Category Archives: Verse of the day

Christmas Verse of The Day — The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:18-25)

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23     “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. [1]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 1:18–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

“A Child is Born”
‎Eager to convince King Ahaz, Isaiah offered to show him a sign from God, to prove that their country would escape from the Samarian invasion. But Ahaz, fully resolved to seek Assyria’s mighty aid, protested with feigned humility that he would not trouble God for a sign. Then Isaiah proclaimed that despite the king there should be a sign, which he described in those mystic passages about the child “Immanuel.” These rise to an ecstasy of joy. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light sinned.” The passages foretell not only the birth but the worship of the child. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
‎“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
‎Only with the coming of Christ was this wonderful promise wholly fulfilled. The New Testament declares that this Immanuel was the babe of Bethlehem.

The Birth of Jesus Christ Commentary

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23     “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. [1]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 1:18–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The Virgin Birth


Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (1:18–25)

Biblical history records some amazing and spectacular births. The birth of Isaac to a previously barren woman nearly one hundred years old, who was laughing at the thought of having a child, was a miraculous event. The womb of Manoah’s barren wife was opened and she gave birth to Samson, who was to turn a lion inside out, kill a thousand men, and pull down a pagan temple. The birth of Samuel, the prophet and anointer of kings, to the barren Hannah, whose womb the Lord had shut, revealed divine providential power. Elizabeth was barren, but through the power of God she gave birth to John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said there had yet been no one greater “among those born of women” (Matt. 11:11). But the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus surpasses all of those.

Fantasy and mythology have counterfeited the virgin birth of Jesus Christ with a proliferation of false accounts intended to minimize His utterly unique birth.

For example, the Romans believed that Zeus impregnated Semele without contact and that she conceived Dionysus, lord of the earth. The Babylonians believed that Tammuz (see Ezek. 8:14) was conceived in the priestess Semiramis by a sunbeam. In an ancient Sumerian/Accadian story inscribed on a wall, Tukulti II (890–884 b.c.) told how the gods created him in the womb of his mother. It was even claimed that the goddess of procreation superintended the conception of King Sennacherib (705–681 b.c). At the conception of Buddha, his mother supposedly saw a great white elephant enter her belly. Hinduism has claimed that the divine Vishnu, after reincarnations as a fish, tortoise, boar, and lion, descended into the womb of Devaki and was born as her son Krishna. There is even a legend that Alexander the Great was virgin born by the power of Zeus through a snake that impregnated his mother, Olympias. Satan has set up many more such myths to counterfeit the birth of Christ in order to make it seem either common or legendary.

Modern science even speaks of parthenogenesis, which comes from a Greek term meaning “virgin born.” In the world of honey bees, unfertilized eggs develop into drones, or males. Artificial parthenogenesis has been successful with unfertilized eggs of silkworms. The eggs of sea urchins and marine worms have begun to develop when placed in various salt solutions. In 1939 and 1940, rabbits were produced (all female) through chemical and temperature influences on ova. Nothing like that has ever come close to accounting for human beings; all such parthenogenesis is impossible within the human race. Science, like mythology, has no explanation for the virgin birth of Christ. He was neither merely the son of a previously barren woman nor a freak of nature. By the clear testimony of Scripture, He was conceived by God and born of a virgin.

Nevertheless, religious polls taken over the past several generations reveal the impact of liberal theology in a marked and continuing decline in the percentage of professed Christians who believe in the virgin birth, and therefore in the deity, of Jesus Christ. One wonders why they want to be identified with a person who, if their judgment of Him were correct, had to have been either deceived or deceptive—since all four gospels explicitly teach that Jesus considered Himself to be more than a man. It is clear from the rest of the New Testament as well as from historical records that Jesus, His disciples, and all of the early church held Him to be none other than the divine Son of God. Even His enemies knew He claimed such identity (John 5:18–47).

A popular religious personality said in an interview a few years ago that he could not in print or in public deny the virgin birth of Christ, but that neither could he preach it or teach it. “When I have something I can’t comprehend,” he explained, “I just don’t deal with it.” But to ignore the virgin birth is to ignore Christ’s deity. And to ignore His deity is tantamount to denying it. Real incarnation demands a real virgin birth.

