Category Archives: Verse of the day

March 28, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

33 Sovereignty of God. The Lord controls the decisions that are submitted to him. The passage concerns the practice of seeking divine leading through casting lots. “Every decision” (kol-mišpāṭô) is from the Lord (see also “Amenemope,” ch. 18; 19:16–17 [ANET, 423]). So Proverbs 16 ends as it began, with a word about God’s sovereignty.[1]

33 Verse 33 adds a necessary caveat. Ultimately, the Lord, not the disciple’s self possession alone, rules his destiny, as illustrated by “the lot.” Verset A presents its secret handling by people, and verset B the divine judgment behind it. The proverb emphatically matches in the bosom (ḥêq, see 5:20) and “from the Lord” as the first phrases in the synthetic parallels. Heq here denotes the secret holding area in the fold of the garment above the belt where hands were placed and the lot remained covered and uninfluenced (cf. Prov. 17:23). The lot (gôrāl, see 1:14) was a small stone used to reveal God’s selection of someone or something out of several possibilities where he kept people in the dark and desired their impartiality in the selection. Is hurled (yûṭal) means to cast someone or something violently away from someone. This unexpected verb contrasts to other texts that use neutral terms for the human manipulation of the lot.17 The unexpected verb may suggest the selection of an offender is in view as the Targum and the Syriac perceived (see n. 4). However, the proverb should not be restricted to retribution.18 The lot’s selection was final because it was ultimately “hurled down” by God (cf. 18:18). The conjunctive can be glossed by and or but because verset B both contrasts human and divine activity and combines them (see 16:1). From the Lord (see 16:1) traces the mediated action of “hurling (down)” to Israel’s covenant keeping God. All underscores there are no exceptions. Its decisions (mišpāṭô, see I: 97) refers back to the masculine topic, gôrāl, not the Lord, because that would be tautologous. [Come] from the Lord (see 16:1) traces the mediated action of “hurling (down)” back to Israel’s covenant keeping God. Even when the pagan sailors used the lot, the Sovereign ruled through it (cf. Jon. 1:7; Est. 3:7; 9:1, 2). After the outpouring of the Spirit the practice of casting lots does not occur in the Church. The pagan use of the lot, however, may suggest its appropriate use by the State (e.g., in drafting its warriors) and other secular institutions (e.g., in selecting candidates for organ transplants).[2]

16:33. The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.

The chapter ends where it began, with the theme of God’s sovereignty (vv. 1–4, 9). This time His control is said to extend even over the ‘lot’ (Prov. 18:18). In both Testaments, the Bible speaks of the use of the ‘lot’ by both believers and unbelievers (Lev. 16:7–10, 21, 22; Josh. 14:2; 1 Sam. 14:41; 1 Chron. 25:7, 8; 26:13ff; Neh. 10:34ff; Jonah 1:7; Matt. 27:35; Acts 1:26). Some believe that the high priest’s use of the Urim and Thummim (Exod. 28:30; Deut. 33:8) was a form of casting lots. Here, the reference, as often in the rest of Scripture, is to the more general population.

The exact form and mechanics of using the lot is not entirely clear. Here, it was ‘cast into the lap.’ That is to say, into the fold of the garment created as one sat down. Presumably, it provided some kind of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer to the dispute in question and was, thus, akin to our practice of drawing straws or flipping a coin.

It is worth noting that the Bible does not command us to use the lot in making decisions. In fact, it is significant that the final use of the lot (Acts 1:26) came just prior to Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. While not prohibiting its use, this does remind us that we are privileged, above all other generations, to possess both the completed written revelation of God and the indwelling Spirit of God who authored it.

Nevertheless, there may be rare occasions when the use of some form of lot is not unwarranted. When might that be? ‘There is a lazy, superstitious use of the lot and other such means that is not recommended here. The use of the lot … ought never to supersede biblical commandments and the application of scriptural principles.… When, having followed biblical injunctions to their limit you are left with several options, all of which are acceptable to God, the lot may be used to decide among them.… But where there is biblical direction, the lot should never replace obedience to it.’

What is robustly affirmed here is that, in such legitimate situations, God is in absolute control, even over what may appear to be mere chance events. God’s providence extends even to the tumble of the dice. We should look to this God for our direction (Prov. 29:26).[3]

16:33 / Antithetic. The presupposition is that nothing escapes the divine will. Hence even the casting of lots, which seems so casual (they are thrown into the lap—i.e., the fold of the garment) is determined by God. Lots are referred to frequently in the ot (cf. Urim and Thummim, Num. 27:21).[4]

16:33. Though the exact nature of the lot is unclear, it was probably something like dice used to determine God’s will in decision-making (e.g., Lv 16:8; Nm 26:55; Est 3:7; 1Ch 25:8; 1Sm 14:40–42; Pr 18:18; Ac 1:26). This proverb explains why: its every decision is from the Lord. “The underlying belief is that the Lord, who determines all things, also determines the way the lots turn out” (Murphy, Proverbs, 124). The wise recognize and trust in God’s sovereign providence.[5]

16:33. God, not chance, decides

The Old Testament use of the word lot shows that this proverb (and 18:18) is not about God’s control of all random occurrences, but about his settling of matters properly referred to him. Land was ‘allotted’ (Josh. 14:1, 2), likewise temple service (1 Chr. 25:8); probably the Urim and Thummim were lots. But God’s last use of this method was, significantly, the last event before Pentecost (Acts 1:26); thereafter he has no longer guided his church as a ‘servant’ who ‘knoweth not what his lord doeth’: cf. Acts 13:2; 15:25, 28.[6]

Ver. 33. The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.All contingencies under the direction of God’s providence:

  1. Consider the result of a “lot” in reference to men. Why suspend the decision of some dubious case upon it? It implies something future, and something contingent. It is something absolutely out of the reach of man’s knowledge, and equally out of reach of his power. A contingent event baffles man’s knowledge and evades his power.
  2. Consider the result of a lot in respect of God. All contingencies are comprehended by a certain Divine knowledge, and governed by as certain and steady a providence. God directs the greatest casualties under His providence to certain ends, in reference to societies and to particular persons. In the latter case, touching their lives, their health, their reputation, their friendships, and their employments or preferments. Since the interest of governments and nations, of princes and private persons, notwithstanding all the contrivance and power that human nature can exert about them, remain so wholly contingent, as to us, surely all the reason of mankind cannot suggest any solid ground of satisfaction, but in making that God our friend who is the sole and absolute disposer of all these things, and in carrying a conscience so clear towards Him as may encourage us with confidence to cast ourselves upon Him, and in all casualties still to promise ourselves the best events from His providence, to whom nothing is casual, who constantly wills the truest happiness of those that trust in Him, and works all things according to the counsel of that blessed will. (R. South.)

Grounds and limitations of human responsibility:

Define the provinces of human and Divine agency. Our duty is commensurate with our power. We are responsible for the moral character of what is done just so far as it depends upon ourselves. Within the circle where man has the power to will and to do of his own pleasure is the field of human agency. Here man is held responsible. All beyond this province of human responsibility is done by the power of God. This thought of Divine providence is the most consoling and inspiring that ever visits the heart, though it cannot give joy to the heart where it is not welcomed. Our knowledge of human and Divine agency is constantly extending. We are continually opening upon new views, which show us that many things which are called acts of God come within the sphere of our own responsibility, and are, in truth, our own actions springing from our own doing or our own neglect; and the consequences of them we must expect to bear. Moreover, the arts and improvements of civil life are continually investing men with new powers, and given him a mastery over nature which in former days he never dreamed of possessing. Then is not the sphere of Divine providence getting lessened? Nay, the more we feel our own responsibility, the more shall we recognise the agency of Heaven in all things. What is it we adore in the providence of God? It is its vast reach of vision, and its ever steadfastly pressing on to that which is right. (W. B. O. Peabody.)

Divine providence:

The general doctrine of providence derives support from sources independent of Divine revelation. It is another term for the government of God, by which all events are made to concur with His wise and holy purposes. Look at providence—

  1. In the mode of its operations.
  2. In the vastness of its range.
  3. In the punishment of the wicked.
  4. In its aspect on the Church. The doctrine of Divine providence is full of consolation. All must be right when God controls and reigns over all. (John George.)

