Category Archives: Verse of the day

December 11, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

25 Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.
27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30 And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ki 8:25–30). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

25–28 Solomon’s confidence in praying is bolstered by previously answered prayer. Answered prayer is today also a strong basis for confidence in prayer. A second ground of confidence is God’s own promise. His servants frequently claim his promises when they pray, and God honors these requests (cf. Ex 32:13; Da 9:1–19). In making this petition, Solomon recognizes his own responsibility and tacitly rededicates himself to serving God.

The major point, however, of these verses is a plea that God, who has so far been faithful in every way to his covenant with David (as evidenced in the completion of the temple and the rulership of Solomon), might always accept this temple and condescend to dwell there, while receiving those who approach him by way of the temple.

Verse 27 is parenthetical. The request continues in v. 28. By means of the rhetorical question, Solomon makes it clear that he is under no illusion as to the significance of the temple, nor is it properly speaking a home for God. It would be utterly impossible to build a house that could even begin to be commensurate with, or adequate to reflect, the majesty of the Lord. God does not need the temple, but the temple needs God! God does not need Israel, but Israel needs God!

Verse 28 continues from v. 26. The connection may be rendered: “And let your word … come true … in giving attention to your servant’s prayer.” In making this great request, Solomon realizes that on the actual merits of the case, he has no right to pray as he does were it not for God’s own promise given by his grace. The only claim Solomon has on the Lord is God’s own word, freely given; but God’s Word is a bond that cannot be broken, so Solomon can pray with assurance and confidence. This privilege is the portion of believers of all ages.[1]

8:27–30 / Having completed the line of thought begun in 8:15, Solomon now turns his attention to the temple’s broader significance as a focal point for prayer. Verses 27–30 help us with the transition in thought, in advance of the petitions that the king will make in verses 31–51, each with their plea that God should “hear from heaven” (vv. 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 45, 49). The main purpose of 8:27–30, indeed, is to emphasize that this is (if anywhere is) the “place” from which God hears. God cannot dwell on earth (v. 27). The temple—in spite of the statement of verse 13—is not to be thought of as a place where God is but only as a place where God’s Name is, a place towards which God’s eyes are open (v. 29; cf. Isa. 66:1–3). The hearing of prayer is done from heaven (v. 30). This is (if anywhere is) the dwelling place of God. Even then, however, God cannot, strictly speaking, dwell in even the highest heaven (v. 27). Being utterly transcendent, God cannot be “placed” at all; all human language about dwelling must be qualified constantly, so that attempts to describe do not in fact minimize. One consequence of divine transcendence, of course, is that people do not have to be in one designated place in order to pray. As God’s eyes are open toward the temple rather than in it (v. 29), it is sufficient for people to pray toward the temple rather than be physically in it (vv. 29–30; cf. John 4:21–24).[2]

8:27–30 Although Solomon realized that no temple on earth was adequate to contain the great God, yet he asked that the Lord might recognize this temple and that when he or any of the people of Israel addressed God there, He might hear and forgive.[3]

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

8:22–30 Solomon had begun his reign with a conscious dependence on God (3:9). His long public prayer (vv. 22–53) recognized that continuing need in his life (vv. 26, 28) and the lives of his people (vv. 30, 31, 33, 35, 38, 44, 46–48). In his prayer Solomon stressed God’s faithfulness, and the need for similar faithfulness on the part of Israel, rulers and people alike, if God’s full blessings were to be realized.

8:27–29 heaven … temple: The God of Scripture is infinite; all that He has made, vast as creation may be, finally has its limits. No mere building, no matter how wonderful, can be thought of as the dwelling place of God. Yet in His grace the Lord condescends to be viewed as having His dwelling among men. God’s dwelling in a temple prefigured the Incarnation when the Creator became man, born in a stable in Bethlehem.

8:30 Since God was present in the temple in Jerusalem, prayer was to be directed toward this place (Ex. 15:17; Dan. 6:10).[5]

[1] Patterson, R. D., & Austel, H. J. (2009). 1, 2 Kings. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Samuel–2 Kings (Revised Edition) (Vol. 3, p. 705). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Provan, I. W. (2012). 1 & 2 Kings. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (p. 79). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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

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

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 439). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.


December 11, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

11–12 The Lord was faithful in changing circumstances. The psalmist returns to the dominant motif of this psalm—Yahweh the Vindicator. He is the Lord who effectually changed wailing into dancing, mourning into joy, and a deathly cry into a song of joy (v. 11). Such is the goodness of God. Notice how Calvin, 1:489, observed this over four hundred years ago: “But however much God may terrify and humble his faithful servants, with manifold signs of his displeasure, he always besprinkles them with the sweetness of his favor to moderate and assuage their grief.”

Because of the mercy of the Lord, the psalmist vows to continue in the praise of God (v. 12b). The NIV translates “glory” (kābôd; see 7:5) as “heart.” The word occurs in parallelism with “soul” (7:5; NIV, “life”) and so frequently refers to the whole human being or existence. He will glorify the Lord! To this end he was redeemed, because he had argued, “Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” To this end the Lord vindicates his servant in the presence of his enemies (cf. v. 1; 23:5; 2 Th 1:5–10). Alter, 135, senses the magnificence of the psalmist’s language: “It is through language that God must be approached, must be reminded that, since his greatness needs language in order to be made known to men, he cannot dispense with the living user of language for the consummation of that end.”[1]

David celebrates god’s answer (vv. 11–12)

David returns to the point with which he began. His heart is filled with thanksgiving because God had heard and answered his prayer. Those who have been saved have been chastised, and those who have been chastised are eager and ready to praise when the chastisement is over.[2]

30:11 Now back to David. Verses 9 and 10 give us his prayer to God when he was in the throes of his illness. Then between verses 10 and 11 the answer comes. He is healed by the Lord. The last two verses of the Psalm celebrate his recovery. For David it was like the difference between the mourning of a funeral and the joy of a wedding. Or to change the figure, it was like a new suit of clothes. God had removed his sackcloth and dressed him up in garments of gladness.[3]

30:11–12 I Will Give Thanks Forever. The experiences in which sorrow has turned to joy lead the psalmist, and all who worship with him, to expect to sing God’s praise and give him thanks (cf. v. 4) forever. My glory is a poetical term in the Psalms for one’s whole being (cf. 16:9; 108:1).[4]

30:11 You have turned my wailing into my The psalmist returns to his praise of thanksgiving as he describes the faithful restoration Yahweh provides.

By proclaiming his thanksgiving, the psalmist shows the benefit of Yahweh’s deliverance; Yahweh’s deliverance enables him to praise Yahweh and proclaim his thankfulness. The psalmist encourages others to praise and give thanks with him (vv. 4–5).

dancing Represents a joyous celebration (Jer 31:13).

sackcloth A sign of mourning. See note on Neh 9:1.[5]

30:11, 12 mourning into dancing: The psalmist has been transformed and renewed because of God’s blessing on his life. He boasts in God as he fulfills his vow of praise. My glory refers to the psalmist’s inner being (16:9).[6]

[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 301). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Ellsworth, R. (2006). Opening up Psalms (p. 95). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 591). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 974). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 30:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 668). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

December 10, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

To Keep from Losing His Reward

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. (9:16–18)

the reward was not for the message or the ministry of the gospel

Paul spoke of boasting in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31), “boasting in things pertaining to God” (Rom. 15:17), and such. Even more often he spoke of rejoicing in the gospel, of glorying in the cross, and supremely of glorying in Jesus Christ. But he says, if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of.

He gloried in the gospel but not for it. He had absolutely nothing to do with the giving or the content of the gospel. He simply received the revelation. Nor was he boasting of his commitment to or ability in preaching the gospel. He did preach the gospel, more diligently than anyone of whom we know, but for this he was under compulsion. The Lord stopped him short one day on the road to Damascus, as he was on his way there to persecute Christians. At that time he was set apart as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:3–6, 15; 26:13–18; cf. Rom. 11:13). Paul chose God’s call in the sense that he was not “disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19), but he really had no choice. He was under compulsion.

As Paul realized later, God had set him apart even from his “mother’s womb” (Gal. 1:15). Like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:13–17), Paul was called and ordained by God before he was born. And like Jeremiah, Paul could refrain from preaching. When frustrated and despondent because of rejection and ridicule, Jeremiah tried to stop preaching but could not. “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it” (Jer. 20:9). To the Colossians Paul said, “I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me” (Col. 1:25).

At some time or another, every preacher whom the Lord has called will realize that he is under God’s compulsion. It is not that God’s calling cannot be ignored, neglected, or slighted, but that it cannot be changed. The man who resists God’s call or tries to give it up will, like Jeremiah, experience a “burning fire shut up in [his] bones” until he obeys. He has no choice.

Ramond Lull, the Spanish mystic, lived a careless and luxurious life for many years. He wrote that in a vision one night Christ came to him carrying a cross and said, “Carry this cross for me, Ramond.” He pushed Christ away and refused. In a later vision the same thing happened: Christ offered the cross and Ramond refused it. In a third vision Christ laid the cross in the man’s arms and walked away. “What else could I do,” Ramond explained, “but take it up?”

Added to that sense of constraint is a serious and compelling responsibility, which Paul articulates in the words, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. In effect, he says that failure to obey that call would result in his suffering serious chastisement. The severest judgments are promised on unfaithful ministers (James 3:1).

Paul gladly preached the gospel, but he did not do it voluntarily. Against my will does not indicate he was unwilling to obey but that his will had no part in the call itself. It was not his choice to serve Christ, so consequently, he did not receive a reward but a stewardship. He was under obligation to preach, for which he neither deserved nor expected reward.

Stewardship indicates that someone gives us something or some responsibility that is valued to them, which we are to care for properly. That is the case in every call to minister. God gives the minister what He highly values for safe care, and promises stern discipline to the one who falls short. Paul uses the interjection woe (ouai) to indicate the impending pain.

the reward was for preaching without charge

Having mentioned what his reward could not be for, Paul now mentions what it would be for.

What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. (9:18)

The gospel was thrust on Paul; he was under compulsion to preach it, and would have been in serious trouble with the Lord if he had not. But he was not under compulsion in regard to payment for it. In that he was entirely free to expect support from those he served. He chose not to be paid because he wanted it that way, not because it was necessary. In that choice he found great satisfaction and joy, and for that choice he knew he would receive a reward.

He was determined not to make full use of [his] right in the gospel. He would work after hours, day and night, to earn his own living rather than be a burden to those he served or cause them to think he was in the ministry for the money.

With great happiness and satisfaction Paul forsook a liberty, he refused to take advantage of a right, in order to make a contribution of his very own to the work of Christ.[1]

16–17 If Paul, then, does not preach in order to support himself financially, what does motivate him? While he offers other motivations elsewhere (e.g., 2 Co 5:14), here Paul says that there is simply within his heart an inner “compulsion” (anankē, GK 340) to preach—a trait apparent in certain of the OT prophets (e.g., Jer 20:9; Am 3:8). Moreover, Paul goes so far as to pronounce a prophetic “Woe!” upon himself if he does not preach the gospel—and do so free of charge. The word ouai (“woe,” GK 4026) occurs frequently in the OT prophets to denote coming disaster and even divine judgment (e.g., Isa 3:11; 5:8–25; Eze 13:3, 18; Am 5:18). The notion that Paul is looking ahead to a heavenly reward is very much a part of the picture in this section (vv. 18, 24–27).

18 Paul does not want to receive any monetary reward for his work as a missionary-apostle. What, then, is his payment (misthos, GK 3635, “wages,” “recompense,” “reward”)? It is the inner reward that comes from knowing that he is preaching voluntarily, offering the gospel free of charge, and not making use of his right to gain his support from preaching. In this way, Paul shows his own application of the principle offered in his earlier discussion on whether to eat meat sacrificed in an idol temple. While he felt a personal right to eat such meat, he voluntarily would not exercise that right so as not to put a stumbling block in the way of the gospel (8:13).

But in the present discussion of receiving support for his ministry, how could accepting money from his converts hinder the progress of the gospel? David Garland, 419, points out several possible answers to this question: (1) Some people might not believe the gospel if they knew it would lead to financial obligations. (2) Others might see a contradiction between Christ’s grace being free but becoming a Christian not being free. (3) Paul perhaps did not want to become a “slave” to a patron donor who supported his ministry and who could then control the content of his preaching (“money is power”). (4) Paul wished to dissociate himself from other religious hucksters in the ancient world, some of whom made a good living from flowery rhetorical appeal.[2]

9:16 / This verse lays out the situation Paul faced in preaching the gospel. He preached because God had commissioned or commanded him to do so. It is not to his credit that he preached; he would be in a deplorable situation had he not done so. God’s commission made it necessary for Paul to preach the gospel, and for him to fail to fulfill that charge would be awful, unthinkable.

9:17 / Paul explains how he derives a benefit from his obedience to God’s command to preach that he would not have received had he taken his rightful payment for his services. By not taking support, Paul did not claim his rights. He gave up his own rights for the benefit of being able to offer something to God and to others that he would not have had to offer otherwise. Paul’s practice is simple, although it is so selflessly odd, so God-centered, and so much for the sake of others that we have difficulty grasping his line of thought. Above all, Paul aims to contribute something to the accomplishment of the mission that God gave him.