But such unbelief should not surprise us. Unbelief has been man’s greatest problem since the Fall and has always been man’s majority view. But “What then?” Paul asks. “If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Rom. 3:3–4). Every faithful prophet, preacher, or teacher at some time has asked with Isaiah and Paul, “Lord, who has believed our report?” (Rom. 10:16; cf. Isa. 53:1). But popular opinion, even within the church, has not always been a reliable source of truth. When men pick and choose which parts of God’s Word to believe and follow, they set themselves above His Word and therefore above Him (cf. Ps. 138:2).

Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel account was partly apologetic—not in the sense of making an apology for the gospel but in the more traditional sense of explaining and defending it against its many attacks and misrepresentations. Jesus’ humanity was often maligned and His deity often denied. Possibly during His earthly ministry, and certainly after His death and resurrection, it is likely Jesus was slandered by the accusation that He was the illegitimate son of Mary by some unknown man, perhaps a Roman soldier garrisoned in Galilee. It was Jesus’ claim of deity, however, that most incensed the Jewish leaders and brought them to demand His death. “For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

It is surely no accident, therefore, that the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, at the outset of the New Testament, is devoted to establishing both the regal humanity and the deity of Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus’ being both human and divine, there is no gospel. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the central fact of Christianity. The whole superstructure of Christian theology is built on it. The essence and the power of the gospel is that God became man and that, by being both wholly God and wholly man, He was able to reconcile men to God. Jesus’ virgin birth, His substitutionary atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and return are all integral aspects of His deity. They stand or fall together. If any of those teachings—all clearly taught in the New Testament—is rejected, the entire gospel is rejected. None makes sense, or could have any significance or power, apart from the others. If those things were not true, even Jesus’ moral teachings would be suspect, because if He misrepresented who He was by preposterously claiming equality with God, how could anything else He said be trusted? Or if the gospel writers misrepresented who He was, why should we trust their word about anything else He said or did?

Jesus once asked the Pharisees a question about Himself that men have been asking in every generation since then: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” (Matt. 22:42). That is the question Matthew answers in the first chapter of this gospel. Jesus is the human Son of man and the divine Son of God.

As we have seen, the first seventeen verses give Jesus’ human lineage—his royal descent from Abraham through David and through Joseph, His legal human father. The Jewish leaders of New Testament times acknowledged that the Messiah would be of the royal line of David; but, for the most part, they agreed on little more than that concerning Him.

History informs us that even the conservative Pharisees did not generally believe that the Messiah would be divine. Had Jesus not claimed to be more than the son of David, He may have begun to convince some of the Jewish leaders of His messiahship. Once He claimed to be God, however, they rejected Him immediately. Many people still today are willing to recognize Him as a great teacher, a model of high moral character, and even a prophet from God. Were He no more than those things, however, He could not have conquered sin or death or Satan. In short, He could not have saved the world. He would also have been guilty of grossly misrepresenting Himself.

It is interesting that certain condescending interpreters of the New Testament acknowledge that Matthew and other writers sincerely believed and taught that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that He had no human father. But, they claim, those men were uneducated and captive to the usual superstitions and myths of their times. They simply picked up on the many virgin birth legends that were common in the ancient world and adapted them to the gospel story.

It is true that pagan religions of that day, such as those of Semiramis and Tammuz, had myths of various kinds involving miraculous conceptions. But the immoral and repulsive character of those stories cannot be compared to the gospel accounts. Such stories are Satan’s vile counterfeits of God’s pure truth. Because the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is crucial to the gospel, it is a truth that false, satanic systems of religion will deny, counterfeit, or misrepresent.

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ divine conception is straightforward and simple. It is given as history, but as history that could only be known by God’s revelation and accomplished by divine miracle. It is essential to the incarnation.

After establishing Jesus’ human lineage from David, Matthew proceeds to show His divine “lineage.” That is the purpose of verses 18–25, which reveal five distinct truths about the virgin birth of Christ. We see the virgin birth conceived, confronted, clarified, connected, and consummated.

The Virgin Birth

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. (1:18)

Though it does not by itself prove divine authorship, the very fact that the account of Jesus’ divine conception is given in but one verse strongly suggests that the story was not man-made. It is simply not characteristic of human nature to try to describe something so absolutely momentous and marvelous in such a brief space. Our inclination would be to expand, elaborate, and try to give every detail possible. Matthew continues to give additional information related to the virgin birth, but the fact of it is given in one sentence—the first sentence of verse 18 being merely introduction. Seventeen verses are given to listing Jesus’ human genealogy, but only part of one verse to His divine genealogy. In His divinity He “descended” from God by a miraculous and never-repeated act of the Holy Spirit; yet the Holy Spirit does nothing more than authoritatively state the fact. A human fabrication would call for much more convincing material.