God’s providence even in trifles:

God’s providence may be seen not only in the whirlwind and the hurricane, the lightning and the storm, but also in the very least of natural manifestations. Surely, without unduly pressing our text, we may bring forward a familiar illustration of the way in which even trifles, as man calls them, have been made to work out mighty results. Take, for instance, the discovery of the laws of gravitation, and the great results in which that discovery has issued: how it opened the way to the understanding of the courses of the heavenly bodies; how the orbits of the planets, and their distances, and their relative positions at various periods came to be clearly defined; the influence of these discoveries on the laws of navigation, and the consequent facilities for communication between places separated by thousands of miles upon the ocean. We are daily in the enjoyment of the conveniences and luxuries which spring from these discoveries. We may be ignorant of the laws which have been deduced, or even of the practical applications of these laws; of their results in adding to our comforts we cannot be ignorant. Now, is it too much to say that these discoveries are the result of God’s providential government? But, if this be granted, we cannot stop here; it follows that the means by which this knowledge was acquired were not beyond the Divine control; nay, rather were subservient to it, and governed by it. And so, at last, we see by manifest logical conclusion that the finger of God may be traced even in that trifle, as it might have been called, which led the wise man’s mind to excogitate the mysteries among which we live. And whether we endeavour to trace the working of the finger of God in the intricacies of the human mind, or in the external influences which affect the mind, or in the coincidences by which great events are deduced from small beginnings, yet in each alike we may say, and say with reason, “It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” Apply this lesson in another way, to the case of sickness—for here, again, we may attain to very practical results. Now, I apprehend that the generality of men do certainly look upon sickness as a casualty—a mere matter of accident or chance. If you were to question them strictly you might at last extract from them in general terms a confession that God is the author of life or death, of health or sickness; but it has no practical effect. It is not a really powerful religious principle, for they are ever speaking of proximate causes, and not of the great First Cause. Take now a particular case, in part illustrative of my meaning; it shall be the case of the blind man, recorded in St. John 9. I adduce this case to illustrate the general principle that sickness cometh not by chance, but by God’s will and permission, and that its results are known by God, and that it comes to accomplish the purpose for which He hath sent it. Again, the same order and regularity are observable in the kingdom of grace. All the profit and advantage which men receive from the ministry of the Word and Sacraments is of God. An eloquent sermon may be delivered, but the preacher cannot tell whose heart it may reach or whose mind it may affect. The lot is cast, as it were, into the lap; the preacher knoweth not the issue thereof, for the whole disposing of it is of the Lord. Now, I think that these considerations may have a very practical effect upon us; they touch our every-day life; they console us in failure, when failure results from no lack of diligence on our part; they humble us in success. But does this lead us to believe in any doctrines like those of the fatalists? By no means. Every man is a free agent, working out for himself future weal or woe as he will. His mind is fixed in a certain course, and his thoughts tend to that direction. God often checks him if he is going astray, and pleads with him, and throws hindrances in the paths which lead to evil. And though a man’s course of life may be evil, yet there are influences which are running counter to that evil course, and checking him, and compelling him to pause and think. And why is this—but because, though the lot be cast into the lap, yet the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord? (W. S. Simpson, M.A.)

The Lord’s disposing:

After all, what silly and short-sighted children we are! Only spelling out the alphabet in God’s infant school, and yet aspiring to a seat in His cabinet! How differently our life-stories will read when we have a chance to correct them in the clear light of heaven! Then we shall discover under the head of “Accidents” there was written as in invisible ink, “The lot is cast into the lap, but the disposing thereof is of the Lord.” On the page that we had surrounded with black lines, and inscribed it “Obituaries,” we shall see how distinctly a Divine finger has written, “Whom I love I chasten.” (Theodore L. Cuyler.)[7]

[1] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 152). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Waltke, B. K. (2005). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15–31 (pp. 37–38). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Kitchen, J. A. (2006). Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (p. 370). Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[4] Murphy, R. E., & Carm, O. (2012). Proverbs. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (p. 84). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Finkbeiner, D. (2014). Proverbs. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (p. 929). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[6] Kidner, D. (1964). Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 17, p. 115). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[7] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). Proverbs (pp. 445–447). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

March 28, 2020 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

9. Precious character indeed, the faithful God! on whom I rest all my certain assurances of mercy and salvation in Jesus. Sweet consideration! our God abideth faithful; even, saith the apostle, though we believe not, he cannot deny himself. Reader, cherish the blessed expression! Did not the apostle intend to express, that how ever poor and wretched our belief is, yet the Father must be faithful to his Son Jesus in all his covenant promises, which are all yea and amen in him. See 2 Tim. 2:13. 2 Cor. 1:20.[1]

7:9 The term ‘know’ is also a technical covenantal expression. From God’s side it is used in a way almost the same as ‘choose’ (cf. Amos 3:2 ‘you only have I chosen’, Heb. ‘known’). Of humans in the Old Testament (as in the New Testament) it describes a relationship with God based on personal experience of him. The outcome for Israel of the prior actions of God was that there should be the acknowledgment of Jehovah. Their God had kept his sworn word and shown covenant love (Heb. chesed) to those who loved him and were obedient to his commandments. Later in the Old Testament Abraham is called God’s lover (Isa. 41:8; 2 Chron. 20:7), as he set the pattern for his descendants of a true response to God’s love. The phrase ‘to a thousand generations’ comes at the end of the Hebrew sentence. However it is rightly to be construed along with ‘keeping his covenant’ as it alludes to the words in the Second Commandment, ‘showing love to thousands of generations of those who love me and keep my commandments’ (Deut. 5:10, and Exod. 20:6). Covenant love would continue to be shown by a faithful God to countless generations to come.[2]

Ver. 9. Them that love Him and keep His commandments.—Love God, and keep His commandments:—

The love of God, according to the Scripture notion of it, is a duty easy to be comprehended. And the text before us, which attaches so great a reward to this grace, does, at the same time, show us what it means in saying that God keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments. For the latter words fix and ascertain the meaning of the former, and give us to understand that he who keepeth God’s commandments is he that loveth Him. Nor are the laws and commandments of God, by the keeping of which is evidenced our love of Him, so hard to be understood. For He hath marked out the great lines of our duty by His works of creation and providence, and hath clearly filled them up in His holy Scriptures. “By these He hath showed thee, O man, what is good.” I proceed to the main design of this discourse, which is, to lay before you the reasons and motives of loving and obeying God, which the text offers, from His nature and promises. The name of God implies all that is excellent and adorable; and here, in the first place, by the title of Lord added to it, directs our view to His dominion and sovereignty, by which He hath a right to our submission and obedience. We were created by His power, and are sustained by His providence. We are born the subjects of His kingdom, which ruleth over all; and are the children of the family of which He is the great Father and Lord; who allots to every one his rank and condition in it, and expects from all an account of their works. Our passage through life is compared to a voyage over a great ocean, where we must wander and be lost, without somewhat to direct us through it. But our safe and certain direction is the law of God, in which we have not less reason to rejoice than “they who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters” have in beholding and observing the signs and constellations by which they govern their course over the face of the deep. For mariners, who sail in such tempestuous weather that neither sun nor stars in many days appear, are not in a state of greater perplexity and danger than man would be left in without the laws and commandments which God has set forth, as so many lights and signs from heaven to guide him securely through this voyage of life. We read that, in certain climates of the world, the gales that spring from the land carry a refreshing smell out to sea, and assure the watchful pilot that he is approaching to a desirable and fruitful coast when as yet he cannot discern it with his eyes. And, to take up once more the comparison of life to a voyage, in like manner it fares with those who have steadily and religiously pursued the course which heaven pointed out to them. We shall sometimes find by their conversation towards the end of their days, that they are filled with hope, and peace, and joy, which, like those refreshing gales and reviving odours to the seaman, are breathed forth from paradise upon their souls, and give them to understand with certainty that God is bringing them unto their desired haven. But to return to our proper argument. The wisdom of God is incapable of being misled itself, and His goodness of misleading us; and therefore the precepts which He hath given for the government of our lives must be excellently framed to the perfection and happiness of our nature. His laws, which enjoin the worship and honour of Himself, which command us to honour our parents, to do justice, and to love mercy, which forbid us to injure the life, the peace, the property of our neighbour, are evidently framed for the general good of mankind. And this we are mostly willing to allow. But there are some cases which the laws of God treat as sinful, wherein we are fondly apt to imagine that the injunction is rigorous which forbids us to follow the bent of our inclinations, when, as appears to us, no injury is done to others. Yet God is gracious, alike in His restraints and in His allowances. Some things which He hath forbidden prove injurious to others, if not directly, yet in their consequences. Some waste our time, divert our thoughts from worthy objects, and prevent our usefulness, to which God and society have a right; some consume our substance, to which our families, or the poor, have a claim; some impair the health of the body, which we have no right to destroy, and which, being lost, men become uncomfortable to themselves, dissatisfied with others, and disposed, perhaps, even to repine against that providence which hath left them to reap the fruits of their own folly. In the meanwhile those better principles and purer sentiments of the mind, without which religion and virtue cannot subsist, grow weak and faint, or are blotted out. Evil courses, in the expressive language of Scripture, “take away the heart”; that is, they deprive men of their judgment and darken their understanding; it may be, in the affairs of the world, but most undoubtedly in those things which are spiritually discerned. We are in this life as children in a state of education, training up for another condition of being, of which, at present, we know but little; only, we are assured that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”; that its enjoyments are of a spiritual nature, corresponding more with the faculties of the soul than with the present constitution of the body. The restraints, therefore, under which we are laid, and which seem grievous to us, as children, are parts, no doubt, of a wise and gracious discipline, which is to qualify us for a heavenly inheritance, and is so necessary a preparation for it that we cannot otherwise see God or enter into the joy of our Lord. Reason, therefore, in some particulars, and in others faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, will assure the mind of the Christian that every branch of the law of God is most worthy to be honoured and obeyed, as proceeding from infinite loving-kindness and goodness to man. Is any one, then, who professes himself the servant of the Lord, called by Him to a trial of his obedience, wherein some hardship or peril must be undergone? Let him call to mind how much harder trials they who loved and feared God formerly have undergone; let him consider how great things men of noble and ingenuous natures will do, even for an earthly commander; and let him recollect that he is serving a Master who never faileth to succour those who trust in Him, and in whose service he cannot lose the promised reward. For He is the faithful God who keepeth covenant and mercy. And here I am led to the last observation proposed, namely, the encouragement to obedience arising from this consideration, that the Almighty is our Deliverer, who hath visited and redeemed His people by His blessed Son Jesus Christ. (T. Townson, D.D.)[3]