9:18 / As he concludes this section of the letter, Paul continues to explain why he preached without pay or support from the churches that he founded and to which he ministered. Amazingly, Paul’s reward is that he takes no reward! Paul preached because he was commissioned to do so, and by not taking his due he gave up his own rights as an offering to God. Paul made an offering of his preaching to God, and in so doing he demonstrated his freedom (9:1) by providing his services freely to the church. By refusing to accept support, Paul preached according to God’s commission, but he did not take advantage of the rights of support that God afforded him in conjunction with the command to preach. Paul gave his services to God free of charge, so that ironically his dividend was found in registering no charge.[3]

9:16–17. Paul wanted to continue the practice of preaching without pay. He explained that he could not boast simply because he preached the gospel. He insisted, I am compelled to preach. In other words, he had no choice. God had called him to preach, and he had to fulfill that obligation or fall under divine judgment.

How did Paul enhance his preaching ministry? He preached voluntarily so he might receive a reward. Paul frequently spoke of himself and of other Christians being motivated to service by a desire for reward and praise (Rom. 2:29; Gal. 6:4–10; Col. 3:24). Eternal reward motivated him as it should all believers. Paul did not want to lose his eternal rewards for preaching willingly and eagerly and without pay. If he preached begrudgingly or received pay, he believed he would be doing nothing more than simply discharging the trust committed to him. To raise his preaching above the level of mere obedience, Paul voluntarily gave up his right to remuneration.

9:18. To sum up the matter, Paul asked what his reward was. This verse presents a number of complexities. If one reads the verse as a question and answer, then two understandings are possible. First, many interpreters have understood Paul to say that preaching was a reward in itself. To preach the gospel free of charge, and in so doing not to make use of his rights for pay, was sufficient reward. But in the light of 9:17, it seems better to understand Paul in another way. The second interpretation is that Paul knew he would one day receive a reward for having preached without remuneration. Christ would reward Paul for not seeking his own benefit in this world.

This verse may also be translated entirely as a question. It would thus read, “What then is my reward so that, when I preach the gospel, I offer it free of charge so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel?” Paul may have been asking what great reward motivated him to forfeit his rights by offering the gospel free of charge. In this case, his answer would come in 9:23: “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”[4]

16. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about. I am compelled to preach, for woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel.

When Jesus called Paul on the road to Damascus, he told him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and to the people of Israel (Acts 9:15; 26:15–18). When he began his ministry, Paul proclaimed the good news to the Jews in the synagogues of Damascus and Jerusalem. He then taught in the church in Antioch and from there went to Cyprus and Asia Minor to acquaint Jews and Gentiles with Christ’s gospel. As he reveals in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, “I testified to both Jews and Greeks that they turn in repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). Because Paul was appointed to preach, he did not see that task as a reason for boasting. Instead, his commission from the Lord compelled him to preach. Paul wanted to complete the task which the Lord Jesus had given him, namely, preaching the gospel to both Jews and Greeks.

“For woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel.” Paul raises the lament which the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles raised. Like Paul, these men were overcome by the urgency of uttering the message God gave them. Jeremiah said that God’s Word was like a fire in his heart and in his bones (Jer. 20:9) and Amos writes that because God has spoken he must speak (Amos 3:8). Peter and John, standing before the Sanhedrin, tell this ruling body that they cannot help but speak what they have seen and heard concerning Jesus Christ (Acts 4:20).

The phrase woe to me describes the greatest misery imaginable for Paul. He would bring this misery upon himself if he proved disobedient to his divine mandate to preach. He must preach the gospel of salvation—in his own words to Timothy, “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). If not, he would incur God’s wrath and its consequences. Paul is a slave of Jesus Christ, as he often notes in his epistles (see, e.g., Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Titus 1:1), and as such he faithfully executes his task (Luke 17:10).

17. If I do this of my own choice, I have a reward. But if I do so under compulsion, I simply fulfill the stewardship entrusted to me.

This verse is obscure, and the first part fails to correspond properly to the message of the previous verse (v. 16). The second sentence fits the context, for Paul indicates that he is under divine obligation to preach the gospel. The problem, then, lies in the first part of the verse, particularly with the word reward. Paul seems to retrace his steps in the following verse (v. 18), where he asks and answers the question what his reward is. With his repeated use of the first person pronoun (four times), he calls attention to himself.

  • “If I do this of my own choice.” If we see this verse as continuing the explanation about Paul’s rights as a preacher, the difficulties remain but no longer appear insurmountable. The Corinthians cannot understand how Paul fails to defend his rights as a preacher. They view him as a preacher who has come to them of his own free will. But Paul informs them that if he had come to them of his own choice, he would have expected monetary compensation from them. Then he would have a reward.
  • “But if I do so under compulsion, I simply fulfill the stewardship entrusted to me.” Paul writes the word stewardship to show that although he is an apostle with rights (vv. 1–6), he serves Jesus as a steward (see 4:1). In Paul’s day, stewards were slaves who were given the responsibility of managing their master’s household, estate, or financial affairs.

Paul knows that he has received his stewardship from Jesus himself. Whether a steward does his task by choice or under compulsion, his responsibility remains unaltered. If such a person fulfills his task not of his own will but because his master assigned it to him, he is merely a steward. He is like the servant in the parable who plowed his master’s field, prepared his master’s supper, waited on him, and finally had a free moment to eat and drink. He received no expression of gratitude for his labors, because he was his master’s servant. Similarly, God’s servants should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty” (Luke 17:10).

18. What then is my reward? When I preach the gospel, I offer it free of charge so as not to make full use of my authority in the gospel.

  • “What then is my reward?” Paul realizes that in his discourse he failed to explain the word reward in the first sentence of the preceding verse (v. 17). Now he turns his attention to it and gives his explanation. Paul’s desire to be obedient to his divine commission is evident in many epistles (e.g., 15:9–10; Gal. 1:15–16; Eph. 3:8–9). He regarded his commission to preach as a privilege. As a slave of Christ he willingly obeyed his Sender and thus received a reward. This reward is not something Paul desires for himself. He proclaims the gospel free of charge (v. 18).
  • “When I preach the gospel, I offer it free of charge. “Jesus commanded that the worker should receive his pay (Luke 10:7). In a sense, the phrase preach the gospel denotes as much the preaching as the actual living in accordance with the gospel. Those who preach the gospel should receive their income from the gospel (v. 14). But Paul refuses to avail himself of his apostolic right and calls his preference to preach the gospel without pay his “boast” (v. 15). He labels his action not to accept payment for his work in the ministry his “reward” (v. 18). Conversely, if he had been told to preach for a certain sum of money, he would have been thwarted in his purpose. The gospel would have been proclaimed, but Paul’s reason for boasting would have been taken away.

By not receiving remuneration for his services, Paul was free from obligation to anyone. No one could ever lay a claim on Paul because of some monetary accountability (see 2 Cor. 11:7). In this freedom, Paul could actively proclaim the good news to everyone.

The purity of Paul’s motive is aptly illustrated with a parallel taken from the medical world. “A physician may attend the sick from the highest motives, though he receives a remuneration for his services. But when he attends the poor gratuitously, though the motives may be no higher, the evidence of their purity is placed beyond question.” Paul preached the gospel free of charge—indisputable evidence of his pure motive.

  • “So as not to make full use of my authority in the gospel.” This second part of the sentence not only further explains the first part, but also concludes the entire segment on Paul’s apostolic rights. Paul knows full well that he has the apostolic right to make his living from the gospel, but he chooses to ply the trade of the tentmaker. He uses his other rights but does not receive financial recompense. The last three words of the sentence, “in the gospel,” should be taken with the word authority and should not be understood as an abbreviated reference to preaching the gospel. Paul gratuitously offers his services in regard to the gospel.

We raise two questions. First, why did Paul choose to preach the gospel without charge? He certainly did not do it to gain higher praise than the other apostles, who did exercise their apostolic right. Even though Paul writes that he worked harder than the others, he attributes praise and thanks to God (15:10). The thought of performing work for his own advantage was repugnant to Paul. He worked for the sake of the gospel and its increasing influence in the world.

Second, is Paul asking preachers of the gospel to imitate him? The answer is a resounding no. Nowhere in Paul’s epistles do we find any evidence that preachers should abrogate the command Jesus gave the workers in his kingdom. If a minister of the gospel has an independent source of income and offers his services free of charge, he is free to make that choice. But that choice is his own and he can never require it of others. In the same way, Paul made a choice to supply his financial needs by working at his trade, but he could never demand this of his fellow workers.[5]

9:16 Paul is saying that he cannot boast in the fact that he preaches the gospel. A divine compulsion is laid upon him. It is not a vocation that he chose for himself. He received the “tap on the shoulder” and he would have been a most miserable man if he had not obeyed the divine commission. This does not mean the apostle was not willing to preach the gospel, but rather that the decision to preach did not come from himself, but from the Lord.

9:17 If the Apostle Paul preached the gospel willingly, he would have the reward that goes with such service, namely, the right of maintenance. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, it is clearly taught that those who serve the Lord are entitled to support from the Lord’s people. In this passage, Paul does not mean that he was an unwilling servant of the Lord, but is simply stating that there was a divine compulsion in his apostleship. He goes on to emphasize this in the latter part of the verse. If he preached against his will, that is, if he preached because there was a fire burning within him and he could not refrain from preaching, then he had been entrusted with a stewardship of the gospel. He was a man acting under orders, and therefore he could not boast in that.

Verse 17 is admittedly difficult, and yet the meaning seems to be that Paul would not claim his right of maintenance from the Corinthians because the ministry was not an occupation which he chose by himself. He was placed in it by the hand of God. The false teachers in Corinth might claim their right to be supported by the saints, but the Apostle Paul would seek his reward elsewhere.

Knox’s translation of this verse is as follows: “I can claim a reward for what I do of my own choice; but when I act under constraint, I am only executing a commission.”

Ryrie comments:

Paul could not escape his responsibility to preach the gospel, because a stewardship (responsibility) had been committed to him and he was under orders to preach even though he was never paid (cf. Luke 17:10).

9:18 If then he could not boast in the fact that he preached the gospel, of what would he boast? Of something that was a matter of his own choice, namely, that he presented the gospel of Christ without charge. This is something he could determine to do. He would preach the gospel to the Corinthians, at the same time earning his own living, so as not to use to the full his right for maintenance in the gospel.

To summarize the apostle’s argument here, he is making a distinction between what was obligatory and what was optional. There is no thought of any reluctance in his preaching the gospel. He did that cheerfully. But in a very real sense, it was a solemn obligation that rested upon him. Therefore in the discharge of that obligation there was no reason for his boasting. In preaching the gospel, he could have insisted on his right to financial support, but he did not do this; rather he decided to give the gospel without charge to the Corinthians. Since this was a matter of his own will, he would glory in this. As we have suggested, Paul’s critics claimed that his working as a tentmaker indicated that he did not consider himself to be a true apostle. Here he turns his self-support in such a way as to prove that his apostleship was nonetheless real; in fact, it was of a very high and noble character.

In verses 19–22, Paul cites his example of the waiving of legitimate rights for the gospel’s sake. In studying this section, it is important to remember that Paul does not mean that he ever sacrificed important principles of the Scripture. He did not believe that the end justified the means. In these verses he is speaking about matters of moral indifference. He accommodated himself to the customs and habits of the people with whom he worked in order that he might gain a ready ear for the gospel. But never did he do anything which might compromise the truth of the gospel.[6]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 209–211). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 338). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (pp. 186–187). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 148–149). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 300–303). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1776–1777). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

December 10, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Premise

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (11:13)

This premise, expressed in the form of a comparison, is the foundation upon which the whole discussion rests. Christ’s opening words, If you then, being evil, express the biblical doctrine of total or radical depravity. Even His true followers, those who had embraced Him as Lord, Savior, and Messiah, were still evil (ponēros; “bad,” “wicked,” “worthless”; also used as a title for Satan [Matt. 13:19, 38; John 17:15; Eph. 6:16; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18, 19]). Significantly, the Lord did not say that they do evil, but rather that they are evil. Though they are redeemed and forgiven, sin remains a powerful operative principle in believers (Rom. 7:14–25). Yet despite being evil, human fathers still know how to give good gifts to their children. It is natural for even unbelievers to love their children, be kind to them, and provide for their needs. The image of God in that sense in people, though warped and scarred by the fall, is nonetheless still present.

The contrasting phrase how much more is the key to the Lord’s point. Reasoning from the lesser to the greater, if human fathers who are sinners, who love imperfectly, and often lack the wisdom to know what is best for their children lovingly provide for them, how much more will God, who is absolutely holy, loves perfectly (cf. John 13:1), and has infinite wisdom give what is best to His children. As the psalmist wrote, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11; cf. 34:9–10; Matt. 6:33; Phil. 4:19).

Then Jesus concluded His point by promising that believers’ heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. This is an intriguing statement, which differs from the Lord’s teaching of this same truth on a different occasion, as recorded in Matthew 7:11. There He spoke of the Father giving what is good; here He expanded that and spoke of God’s giving the Spirit, who is the source of all goodness and blessing, to live within every believer.

To those who ask for a gift, He gives the giver; to those who ask for an effect, He gives the cause; to those who ask for a product He gives the source; to those seeking comfort He gives the comforter (Acts 9:31); to those seeking power He gives the source of power (Acts 1:8); to those seeking help He gives the helper (John 14:26); to those seeking truth He gives the Spirit of truth (John 16:13); to those seeking “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23) He gives the producer of all those things. The indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:14) is the source of every good thing in the Christian’s life (Eph. 3:20).