Birth is from the same Greek root as “genealogy” in verse 1, indicating that Matthew is here giving a parallel account of Jesus’ ancestry—this time from His Father’s side.

We have little information about Mary. It is likely that she was a native of Nazareth and that she came from a relatively poor family. From Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25 we learn she had a sister named Salome, the mother of James and John (who therefore were Jesus’ cousins). From Luke 3 we receive her Davidic lineage. If, as many believe, the Eli (or Heli) of Luke 3:23 was Joseph’s father-in-law (Matthew gives Joseph’s father as Jacob, 1:16), then Eli was Mary’s father. We know that Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias, was Mary’s “relative” (Luke 1:36), probably her cousin. Those are the only relatives, besides her husband and children, of whom the New Testament speaks.

Mary was a godly woman who was sensitive and submissive to the Lord’s will. After the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would be the mother of “the Son of God,” Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:26–38). Mary was also believing. She wondered how she could conceive: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). But she never questioned the angel was sent from God or that what he said was true. Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” testified of Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (v. 45). Mary’s humble reverence, thankfulness, and love for God is seen in her magnificent Magnificat, as Luke 1:46–55 is often called. It begins, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.… For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name” (vv. 47, 49).

We know even less of Joseph than of Mary. His father’s name was Jacob (Matt. 1:16) and he was a craftsman, a construction worker (tektōn), probably a carpenter (Matt. 13:55). Most importantly, he was a “righteous man” (1:19), an Old Testament saint.

It is possible that both Joseph and Mary were quite young when they were betrothed. Girls were often betrothed as young as twelve or thirteen, and boys when they were several years older than that.

By Jewish custom, a betrothal signified more than an engagement in the modern sense. A Hebrew marriage involved two stages, the kiddushin (betrothal) and the huppah (marriage ceremony). The marriage was almost always arranged by the families of the bride and groom, often without consulting them. A contract was made and was sealed by payment of the mohar, the dowry or bride price, which was paid by the groom or his family to the bride’s father. The mohar served to compensate the father for wedding expenses and to provide a type of insurance for the bride in the event the groom became dissatisfied and divorced her. The contract was considered binding as soon as it was made, and the man and woman were considered legally married, even though the marriage ceremony (huppah) and consummation often did not occur until as much as a year later. The betrothal period served as a time of probation and testing of fidelity. During that period the bride and groom usually had little, if any, social contact with each other.

Joseph and Mary had experienced no sexual contact with each other, as the phrase before they came together indicates. Sexual purity is highly regarded in Scripture, in both testaments. God places great value on sexual abstinence outside of marriage and sexual fidelity within marriage. Mary’s virginity was an important evidence of her godliness. Her reason for questioning Gabriel’s announcement of her conception was the fact that she knew she was a virgin (Luke 1:34). This testimony protects from accusation that Jesus was born of some other man.

But Mary’s virginity protected a great deal more than her own moral character, reputation, and the legitimacy of Jesus’ birth. It protected the nature of the divine Son of God. The child is never called the son of Joseph; Joseph is never called Jesus’ father, and Joseph is not mentioned in Mary’s song of praise (Luke 1:46–55). Had Jesus been conceived by the act of a man, whether Joseph or anyone else, He could not have been divine and could not have been the Savior. His own claims about Himself would have been lies, and His resurrection and ascension would have been hoaxes. And mankind would forever remain lost and damned.

Obviously Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit is a great mystery. Even had He wanted to do so, how could God have explained to us, in terms we could comprehend, how such a blending of the divine and human could have been accomplished? We could no more fathom such a thing than we can fathom God’s creating the universe from nothing, His being one God in three Persons, or His giving an entirely new spiritual nature to those who trust in His Son. Understanding of such things will have to await heaven, when we see our Lord “face to face” and “know fully just as [we] have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). We accept it by faith.

The virgin birth should not have surprised those Jews who knew and believed the Old Testament. Because of a misinterpretation of the phrase “A woman shall encompass a man” in Jeremiah 31:22, many rabbis believed the Messiah would have an unusual birth. They said, “Messiah is to have no earthly father,” and “the birth of Messiah shall be like the dew of the Lord, as drops upon the grass without the action of man.” But even that poor interpretation of an obscure text (an interpretation also held by some of the church Fathers) assumed a unique birth for the Messiah.