[1] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Deuteronomy–2 Samuel (Vol. 2, pp. 41–42). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Harman, A. M. (2001). Deuteronomy: The Commands of a Covenant God (p. 105). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.

[3] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Deuteronomy (pp. 229–231). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

March 28, 2020 Morning Verse Of The Day

† 16:33 — “ … be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

How could a man about to be crucified say that He had overcome the world? Jesus overcame the world by obeying His Father despite all challenges and opposition. In a similar way, we too can be overcomers (Rev. 3:21; 12:11).[1]


These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (16:33)

Understanding God’s love and placing one’s faith in Him—the things of which Christ had just spoken to the disciples—brings peace despite the hostility of the world and the relentless tribulation it brings. These words were spoken just one evening after our Lord had told the disciples how much tribulation there was to be in the world before His return:

And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:8–24)

Still, in the midst of all that, believers will enjoy divine peace. That is more than enough reason to take courage and have hope. The believer’s hope is in the Lord (Pss. 31:24; 38:15; 39:7; 42:5, 11; 43:5; 62:5; 71:5; 130:7; 146:5; Lam. 3:24; 1 Tim. 1:1), His Word (Pss. 119:49; 130:5; Rom. 15:4), the salvation He provides (Ps. 119:166; Eph. 1:18; 4:4; Titus 1:2), and the eternal glory that awaits in heaven (Col. 1:5, 27; 1 Thess. 5:8). That hope is made possible because Jesus Christ has overcome the world and conquered sin (John 1:29; Heb. 1:3; 9:26, 28; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 3:5; Rev. 1:5), death (John 14:19; 1 Cor. 15:26, 54–55; 2 Tim. 1:10), and Satan (Gen. 3:15; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). In Him, Christians too are overcomers (Rom. 8:37; 1 John 4:4; 5:4–5; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7), for whom the Lord will work all things to their good (Rom. 8:28).

After the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the disciples would be radically transformed from men of fear to men of courage. Though they abandoned Jesus on the night of His arrest, they would boldly stand before the Jewish leaders less than two months later. In Acts 2, the Twelve (with Matthias replacing Judas Iscariot) “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (v. 4). None other than Peter, who had denied Christ on three occasions (Mark 14:66–72), publicly took “his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared” to the crowds in Jerusalem that they should repent (v. 14; cf. v. 42). A little while later, he and John healed a lame man in the temple (Acts 3:6) and boldly preached the gospel there (vv. 11–26). They were quickly arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. But instead of cowering in fear, they bravely proclaimed the truth to the same Jewish leaders who had crucified Jesus. “There is salvation in no one else,” declared Peter of Christ. “For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Noting his courage, the Jewish leaders were astonished. “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed” (v. 13).

That same supernatural courage and boldness is reflected in the examples of Stephen (Acts 7:54–60), Philip (8:5, 26–30), Ananias (9:10–19), Barnabas (13:46), Silas (16:25), Apollos (18:25–26), and Paul (26:19–21). Filled with the Holy Spirit and marked by personal conviction, these men were not intimidated by the threats of the world. Instead, they bravely proclaimed the truth of the gospel and rejoiced when they were persecuted (cf. 5:41), being confident of the promise that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

The peace and hope that characterized them is the same that has characterized true believers in every age. Being assured of what they believed and hoped for, and convinced of what they did not see (cf. Heb. 11:1), the saints of old “were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (vv. 37–38). Believers today can find that same courage of conviction when their “faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). They need not fear persecution or even death, because they know “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13) and Jesus Christ, “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27; cf. 1 Tim. 1:1). Having trusted in the death and resurrection of Christ, they are eternally secure in His love—knowing that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate [believers] from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus [their] Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

Significantly, Jesus’ last words to His disciples in the upper room, before praying for them and departing for Gethsemane, were words of love, faith, and hope. In the face of their greatest trial in the next few days, the Lord reminded them of those three foundational truths—truths that would subsequently mark their ministries for the rest of their lives and also mark all the saints to follow them. Having done all He could to prepare them for what was about to take place, Jesus now turned in prayer to His Father, knowing that only He could truly protect the disciples in the following hours.[2]

Christ’s Disciples Scattered

John 16:31–33

You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

There are two reasons why the Lord Jesus Christ was not as impressed by his disciples’ professions of faith as they themselves were. First, their faith had been a long time coming. Second, it was about to evaporate. In the verses that close the sixteenth chapter of John, Jesus had been answering the questions of the disciples without their having actually asked them, and this had led them to exclaim, “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God” (v. 30). This claim was honest, but really quite pretentious. They claimed to believe. They said that they were sure in their belief, but they were actually weak in commitment. Thus, instead of being impressed with his disciples’ faith, Jesus goes on to foretell their confusion and scattering at the time of his crucifixion.

This whole exchange should be a lesson for Christian people, for we are often quite confident in our faith, and yet are not as strong as we imagine ourselves to be. We say, “Now I believe; now I am sure.” But in a short while we find ourselves doubting the very thing we affirmed.

A Realistic Appraisal

A number of years ago my first assistant at Tenth Presbyterian Church told me something that he had remembered from his early childhood. He had been helping his father put some things on the dining-room table, and he had asked to carry something that his father judged to be too heavy for him. He argued with his father, making many protestations. “Please, Father, I know I can carry it. I am sure I can.” At last his father let him try. He started out confidently and carefully, but suddenly he dropped the container and the liquid spilled. He told me that he learned one of the great lessons of his life that day as he stood staring down at the spilled mess and the broken container. He felt absolutely chagrined; he had been so sure of himself. But his father had been right after all, and he was wrong.

Everyone has had such experiences, and it is these that will help us understand the profession of the disciples and their feelings as Jesus gently revealed the future to them. They were so sure of their faith. But in a short while—in fact, within hours—their faith would be gone.

Notice three things that Jesus prophesied concerning them. First, he revealed that they would soon be scattered. Now they were together, and, as is often the case, there was encouragement in numbers. And, of course, there was Jesus. If they had known the song, they might well have sung, “Give me ten men who are stouthearted men, and I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.” But they did not really know themselves. So before long, much to their chagrin, they would be scattered. Most scampered back over the Mount of Olives toward Bethany at the time of Christ’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter followed the arresting party back into Jerusalem, but afar off. After the crucifixion Cleopas and Mary returned to Emmaus, and the others were undoubtedly making plans for their own departure.

