally.” Everything in the passage indicates this. Paul has been talking about our minds being set on what the Holy Spirit desires and about our having an obligation to live according to the Spirit rather than according to the sinful nature. In the next verses he will speak of an internal witness of the Spirit by which we instinctively call God “Father.” God can order external events, of course, and he does. He orders everything. But that is not what is being discussed here. In this verse Paul is talking about what God’s Spirit does internally within the Christian.

So we reduce the earlier question to this one: What does the Holy Spirit do internally in Christians to lead them? Let me suggest three things.

  1. He renews our minds. The first area in which the Holy Spirit works is the intellect, and he does this by what Paul will later call “the renewing of your mind.” This comes out very clearly in Romans 12. There, having laid down the great doctrines of the epistle, the apostle begins to apply them to the believer’s conduct, saying, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:1–2).

The person who discovers, tests, and approves what God’s pleasing and perfect will is obviously is being led by God. But the key to this, according to Romans, is the mind’s renewal.

How, then, are our minds to be renewed? There is only one way. It is by our reading and being taught by the Spirit from the Bible. That is what God has given the Bible to us for—to inform us, enlighten our minds, and redirect our thinking. I hold the Bible and the Holy Spirit together in this, however, as the Reformers were particularly astute in doing. For alone, either is inadequate. A person who considers himself to be led by the Spirit apart from the Bible will soon fall into error and excess. He will begin to promote nonbiblical and therefore false teachings. But a person who reads the Bible apart from the illumination provided by the Holy Spirit, which is true in the case of all unbelievers, will find it to be a closed and meaningless book. The Christian is led by the operation of the Holy Spirit and the Bible together.

Here is a test for you. Has the Holy Spirit been leading you by enlightening your mind through Bible study? Have you discovered things about God, yourself, the gospel, and the ways of God that you did not know before? Do you realize that they are true? Are you beginning to live differently? Unless you are crazy, you will begin to live differently. Because a person who realizes that one way is true and another is false and yet takes the false path must be out of his or her mind, irrational. If your mind has been renewed, you will show it.

  1. He stirs the heart. Figuratively, the heart is the seat of the emotions, and the Holy Spirit works upon it by stirring or quickening the heart to love God. In the verse that follows our text Paul speaks of an inner response to God by which we affectionately cry out, “Abba, Father.” This verse does not actually mention the heart, but in a parallel text in Galatians Paul does, showing that he is thinking of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts explicitly. He writes, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Gal. 4:6). In other words, the Spirit of God leads us by making us affectionate toward God and his ways. It is the Spirit who causes us, as Jesus said, to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).

This brings us to another test of whether or not you are a Christian. I mentioned it in an earlier study. Do you love God? I do not mean, “Do you love God perfectly?” If you think you do, you probably do not love him much at all. I mean only, “Do you try to please God? Do you want to spend time with him through studying the Bible and praying? Do you seek his favor? Are you concerned for his glory?”

  1. He directs our wills. Just as the Spirit leads us by renewing our minds and stirring our hearts or affections, so also does he lead us by redirecting and strengthening our wills. Paul speaks of this in Philippians, where he writes: “Therefore, my dear friends … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12–13).

God gives us a singleness of purpose—to do his will. It is the way God works. Has your will been redirected in that way? When you look deep inside, do you find that you really want to serve God and act according to his good purpose? God does not force you to be godly against your will. He changes your will by the new birth so that what you despised before you now love, and what you were indifferent to before you now find desirable.

John Murray had it right when he wrote, “The activity of the believer is the evidence of the Spirit’s activity, and the activity of the Spirit is the cause of the believer’s activity.” If you are trying to please God, it is because the Spirit is at work within you, leading you to want and actually do the right thing. It is a strong reason for believing you are in God’s family.

Our Brothers and Sisters

There is one more important teaching in this short but potent verse, and it comes from the fact that the words we are dealing with are plural: “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Therefore: Those led by the Spirit of God are our true brothers and sisters. We are part of the same divine family.

The older, King James Version started this verse with “For as many as …” and I am almost sorry this has been changed, since it emphasized the inclusive nature of God’s family better than “those” in the New International Version. Yet it is the same thing. And the problem is not so much our understanding the point as practicing it. There are many differences between believers within the church of Jesus Christ—differences of class, personality, background, economic status, temperament, abilities, drive, sensitivity, and thousands of other things. They have led to divisions in the church, for not all divisions (perhaps not even the majority) are doctrinal. Many divisions exist that should not exist, and sometimes these lead Christians in one camp to suspect and even fail to associate with those in another.

This should not be, for the text teaches that what makes other believers our brothers or sisters in Christ is not what denomination or movement they may belong to, but whether or not they are being led by God’s Spirit. Anyone for whom that is true is our brother or sister in Christ, and we should recognize it and be willing to work with that person to fulfill God’s purposes.[2]


14 The relation of the Spirit to the “sons of God” (i.e., “children of God”; cf. vv. 16–17) is presented as being much like that of a shepherd to his sheep. They are “led” by him as their guide and protector. In Galatians 3:24, the law is pictured as a tutor having the responsibility to lead us to Christ. Once this goal is achieved, however, the law must hand over the guiding role to the Spirit, who guides into the truth (Jn 16:13) and into holiness. Unlike sin, which may at first only gently seduce, then deceitfully begin to drive as a hard taskmaster, the Spirit relies on persuasion rather than force. In fact, Paul goes to some pains to avoid misunderstanding on this very point (v. 15), assuring us that the Spirit’s leadership does not involve a new bondage that is no improvement over the old one in which fear ruled (probably a fear of the consequences of sin and a fear of death, as in Heb 2:15).[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 429–434). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 829–836). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[3] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 136). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.