Not only had Isaiah indicated such a birth (7:14), but even in Genesis we get a glimpse of it. God spoke to the serpent of the enmity that would henceforth exist between “your seed and her [Eve’s] seed” (Gen. 3:15). In a technical sense the seed belongs to the man, and Mary’s impregnation by the Holy Spirit is the only instance in human history that a woman had a seed within her that did not come from a man. The promise to Abraham concerned “his seed,” a common way of referring to offspring. This unique reference to “her seed” looks beyond Adam and Eve to Mary and to Jesus Christ. The two seeds of Genesis 3:15 can be seen in a simple sense as collective; that is, they may refer to all those who are part of Satan’s progeny and to all those who a part of Eve’s. That view sees the war between the two as raging for all time, with the people of righteousness eventually gaining victory over the people of evil. But “seed” also can be singular, in that it refers to one great, final, glorious product of a woman, who will be the Lord Himself—born without male seed. In that sense the prediction is messianic. It may be that the prophecy looks to both the collective and the individual meanings.

Paul is very clear when he tells us that “When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). There is no human father in that verse. Jesus had to have one human parent or He could not have been human, and thereby a partaker of our flesh. But He also had to have divine parentage or He could not have made a sinless and perfect sacrifice on our behalf.

The Virgin Birth Confronted

And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (1:19–20)

As already mentioned, although Joseph and Mary were only betrothed at this time (v. 18), he was considered her husband and she was considered his wife. For the very reason that he was a righteous man, Joseph had a double problem, at least in his own mind. First, because of his righteous moral standards, he knew that he should not go through with the marriage because of Mary’s pregnancy. He knew that he was not the father and assumed, quite naturally, that Mary had had relations with another man. But second, because of his righteous love and kindness, he could not bear the thought of shaming her publicly (a common practice of his day in regard to such an offense), much less of demanding her death, as provided by the law (Deut. 22:23–24). There is no evidence that Joseph felt anger, resentment, or bitterness. He had been shamed (if what he assumed had been true), but his concern was not for his own shame but for Mary’s. He was not wanting to disgrace her by public exposure of her supposed sin. Because he loved her so deeply he determined simply to put her away secretly.

Apoluō means literally to put … away, as translated here, but was the common term used for divorce. Joseph’s plan was to divorce her secretly, though before long everyone would have guessed it when the marriage never materialized. But for a while, at least, she would be protected, and she would live.

While he considered this, however, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and allayed his fears. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid [stop being afraid] to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” This verse emphasizes the supernatural character of the whole event. To reinforce the encouraging words, as well as to verify Jesus’ royal lineage, the angel addressed Joseph as son of David. Even though He was not the real son of Joseph, Jesus was his legal son. His Father, in actuality, was God, who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit. But His royal right in the Davidic line came by Joseph.

The phrase that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit is profound. In those words is the ultimate testimony to the virgin birth. It is the testimony of the holy angel from the Lord God Himself.

One critic has waved his fist at God and called Him an unholy liar with these words: “There was nothing peculiar about the birth of Jesus. He was not God incarnate and no virgin mother bore him. The church in its ancient zeal fathered a myth and became bound to it as a dogma.” But the testimony of Scripture stands.

The Virgin Birth Clarified

“And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (1:21)

As if to reinforce the truth of Jesus’ divine conception, the angel tells Joseph that she will bear a Son. Joseph would act as Jesus’ earthly father, but he would only be a foster father. Luke’s genealogy of Jesus through Mary’s line accurately says He was “supposedly the son of Joseph” (3:23, emphasis added).

Joseph was told to name the Son … Jesus, just as Zacharias was told to name his son John (Luke 1:13). We are not told the purpose or significance of John’s name, but that of Jesus was made clear even before His birth. Jesus is a form of the Hebrew Joshua, Jeshua, or Jehoshua, the basic meaning of which is “Jehovah (Yahweh) will save.” All other men who had those names testified by their names to the Lord’s salvation. But this One who would be born to Mary not only would testify of God’s salvation, but would Himself be that salvation. By His own work He would save His people from their sins.