Second, Jesus foretold their confusion. This is involved in his questions about their belief, for when he exclaims, “You believe at last!” it is as much as to say that the time was coming when they would no longer believe and all would be confusion. Now they were sure that he was the Messiah, come forth from God. But how could they be sure of that following the harsh reality of Christ’s crucifixion? Like the Emmaus disciples they would all be saying, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).

Third, Jesus revealed that they would soon be isolated, for each would be scattered “to his own.” When we read that phrase the first time we find ourselves asking, “Scattered to his own what? To his own house? City? Friends?” Jesus is saying that each would be scattered to his own little world and that each would be isolated in it. With the center gone, there would no longer be any cohesion to the little itinerant band. It is as if the devil, the disrupter, would have his way and that this heroic attempt to bind the sinful and scattered race of Adam into that glorious new unity of the church would come to ruin.

Well, what of it? Surely that is not our case, now that we have understood the meaning of the cross and stand on this side of Christ’s resurrection! Is that right? Are we never scattered? Never confused? Never isolated? Of course, we are! We are scattered—sometimes by persecution, sometimes by schism within the denominations, sometimes merely by our suspicion of other Christians. We are confused, for even believers do not always have a sure answer to give to those who ask them a reason of the hope within. Circumstances, sickness, and other troubles rattle us. We are isolated, for Christians are often terribly alone. I have had Christians write to me with problems because of having heard me over the Bible Study Hour, and they have said, “I have no one to turn to; there is no other person with whom I can share my problems.”

I want you to notice that in all of these respects—scattered, confused, isolated—Jesus is the exact opposite of the disciples. They scattered at the time of his arrest, but Jesus stood firm. He stood firm even to the point of death, as a result of which, after his resurrection, he became a magnetic point about which they regathered. They were confused, but he was strong in faith, as a result of which they recovered faith from him. They were isolated. But he, even though he was abandoned by them, could say, “But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” They emerged from their isolation when he came to them again following the resurrection.

I am glad that the Lord accepts weak, stammering, even ignorant faith. If he did not, what would become of us? Who could be saved? But having said that, let us not imagine that our faith or perception is the crucial thing, for “weak, stammering and ignorant” is an accurate description of it. Our strength is not in our faith but in him who is the object of it. It is in Jesus.

Christ’s Legacy

The second lesson of these verses is Christ’s parting legacy to his disciples. He had gently exposed the weakness of their supposedly strong faith. But not wishing to leave them with the exposure, he immediately goes on to talk of that which really is strong and which will endure even in tribulations. He talks about peace, his peace. It is the same peace he had spoken of in the fourteenth chapter: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled” (14:27). It was announced of Christ at his birth that he had come to bring peace—“peace on earth, good will toward men.” This he did, and he left it behind at his departure.

In 1874 a French steamer called the Ville du Havre was on a homeward voyage from America when a collision with a sailing vessel took place. The damage to the steamer was considerable, and as a result it sank quickly with the loss of nearly all who had been on board. One passenger, Mrs. Horatio G. Spafford, the wife of a lawyer in Chicago, had been en route to Europe with her four children. On being informed that the ship was sinking she knelt with her children and prayed that they might be saved or, if not, that they might be willing to die, if that was God’s will. When the ship went down, the children were all lost. Mrs. Spafford was rescued by a sailor who had been rowing over the spot where the ship had sunk and found her floating in the water. Ten days later, when she reached Cardiff, she sent her husband the message: “Saved alone.” This was a great blow, a sadness hardly comprehensible to anyone who has not lost a child. But though a great shock, it did not destroy the peace that either of the parents, who were both Christians, had from Jesus. Spafford wrote as a testimony to the grace of God in his experience:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea-billows roll—

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

This is the meaning of the Christian’s peace. It is not an absence of conflict or any other kind of trial or disappointment. Rather it is contentment and trust in God in spite of such circumstances.

Two Conditions

But it is not automatic. That is, it is not ours regardless of whether or not we meet Christ’s conditions for entering into this inheritance. The conditions he lays down in this passage are two.

First, the peace Christ gives is for those who are “in him.” This could mean simply that peace is for Christians, for when we become Christians God places us in Christ so that we may properly be said to have died and risen with him and to be sitting now with him in heaven. But this is probably not what Christ is talking about here. We must remember in interpreting this verse that the discourses in which they occur have been full of admonitions to “believe on” Christ and, more importantly, to “remain in” him. This is not the kind of being “in” Christ that corresponds with being saved but rather a conscious dependence on him and staying close to him that is the prerequisite to joy and fruitfulness in the Christian life. It is this that Christ has in mind as he closes these discourses. Jesus gives peace. But the gift of peace is appropriated only by those who depend on him, trust him, and remain close to him in their living of the Christian life.

Moreover, this interpretation of being “in” Christ is reinforced by the second of the two conditions: that the words of Christ might be in his followers. Jesus indicates this when he says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace” (v. 33). What things are these? They are the doctrines of this section of John’s Gospel. We previewed these at the beginning of our study of this section.

First, there is the fact of Christ’s love for the disciples. Chapter 13 begins with this truth: “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (v. 1). The chapter that is introduced by that verse contains a great demonstration of the love of Christ for his own, the foot washing, which is at the same time both a true demonstration of Christ’s condescending love and an illustration of his humbling of himself in order to be able to die on the cross. Throughout the discourses there is repeated evidence of Christ’s concern for his own. He is concerned to instruct them, warn them, and prepare them for his departure.

Second, Jesus spoke about heaven, saying that he was going to prepare a place for his own in heaven and that, if he was going, he would return and take them to himself so that where he was there they would be also (14:2–3). What was new in this teaching was not the mere fact of heaven, but rather that Jesus had an interest in it and would guarantee a personalized place in heaven for his followers.

Third, Jesus had spoken about the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was a tremendously new thing, for although the Old Testament had much to say about the Spirit of God, and although several of the Old Testament prophecies had spoken of a day when the Holy Spirit should be poured forth in power, no one had been associating that with Christ’s ministry or gifts. Now the disciples were told that Christ would himself send the Spirit and that he would come to be in them and work through them. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit would comfort the disciples. He would also perform a ministry toward the world, for he would convict the world “of sin, righteousness and judgment” (16:8).

Fourth, Jesus spoke of a work that the disciples were to perform and for which he was leaving them in the world. He spoke of it in different ways. In the fourteenth chapter he spoke of it in comparison with his own work, saying that it would be even greater: “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (v. 12). In the fifteenth chapter he spoke of it in terms of his commissioning of them to fruitful service: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (v. 16). Having work to do in this world, their lives would be meaningful.

Fifth, the Lord spoke about prayer, giving us some of the most exciting promises in the Bible concerning it. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it” (14:13–14). “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (15:7). “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (16:24). The Lord also told them that he would pray for them. In the seventeenth chapter, we have a magnificent example of just such intercession.

Finally, even as Jesus reminds the disciples of what he has already taught, he adds another teaching: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (16:33).

Christus Victor

This is the point at which we should end—the point of Christ’s victory. He overcame the world in three areas: in his life, in his death, and in his resurrection. He overcame it in life because, in spite of abundant griefs and temptations, he pursued the course God had set before him without deviation, sin, or error. He said of Satan, “The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me” (John 14:30). He overcame the world in death because his death was the price of sin and thus broke sin’s hold upon us. He overcame the world in his resurrection because by his resurrection he began his return to the throne of heaven from which he now rules the church and from which he will one day come again to put down all authority and power.

“I have overcome the world.” These words were spoken within the shadow of Golgotha, at the very foot of the cross. They were spoken on the verge of what surely seemed a defeat. But they were true then. And if they were true then, it is even more abundantly demonstrated that they are true now. Do you believe them? Is Christ the victor? If you do and if he is, then stand with him in his victory. Possess that peace that he dispenses, and in your turn also overcome the world. Does the world deride Christ’s gospel? So much the worse for the world. Do circumstances press us down? He has overcome circumstances. Stand with him then. He is the King. He is God over all, whose name is blessed forever.[3]

33 Jesus concludes the discourse proper by encouraging his disciples with a reminder that he has told them “these things” (all the promises in the preceding chapters) so that in him they “may have peace.” Peace in the biblical sense is more than tranquility. It is the šalôm (GK 8934) of God, the sense of complete well-being that characterizes the life lived in accordance with the design of God. Peace comes from acting on the promises of God. The close relationship between prayer (vv. 23–24) and peace (v. 33) is reflected in Paul’s words to the Philippian church: “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” (Php 4:6–7).