Though the New Testament would bring more complete revelation concerning the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Jews of Jesus’ day were familiar with the Old Testament revelation concerning Him. They understood that He was involved in the creation (Gen. 1:2; cf. Job 33:4). Further, they knew that the Holy Spirit was associated with the coming of the Messiah (Isa. 61:1–3; cf. Joel 2:28–29, which was partially fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:16–21]). They also understood that Messiah would send the Spirit to regenerate (Titus 3:5) and indwell those who put their faith in Him (Ezek. 36:25–27; cf. John 7:38–39; 14:16–17, 25–26; Titus 3:5).

The Holy Spirit is the cause of every truly good thing in the life of a Christian. He convicts unbelieving sinners, enabling them to be aware of and repent of their sin (John 16:8). They enter God’s kingdom of salvation by being born of the Spirit (John 3:5–8) in regeneration (Titus 3:5) and confessing Jesus as Lord through the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). It is through the Holy Spirit that they receive the knowledge of God (1 Cor. 2:11–12)—knowledge not understood by the unregenerate (v. 14). The Spirit frees believers from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:17) and seals them for eternal life (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). They are baptized with the Spirit, placing them in the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), indwelt by the Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:14), and filled (controlled, empowered by) with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). The Holy Spirit empowers believers for evangelism (Acts 1:8), intercedes for them (Rom. 8:26), sanctifies them (1 Cor. 6:11), makes them progressively more like Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), pours out God’s love into their hearts (Rom. 5:5), and gives them hope (Rom. 15:13).

Bold, confident prayer results in communion with God and all the rich blessings of His goodness as believers experience the reality that He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).[1]

13 Luke specifically mentions the Holy Spirit, who was promised (Ac 2:33; cf. Lk 24:49; Ac 1:4). The giving of the Spirit in response to prayer can already be found in 3:21–22 where the descent of the Spirit takes place when Jesus was praying. This promise also anticipates Acts, where one witnesses the dramatic descent of the Spirit on the believing community (cf. Shepherd, 137–40).[2]

11:13 / though you are evil: Lachs (p. 142) suspects that underlying “evil” is the Hebrew word biša, which originally was intended only as an abbreviation for bāśār vādām (“flesh and blood”). He notes that to describe one as “flesh and blood” is to call someone mortal, and he cites a rabbinic tradition that parallels the logic of Jesus’ saying very closely: “If this man, who is flesh and blood, cruel and not responsible for her [his divorced wife’s] maintenance, was filled with compassion for her and gave her [aid], how much more should You be filled with compassion for us who are the children of Your children Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and are dependent on You for our maintenance” (Leviticus Rabbah 34.14).

Holy Spirit: Gundry (pp. 124–25) suspects that Luke’s “Holy Spirit” may be original, while Matthew’s (literally) “good things” (7:11) is a Matthean modification. I do not agree. Given Luke’s pronounced interest in the Holy Spirit (recall 1:35, 41, 67; 2:25; 3:16, 22; 4:1, 14, 18) it is much more probable that it was Luke who changed the original “good things” (as is read in Matthew) to “Holy Spirit” (so Schweizer, p. 192).[3]

11:13 A human father would not give bad gifts; even though he has a sinful nature, he knows how to give good gifts to his children. How much more is our heavenly Father willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. J. G. Bellet says, “It is significant that the gift He selects as the one we most need, and the one He most desires to give, is the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus spoke these words, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given (John 7:39). We should not pray today for the Holy Spirit to be given to us as an indwelling Person, because He comes to indwell us at the time of our conversion (Rom. 8:9b; Eph. 1:13, 14).

But it is certainly proper and necessary for us to pray for the Holy Spirit in other ways. We should pray that we will be teachable by the Holy Spirit, that we will be guided by the Spirit, and that His power will be poured out on us in all our service for Christ.

It is quite possible that when Jesus taught the disciples to ask for the Holy Spirit, He was referring to the power of the Spirit enabling them to live the other-worldly type of discipleship which He had been teaching in the preceding chapters. By this time, they were probably feeling how utterly impossible it was for them to meet the tests of discipleship in their own strength. This is, of course, true. The Holy Spirit is the power that enables one to live the Christian life. So Jesus pictured God as anxious to give this power to those who ask.

In the original Greek, verse 13 does not say that God will give the Holy Spirit, but rather He will “give Holy Spirit” (without the article). Professor H. B. Swete pointed out that when the article is present, it refers to the Person Himself, but when the article is absent, it refers to His gifts or operations on our behalf. So in this passage, it is not so much a prayer for the Person of the Holy Spirit, but rather for His ministries in our lives. This is further borne out by the parallel passage in Matthew 7:11 which reads, “… how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2013). Luke 11–17 (pp. 56–58). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 207). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (p. 183). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1412–1413). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

December 10, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

59:10 Someone has given us this unforgettable paraphrase of verse 10a: “My God, with His lovingkindness, shall come to meet me at every corner.” What a comfort for storm-tossed souls of every age! Linked with this assurance is the knowledge that God will preserve us to see this defeat of our enemies.[1]

59:10 God … will meet me. God will lead the way in the fight against the enemy. In the time of Joshua, the ark, symbolic of God’s presence, led Israel into the Promised Land.

look in triumph. For now, the enemy gloats over the psalmist, but the psalmist expects a reversal.[2]

59:10 My God of mercy: The term mercy is sometimes translated “loyal love” (13:5). The Lord is the “God of my loyal love.”[3]

9–10a The Lord is stronger than the enemy. They are “fierce men” (ʿazîm, v. 3), but he is the “Strength” of his people (ʿōz, GK 6437; cf. 62:11; 63:2). Though evil people may prowl the streets of the city and promote anarchy, the Lord is the “fortress” (cf. v. 1). In the face of the hatred shown by the enemies, the Lord is the “loving God” by whose “love” (ḥesed) his people thrive (v. 10a).[4]

[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 638). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 787). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 687). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[4] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 473). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

December 9, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. 23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Sa 12:20–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

12:20–25 / If verse 19 is meant to indicate that the Lord was viewed as particularly Samuel’s God, then these verses speak strongly against that view. They all are chosen by God. Whatever evil they have done, the important thing is to wholeheartedly serve the Lord from this point on. They have not yet reached the situation where God is about to reject his people, and they are his people. The language again closely reflects that of Deuteronomy (e.g., Deut. 6:2, 5; 7:7; 10:12, 21; 11:16; 31:6). The point is that they must remember all that is implied in being God’s people.

And Samuel, though opting out of the government of the nation and having made his displeasure with their decision clear, is not about to desert them. His roles of praying and teaching will remain. All the necessary information is there for them. If they or their king fail to follow up on that information they will be swept away, but it will not be Samuel’s fault. He has done all in his power to point them to God and to inform them of God’s truth.[1]

20 The literary coherence of vv. 20–25 (cf. also McCarthy, “II Samuel 7,” 135) is established by key words and phrases in the MT of vv. 20 and 24–25 to frame it: “be afraid” (v. 20); “fear” (v. 24); “you” (emphatic; vv. 20, 24 [second occurrence in Hebrew]); “evil” (vv. 20, 25); and especially “serve … with all your heart” (vv. 20, 24). Samuel concludes his address to the people of Israel by encouraging them to do good (vv. 20–24) and warning them not to do evil (v. 25).

Samuel reminds the people that they (emphatic “you,” ʾattem, v. 20) were the ones who asked for—indeed, demanded—a king (cf. v. 19); thus they have only themselves to blame if Saul proves to be either weak or despotic. Not all is lost, however, if only the people will acknowledge that their true King is the Lord himself: “Do not [ʾal] turn away.” Samuel further urges Israel to “serve the Lord with all your heart,” an often expressed covenantal requirement (e.g., Dt 10:12–13; 11:13–14; cf. also 30:9–10).

21 By contrast, says Samuel, the people are not to follow “useless” (tōhû [GK 9332], the word rendered “formless” in Ge 1:2) things/people. Although idols are described as tōhû in Isaiah 41:29 (“confusion,” NIV; cf. also 44:9, “nothing”)—hence the NIV’s “useless idols” here—the reference in this context is perhaps broader and denotes any defection from serving the Lord, including, of course, preference for a human king (so Eslinger, 418–19; cf. similarly Vannoy, 55). Only God can do the people good; no one else can “rescue” (cf. the NIV’s “deliver[ed]” in vv. 10–11; 10:18).

22 The Lord’s elective purposes for his people will not be denied. His intention to make Israel his own covenantal people (Ex 19:5; cf. 1 Pe 2:9) is not because of any merit on their part (Dt 7:6–7). Far from it, he has chosen them because of his love for them and in order to fulfill the oath he had sworn to their forefathers (Dt 7:8–9; cf. Ge 15:4–6, 13–18; 22:16–18). In addition, and perhaps most important of all, he has chosen them “for the sake of his great name” (cf. also Jos 7:9–11, where the Lord’s “great name” is linked to the Sinaitic covenant)—that is, based on the integrity of his self-revelation (cf. Vannoy, 56). In this last clause of v. 22, says McCarthy, “the problems raised in the pericope are finally solved. The kingship has been integrated into the fundamental relationship between Yahweh and the people and that relationship reaffirmed” (“The Inauguration of Monarchy,” 412; cf. further V. Philips Long, The Reign and Rejection of King Saul, 176–83).

23 Taking his rightful place among such giants of intercession as Moses (Ex 32:30–32), Daniel (Da 9:4–20), Paul (Ro 1:9–10; Col 1:9; 2 Th 3:10; 2 Ti 1:3), and Jesus (Isa 53:12; Ro 8:34; Heb 7:25), Samuel declares his unwillingness to sin against God (cf. Saul’s command in 14:33–34) by failing to pray for Israel (cf. also v. 19; 7:5, 8–9; 8:6; 15:11; Jer 15:1). To help the people live a life pleasing to God, Samuel promises to “teach” (the Heb. root is yrh, the same as in tôrâ, “instruction, law”) them “the way that is good and right” (cf. also 1 Ki 8:36 = 2 Ch 6:27; Pss 25:8; 32:8; Pr 4:11).

24–25 The rest is up to the people themselves; thus, ch. 12 ends with encouragement to faith and obedience (v. 24, which summarizes Dt 10:20–21) and with warning against the consequences of disobedience (v. 25) appropriate to a covenant-renewal document. Samuel’s admonition in v. 24a is strikingly similar to that of “the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem” (Ecc 1:1): “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecc 12:13). After all, the Lord had done “great things” for his people (v. 24b), which should have been a cause for rejoicing on their part (Ps 126:2–3; Joel 2:21).

Samuel feels constrained to remind them, however, that pursuing their penchant for evil will surely result in their destruction: “You and your king will be swept away” (v. 25). The verbal root is sph, which appears again in 26:10, where David predicts that the Lord will cause Saul’s demise, that perhaps Saul will go into battle and “perish”—and so it happened (31:1–5). Thus the final words of Samuel’s address and the final days of Saul’s kingship, passages that frame the account of Saul’s reign (chs. 13–31), are suffused with the stench of death.[2]

(Vv 20–25) Most of the final unit of chap. 12 is devoted to warning and exhortation. By the time this chapter was redacted, the warnings had resulted in the exile of 597 and 587: history was explained by, and seen as the consequence of the prophetic word of God in history (cf. Klein, Israel in Exile 25–26). With a word of assurance (do not be afraid) that resembles an important element in the Oracles of Salvation in Second Isaiah (cf. Israel in Exile 109), Samuel inaugurated his exhortation. He did not tone down the evil committed by asking for a king, but urged the people not to compound their sin by turning from Yahweh, but to serve Yahweh with their whole heart (vv 20 and 24; cf. 1 Sam 7:3). In v 21 the writer has idolatry in focus, referring to idols as vanity תהו, the word used in Gen 1:2 to describe pre-creation chaos, and in Second Isaiah to refer to idols (41:29; 44:9), which bring no benefits or profits (44:9–10; 57:12; cf. Jer 2:8; 16:19). Idols cannot save whereas salvation is one of Yahweh’s chief credentials (vv 10–11). Since some of the phraseology in v 21 is unique in Dtr., and since it adds an explicit reference to idolatry in addition to the more general exhortation to loyalty typical of vv 20–25, a number of scholars hold it to be a gloss by someone indebted to the theology of Second Isaiah. The repetition of תסורו in vv 20 and 21 may also indicate a secondary hand. In v 22 Samuel provides the motivation that undergirds his parenthesis in vv 20–21. Yahweh would never abandon his people despite the complaint of a Gideon, who suggested he had done just that (Judg 6:13). Yahweh’s great name—his own identity and reputation—guarantees his promise (cf. Josh 7:9; Isa 48:9; Jer 44:26; Ezek 20:9, 14, 22; 36:23). Yahweh’s election of the people is expressed by a variant form of the “covenant formula” (cf. Deut 7:6; 14:2; 27:9: 2 Kgs 11:17). Election and God’s great name are also joined in David’s prayer in 2 Sam 7:23–24. Yahweh’s resolve to make Israel a people stems from his love for them and his fidelity to his oath to the patriarchs (Deut 7:7–8; cf. 9:4–5). If the great sin for Israel had been the choosing of a king, climaxing all their own sins in the period of the judges, sin for Samuel would be to fail to carry out his prophetic, intercessory office. He called death down on himself if he failed to pray. We should not speak, therefore, of chap. 12 as Samuel’s farewell since he promised continued prayer. We might better speak of v 23 as a theological etiology for prophetic intercession (cf. 1 Sam 7:8–9). Samuel promised also to teach Israel (cf. Prov 4:11; Ps 25:8, 12).