The Virgin Birth Connected

Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (1:22–23)

At this point Matthew explains that Jesus’ virgin birth was predicted by God in the Old Testament. The Lord clearly identifies the birth of Christ as a fulfillment of prophecy. All this refers to the facts about the divine birth of Jesus Christ. And the great miracle of His birth was the fulfillment of what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet. That phrase gives a simple, straightforward definition of biblical inspiration as the Word of the Lord coming through human instruments. God does the saying; the human instrument is only a means to bring the divine Word to men. Based on these words of the Lord given through Matthew, the Old Testament text of Isaiah must be interpreted as predicting the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

Matthew repeatedly uses the phrase might be fulfilled (2:15, 17, 23; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54; etc.) to indicate ways in which Jesus, and events related to His earthly ministry, were fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy. The basic truths and happenings of the New Testament were culminations, completions, or fulfillments of revelation God had already made—though often the revelation had been in veiled and partial form.

The scene in Isaiah 7 is the reign of King Ahaz in Judah. Though son of the great Uzziah, he was a wicked king. He filled Jerusalem with idols, reinstated the worship of Molech, and burned his own son as a sacrifice to that god. Rezin, king of Syria (Aram), and Pekah, king of Israel (also called Samaria at that time), decided to remove Ahaz and replace him with a king who would do their bidding. In the face of such a threat to the people of Israel and to the royal line of David, Ahaz, instead of turning to God for help, sought the help of Tiglath-pileser, the evil king of the Assyrians. He even plundered and sent to Tiglath-pileser the gold and silver from the Temple.

Isaiah came to Ahaz and reported that God would deliver the people from the two enemy kings. When Ahaz refused to listen, Isaiah responded with the remarkable messianic prophecy of 7:14.

How did a prediction of the virgin birth of Messiah fit that ancient scene? Isaiah was telling the wicked king that no one would destroy the people of God or the royal line of David. When the prophet said, “The Lord shall give you a sign,” he used a plural you, indicating that Isaiah was also speaking to the entire nation, telling them that God would not allow Rezin and Pekah, or anyone else, to destroy them and the line of David (cf. Gen. 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:13). Even though the people came into the hands of Tiglath-pileser, who destroyed the northern kingdom and overran Judah on four occasions, God preserved them just as He promised.

Isaiah also refers to another child who would be born; and before that child (Maher-shalal-hash-baz) would be old enough to “eat curds and honey” or “know enough to refuse evil and choose good,” the lands of Rezin and Pekah would be forsaken (7:15–16). Sure enough, before the child born to Isaiah’s wife was three years old those two kings were dead. Just as that ancient prophecy of a child came to pass, so did the prophecy of the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both were signs that God would not ultimately forsake His people. The greatest sign was that Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us,” would come.

In Isaiah 7:14, the verse here quoted by Matthew, the prophet used the Hebrew word ’almâ. Old Testament usage of ’almâ favors the translation “virgin.” The word first appears in Genesis 24:43, in connection with Rebekah, the future bride of Isaac. The King James Version reads, “Behold I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water.” In verse 16 of the same chapter Rebekah is described as a “damsel” (na’ărâ) and a “virgin” (betûlâ). It should be concluded that ’almâ is never used to refer to a married woman. The word occurs five other times in Scripture (Ex. 2:8; Ps. 68:25; Prov. 30:19; Song of Sol. 1:3; 6:8), and in each case contains the idea of a virgin. Until recent times, it was always translated as such by both Jewish and Christian scholars.

The most famous medieval Jewish interpreter, Rashi (1040–1105), who was an opponent of Christianity, made the following comment: “ ‘Behold the ’almâ shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel’ means that our Creator shall be with us. And this is the sign: The one who will conceive is a girl (na’ărâ) who never in her life has had intercourse with any man. Upon this one shall the Holy Spirit have power.” It should be noted that in modern Hebrew the word virgin is either ’almâ or betûlâ. Why did not Isaiah use betûlâ? Because it is sometimes used in the Old Testament of a married woman who is not a virgin (Deut. 22:19; Joel 1:8).

’Almâ can mean “virgin,” and that is how the Jewish translators of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) translated the word in Isaiah 7:14 (by the Greek parthenos, “virgin”)—several hundred years before the birth of Christ. The “sign” of which Isaiah spoke was given specifically to King Ahaz, who feared that the royal line of Judah might be destroyed by Syria and Israel. The prophet assured the king that God would protect that line. The birth of a son and the death of the kings would be the signs guaranteeing His protection and preservation. And in the future there would be a greater birth, the virgin birth of God incarnate, to assure the covenant with God’s people.