In this world the followers of Jesus are destined to have trouble. (Thlipsis, GK 2568, is commonly used in the NT for the persecutions of the church; see, e.g., 2 Co 8:2; 1 Th 1:6.) But “take heart!” says Jesus, “I have overcome the world.” There is solid reason for joyful confidence. The world will do its worst to me, yet I will come through victoriously. The victory that I will win will be yours as well. The verb “to overcome” (used only here in John’s gospel) is a military term and denotes victory in warfare. The perfect tense (nenikēka, GK 3771) emphasizes the abiding nature of that victory. The strong adversative alla (“but”) suggests that something is to follow for which the circumstances have not prepared us (cf. Morris, 714 n. 80).

The chapter closes with a strong contrast. In this world the disciples will have trouble, but in Christ they will have peace. Believers were never intended to be exempt from sorrow or difficulty in this world. We are, however, expected to be at peace because by faith we have been brought into an inseparable union with Jesus Christ and share his victory over sin and Satan. “Cheer up,” is the Living Bible’s translation. The enemies of God are defeated, and before long that victory will be universally proclaimed (cf. Php 2:9–11).[4]

33 For “I have told you these things” see on 14:25, and for “peace” on 14:27. Jesus’ words to the disciples conclude on the notes of peace and victory. There are three contrasts here: “in me” is set over against “in this world,” “you may have” over against “you will have,” and “peace” over against “trouble.” The second of these does not, of course, mean that there is any doubt that those who are “in” Christ have peace. Rather it points to the contrast between the life that all must lead, a life in this world, and a life that all do not lead, a life in Christ. All must live in the world and thus have trouble. But people may also live in Christ, and when they do they have peace. The speaking of these words just at this time has a significance rather like the reference to the trials that would befall them in verse 4. When they had all forsaken Jesus they might well feel so ashamed that they would remain uneasy whenever they thought of him. But he predicted their desertion in the very saying in which he assured them of the peace he would give them. He loved them for what they were and despite their shortcomings. When in the future they looked back on their desertion they could reflect that Jesus had predicted it. And, in the full knowledge that they would act in this way, he had promised them peace. The world will infallibly bring them “trouble.” That is its characteristic. But he can bid them “take heart!”83 He had overcome85 the world, the perfect tense denoting an abiding victory. This statement, spoken as it is in the shadow of the cross, is audacious. The cross would seem to the outsider to be Jesus’ total defeat. He sees it as his complete victory over all that the world is and can do to him. He goes to the cross not in fear or in gloom, but as a conqueror.[5]

33 The expression, “These things I have spoken to you,” finally does what the reader expected it to do all along. It brings the discourse to a close. Here (as in 15:11; 16:1, 4) it is followed by a purpose clause: “These things I have spoken to you so that in me you might have peace. In the world you have distress, but take courage, I have overcome the world!” (v. 33). Earlier, he stated his purpose both positively (to bring joy, 15:11), and negatively (to warn against “stumbling,” 16:1, 4). This time he combines warning and assurance, with the good news that in the end assurance and hope have the last word. He visualizes the disciples after his departure living simultaneously “in me” (as in 14:20; 15:2, 4–7), where they will have “peace,” and “in the world,” where “distress” awaits them. His final word to them is “Take courage, I have overcome63 the world.” If chapters 15 and 16 are indeed a “second” farewell discourse, as many have proposed, then the second discourse ends on a note reminiscent of Jesus’ words near the close of the first, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let no one’s heart be shaken, nor let it be fearful!” (14:27). The dualism is evident in both places. Jesus and his disciples are at war with “the world,” and “the world” is already defeated in principle. His victory over the world is theirs as well, a victory confirmed and accomplished in the long prayer to follow (17:1–26), and explicitly claimed for Christian believers both in 1 John (see 2:13–14; 4:4; 5:4–5) and in the book of Revelation (see 3:21; 5:5; 12:11; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7). But as for the disciples on the scene, they are not heard from again.[6]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Jn 16:33). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (pp. 230–232). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 1239–1244). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 596). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (p. 633). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[6] Michaels, J. R. (2010). The Gospel of John (pp. 855–856). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

March 27, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

6 This is a beautiful hymn praising the Lord as Creator and Preserver of his creation. The heaven of heavens. This is a well-known way of expressing the superlative in Hebrew. Its host. This refers either to the stars or to the angels, but quite probably to the stars. The creation theme is present in Ps. 95:5; 104; 136:5–9. In Ps. 136 the creation theme is used as introduction, as in this case. It is then followed by the deliverance from Egypt (Ps. 136:1 Off.). The sequence of events is a little different. In Ps. 136 it is the creation and then the history in Egypt; in Neh. 9 it is the creation, the history of Abraham, and then the salvation from Egypt.[1]

God proclaims his uniqueness (9:6a)

God has no rivals. Surrounded as they were geographically with competing religious allegiances, the prayer’s opening sentences provided these worshippers with an opportunity for public commitment to the only true God. Other claimants to deity were non-existent figments of corrupt human imagination. As these covenant people made their uncompromising confession, You alone are the Lord, they affirmed their obedience to the first and second commandments. In time, their testimony to God’s uniqueness became the prayer of devout Jews, expressed each day in Deuteronomy’s Shema: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’

Other gods were a fraudulent nonentity, yet the attraction of idolatry was a constant hazard throughout Hebrew history. The darker moments of the prayer’s confession reminded them of the golden calf in the wilderness and the blasphemous audacity of those who claimed that this impotent idol had delivered them from their Egyptian oppressors (18). When they constructed that degrading image, they were publicly denying the opening words of the Decalogue where the Lord identified himself as the one who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. In contrast to such blatant disloyalty, this prayer affirmed that there are no other gods. The only true God has no rivals.

You alone are the Lord is a significant biblical affirmation for our time, especially in the face of two contemporary challenges—idolatry and pluralism. Modern people have idols other than grotesque statuettes; their idols reign in the heart. They worship prosperity, popularity, pleasure and power, and those who idolize these invisible icons persistently turn their backs on the only God. Further, the pluralistic nature of late twentieth-century Western society will not tolerate this uncompromising biblical exclusivism. It prefers a ‘pick ‘n’ mix religion’, a view which regards all religions, ancient and modern, as of equal worth. Many of our contemporaries prefer to select acceptable elements not only from the older world religions but also from the new, such as the bizarre ideas in New Age with its primary focus on the pre-eminent ‘self’ (‘self-awareness’ and ‘self-fulfilment’), rather than on the reality of human sin and the crucial need for a divine Saviour. But, in a memorable prayer at the close of his earthly ministry, the Son of God defined ‘eternal life’ as knowing ‘you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’. In faithful testimony to the uniqueness of Christ, the contemporary Christian must be prepared to bear what has been described as ‘the scandal of particularity’: ‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’11

God displays his power (9:6b)

He is the Creator God. The prayer traces the history of God’s people from the opening stories in Genesis to their contemporary scene. Its beginning in creation is a testimony both to God’s uniqueness and his total sufficiency for all our needs.

The reference to creation is a further affirmation of faith, particularly relevant in the fifth century bc. Nehemiah had worked for years in a Persian palace. Persian religion was essentially a religion of the court, and Nehemiah must have been familiar with its teaching. The Persian people memorized the sayings of Zoroaster and passed them on to their children. They were fascinated by the world of nature and enquired wistfully how it all came into being.

This do I ask thee, O Lord, tell me truly;

Who is the Creator, the first father of Righteousness?

Who laid down the path of the sun and stars?

Who is it through whom the moon now waxes, now wanes?

All this and more do I wish to know, O Wise One.

This do I ask thee, O Lord, tell me truly;

Who holds the earth below and the sky as well from falling?

Who (created) the waters and the plants?

Who harnesses the (two) courses to wind and clouds?

Who, O Wise One, is the creator of the Good Mind?

Their rhetorical questions invited the response that creation was the work of the good god of Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda. But those who prayed this prayer in Nehemiah 9 were supremely confident that Israel’s God alone made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. The prayer did not only exalt God’s power in making this world out of nothing; it was a witness to their neighbours in the surrounding nations, some of whom vainly worshipped the creature rather than the creator. They bowed down to the stars, ignorant of the Lord who made them.