In a final admonition (v 24) Samuel repeated the words fear and serve, which were the first two conditions listed in v 14. On serving Yahweh in fidelity (באמת), see 1 Kgs 2:4; 3:6; 2 Kgs 20:3. The basis for this final series of exhortations is Yahweh’s great actions for Israel, which might refer either to the great sign of rain in harvest time (vv 16–18) or to the righteousnesses of Yahweh (v 7), which have formed the legal basis of the lawsuit of Yahweh and Samuel against Israel—or to both. The last verse is a conditional curse. In 8:6 asking for a king was called evil, and in chap. 12 this request was called the climactic sin of the period of the judges (v 19). But the author (v 23) warns against other sins, namely, not fearing, serving, or obeying Yahweh in the period of the monarchy. Rebelling against this word of Samuel, or turning away to the service of vain idols, would inevitably lead to the sweeping away (cf. 1 Sam 26:10; 27:1) of the people and their king. Note that the potential sinners here are the people themselves, and not just their kings. The latter, of course, are the main culprits in the books of Kings (but for the sins of the people in Kings, see 2 Kgs 17:21–22 and Israel in Exile 32 and n. 16).[3]

[1] Evans, M. J. (2012). 1 & 2 Samuel. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (p. 58). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Youngblood, R. F. (2009). 1, 2 Samuel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Samuel–2 Kings (Revised Edition) (Vol. 3, pp. 129–130). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Klein, R. W. (1998). 1 Samuel (Vol. 10, pp. 118–119). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

December 9, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

4  Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
5  Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6  Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7  Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 85:4–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Laments and Prayer for Restoration (85:4–7)

4–7 The situation has since changed. As long as God’s people are on earth, they will be subject to the vicissitudes of life. The psalmist laments the recent problems that have deprived God’s people from enjoying his favor. He interprets them as expressions of God’s “displeasure” (kaʿas, v. 4). Kaʿas may result from God’s anger (Eze 20:28) or be a part of the human situation (“vexations,” “grief”; cf. 1 Sa 1:7, 16; TWOT 1:451). It seems that their grief did not result from God’s displeasure, for the psalm contains no confession. Instead, God tests his people, and in this test they cry out to him. The prayer includes two sets of petitions and a set of questions:

A   Prayer (v. 4)

B   Questions (vv. 5–6)

A′  Prayer (v. 7)

The lamenting community prays that the Lord will “restore” (v. 4; cf. v. 1) them by extending the benefits of his love to all of life. They pray for renewed expressions of his “unfailing love” (ḥesed, GK 2876, v. 7). The renewal of ḥesed is synonymous with the enjoyment of God’s “salvation,” because “salvation” (yēšaʿ; see 27:1) extends the benefits of God to his people: victory, peace, and enjoyment of this life and the life to come. The repetition of “our salvation” (v. 4; NIV, “our Savior”) and “your salvation” (v. 7) forms an inclusio (see Reflections, p. 544, Yahweh Is My Redeemer).

Between the petitions the people lament the new problems by asking question upon question. The questions are antithetical, as the questions in v. 5 pertain to his anger, whereas those in v. 6 pertain to the effects of withholding divine favor. From the people’s vantage point, the Lord goes from anger to anger (v. 5). It seems as though they can do nothing to please him. Yet they confess that God’s restoration was the work of his hands, and they cast themselves on his mercy (v. 6). The personal pronoun “you” (v. 6) is emphatic: “Is it not you who can revive us again?” His favor will result in the change from grief to joy (cf. 104:29–30). They await the renewal of his love (ḥesed, v. 7; see Reflections, p. 271, The Perfections of Yahweh).[1]

85:4 This former demonstration of God’s pardoning mercy is the basis for a plea that He repeat it. Faith is not satisfied with history; it wants to see God in current events. Although the psalmist does not engage in confession, it is implicit in the prayer, “Restore us.…” When God restores, He first brings His people to repentance, then He forgives their sins, and then He terminates the punishment that resulted from His indignation.

85:5 Any time spent away from the Lord seems like an eternity of misery. But the poignant plea of verse 5 takes on special meaning in the lips of the nation of Israel with its centuries of persecution and dispersion: “Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?”

85:6 Spiritual declension results inevitably in a loss of joy. Broken fellowship means that the believer’s song is gone. Rejoicing cannot coexist with unconfessed sin. So here the prayer goes winging up to heaven. “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” The Spirit’s renewal sets the joy-bells ringing once again. Every great revival has been accompanied by song.

85:7 When God restores His people it is a gracious demonstration of His mercy. But no more than any of His other dealings with us. It is love that chastens us, that disciplines us, that corrects us, and that brings us back at last. And how steadfast is that love that bears with us in all our wanderings, our backslidings, and our disobedience. There is no love like the love of the Lord.

And revival is a granting of salvation from the Lord—here not salvation of the soul but deliverance from all the consequences of unfaithfulness—dispersion, captivity, affliction, powerlessness, and unhappiness.[2]

4–7 Pleading: the end of wrath and the gift of salvation. Salvation means deliverance—in this case deliverance from God’s displeasure (‘vexation’, 4), anger (as personally felt, 5). Only in this way can there be revival/renewal with its consequent joy in God (6); and it can only come about through his changeless love and free gift (7). In the matter of revival/renewal we are dependent on his sovereign will. 4 Restore us again, ‘Turn back to us’—the heart of the matter (3, 5) is that he should be reconciled to us.[3]

85:4–7 Restore and Forgive Us Again. The next section appeals to the benevolence God has claimed and shown, asking him to restore us again, i.e., put away your indignation toward us. For God to be angry with us forever would be contrary to this revealed character; therefore the people pray, show us your steadfast love (proclaimed in Ex. 34:6), and grant us your salvation. The specific “salvation” (see note on Ps. 3:2) is for God to turn away his anger, to forgive his people corporately (see notes on Num. 14:13–19; 14:20–35), and to revive them, i.e., to renew their genuine hold on the covenant and make the land fruitful.[4]

[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 639–640). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 679–680). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 541). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1045). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

December 9, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

The Interrogation

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (18:33–38a)

Leaving the Jewish leaders standing outside, Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus. Luke 23:2 provides the background to his question, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Realizing that they had to come up with a charge that would impress a Roman judge, the Jewish leaders “began to accuse [Jesus], saying, ‘We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’ ” The charges, of course, were completely false; Jesus had actually said the opposite: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Their goal was to portray Him as an insurrectionist, bent on overthrowing Roman rule and establishing His own.

Pilate could not overlook such a threat to Roman power. His question, “Are You the King of the Jews?” was in effect asking Jesus whether He was pleading guilty or not guilty to the charge of insurrection. “Pilate’s question seeks to determine whether or not Jesus constituted a political threat to Roman imperial power” (Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 527). In all four gospel accounts this is the first question Pilate asks Jesus, and in all four the pronoun “You” is emphatic. The Greek text literally reads, “You, are You the King of the Jews?” Pilate was incredulous; from a human perspective, Jesus did not look like a king. And if He was a king, where were His followers and His army? And how was He a threat to Rome?

Jesus could not answer Pilate’s question with an unqualified “Yes” or “No” without first defining exactly what His kingship entails. His counterquestion, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” was intended to clarify the issue. If Pilate was saying this on his own initiative, he would be asking if Jesus was a king in the political sense (and hence a threat to Rome). Jesus’ answer in that case would be no; He was not a king in the sense of a military or political leader. He had earlier rejected the crowd’s attempt to make Him such a king (6:15). But neither could the Lord deny that as the Messiah He was Israel’s true king.

Pilate’s sharp retort, “I am not a Jew, am I?” reflects both his disdain for the Jewish people, and his growing exasperation with the frustrating, puzzling ethnic case set before him. His further elaboration, Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me, makes it clear that the governor was merely repeating the charge leveled against Jesus by the Jewish leaders; the accusation was theirs, not Rome’s. Exactly why they had done so still eluded Pilate. He knew perfectly well that the Jews would not have handed over to him someone hostile to Rome unless they stood to gain from doing so.

Attempting once again to get to the bottom of things, Pilate asked the question that he should have asked at the outset: what have You done? Unlike Jewish practice (see the discussion of 18:19 in the previous chapter of this volume), Roman legal procedure allowed the accused to be questioned in detail (Köstenberger, John, 527). Pilate understood that the Jewish leaders had handed Jesus over to him because of envy (Matt. 27:18). What he still did not understand was what Jesus had done to provoke such vehement hostility from them and what, if any, crime He had committed.

Since it was now clear that Pilate was merely repeating the charge of the Jewish leaders, Jesus answered his question. He was a king, but not a political ruler intent on challenging Rome’s rule. “My kingdom is not of (Greek ek; “out from the midst of”) this world,” He declared. Its source was not the world system, nor did Jesus derive His authority from any human source. As noted earlier, He had rejected the crowd’s attempt to crown Him king. He also passed up an opportunity to proclaim Himself king at the triumphal entry, when He rode into Jerusalem at the head of tens of thousands of frenzied hopefuls.

To reinforce His point, Jesus noted that if His kingdom were of this world, then His servants would be fighting so that He would not be handed over to the Jews. No earthly king would have allowed himself to have been captured so easily. But when one of His followers (Peter) attempted to defend Him, Jesus rebuked him. The messianic kingdom does not originate from human effort, but through the Son of Man’s conquering of sin in the lives of those who belong to His spiritual kingdom.

Christ’s kingdom is spiritually active in the world today, and one day He will return to physically reign on the earth in millennial glory (Rev. 11:15; 20:6). But until then His Kingdom exists in the hearts of believers, where He is undisputed King and sovereign Lord. He was absolutely no threat either to the national identity of Israel, or to the political and military identity of Rome.

That the Lord spoke of being handed over to the Jews is significant. Far from leading them in a revolt against Rome, Jesus spoke of the Jews (especially the leaders) as His enemies. He was a king, but since He disavowed the use of force and fighting, He was clearly no threat to Rome’s interests. The Lord’s statement rendered the Jews’ charge that He was a revolutionary bent on overthrowing Rome absurd.

Jesus’ description of His kingdom had left Pilate somewhat confused. If His kingdom was not an earthly one, then was Jesus really a king at all? Seeking to clarify the issue, Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus’ answer was clear and unambiguous: “You say correctly that I am a king.” The Lord boldly “testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate” (1 Tim. 6:13). Unlike earthly kings, however, Jesus was not crowned a king by any human agency. For this I have been born, He declared, and for this I have come into the world. Jesus had not only been born like all other human beings, but also had come into the world from another realm—heaven (cf. 3:13, 31; 6:33; 8:23; 17:5). Taken together, the two phrases are an unmistakable reference to the preexistence and incarnation of the Son of God.

Jesus’ mission was not political but spiritual. It was to testify to the truth by “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). Christ proclaimed the truth about God, men, sin, judgment, holiness, love, eternal life, in short, “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). What people do with the message of truth Jesus proclaimed determines their eternal destiny; as He went on to declare, “Everyone who is of the truth hears (the Greek word includes the concept of obedience; cf. Luke 9:35) My voice.” Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (14:6). In 10:27 He added, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me.” Only those who continue in His Word are truly His disciples; only those who are truly His disciples will know and be set free by the truth (8:31–32).

Jesus’ words were an implied invitation to Pilate to hear and obey the truth about Him. But they were lost on the governor, who abruptly ended his interrogation of Christ with the cynical, pessimistic remark, “What is truth?” Like skeptics of all ages, including contemporary postmodernists, Pilate despaired of finding universal truth. This is the tragedy of fallen man’s rejection of God. Without God, there cannot be any absolutes; without absolutes, there can be no objective, universal, normative truths. Truth becomes subjective, relative, pragmatic; objectivity gives way to subjectivity; timeless universal principles become mere personal or cultural preferences. All fallen mankind has accomplished by forsaking God, “the fountain of living waters,” is “to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Pilate’s flippant retort proved that he was not one of those given by the Father to the Son, who hear and obey Christ’s voice.[1]

Jesus Before Pilate

John 18:33–38

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The previous study dealt with two puzzling aspects of the Roman trial: one, the contrast between what we know from secular sources regarding Pilate’s character—insensitive, impetuous, rude—and the way the four Gospels indicate he actually conducted the trial; the second, that Pilate pronounced Christ innocent and yet condemned him to be crucified. These elements make a study of the Roman trial quite difficult and suggest levels of mystery that are possibly unfathomable.

There is one aspect of the Roman trial that is not the least bit mysterious, however. It is the tendency of human nature meticulously to go through all the external forms required by a situation while at the same time denying the very reality the forms stand for. There are two examples of this in the second segment of Christ’s trial. On the one hand, there is the example of the Jewish rulers who, we are told, “to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover” (John 18:28). Here were men engaged in a most vile act, the judicial murder of Jesus; yet they were concerned about being ceremonially defiled. They had convicted an innocent man of crimes worthy of death, breaking scores of their own laws in the process. They were about to seek a parallel conviction from Pilate by illegally and unconscionably changing the nature of the accusation made against their prisoner. Yet they were concerned about a ritual purification.

The other example of this human tendency is Pilate, who made a great show of justice while actually allowing mob action to force his acquiescence in the death of a man whom he knew was innocent.

The Formal Indictment

Some students of the Roman trial of Jesus have insisted that the real trial was before the Jewish Sanhedrin and that this was merely an informal hearing. But their argument overlooks the actual stages of the trial as they are recorded for us by the New Testament authors. A Roman trial had four essential elements: the indictment, the examination, the defense, and the verdict. Each of these is present in Christ’s trial. The official nature of the proceedings is indicated by Pilate’s opening words: “What charges are you bringing against this man?” (v. 29). As Chandler observes, “This question is very keenly indicative of the presence of the judge and of the beginning of a solemn judicial proceeding. Every word rings with Roman authority and strongly suggests administrative action.”