The prayer was not narrowly polemical, however. It testified to an inspiring truth which has sustained God’s people through difficult times. A God who made everything out of nothing can do anything. Nothing whatever is beyond the ability of such a mighty God. When John Bunyan encouraged his persecuted friends in the late seventeenth century, he reminded them of Peter’s advice to suffering Christians in the early church: ‘So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.’ As Bunyan expounded that text, he told his readers that ‘nothing can die under a Creator’s hands … The cause of God for which his people suffer, had been dead and buried a thousand years ago, had it not been in the hands of a Creator.’ He continued:

Who could have thought, that the three children could have lived in a fiery furnace, that Daniel could have been safe among the lions, that Jonah could have come home to his country, when he was in the whale’s belly, or that our Lord should have risen again from the dead: but what is impossible to a Creator?

The Bedford pastor then wrote with impassioned conviction: ‘A Creator can make such provision for a suffering people in all respects, as shall answer all their wants.’

Creation work is not confined to the stories in Genesis for, as Jesus made clear, God continues to be wisely, skilfully and powerfully at work in the world, ‘to this very day’. The God who can give life to everything will not leave his people without strength, peace and hope. Furthermore, he not only has the desire and power to help them but, as the prayer reminds us, the agents as well. The multitudes of heaven are the angelic host, the supernatural messengers of his purposes. ‘The heavenly bodies, often themselves objects of worship, here are worshippers of Yahweh’.19 New Testament Christians believed that angels were not only engaged in the worship of heaven but employed in service on earth. A first-century suffering church was assured that they are constantly on the errands of their Creator, ‘ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation’. Secularistic cynicism must not be allowed to rob us of these certainties; the angels are still with us.[2]

9:6 One of the fundamental teachings of Scripture is that God is not one among many; He alone is the living God (Deut. 6:4). heaven … earth … seas: God alone has made all things, and He alone preserves all things. Therefore, worship is due Him. The first section of this psalm (vv. 5, 6) establishes the mood for the whole poem: God is incomparable (Num. 23:8, 9; Deut. 4:32–40; Ps. 113:4–6).[3]

9:6 have made the heavens. The recitation was ordered historically, although themes of promise and judgment are traced through Israel’s history with God. The first feature is the celebration of God’s greatness as Creator (cf. Ge 1, 2). the heavenly host bows down before You. The praise which Israel offered on earth was also echoed in the heavens by angelic hosts.[4]

9:6 You are the Lord, you alone. The uniqueness of Israel’s God was proclaimed in the story of creation. heaven … the earth. Together these sum up the whole creation (see Gen. 1:1; Ex. 20:11). All their host could refer to either angels or stars.[5]

9:6 The Bible does not support naturalistic explanations for the existence of life (see Gn 1:1–31). Here the Levites confess their belief that God gave life to all things. The entire community accepted this confession (cp. 10:28–29).[6]

9:6 The prayer begins with an acknowledgment of the Lord’s incomparability. Only the Lord is the true God of creation who gives life to all and receives the worship of heavenly beings. While several biblical psalms allude to creation (Pss 8; 19; 95; 104), only in Ps 136 does the theme of creation begin the psalm, as it does here.[7]

[1] Fensham, F. C. (1982). The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (p. 229). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[2] Brown, R. (1998). The Message of Nehemiah: God’s Servant in a Time of Change. (J. A. Motyer & D. Tidball, Eds.) (pp. 155–158). England: Inter-Varsity Press.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 595). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ne 9:6). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 838). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 706). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[7] Anderson, C. R. (2017). Nehemiah. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 733). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

March 27, 2020 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Victory: In Standing Firm

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (6:13)

It is easy for believers—especially in the Western world, where the church is generally prosperous and respected—to be complacent and become oblivious to the seriousness of the battle around them. They rejoice in “victories” that involve no battles and in a kind of peace that is merely the absence of conflict. Theirs is the victory and peace of the draft dodger or defector who refuses to fight. They are not interested in armor because they are not engaged in the war.

God gives no deferments or exemptions. His people are at war and will continue to be at war until He returns and takes charge of earth. But even the most willing and eager soldier of Christ is helpless without God’s provision. That is Paul’s point here: take up the full armor of God. We have His provision in being His children, in having His Word, in possessing His indwelling Holy Spirit, of having every resource of our heavenly Father. God is our strength, but His strength is appropriated only through obedience; His mighty armor must be put on (v. 11) and taken up (v. 13).

Every day since the Fall has been an evil day for mankind, and every day will continue to be evil until the usurper and his forces are thrown forever into the bottomless pit. In the meanwhile the Lord makes us able to resist in the evil day as we take advantage of the armor He supplies.

Our responsibility is to resist and stand firm. When Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms he was accused of heresy. After being condemned for declaring that men are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, he declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.… Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Every believer who is faithful to God’s Word cannot do otherwise than stand firm.

Some forty years ago three men conducted evangelistic campaigns together in Ireland and saw much fruit from their labors there. Years later an Irish pastor who was converted in those meetings asked about the three men. He was told that only one was still faithful to the Lord. Of the other two, one had become apostate and the other had died an alcoholic. Some believers have done everything well in the Lord’s work, but they do not continue to stand firm. The issue is not in what a believer has done, but, when the battle is over and the smoke clears, whether he is found standing true to the Savior.

John warned, “Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8). Paul’s one great fear was that, “possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). He was not afraid of losing his salvation but his reward and, even more importantly, his usefulness to the Lord. Countless men and women have faithfully taught Sunday school for years, led many people to Jesus Christ, pastored a church, led Bible studies, ministered to the sick, and done every sort of service in the Lord’s name—only to one day give up, turn their backs on His work, and disappear into the world. The circumstances differ, but the underlying reason is always the same: they took God’s armor off and thereby lost the courage, the power, and the desire to stand firm.

In the great spiritual warfare in which we do battle, we are only called to resist and to stand firm. As noted earlier, James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Peter counsels us to “be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:8–9).

The greatest joys come in the greatest victories, and the greatest victories come from the greatest battles—when they are fought in the power and with the armor of the Lord.[1]

Our Only Strength

Ephesians 6:13

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

When I talk about the devil I try, as I did in the last study, to show that he is a finite, and therefore limited, being. He is not an evil counterpart of God. Satan is not omnipotent, as God is. He is not omnipresent, as God is. He is not omniscient, as God is. Consequently, he can only do what God permits. He can only tempt one person in one place at one time, or else operate through those legions of angels, now demons, who fell with him. He does not know the future. At best Satan can make shrewd guesses based on experience.

But none of this means that the devil is not dangerous. He may not be omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient. But he is certainly powerful, wicked, and sly. He is so powerful that, according to Jude, even Michael, the archangel, “when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ ” (Jude 9). He is so wicked that he is described in the Bible as “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). He is so sly that we are in constant danger of being tripped up by his wiles. This is why Paul wrote even of an elder in the church that “he must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap” (1 Tim. 3:7). The devil is not all-powerful, but he is certainly much more powerful than we are. So if we are to resist his evil influences, it must be by the power and provision of God only.

That is why James wrote, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It is why Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Eph. 6:13).

Elisha at Dothan

When I think of our need to stand against Satan in the strength of God, I think about the prophet Elisha at Dothan. In those days the northern kingdom of Israel was under attack from the Syrians led by their infamous king Ben Hadad. Israel was the weaker of the two nations, and she would have been overrun by the Syrians had God not been revealing the plans of the Syrian king through Elisha. Whenever Ben Hadad would set a trap for Israel, God would reveal it to Elisha, Elisha would tell the king of Israel, the plans would be changed, and Israel would escape unhurt.

Ben Hadad thought there was a traitor among his officers. So he called them together and demanded to know who he was. They told him the truth: “Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom” (2 Kings 6:12).

When he heard that, Ben Hadad decided that if he was going to make progress in his war with Israel, he would have to capture Elisha first. So he demanded to know where he was. He was told that Elisha was residing at Dothan. Ben Hadad got his troops together, marched to Dothan, and surrounded the city by night. It is an interesting picture: all the armies of Ben Hadad combined to surround and, if possible, capture this one true servant of God.

In the morning the servant of Elisha went out of the city and saw Ben Hadad’s soldiers. The story does not tell us anything about him, but I suspect that he was young and even somewhat sleepy as he set out to do his chores—probably to draw water from a city well. I can see him stumbling out of the gate with his eyes half-open, perhaps not even noticing the soldiers until he had first drawn a bucket of water and washed his face. Suddenly he saw them! His eyes opened wide, and, leaving his waterpot, he ran back into the city to tell Elisha they were surrounded. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” he asked (v. 15).

Elisha replied in what is surely one of the greatest statements of faith in all the Bible. “Don’t be afraid.… Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). Then Elisha prayed, and God opened the young man’s eyes to see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire around Elisha.

That statement by Elisha is a great statement of the principle we have been studying. On the one hand, it says that the enemy we face is greater even than the enemy we see. The enemy is “them,” in this case the combined armies of the Syrians under Ben Hadad. It is also “those who are with them.” In view of the revelation given to the servant, this enemy must be the spiritual force of evil that accompanied and stood behind the Syrian forces. But what is on the other side? So far as anything seen is concerned, there were only Elisha and his young servant—two unattended individuals. But, of course, that is not the whole of the equation. On the Syrian side were soldiers plus the spiritual force of evil. On the side of Elisha and his servant were the angels of God here described as “horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” From a human perspective the Syrians seemed more powerful, but when the spiritual forces were taken into account, God’s servants were stronger.

The Lord Our Strength

Paul is not referring to this incident, of course. But the theology of victory, which he is advocating, is the same. Notice how often Paul mentions the Lord in this passage. It is the way he begins: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (v. 10). When he begins to talk about the armor in which we are to resist the devil’s forces, he stresses that it is God’s armor: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (v. 11). So also later: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (v. 13). It is only by the strength of God that we will be able to stand against these forces.

Although the word “lord” has many uses—it can, for example, be used of a mere human master, as was the case in the servant’s cry of alarm to his “lord” Elisha—“Lord” is the word customarily used in the Greek version of the Old Testament to translate the tetragrammaton, the great name for God (YHWH). This was the name by which God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, explaining it by saying, “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14). It is a name intended to stretch our minds as we contemplate the nature of God.

“Lord” teaches us that the God of the Bible, in whom we are to trust as our only defense against Satan, is self-existent and self-sufficient.

It is most important to see that God is self-existent, because this is what the name “I am” most naturally points to. Everything we see and know has antecedents. That is, it exists because something existed before it and was its cause. We are here because of our parents. They lived because of their parents, and so on. It is the same with everything else—everything except God. God has no antecedents. Nothing caused God. On the contrary, he caused everything else. Even Satan would not exist if it were not for God. We may be puzzled by this, wondering why God permits Satan and his activity. But even if we do not have the full answers to this question, the fact that God is self-existent begins to put our spiritual warfare in perspective. God, not Satan, is in charge, and in the end everything will be resolved by him and everyone will be answerable to him.

God is also self-sufficient. Self-existence means that God has no origins. Self-sufficiency means that God has no needs. No one can supply anything that God might be supposed to be lacking. No one can teach God anything; he knows all things. No one can stand in for God in any place; he already is everywhere. No one can help God out; he is all-powerful.

When I think of the power of God my mind often goes to the first chapter of Jonah which has a funny little play on words in it relating to God’s power. In the fifth verse, after we have been told that God sent a violent storm after the ship that was carrying Jonah to Tarshish, we read that the sailors were “afraid.” That is reasonable enough, of course. Who would not be under those circumstances? They were in danger of losing their lives. But then, just five verses later, in verse 10, after Jonah had been brought up on deck and had identified himself, saying, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land,” we read “this terrified them.” The older versions read, “Then were the men exceedingly afraid” (kjv).

Why is it that in verse 5, when they are in danger of losing their lives, the sailors are said to be only “afraid,” when in verse 10, after hearing Jonah’s testimony, they are said to have been “exceedingly afraid”?

I think it is because these men already knew something about Jonah’s God. They were sailors, after all, and sailors get around. They had been in and out of the major ports of the Mediterranean Sea and had heard the port gossip. In the Egyptian ports they would have heard how Jehovah had delivered his people from slavery. He had brought plagues on Egypt: turning the waters of the land to blood, multiplying frogs, gnats, and flies, afflicting cattle, destroying crops, calling out swarms of locusts, eventually blotting out the sun and then killing the firstborn. Nor was that all. When the people prepared to leave Egypt God divided the waters of the Red Sea, making a path for them to pass over. Then he caused the waters to come back and drown the pursuing Egyptians.

Perhaps the sailors heard how Jehovah had cared for his people in the desert—how he had given them manna to eat and water for them and their livestock. He had sent a great cloud to cover them by day, protecting them from the fierce rays of the sun; it turned into a pillar of fire at night to provide both light and warmth. At last God had divided the river Jordan for Israel to cross into Canaan and had destroyed Jericho. He even stopped the sun and moon while the Jewish armies wrought a total destruction on their foes at Gibeon.

This is what the God of the Jews was like. So when Jonah said, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord [Jehovah], the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land,” they were terrified and said, “What have you done?… What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” (Jonah 1:10–11).

This God is our God too. Only his strength is greater even than that displayed in overpowering Egypt and bringing the Jewish people into the Promised Land. God is the God of all power. Nothing can stand against him. So although we cannot hope to stand against the forces of Satan in our own strength even for a moment, we can successfully stand against them and defeat them in the power of God. God is our only strength, but he is the only strength we need.

The Armor of God

Still, victory in this spiritual warfare is not automatic, which is why Paul admonishes us to “put on the full armor of God” and “stand [our] ground” against Satan.

Where did Paul get his thoughts about this armor? I suppose that I have never heard a sermon about the Christian’s armor that did not point out that Paul probably began to think along these lines while being chained to a Roman guard during his imprisonment. It seems quite plausible. We can imagine him looking at the guard’s armor, thinking of the Christian’s spiritual warfare, and wondering what the various parts of the guard’s armor could illustrate.

It is entirely possible that Paul came by his ideas about the Christian’s armor in this way, but I am inclined to think that in this case, as in many others, Paul got his ideas from the Word of God. Paul had filled his mind with the doctrines, words, and images of the Old Testament, and he would have known that in Isaiah 59 there is a picture of God putting on his own armor. Part of it says,

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,

and the helmet of salvation on his head (v. 17).

Since those phrases are the exact ones we find in Ephesians 6, I think that Paul got his idea here. That is important, you see. It means that when Paul speaks of the “armor of God,” as he does in Ephesians 6, he is not thinking of it only as the armor which God supplies—his in the sense that he gives it—but rather that it is God’s own armor, that which he himself wears.

What do we need if we are to fight against Satan? Is it truth? Yes, we need truth, but not just any truth. We need God’s own truth: the truth of God, which we find in Scripture. Do we need righteousness? Yes, but not just human righteousness. We need the righteousness of God. The gospel? It is God’s gospel, God’s good news. Peace? It is God’s peace. Faith? It is faith from God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Is it salvation? God is salvation. We must be armed with him.

Are you armed with God’s armor? The wonderful thing about this, as you will see if you avail yourself of it, is that the armor of God is perfectly suited to us. When we put it on we find that it is just what we need.

When David went out to fight Goliath he was just a young man, and Saul was unwilling to have him fight without armor. So he offered him his own. Saul put his helmet on David’s head. He put his breastplate on David’s chest. He gave him whatever other pieces of armor he had, but they were all too big. Clothed in Saul’s armor David must have looked like a Muppet in William Perry’s uniform. So David took Saul’s armor off and went out to fight Goliath with his sling.

Only his sling? Yes, in the sense that the sling was the only thing to be seen. But in reality David went out in God’s armor. For if ever a man was clothed in God’s truth, God’s righteousness, God’s gospel, God’s peace, God’s faith, and God’s salvation, it was David. And he was invincible. In God’s armor David was prepared, not only for physical battle, but for all spiritual battles as well.

Four Great Battles

Some years ago at an early Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, the theme was the biblical terms for salvation, and Dr. John H. Gerstner spoke on “The Language of the Battlefield.” In developing this theme Gerstner spoke of four great spiritual battles: (1) the battle of Satan against God early in the history of the universe, which Satan lost; (2) the battle of Satan against man (Adam) without the God-man (Jesus), which Satan won; (3) the battle of Satan against the God-man, where Satan thought he had won by killing Christ, but had actually lost; and (4) the battle of Satan against a man (Peter) who was joined to the God-man (Jesus), where Satan was also defeated.

The chief contrast in this message was between the second of these battles (Satan against Adam) and the fourth (Satan against Peter). In the first one, Adam seemed to have everything he needed to prevail. He was without sin and had every possible inclination to goodness. Yet he fell, because (we must assume this) he did not avail himself of the strength of Jesus Christ, the God-man, which was certainly not withheld from him. In the second battle Peter seemed to have nothing. He was sinful, weak, proud, vacillating. He even had the arrogance to tell Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29) and “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Peter did fall. He denied his Lord three times, just as Jesus predicted he would. Yet that was not all that happened. Jesus foretold Peter’s defection, but he added, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32).