Pilate’s question seems to have caught the Jewish leaders by surprise, however. For instead of replying with a formal indictment, as they should have been prepared to do, they attempted to evade the question by answering: “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you” (v. 30).

At the very least, the reply of the leaders suggests that the priests and scribes regarded their own trial as sufficient and were coming to Pilate merely to secure a formal signature to effect the execution. They were saying, “You should accept the judgment that he is worthy of death merely because we say so.” On the other hand, there may be more to it than this, as was argued in our earlier treatment of the Jewish trial. As we saw in that study, we can hardly suppose that the Jewish Sanhedrin launched into the trial of Jesus at this relatively late hour in Passover week without some understanding with Pilate that he would hear the case and concur in their verdict early on this particular morning. It is clear that the Jews expected a perfunctory endorsement of the verdict already arrived at by their own court. When Pilate surprised them by apparently intending to open the case anew and conduct a formal hearing, they were temporarily caught off guard and replied with this evasion.

Pilate said that if they were unwilling to make a formal accusation, they obviously did not need him and therefore should prosecute the case according to their own laws and inflict whatever penalties they were legally entitled to impose. It is possible that at this point Pilate did not understand that the Jews were seeking the death penalty in Jesus’ case, but it is far more likely that he understood this all too well and was speaking as he did merely to remind the priests that they were under the rule of Rome and would have to conform to Rome’s rules if they wished to have Christ executed. In a later incident involving the apostle Paul, the same principle was stated: “It is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges” (Acts 25:16).

The unanticipated stubbornness of Pilate clearly thwarted the Jews in their designs. But they were resourceful and, therefore, produced an accusation on the spur of the moment. John does not record it; he passes instead to the heart of the accusation and Pilate’s examination of Jesus on this point. But Luke gives the accusation in full. It has three parts. “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be the Christ” (Luke 23:2).

This is not the crime of which Jesus had been convicted in their own court. Chandler writes, “In the passage from the Sanhedrin to the Praetorium, the indictment had completely changed. Jesus had not been condemned on any of the charges recorded in this sentence of St. Luke. He had been convicted on the charge of blasphemy. But before Pilate he is now charged with high treason. … Why? Because blasphemy was not an offense against Roman law, and Roman judges would generally assume cognizance of no such charges.

“The Jews understood perfectly well at the trial before Pilate the principle of Roman procedure so admirably expressed a few years later by Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, and brother of Seneca: ‘If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.’ This attitude of Roman governors toward offenses of a religious nature perfectly explains the Jewish change of front in the matter of the accusation against Jesus. They merely wanted to get themselves into a Roman court on charges that a Roman judge would consent to try. In the threefold accusation recorded by the third Evangelist, they fully accomplished this result.”

The first charge was that Christ was “perverting the nation.” This was indefinite. Had Pilate taken it seriously, it would have had to have been supported by specific examples of sedition. Still, it was a real offense. It was, in fact, the precise charge that the Jewish court had tried to prove against Jesus in reference to his claim to be able to tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days. The Jews had been unable to prove this in their court because of the contradictory testimony of their witnesses.

The second charge was also serious. In fact, it was more serious than the first in that it was a specific treasonable act under Roman law governing a captive state. The only problem with this charge is that it was clearly false. On an earlier occasion the nation’s leaders had attempted to trap Jesus on this very issue, but he had acquitted himself admirably. They had come to him with a trick question, asking, “What is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matt. 22:17). They reasoned that if he said yes, they could denounce him to the people, saying, “What kind of Messiah is this who counsels abject subservience to Rome?” On the other hand, if he replied no, they could denounce him to Rome, saying “You have an insurrectionist on your hands.” But what did Christ answer? He asked for a coin and demanded of his questioners, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” (v. 20). When they replied, “Caesar’s,” he gave that ruling that has become the classical biblical statement of the separation of church and state, involving the proper responsibilities of and to each. He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (v. 21). In this charge the leaders were therefore guilty of the most flagrant and malicious of lies.

The third charge was the greatest and most serious of the three, that Jesus had claimed to be “Christ, a king.” It was serious because it was true. It was also serious because it was the claim about which Rome was most sensitive and against which she was most on her guard. When Pilate heard this charge he gathered his robes about him, motioned for Jesus to follow him, made his way back into the palace (which John alone records) and began the examination, the second part of every Roman trial. Not content with receiving the formal accusation alone, Pilate now sought to determine whether the charges preferred against Jesus were true.

The Examination

Each of the Gospel writers records the question with which Pilate began his interrogation. It is simply, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33). With this question Pilate, it would appear, impatiently brushed aside the two lesser charges as unworthy of serious consideration and proceeded at once to examine Jesus on that charge which, if true, would unmistakably brand him Caesar’s enemy.

John records Christ’s full reply. As we read it, it seems like an evasion—“Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?” (v. 34)—but actually Jesus’ reply is much to the point. For having heard the charge first from the lips of the Jews and now from Pilate himself, Jesus wishes to know first of all in what sense the question is being put to him. What was the nature of the charge? If the question were being asked from a Roman point of view, one answer would be given; for Christ was not a king from Rome’s perspective. On the other hand, if the question were being asked from a Jewish perspective, quite another answer would be given; for Jesus was the Jews’ Messiah.

Pilate’s reply, while abrupt, is nevertheless also directly to the point at this stage in the examination. He asks, “Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” (v. 35). This means, “I am no Jew. I ask my question as a Roman administrator and, as such, purely religious questions have no interest for me. What I want to know is: What have you done that might affect the sovereignty of Caesar?”

The Defense

At this point, although the interrogation continues, Jesus begins his defense by introducing what in modern law would be called a plea of confession and avoidance. This is a plea which admits, either in words or in effect, the truth of the accusation but which nevertheless introduces some new matter to avoid the guilt which normally would follow. For example, we may imagine a case in which a man is on trial for murder. The judge asks, “Did you shoot and kill John Smith on the date in question?” The defendant might answer, “Yes, I did, your honor; but you should know that I discovered him in my dining room near an open window trying to steal my silver chest and that when I discovered him he came at me with a knife. My plea is justified homicide and self-defense.” Here the defendant admits to the killing but pleads extenuating circumstances. In the same way, the Lord now admits to the charge of having claimed to be a king but describes his kingship in such a way that it is seen to be no threat to the legitimate claims of Caesar.

Jesus first explains the nature of his kingdom negatively: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (v. 36).

We do not know whether Pilate understood what Jesus was saying in this reply, but one phrase immediately caught his attention, the phrase “my kingdom.” Jesus seemed to be saying that this was not an earthly kingdom, but Pilate could take no chances on this crucial issue. He therefore picked up on this phrase and (probably) advanced on Christ threateningly to demand sternly, “You are a king, then!” (v. 37).

This time Jesus replies to the question with a positive affirmation: “You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (v. 37).

Jesus’ defense has two parts. One is a negative definition of his kingdom. It is “not of this world.” The proof is that his disciples did not fight to prevent his arrest by the Jewish authorities. The other is a positive definition of the kingdom. It is of “the truth.” That is, it is a kingdom ruling over people’s minds and aspirations. Chandler writes, “His was not an empire of matter, but a realm of truth. His kingdom differed widely from that of Caesar. Caesar’s empire was over the bodies of men; Christ’s over their souls. The strength of Caesar’s kingdom was in citadels, armies, navies, the towering Alps, the all-engirding seas. The strength of the kingdom of Christ was and is and will ever be in sentiments, principles, ideas, and the saving power of a divine word.”

Pilate could not fully appreciate this instruction. “Truth?” he asked. “What is truth?” Then he turned away, convinced at last that whatever Jesus’ peculiar ideas, he was certainly no worse than any other religious fanatic and was, at least from Rome’s point of view, perfectly innocent of any capital offenses.

The Verdict

The last phase of the Roman trial followed immediately upon Pilate’s examination of Jesus and Jesus’ defense. John tells us that, having concluded this examination, “he went out again to the Jews, and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him’ ” (v. 38). Absolvo! Non fecisse videtur! Standing alone these phrases indicate the close of the trial and mark it as being an official court proceeding.

Pilate had tried and acquitted Jesus. Why then did he not release him or, if need be, place him in protective custody as a later Roman ruler did with the apostle Paul when his life was threatened (Acts 21:31–33; 23:12–24)? This is the question that the human race has asked of Pontius Pilate for nearly two thousand years. Pilate was guilty of nothing at all up to this point. In fact, he had conducted the trial with precision, wisdom, and dispatch. He had reached the right verdict. But now, in spite of his calling as a Roman governor and judge, the high example of many thousands of Roman administrators before him, and the power of the legions in Palestine, he failed to do the right thing by immediately setting Christ free. The mood of the crowd forestalled him. Then he settled down into a series of irregular and illegal proceedings that eventually ended in the prisoner’s execution. Pilate was a coward. This is the only proper analysis of his character and the ultimate explanation of why he failed to do right in this situation.

What does this mean? It means that in the true, eternal issues of the case it is Pilate who was judged by the Lord and found wanting. I have titled this chapter “Jesus before Pilate,” but we must never forget that in another and far more important sense it is also “Pilate before Jesus.” In the former Jesus was tried and found innocent. Rightly so. In the latter Pilate was tried and found guilty.

So are all who stand before Christ. He is the only perfect person who ever lived. His standard for us is perfection. We all fall short, each one. For “there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10–12). We stand condemned. But it is for such condemned men and women that Christ died. He died to bear the punishment for their sin and thereby free them from God’s righteous judgment and curse.

Has he done that for you? He has if you are a subject of his kingdom, which you have entered (if you have entered it) by a believing response to his truth and person. That response entails the belief that Jesus is who he says he is (the Son of God) and did what he said he would do (die for your sin), coupled with a personal commitment to follow him as your Savior and Lord.[2]

37 Pilate’s response may be taken as a statement (“You are a king, then!”) or as a question (“So you are a king?”; NASB, NRSV). The exact nuance is difficult to determine, but Pilate seems to be saying that Jesus’ claim to a kingdom, even though this kingdom is not of this world, makes Jesus a “king” after all. Pilate is not making a formal declaration as much as he is suggesting a conclusion in which he invites Jesus to concur—So you are a king after all; is that not true? (Lindars, 559, says that when the particle oukoun is accented on the second syllable it loses its negative force and becomes inferential.)

Jesus does not give a direct answer. It was Pilate, not Jesus, who had used the term “king.” Nevertheless, he was not incorrect in doing so. Jesus neither refuses the title nor accepts it in the way Pilate meant it. For Pilate, “king” is a political term; for Jesus it means something quite distinct. Jesus is king in the sense that he entered this world “to testify to the truth.” A spiritual kingship deals with spiritual matters. If truth is to reign, the king will be the one who proclaims that truth. Note the strong contrast between “you say” and “for this reason I was born.” (The Greek pronouns sy and egō stand at the beginning of the two respective clauses.) “Born” and “came into the world” both refer to the ministry of Jesus on earth. The purpose of the incarnation is to testify to the truth. Earlier Jesus said that he came into the world “for judgment” (9:39). The revelation of truth has the effect of judging in the sense that those who refuse the truth place themselves outside the scope of God’s redemptive work, while those who accept the truth are forgiven. The reason so many resist the truth is that it carries with it the power of condemnation.

“Everyone on the side of truth,” declares Jesus, “listens to me.” To understand and accept truth is to recognize further truth when it comes (EDNT, 1:53, notes that in this verse akouō, GK 201, is to be understood “in the sense of an obedient listening”). To refuse the truth is to forfeit the moral sensitivity necessary to distinguish between truth and error. Since truth has a moral claim, the denial of truth leads to moral blindness.[3]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (pp. 328–331). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 1426–1432). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 624–625). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

December 8, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

The Extent of Man’s Sinfulness

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (1:28–32)

Because fallen mankind did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over in still another way, in this case to a depraved mind. The God-less mind is a depraved mind, whose predetermined and inevitable disposition is to do those things which are not proper.

The basic meaning of adokimos (depraved) is that of not standing the test, and the term was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. The impure metals were discarded, and adokimos therefore came to include the ideas of worthlessness and uselessness. In relation to God, the rejecting mind becomes a rejected mind and thereby becomes spiritually depraved, worthless and useless. Of unbelievers, Jeremiah wrote, “They call them rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them” (Jer. 6:30). The mind that finds God worthless becomes worthless itself. It is debauched, deceived, and deserving only of God’s divine wrath.

The sinful, depraved mind says to God, “Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Thy ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what would we gain if we entreat Him?” (Job 21:14–15). Although God-less people think they are wise, they are supremely foolish (Rom. 1:22). Regardless of their natural intelligence and their learning in the physical realm, in the things of God they are devoid even of “the beginning of knowledge,” because they lack reverential fear of Him. They are merely “fools [who] despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7; cf. v. 29).

Even God’s chosen people, the Jews, fell into that foolishness when they rejected or neglected the revelation and blessings He had showered on them so uniquely and abundantly. “For My people are foolish, they know Me not,” the Lord declared through Jeremiah; “they are stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know” (Jer. 4:22; cf. 9:6). Those who reject the true God are wholly vulnerable to “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The catalog of sins Paul proceeds to mention in Romans 1:29–31 is not exhaustive, but it is representative of the virtually endless number of vices with which the natural man is filled.