In other words, Jesus told Peter, “Peter, you are weak in yourself. Left to your own devices you will certainly fall. You will be no more permanent than chaff when the wind blows upon it. But I am for you. I am on your side; and since you are united to me by saving faith, I have prayed for you, and because of my prayer you will not be destroyed but will instead be strengthened. You will fall, but you will not fall away. You will be turned aside, but you will also be turned back, and when you are you will become a pillar of strength for your brothers.”

Gerstner pointed out that there is a hymn we sometimes sing that goes, “Lord, we are able.”

“That was written by Peter,” Gerstner said. Peter said, “Lord, I am able.” But when he was tempted by Satan and fell, Peter discovered that he was not able. So he revised that hymn to read: “Lord, we are not able.” He learned that only as he was united to Jesus Christ could he stand his ground and be victorious.

Gerstner adds, “That man, in all his pristine glory, made in the spotless image of God with holiness, righteousness, and knowledge, was able to be brought to ruin by satanic temptation proved that we never of ourselves are posse non peccare [able not to sin]. But no matter how weak our faith, how meager our discipleship, how much we shame the name of Christ and have so often to repent and turn home again—no matter how we fail, because we are united to Christ with a love which will never let us go, Satan with all his craft and power cannot stand against us and we can conquer him.… Even in our best condition we cannot meet Satan; but in our weakened and debilitated state, sinning far more than we live virtuously, we are able to conquer him because Christ has given us the victory.”[2]

13 Given the nature of the battle and the foes arrayed against the church, Paul says, “For this reason” (NIV, “Therefore”) take up the armor of God and put on each piece. God has made provision for his people such that “they need no longer fear the menacing powers of evil” (Schnackenburg, 275). Yet they must be vigilant and prepared. Paul repeats the purpose for putting on the armor that he suggested in v. 11: “to stand.” When believers have finished their task as Christians and the dust of the battle has settled, the church will stand. But here Paul adds the phrase “when the day of evil comes,” apparently identifying the occasion when the battle will rage. “Day” is singular here, in contrast to the “evil days” in 5:16. So when is this “evil day” of battle? Some suggest the armor is only required in some especially evil and contentious day (period of time). But when are these spiritual resources not crucial? Others opine that Paul refers here only to the final “day of the Lord,” the end times, the truly severe outbreak of evil at Christ’s return (1 Th 5:2–3; cf. Am 5:18–20). While this has merit, it cannot be the sole answer, for certainly in these appeals Paul intends to fortify his own readers in their lives as Christians at the time he is writing. The realized eschatology of this letter points to a solution: we must allow for both. The “day of evil” includes the entire course of this age, because all the days are evil (5:16); we live in the “last days” when believers need to arm themselves against the devil’s wiles (cf. 2 Ti 3:1–9). So when the church fully prepares itself (NIV, “have done everything”) with the full armor that Paul goes on to describe, it will stand against whatever stratagems the devil may employ against it.[3]

13  The panoply of God, then, is available for his children to take up and use. The “evil day” (like the “evil age” of Gal. 1:4) is the period that is dominated by the forces of evil, with special emphasis, perhaps, on those occasions when the hostility of evil is experienced in exceptional power, and the temptation to yield is strong. It is then that the panoply of divine grace and strength is indispensable, enabling the believer to resist the pressure and stand firm. A Roman centurion, according to Polybius, had to be the kind of man who could be relied upon, when hard-pressed, to stand fast and not give way;62 and the same quality is necessary in the spiritual warfare. “Having done everything” is explained by J. A. Robinson as “having accomplished all that your duty requires.” When all that has been accomplished, the one thing needful is to stand one’s ground.[4]

6:13 / Therefore put on the full armor of God. The imagery of “putting on” the different pieces of armor may come from observing a soldier dressing himself or being dressed for battle. But given the nature of the Christians’ armor and their having received that armor when they became believers, it is unlikely that one should think of the Christian soldier as gradually dressing to face Satan. To “put on” (6:11, 13) is a call for believers to utilize what they already possess.

The coming day of evil commonly is interpreted to mean some future eschatological conflict (Mark 13; 2 Thess. 2:8–10; 1 John 2:18; 4:17) or the final battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:12–16; 20:7, 8). True, believers are warned in Scripture to prepare themselves for eschatological judgment, but this is not what appears to be in the apostle’s mind; he sees the conflict as a current crisis and so admonishes them to be ready. The coming day of evil is a reminder of the ever-present reality of wickedness and temptation. Those equipped with God’s armor will be able to stand their ground.

When assaults come, believers are assured that the devil will not be able to move them—and after you have done everything, to stand. Though the context of the passage emphasizes “readiness” and “firmness,” katergazomai has the meaning of combat leading to victory (contra Barth, Eph. 4–6, pp. 765, 766). The result of this combat, however, is not progress in conquest but the strengthening of one’s position (stand your ground). Moule reminds readers that the picture of the battle in Ephesians is not a “march” but “the holding of the fortress of the soul” (p. 151). Here, “The scene is filled with the marshalled host of the Evil One, bent upon dislodging the soul, and the Church, from the one possible vantage-ground of life and power—union and communion with their Lord” (p. 154).[5]

13. Therefore take up the full armor of God. The language used here is very incisive. The command is curt and crisp, as if to say, “Do not allow the enemy to find you defenseless. Take up your armor. Do so at once, without any hesitancy or waste of time. And remember: take up the full panoply!” The purpose is: in order that you may be able to stand your ground in the day of evil, that is, in the day of severe trial, the critical moments in your lives when the devil and his sinister underlings will assault you most vehemently (cf. Ps. 41:2; 49:5). And inasmuch as one never knows when these crises will occur, the clear implication is: be ready always.

We must be careful, however, not to infer from this that Christians are pictured here as sitting back, as it were, waiting in the shelter of their fortress for Satan’s attack. The context (see on verses 17 and 19) does not allow this rather common interpretation. The “standing” of which Paul speaks (verses 11, 14) is not that of a brick wall that is waiting passively, as it were, for the assault of the battering ram. The soldiers referred to here are drawn up in battle array and rushing into the fight. They are both defending themselves and attacking. Only when they make full use of God’s armor will they be able to “stand their ground,” that is, to withstand the foe, stand up against him, repulse his onrush and even gain ground, for the sentence continues: and having done everything, to stand firm. The assumption is that they will have accomplished thoroughly—will have carried through to the end, as implied in the original—marvelous things. Resisting the devil, standing up against him, has this comforting result that, at least for the moment, the devil will flee (James 4:7; cf. Matt. 10:22).

To give even more substance to the character and the necessity of this battle against the devil and his hosts, this intense and vehement struggle, see what it meant in the life and labors of Paul himself. For him it had been, and/or was even now, a fight against Satan-inspired Jewish and pagan vice and violence; against Judaism among the Galatians and others; against fanaticism among the Thessalonians; against contention, fornication, and litigation among the Corinthians; against incipient Gnosticism among the Ephesians and far more among the Colossians; against fightings without and fears within; and last but not least, against the law of sin and death operating within his own heart.

It may be regarded as a trite saying, but it is true nevertheless, that the best defense is an offense. All of Paul’s missionary journeys may be regarded as manifestations of offensive warfare. Paul was invading the territory which heretofore had been the devil’s own, for “the whole world lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5:19). The reason he had made these incursions into the hostile territory, and was going to make even more, was that the devil had something that was earnestly desired by the apostle, namely, the souls of men. Paul wanted them in order to present them to God. He yearned with all his heart to be used as God’s agent in bringing about the rescue of men from the realm of darkness and their transfer into the kingdom of light. Whenever he refers to this subject he uses language that is expressive of deep feeling (Rom. 1:13; 10:1; 1 Cor. 9:22; 10:33; etc.). Paul loved ardently!

We see, therefore, that in order properly to interpret what the apostle meant by this battle it must be borne in mind that the church and Satan are on a collision course. They are rushing at each other. They clash!

With all this by way of introduction, showing why believers must by all means be fully equipped for battle against the forces of evil, their suit of armor is now described. In order to do this the apostle makes use of six metaphors derived from the armor of the Roman hoplite, the heavily armed Roman legionary going forth to battle. To be sure, there is also a seventh weapon, the climax of them all. However, that seventh one stands in a place all by itself. It is not indicated by any figure or metaphor. To do justice to the six one should see the entire picture all at once.[6]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 343–344). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 236–242). 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, p. 164). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 406–407). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 286–287). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 273–275). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.