The first two terms in the nasb text, all unrighteousness and wickedness, are comprehensive and general, synonyms that encompass the entire range of the particular sins that follow. Some versions include fornication between those first two terms, but that word is not found in the best Greek manuscripts. The idea is certainly not inappropriate to the context, however, because fornication is universally condemned in Scripture and is frequently included by Paul in lists of vices (see 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5). Fornication is implied in the sin of impurity, which has already been mentioned in the present passage (1:24).

The sins mentioned in the rest of the list are basically self-explanatory: greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. The Greek term behind untrustworthy means literally to break a covenant, as reflected in some translations. Unloving relates especially to unnatural family relationships, such as that of a parent who abandons a young child or a grown child who abandons his aging parents.

Reiterating the fact that rebellious, ungodly men are without excuse, Paul declares that they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death. The apostle has already established that, since the creation of the world, God has made Himself known to every human being (vv. 19–21). People do not recognize God because they do not want to recognize Him, because they willingly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). “This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19–20).

Whether they recognize it or not, even those who have never been exposed to the revelation of God’s Word are instinctively aware of His existence and of His basic standards of righteousness. “They show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:15).

In most societies of the world, even in those considered uncivilized, most of the sins Paul lists here are considered wrong, and many are held to be crimes. Men inherently know that such things as greed, envy, murder, deceit, arrogance, disobedience, and mercilessness are wrong.

The absolute pit of wickedness is reached, Paul says, when those who are themselves involved in evils also give hearty approval to others who practice them. To justify one’s own sin is wicked enough, but to approve and encourage others to sin is immeasurably worse. Even the best of societies have had those within them who were blatantly wicked and perverse. But a society that openly condones and defends such evils as sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and the rest has reached the deepest level of corruption. Many of the most socially advanced societies of our own day are in that category. Sexually promiscuous celebrities are glamorized and the rights of homosexuals are ardently defended. These acts of sin are in direct contradiction to the revealed will of God.

A certain species of ants in Africa builds its nests in deep subterranean tunnels, where its young and its queen live. Although they may be great distances from the nest foraging for food, worker ants of that species are able to sense when the queen is being molested and they become extremely nervous and uncoordinated. If she is killed, they become frantic and rush around aimlessly until they die.

What better illustration could there be of fallen man. Even in his sinful rejection and rebellion, he cannot function properly apart from God and is destined only for death.[1]

28–32 Here the second key word of v. 18 (adikia, NIV, “wickedness; NASB, “unrighteousness,” GK 94) reappears (v. 29), indicating that this section is to be given over almost totally to a picture of the havoc wrought in human relations because of suppressing the knowledge of God. Paul describes the sinful world that we know all too well from experience. There is a wordplay in the Greek—people “did not think it worthwhile” (edokimasan, GK 1507) to retain God in their knowledge, so God in turn gave them over to a “depraved [adokimon, GK 99] mind,” which led them in turn to commit all kinds of sin. It is God’s function to judge, but human beings have usurped that prerogative in order to sit in judgment on him and dismiss him from their lives. The prior emphasis on the mind is in accord with the appraisal of our Lord, who traced the wellspring of sinful acts to the inner life rather than to environmental factors (Mk 7:20–23). The depraved mind is explained in terms of what it approves and plans—“to do what ought not to be done,” namely, what is “offensive to man even according to the popular moral sense of the Gentiles, i.e., what even natural human judgment regards as vicious and wrong” (TDNT 3:440).[2]

Verses 28–32

Paul’s opening statement in verse 28 this time includes a play on words between ouk edokimasan (‘they did not think it worth while’) and adokimon noun (‘a depraved mind’). It is not easy to reproduce it in English. One might say that ‘since they did not see fit to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to an unfit mind’.

And their depraved mind led this time not to immorality but to a whole variety of antisocial practices, which ought not to be done (28), and which together describe the breakdown of human community, as standards disappear and society disintegrates. Paul gives a catalogue of twenty-one vices. Such lists were not uncommon in those days in Stoic, Jewish and early Christian literature. All commentators seem to agree that the list defies neat classification. It begins with four general sins with which these people have become filled, namely every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. Then come five more sins which they are full of and which all depict broken human relationships: envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice (29). Next come a couple on their own, which seem to refer to libel and slander, although jbp offers a characteristically imaginative translation: ‘whisperers-behind-doors’ and ‘stabbers-in-the-back’. These two are followed by four which seem to portray different and extreme forms of pride: God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful. Now comes another independent couple of words, denoting people who are ‘inventive’ in relation to evil and rebellious in relation to parents (30). And the list ends with four negatives, senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless (31), which jb rather neatly renders ‘without brains, honour, love or pity’.

Verse 32 is a concluding summary of the human perversity Paul has been describing. First, they know. Yet again he begins with the knowledge possessed by the people he is depicting. It is not now God’s truth that they know, however, but God’s righteous decree, namely that those who do such things deserve death. As he will write later, ‘the wages of sin is death’ (6:23). And they know it. Their conscience condemns them.

Secondly, they nevertheless disregard their knowledge. They not only continue to do these very things, which they know deserve death, but (which is worse) they actively encourage others to do the same, and so flagrantly approve the evil behaviour of which God has expressed his disapproval.

We have come to the end of Paul’s portrayal of depraved Gentile society. Its essence lies in the antithesis between what people know and what they do. God’s wrath is specifically directed against those who deliberately suppress truth for the sake of evil. ‘Dark as the picture here drawn is,’ wrote Charles Hodge, ‘it is not so dark as that presented by the most distinguished Greek and Latin authors, of their own countrymen.’ Paul was not exaggerating.[3]

28. And since they did not deem it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to (their) worthless disposition, to do what is improper …

Here for the third and last time our attention is focused on the correlation between man’s rejection of God and God’s rejection of man. For the two previous references to this correlation see verses 24 and 26. Men’s arrogance comes to the fore in the expression, “They did not deem it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,” the very knowledge to which reference was made in verses 18–21; note especially, “For although they knew God” (verse 21). Instead of regarding this knowledge about God which they were deriving from his revelation in nature to be a precious treasure, they were constantly attempting to suppress it (verse 18) and, as is stated here in verse 28, regarded it as a negligible entity. They did not deem it to be worthwhile to pay any attention to God and to his revelation. So they continued on their sinful way, as described in verses 21–27 (the way of idolatry and immorality). In fact, the improper things the apostle has in mind probably also covered those mentioned in verses 29–32. Note that an evil “disposition” or “mind” or “attitude” results in evil deeds.

29–31.… having become filled with every kind ofunrighteousness, wickedness, greed, depravity;being full ofenvy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. (They are)gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of (novel forms of) evil, disobedient to (their) parents, senseless, faithless, loveless, pitiless.

The list of vices mentioned in Rom. 1:29–31 should be compared with similar lists elsewhere in Paul’s writings: Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:9–11; 6:9, 10; 2 Cor. 12:20, 21; Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 4:19; 5:3–5; Col. 3:5–9; 1 Thess. 2:3; 4:3–7; 1 Tim. 1:9, 10; 6:4, 5; 2 Tim. 3:2–5; and Titus 3:3, 9, 10.

Whether there were factors other than identity of authorship (for example, already existing lists) that account for this resemblance is difficult to ascertain.

The most simple and logical way to divide the twenty-one vices mentioned in Rom. 1:29–31 is to list them in three groups:

  1. one group of four vices (in the original each in the dat. s.), these four being introduced by the words “having become filled with every kind of”;
  2. one group of five vices (all in the gen. s.), introduced by “being full of”; and
  3. one group of twelve items, beginning with “gossips.”

The final four items in this group of twelve form a kind of sub-group, each member beginning with ἀ-privative (equal to English prefix un, dis-, or suffix -less).

The 4–5-12 grouping is also accepted by Cranfield, Murray, Ridderbos, Robertson, etc.

It will be noticed that no longer is there any specific reference to sins of sex, since that subject has been fully treated in the preceding verses.

Group of Four

unrighteousness. See on verse 18.

wickedness. This describes those people who take delight in doing what is wrong.

greed. This is covetousness, over-reaching, the craving for more and more and still more possessions, no matter how they are obtained. At times, as in Eph. 5:3, the word applies to ravenous self-assertion in matters of sex, at the expense of others.

depravity. This is badness in general. It is hard to distinguish it from wickedness.

Group of Five

envy. This is the keen displeasure aroused by seeing someone having something which you begrudge him.

murder. Envy often leads to murder. This was true in the case of Cain who murdered Abel (Gen. 4:1–8; 1 John 3:12). It was true also with respect to those who demanded Christ’s crucifixion (Matt. 27:18; Mark 15:10). And was it not envy that caused the brothers of Joseph to plan his death? See Gen. 37:4, 18.

strife. This refers to a quarrelsome disposition and its consequences.

deceit. This is cunning, treachery.

malice. This indicates malignity, spite, the desire to harm people.

Group of Twelve

gossips. The “whispering” slanderers are meant. They do not—perhaps do not dare to—come out in the open with their vilifying chatter, but whisper it into someone’s ear.

slanderers. What the gossips do secretly, the slanderers do openly.

haters of God. The word used in the original more often refers to those who are hated by God. However, the word is also used at times, as it is here, to indicate those who hate God.

insolent. See also 1 Tim. 1:13. This marks overweening individuals. They treat others with contempt, as if they (these insolent ones) and they alone, amounted to anything, and all others amounted to nothing.

arrogant. These fellows consider themselves “supermen.”

boastful. Such people are constantly bragging about themselves. Think of Lamech (Gen. 4:23, 24), of Sennacherib (2 Chron. 32:10–14); and of those described in Isa. 10:8–11; 14:13, 14.

inventors of (novel forms of) evil. The reference is to those who take special delight in inventing “original” methods of destroying their fellowmen.

disobedient to (their) parents. Read Exod. 20:12; Lev. 19:3; Prov. 20:20; Matt. 15:4; 19:19; Eph. 6:2.

And now the little sub-group of four:

senseless. These are the people that are “void of understanding.” But this is not merely a mental weakness; it is also a moral blemish. They are stupid because they have all along been unwilling to listen to God! See Matt. 15:16; Mark 7:18; Rom. 10:19 (cf. Deut. 32:2).

faithless. They are “not true to the covenant,” hence are perfidious, not to be trusted. See Ps. 73:15; 78:57; 119:158.

loveless. The meaning is: without natural affection. It was not at all unusual for pagans to drown or in some other way to destroy unwanted offspring. In this connection think of present-day abortion, for which all kinds of excuses are being invented.

pitiless. The reference is to people without mercy, cruel persons, ruthless ones. Think not only of the robbers in the parable of The Samaritan Who Cared (Luke 10), but also of the priest and the Levite, the two who “passed by on the other side.”

32. And although they know the ordinance of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only continue to do them but also approve of those who practice them.

What Paul is saying is that the perpetrators of the crimes, either implied or expressed in verses 29–31, must not be regarded as being so innocent that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong. On the contrary, they know—have an awareness of the fact—that according to God’s ordinance, his decree, those who practice such vices are worthy of death.

How do they know this? They know it because a righteous and holy God has revealed himself to them in nature (1:21) and in conscience (2:14, 15); in fact, is constantly doing this. Accordingly, they sense the fact that God will call them to account, and that continuing in their evil way will result in perdition for them. Nevertheless, in spite of this awareness, they not only continue to practice these vices and to perpetrate these crimes but even applaud others who do the same.

There are those who see a problem here; as if the apostle were saying that rejoicing to see other people engage in wickedness while you yourself abstain is even more wicked than taking part in such evil practices yourself. Having created this problem, they then try to solve it.

But is it not true that what Paul is actually saying is that those who not only practice these vices but also applaud others who engage in them are even worse than those who simply practice them? For example, a person might commit a wicked deed. Afterward he is sorry. Perhaps he even warns others. But here is another person who not only commits evil and continues to do so, but who in addition encourages others to copy his example, applauding them when they do so. Certainly such an individual has reached the climax of perversity.

Having reached the close of the chapter, and looking back, we should not forget that Paul’s real purpose in writing it was to show that man’s (here particularly the Gentile’s) wickedness is so great that only God is able to rescue him. Only when man accepts the divinely appointed way of salvation, namely, that of embracing God by faith, can he be saved. To God alone be the glory![4]

1:28 Because of men’s refusal to retain God in their knowledge, either as Creator, Sustainer, or Deliverer, God gave them over to a debased mind to commit a catalog of other forms of wickedness. This verse gives deep insight into why evolution has such enormous appeal for natural men. The reason lies not in their intellects but in their wills. They do not want to retain God in their knowledge. It is not that the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that they are compelled to accept it; rather, it is because they want some explanation for origins that will eliminate God completely. They know that if there is a God, then they are morally responsible to Him.

1:29 Here, then, is the dark list of additional sins which characterize man in his alienation from God. Notice that he is full of them, not just an occasional dabbler in them. He is trained in sins which are not fitting for a human being: unrighteousness (injustice); sexual immorality (fornication, adultery, and other forms of illicit sex); wickedness (active evil); covetousness (greed, the incessant desire for more); maliciousness (the desire for harm on others; venomous hatred); full of envy (jealousy of others); full of murder (premeditated and unlawful killing of another, either in anger or in the commission of some other crime); full of strife (wrangling, quarreling, contentiousness); full of deceit (trickery, treachery, intrigue); full of evil-mindedness (ill-will, spite, hostility, bitterness); whisperers (secret slanderers, gossips);

1:30 backbiters (open slanderers, those who bad-mouth others); haters of God (or hateful to God); violent (despiteful, insulting); proud (haughty, arrogant); boasters (braggarts, self-paraders); inventors of evil things (devisers of mischief and new forms of wickedness); disobedient to parents (rebellious to parental authority);

1:31 undiscerning (lacking moral and spiritual discernment, without conscience); untrustworthy (breaking promises, treaties, agreements, and contracts whenever it serves their purposes); unloving (acting in total disregard of natural ties and the obligations that go with them); unforgiving (irreconcilable or implacable); unmerciful (cruel, vindictive, without pity).

1:32 Those who abuse sex (1:24), who pervert sex (1:26, 27), and who practice the other sins listed (1:29–31) have an innate knowledge not only that these things are wrong but also that they themselves are deserving of death. They know this is God’s verdict, however much they seek to rationalize or legalize these sins. But this does not deter them from indulging in these forms of ungodliness. In fact they unite with others to promote them, and feel a sense of camaraderie with their partners-in-sin.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 107–110). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 50). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (pp. 78–79). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 79–82). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1679–1680). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

December 8, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Lord Alone Will Judge Each Believer

But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. (14:10–12)

The fourth reason Paul gives for every Christian’s accepting every other Christian is that the Lord alone will judge each believer. If each believer belongs to the Lord alone, and if “Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (vv. 8–9), Paul asks, why do you (the weak, see (v. 3b) judge your brother? Or you again, why do you (the strong, see v. 3a) regard your brother with contempt?

It is a terrible thing for men “to play God,” as it is often phrased. It is particularly inexcusable for God’s own people to intimate that presumption by judging and despising each other.

The work of Christians is to serve the Lord, not to usurp His lordship by self-righteously judging fellow believers. Our concern, rather, should be for being judged ourselves by the Lord, For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.

When we, along with all other believers, stand before the Lord on His judgment seat, His divine bēma, “each man’s work will become evident, for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:13–15).

As cited earlier, the apostle said of himself,

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the  Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (1 Cor. 4:1–5)

Reinforcing his argument for believer’s judgment with a quotation from Isaiah 45:23, Paul reminds his readers that it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God” (cf. Phil. 2:10–11).

Our responsibility is not to judge, to despise, to criticize, or in any way to belittle our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will not be called on by our Lord to give an account of the sins and shortcomings of others, but rather each one of us shall give account of himself to God.[1]

Answerable to God

Romans 14:10–12

You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,

‘Every knee will bow before me;

every tongue will confess to God.’ ”

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

In the fourteenth chapter of Romans Paul has been explaining why Christians must not be judgmental where the conduct of other believers is concerned, and one of the reasons he has given is that none of us exists in isolation. We belong to each other and need each other. Moreover, being Christians, we belong to God. So we must not spend our time putting the other Christian down but rather we must accept as brothers and sisters those who are also trying to serve the Lord as best they know how and try earnestly to build up those other persons.

Paul argued that “none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone” (Rom. 14:7). In the last study I cited John Donne’s “No Man Is an Island” to make that point.

But there is one situation in which a man or woman is isolated, and that is when he or she stands before the judgment seat of God, as we each must do. On that day there will be no pleading someone else’s responsibility for what we have done or blaming another person for our faults or taking another’s credit for our own. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). If nothing else is able to get us thinking about our conduct rather than someone else’s, it should be this extremely serious, awesome, and inescapable moment of personal accountability.

Christians Must Give an Accounting

Our text is referring to Christians when it says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (v. 10). It is true that unbelievers will also be judged at the final judgment, but that is not what Paul is writing about here. In this chapter he is reminding his readers that Christians will also be judged, since all must appear before God and give an accounting.

I am sure this does not seem right to many Christians, because they understand rightly that because they have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior they have passed from a state of being under judgment or condemnation to one of being justified before God. Even more, they remember how Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned [the King James Version said, ‘shall not come into condemnation’]; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). If that is true, how can a Christian possibly be judged? Or to think about Paul’s words in Romans 14, how can the apostle say, speaking specifically of Christians, “We will all stand before God’s judgment seat”?

The answer, of course, is that there are various judgments spoken of in the Bible and that the word judge is used in various ways.

Whenever we speak of the judgments mentioned in the Bible we are moving into the area of Bible prophecy, and this is an area in which Christians have very different views. (It is another area in which we need to be unusually understanding and accepting of one another.) However, as I read the Bible it seems to me that at least seven different judgments are mentioned: (1) a judgment of believers at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10–12; 1 Cor. 3:11–15; 2 Cor. 5:10); (2) a series of judgments on the earth (Rev. 6–11, 15–16); (3) a judgment of the beast and the false prophet, at which time the devil will be imprisoned (Rev. 19:20; 20:1–3); (4) a judgment of the Gentile nations (Ps. 2); (5) a judgment of Israel (Ezek. 20:32–38); (6) the final judgment of Satan (Rev. 20:1–10); and (7) the final judgment of unbelievers at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11–15).

All these judgments except the first are judicial judgments: They involve God’s punishments of individuals or nations for those peoples’ specific sins. The punishments involve spiritual or eternal death and hell suffering. The first of these judgments stands apart from the rest, because it is a judgment of believers, which means that it is not for sin and does not involve spiritual death or suffering. Nevertheless, it is still a real judgment in which the followers of Christ are to give an accounting for what they have done in this life and are either rewarded or disapproved by God on that basis.

It helps to get a picture of what this involves by realizing that the phrases in Romans 14:10 rendered “God’s judgment seat” and in 2 Corinthians 5:10 rendered “the judgment seat of Christ” each contain the Greek word bêma, which refers not to the judge’s seat in a court of law but to the bench upon which the referees or judges sat at an athletic contest. It was the place from which those who did well in the contest and triumphed were rewarded with a laurel wreath and from which those who broke the rules were disqualified or disapproved.

This was a well-known concept for the ancient Greeks and Romans, and Paul drew on it more than once in his writings. Thus, although Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 are the only two verses in which the word bêma actually is used, we find Paul alluding to this idea elsewhere as well:

  1. 1 Corinthians 9:25–27. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
  2. Philippians 3:12–14. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
  3. 2 Timothy 4:7–8. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

The man who wrote Romans 8:38–39 (“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”) is not worrying about his eternal salvation. He is not afraid that he may be sent to hell. But he is aware that he is going to have to give an account to God of every word he has spoken and everything he has done. And he is taking that moment of personal accountability very, very seriously.

You Must Give an Accounting

We can see how seriously he takes this by the way he writes about it in Romans 14:10–12. Notice three things. First, he emphasizes the word you by putting it in an emphatic position and repeating it twice. This is more obvious in the Greek text than in the English translations, but the New International Version tries to capture the idea by asking in verse 10, “You, then, why do you judge your brother?” Paul is referring both to the one whom he called weak earlier and to the one he called strong. That is, he is writing to you, whoever you may be.

Second, Paul brings in a quotation from the Old Testament, which he often does when he comes to the end of an argument:

It is written:

“ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,

‘Every knee will bow before me;

every tongue will confess to God.’ ”

This quotation is taken somewhat loosely from Isaiah 49:23 (see Isa. 49:18), and it is a solemn reminder of how God has said that every person who has ever lived will appear before him for judgment. So we must not think that just because we are Christians, somehow we are going to get off without an accounting.

Third, Paul repeats his point in different words but with emphasis in verse 12: “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” This includes you and me.

Accountable for All Things

But for what will we be held accountable? This is a serious and very practical matter, so let’s look at some of the verses that tell exactly what we are accountable for.

  1. We are accountable for every word we have spoken. There are many verses in the Bible that tell us this. For example, Jesus spoke about how words come from the heart, a good heart producing good words and a bad heart producing bad words. He said, “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37). In the letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Eph. 4:29) and “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4).

This does not mean that a Christian can never laugh or tell jokes. We do not have to be serious all the time. But it does mean that there should be a certain gravity about us as befits those who are aware of the gospel of the grace of God and of the fact that many are perishing because they will not turn from their sins and believe on Jesus Christ. And even if we laugh and tell jokes, which we will at times, we will not be telling dirty jokes. On the contrary, we will try to edify others even by our humor.

We will pay attention to the words we hear and read too. Donald Grey Barnhouse had some useful thoughts on this in his study of Romans:

I think it is fair and logical to conclude that if the believer must account for every careless word, this applies not only to what he says, but to what he allows himself to hear and read. If you spend several hours a week watching television, you can be almost certain that the thing has mastery over you; but if you watch it only occasionally and in order to relax after a long period of work or study, that is a different matter. I know people who are better acquainted with the comic strips than they are with the Bible. They say that they are too busy for Bible study, but they have at least fifteen minutes a day for the comics and another fifteen to listen to news broadcasts. I read some magazines from back to front, just to laugh at the cartoons, and throw them down without reading any of their articles or stories. However, I am not your judge, and you may not be mine. We are each answerable to the Lord.

There is a positive side to this, however. Although our idle words will be condemned, our public confessions of Jesus Christ and words that are spoken in praise of God to bring him glory will also be remembered forever. For the text in Matthew also says, “By your words you will be acquitted” (Matt. 12:37).

I have always been encouraged by what is said concerning the people of God who lived in the time of Malachi: “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name” (Mal. 3:16). This means that God hears our good, faithful, and true words too, and that he remembers them forever. I believe that no word spoken for Jesus or in Jesus’ name will ever be wasted or fail of its reward.

  1. We are accountable for the talents that have been given to us. We should remember the parable Jesus told in various forms in which a king or owner of an estate left cities to be managed by his servants or gave varying numbers of talents to them, returning later to demand an accounting. In one of these, he dismissed the manager, saying, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer” (Luke 16:2). In another he condemned the faithless steward for being “wicked” and “lazy” (Matt. 25:26) but praised the faithful servants, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt. 25:21, 23).

Have you ever taken stock of the talents God has given you? I do not mean just your particularly strong points or strong skills, but everything you are. Have you ever done a complete inventory of who you are so that you may give it all to God for his service and glory?

I am a fifty-five-year-old white male whom God called to the ministry at an early age so I would be able to direct every stage of my education to that end. I was raised in a Christian home, taught the Bible from childhood onward, was influenced by strong men and women of God, and was placed in Philadelphia in a strong city church to teach the Bible to the people God sends to serve there. We are called to model city ministry at Tenth Presbyterian Church, and we have done it. Everything that is good in me has come from God, and my responsibility is to take those good gifts and offer them up to God in his service, making them count for him in every way I can.

That is my inventory. It is that for which I must give an accounting. Your case is different. You have an entirely different background and entirely different training. You may have been called to be a teacher or a doctor or a secretary or the CEO of some company. You may be black or white or some other color. You may have a high IQ or a low IQ. Whatever you have, it has been given to you by God, and you are responsible to God for how you use it. Are you using it for him? If you do not know the answer to that question, you need to sit down quietly, take personal inventory, and ask God to show you what you can do that will make a difference for him in this life and for eternity.

  1. We are accountable for how we use our money. Nothing in life so mirrors our values and priorities as what we do with our money, which is why someone has said, “Let me look at your checkbook, and I will tell you what you are.” What you do with your money tells volumes about you.

This is why the Bible has so much to say about money. It is why Jesus spoke about it. Jesus said:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.… No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Money.

Matthew 6:19–21, 24

What would I discover if I were to examine your checkbook? You would have payments on the house, checks for the heating and electricity, money for food, hospital and doctors’ bills, perhaps education bills—and taxes, of course, lots of taxes. But what beyond that? Would I find more money being spent on a second home, a luxury car, the country club, or entertainment than for Christian work? What percentage of your income would I find given to the support of your local church? Or to missions? Or to help people you know who are in serious financial need? If you give anything to your church or charitable causes, you probably consider yourself to be very generous, a great philanthropist. But would that judgment hold up to a really objective scrutiny? Would God be satisfied with your priorities?

Earlier I mentioned Donald Grey Barnhouse. In his study he refers to a cartoon in which a farmer is sitting at a table with nine giant potatoes in front of him and a tenth potato, his tithe to God, sitting off by itself. The isolated potato is marked “The Lord’s portion,” and the caption expresses the words of the farmer who is saying, “I don’t see how any fellow could be mean enough to give less.”

True enough. The caption is meant to commend the farmer as a man with a surrendered heart. But I find myself thinking, “Nine for me and one for God? Is even that a strong enough priority? When we have been given so much and have such abundance, is that all we can do, should do, or would do if we really loved the Lord with all our hearts and minds and souls and were aware that one day we will have to give an accounting of how we have spent our money?”

  1. We are accountable for how we have used our time. Finally, you will have to give an accounting for your time. How are you using your time? Do you waste long hours watching television? Or if you work all the time, are you working for yourself only, or do you work for others and share your time with your family, or with others you could help? Do you invest some of your time in Bible study, witnessing, or some type of Christian work?

What You Do Now Counts

Let’s close by returning to the points Paul is making.

  1. Stop judging your neighbor. Most of us are guilty of this, and it is one of the most harmful things that takes place in Christian churches. We think that because there are standards to be maintained we must be snooping out the shortcomings of others. We are not called to do this. If you are worried about standards, make sure you live up to them yourself. Or let the people God has appointed to deal with them—the elders in a local church—do the shepherding work.
  2. Take inventory of your own actions and behavior. Unless you are perfect or nearly perfect, which I doubt you are, that will be enough to keep you busy for a very long time, and we will all be better off. Besides, you will help others better that way, because people are always helped more by a loving example of what should be done than by moral nitpicking or outright condemnation.
  3. Do what you can to build up the body. Being judgmental tears down. Modeling builds up, and that is what we most need. And remember that it is spiritual work that will last. Most of what you have been spending your time on will pass with the passing of this world and be gone forever.

Accountability is always a sobering message. But it is also encouraging, because it means that what you do really counts.[2]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 14:10). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The New Humanity (Vol. 4, pp. 1755–1762). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

December 8, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

1 While those in the ark may have been safe, they had not yet been saved. The author does not finish the story of the flood until Noah and his family are safely on dry ground (v. 14) and have offered a sacrifice. Those safe in the ark have to wait (“a hundred and fifty days,” 7:24) for God to send deliverance. The same author passes over the four hundred years that Israel waited in Egypt (Ex 1:7; 2:24b) and then the forty years of waiting in the wilderness (Nu 14:33–34) in order to focus on the moment of God’s deliverance. That moment comes after four hundred years, when “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” The story of Noah and the flood passes over the “hundred and fifty days” of waiting in the ark and proceeds immediately to the moment that “God remembered Noah and all … that were with him in the ark.”

The description of God’s rescue of Noah fore shadows God’s deliverance in the Exodus. “God remembered [wayyizkōr ʾelōhîm] his covenant” (Ex 2:24) and sent “a strong east wind” (berûaḥ qādîm ʿazzâ) to dry up the waters before his people so that they “went through … on dry ground [bayyabbāšâ]” (Ex 14:21–22); so also in the story of the flood, “God remembered” (wayyizkōr ʾelōhîm) those in the ark and sent a “wind” (rûaḥ ʿal-hāʾāreṣ) over the waters so that his people might come out on “dry ground” (yābešâ hāʾāreṣ, vv. 1, 14).

Such verbal, thematic, and structural parallels are not coincidental. The author of Genesis, who frequently seizes on wordplays (e.g., 11:9) and turns of phrase within narratives (e.g., 21:6), most certainly saw the parallels suggested by these narratives and deliberately highlights their similarities. God’s past redemptive works prefigure his redemptive work in the present and the future.[1]

1 “God remembered Noah.” Similarly, God “remembered” Abraham after the destruction of Sodom (19:29); he “remembered” Rachel (30:22), and he “remembered” his covenant made in 9:15, 16, etc. Man is bidden not simply to “remember” the past but the future (e.g., Isa 47:7; Eccl 11:8), which suggests that the word is more equivalent to “think about” than to a concept of recall. However, since its usual reference is to the past, “remember” suits most passages. When God remembers, he acts, e.g., saving Lot, giving Rachel children, bringing Israel out of slavery (Exod 2:24; 6:5). This is the first time God is said to have remembered someone, and this passage is a paradigm of what that means in practice; cf. H. Eising, TDOT 4:64–82. Note God’s concern for the animals as well as Noah (cf. Jon 4:11; Matt 6:26; 10:29). “A wind”: cf. the wind of God at creation which hovered over the waters, Gen 1:2.[2]

8:1 But God remembered Noah. God’s covenant with Noah brought provision and protection in the midst of severe judgment. The remnant was preserved and God initiated steps toward reestablishing the created order on earth. the waters subsided. God used the wind to dry the ground; evaporation returned water to the atmosphere.[3]

8:1 God remembered Noah. This marks the turning point in the flood story. When the Bible says that God “remembers” someone or his covenant with someone, it indicates that he is about to take action for that person’s welfare (cf. 9:15; 19:29; 30:22; Ex. 2:24; 32:13; Ps. 25:6–7; 74:2). All life on the land having been destroyed, God now proceeds to renew everything, echoing what he did in Genesis 1. God made a wind blow over the earth. The Hebrew word for wind, ruakh, is also sometimes translated “Spirit” (e.g., 1:2; 6:3). While the context normally enables the reader to distinguish ruakh meaning “wind” from ruakh meaning “Spirit,” the present verse intentionally echoes 1:2.[4]

8:1 God remembered The Hebrew verb used here, zakhar, is often translated “remember,” but in reference to God, it conveys “thought about” or “turned attention to” (compare 19:29; 30:22). God’s purpose for the flood is accomplished, so He turns His attention back to Noah and the ark.[5]

8:1 God remembered Noah. The Hebrew expression indicates action based on a previous commitment (9:15; 19:29; 30:22; Ex. 2:24; 6:5; Luke 1:72, 73), not merely mental recall.[6]

[1] Sailhamer, J. H. (2008). Genesis. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis–Leviticus (Revised Edition) (Vol. 1, pp. 126–127). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Wenham, G. J. (1998). Genesis 1–15 (Vol. 1, p. 184). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

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

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 64). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 8:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 21). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

December 7, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

8 Micah now asks and answers the question, “What does the Lord require of you?” He does so in a verse justly regarded as one of the memorable and timeless expressions of OT ethical religion (cf. Jas 1:27). It is a heart’s response to God demonstrated in the basic elements of true religion, as shown to Israel in the social concerns reflected in the Mosaic legislation.

God has told his people what is good. The Mosaic law differentiates between good and bad and reflects God’s will in many areas of their religious and social lives. It indicates what God requires (dāraš, “seeks”) of them. They are to act justly (lit., “do justice,” mišpāṭ). The word “justly” here has the sense of “true religion,” that is, the ethical response to God that has a manifestation in social concerns as well (cf. Note on 3:8). “To love mercy” is freely and willingly to show kindness to others (cf. Notes below). The expression “to walk humbly with your God” means to live in conscious fellowship with God by exercising a spirit of humility before him. These great words recall similar words of our Lord in Matthew 23:23.

The prophet is not suggesting that sacrifice is completely ineffectual and that simply a proper attitude of heart toward God will suffice. In the preceding verse he painted a caricature—a purposefully exaggerated picture—of the sacrificial system to indicate that God has no interest in the multiplication of empty religious acts. Jeremiah 7:22–23 is often appealed to as evidence that the prophets rejected the Levitical system; yet Jeremiah promised that the offerings would be acceptable if the people were obedient (Jer 17:24–26). A similar attitude toward sacrifice is expressed in Psalm 51:16–17, but the succeeding verses show the author to be indicating that the Levitical sacrifices are acceptable to God only when accompanied by a proper attitude of heart toward him (51:18–19).

The ethical requirements of v. 8 do not comprise the way of salvation. Forgiveness of sin was received through the sacrifices. The standards of this verse are for those who are members of the covenantal community and delineate the areas of ethical response that God wants to see in those who share the covenantal obligations.[1]

6:8 / Yahweh’s answer to such blasphemy is spoken through Micah. God has showed Israel what is good, verse 8. Through all the long centuries of Israel’s prophetic and cultic activity, carried by story in its oral traditions and set down in its written narratives, God’s will has been shown to his people and made very clear (cf. Luke 16:31; John 5:45–47). That will is what is good, and it is good because it is the will of Yahweh, the Lord and redeemer of Israel’s life. There is no other good outside of God, no virtue, no ideology, no civil, political or religious scheme that can qualify unless it accords with God’s desire for human life. Thus, the Israelite speaker is addressed here as ʾādām, man, mortal, creature before the creator and subject totally to the creator’s definitions of good. God has created human life on this earth, and as its creator, God alone can say what and how it should be lived.

But the Lord is a “gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Jonah 4:2 rsv; cf. Exod. 34:6; Num 14:18; Ps. 86:5, 15; Joel 2:13; Mic. 7:18), and so once more God spells out the “good” requirements for his impatient and exasperated people’s communion with him, verse 8, telling them that this is what he is “seeking” or “looking for” (Hb. dôrēš, require niv). God wants them to “do mišpāṭ,” which the niv has translated as act justly. The phrase can indicate the performance of justice within a court of law, and certainly that meaning is included here, in accord with Micah’s earlier statements (cf. 2:2, 9; 3:1–3, 10–11). But in this generalized setting, the phrase means to set up every area of Israel’s life in accord with God’s will, and not according to human advantage, comfort, or desire. The “just” society is one in which God’s order for human life is established.

The second requirement then follows naturally—“to love ḥesed,” which the niv translates to love mercy. It is possible to translate the Hebrew noun with “mercy,” but ḥesed’s meaning goes far beyond that. Ḥesed is “covenant love,” being bound together in solidarity with both God and human beings, so that community is established between poor and rich, weak and strong, female and male, slave and free, alien and Israelite (cf. Gal. 3:28), and all care for one another in mutual respect and protection and sharing. Ḥesed binds people together as one in the bundle of life, so that God is not worshiped and obeyed apart from concern for one’s fellow human being (cf. Matt. 5:23–24; Gal. 5:14; 6:2). That is the community solidarity that Israel is to “love”—the verb is ʾāhab, which is used of the deepest love of a wife for her husband or of a child for his or her parent.

The third “good” that God expects from the Israelites in his covenant relation with them is to walk humbly with your God. “To walk with God” means to live with God in constant communion. Here, the nature of that walk is characterized by the hiphil infinitive absolute, haṣnēaʿ, which is translated as the adverb “humbly” in the English. More is involved in the word’s meaning than simply our thoughts of “modest,” “lowly,” or “self—effacing,” as in Isa. 57:15 or 66:2, though certainly that meaning is included here over against Israel’s exasperated blasphemy against its God. It has had the audacity to quarrel and become impatient with this Lord of its life! But the meaning of “humbly” here can also be “attentive,” “paying attention to,” “watching” Yahweh during their journey together. Walking humbly with God is living from God’s word and not one’s own, paying attention to God’s will and not following one’s own desires, turning one’s eyes to God as a servant turns his or her eyes to the master (cf. Ps. 123:2) for guidance, approbation, and correction. It is such a humble walk with God that makes it possible to act justly and to love ḥesed, and thus this requirement sums up the other two. Israel is put in its place here and shown to be lacking. These are the things it should have done but has not done. It stands indicted at the bar of God and can make no further reply.

This instruction is aimed entirely at Israel in this passage, and man is not to be taken in a general sense to include all of humanity, as many have interpreted it. These are requirements laid upon those who stand in covenant with the Lord witnessed to in Old Testament and New. Thus, they are just as surely requirements laid upon the church of Jesus Christ, the people of the new covenant in him.[2]

6:8 Micah’s terse response (v. 8) indicated they should have known the answer to the rhetorical question. Spiritual blindness had led them to offer everything except the one thing He wanted—a spiritual commitment of the heart from which right behavior would ensue (cf. Dt 10:12–19; Mt 22:37–39). This theme is often represented in the OT (cf. 1Sa 15:22; Is 1:11–20; Jer 7:21–23; Hos 6:6; Am 5:15).[3]

6:8 The Lord desires the primary forms of love—justice (do justice), mercy (love kindness), and faithfulness (walk humbly)—as the expressed response of his people to his redemptive acts (Matt. 23:23; cf. Deut. 10:12–13; 1 Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:11–17; Hos. 6:6). On the meaning of “justice,” see notes on Isa. 42:1; Jer. 22:3; Amos 5:7. your God. The complement to “my people” (Mic. 6:3, 5).

6:8 Sacrifices cannot replace the need for justice and kindness. The focus on real righteousness anticipates Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 5:23–24; 9:13; 15:10–20) and is fulfilled in Jesus’ own righteousness (Acts 3:14; Rom. 8:1–4).[4]

6:8 does Yahweh ask from you This verse gives the answer to the question the prophet asked in Micah 6:6–7. What God requires is heartfelt love and obedience.

to do justice A proper relationship with God also involves a proper relationship with one’s neighbor. See 3:1; Isa 5:7 and note.

kindness The Hebrew word here often occurs in reference to Yahweh’s covenant with Israel (see Deut 7:9, 12; 1 Kgs 8:23; Neh 1:5).

humbly This Hebrew word occurs only here in the ot. It traditionally has been understood as referring to humility, but it also can indicate carefulness or thoughtfulness.[5]

6:8 Those who believe themselves to be God’s people and who rely on the sacrifice for sin which God has provided (Heb. 10:12) have sometimes assumed that because their sins are dealt with, it does not matter how they live (Rom. 6:1). The Bible emphasizes that those who would live in fellowship with a holy God as His people must live in a way which reflects the holiness of God (cf. Lev. 20:7; 1 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 1:5). “Mercy” (hesed, Heb.) is a rich word which includes the idea of faithful love in action (cf. Jer. 2:2, note). Walking with God implies a manner of life characterized by gratefulness and obedience to God (cf. Is. 38:15). “Humbly” stresses that man must remember that he is man, and God is God. The proud man will find that God resists him (1 Pet. 5:5; cf. Prov. 11:2; Matt. 23:23; James 4:6–10).[6]

6:8 This verse speaks about the underlying attitudes that must accompany all true worship. what does the Lord require of you: The idea here is that God seeks certain characteristics of true worship from His people. do justly … love mercy … walk humbly: These phrases summarize biblical piety in true worship. The majority of the people of Israel had violated each of these standards repeatedly. The rulers did not know justice (3:1), had no interest in mercy (3:2, 3), and demonstrated no humility (3:11). with your God: It is the Lord who ultimately gives a person strength, courage, and ability to exercise the virtues of godly living.[7]

[1] McComiskey, T. E., & Longman, T. I. (2008). Micah. In D. E. Garland (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, p. 540). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Achtemeier, E. (2012). Minor Prophets I. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 352–354). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mic 6:8). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1705). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Mic 6:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mic 6:8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 1078–1079). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.