Matthew did not give the term ’almâ a Christian “twist,” but used it with the same meaning with which all Jews of that time used it. In any case, his teaching of the virgin birth does not hinge on that word. It is made incontestably clear by the preceding statements that Jesus’ conception was “by the Holy Spirit” (vv. 18, 20).

The name of the Son born to a virgin would be Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us.” That name was used more as a title or description than as a proper name. In His incarnation Jesus was, in the most literal sense, God with us.

The fact that a virgin shall be with child is marvelous—a pregnant virgin! Equally marvelous is that she shall call His name Immanuel.

The Old Testament repeatedly promises that God is present with His people, to secure their destiny in His covenant. The Tabernacle and Temple were intended to be symbols of that divine presence. The term for tabernacle is mishkān, which comes from shākan, meaning to dwell, rest, or abide. From that root the term shekinah. has also come, referring to the presence of God’s glory. The child born was to be the Shekinah, the true Tabernacle of God (cf. John 1:14). Isaiah was the instrument through which the Word of the Lord announced that God would dwell among men in visible flesh and blood incarnation—more intimate and personal than the Tabernacle or Temple in which Israel had worshiped.

The Virgin Birth Consummated

And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (1:24–25)

That Joseph arose from his sleep indicates that the revelatory dream had come to him while he slept (cf. v. 20). Such unique, direct communication from God was used on other occasions to reveal Scripture (see Gen. 20:3; 31:10–11; Num. 12:6; 1 Kings 3:5; Job 33:14–16). It should be noted that all six New Testament occurrences of onar (“to dream”) are in Matthew and concern the Lord Jesus Christ (see 1:20; 2:12–13, 19, 22; 27:19).

We know nothing of Joseph’s reaction, except that he immediately obeyed, doing as the angel of the Lord commanded him. We can imagine how great his feelings of amazement, relief, and gratitude must have been. Not only would he be able to take his beloved Mary as his wife with honor and righteousness, but he would be given care of God’s own Son while He was growing up.

That fact alone would indicate the depth of Joseph’s godliness. It is inconceivable that God would entrust His Son into a family where the father was not totally committed and faithful to Him.

We know nothing else of Joseph’s life except his taking the infant Jesus to the Temple for dedication (Luke 2:22–33), his taking Mary and Jesus into Egypt to protect Him from Herod’s bloody edict and the return (Matt. 2:13–23), and his taking his family to the Passover in Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve (Luke 2:42–52). We have no idea when Joseph died, but it could have been well before Jesus began His public ministry. Obviously it was before Jesus’ crucifixion, because from the cross Jesus gave his mother into the care of John (John 19:26).

Apparently the marriage ceremony, when Joseph took her as his wife, was held soon after the angel’s announcement. But he kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son. Matthew makes it clear that she remained a virgin until she gave birth, implying that normal marital relations began after that time. The fact that Jesus’ brothers and sisters are spoken of numerous times in the gospels (Matt. 12:46; 13:55–56; Mark 6:3; etc.) prove that Mary did not remain a virgin perpetually, as some claim.

As a final act of obedience to God’s instruction through the angel, Joseph called His name Jesus, indicating that He was to be the Savior (cf. v. 21).

The supernatural birth of Jesus is the only way to account for the life that He lived. A skeptic who denied the virgin birth once asked a Christian, “If I told you that child over there was born without a human father, would you believe me?” The believer replied, “Yes, if he lived as Jesus lived.” The greatest outward evidence of Jesus’ supernatural birth and deity is His life.[1]

Matthew’s Witness to the Virgin Birth

Matthew 1:18–25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Each year on Christmas Eve our church holds a candlelight and carol service, and at the end of this service, after we have read all the Christmas lessons and sung most of the great Christmas carols, we stand in the candle-lit sanctuary and sing “Silent Night” together.

Silent night! Holy night!

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and Child …

In this way we profess belief in the virgin birth of Jesus as an important part of the Christmas story. And so do millions of others. Unfortunately, many do not believe it, and others who do, do not know why it is important.

In the early decades of this century, the virgin birth was a focal point for liberalism’s many denials of Christian truth. Those who believed the Bible recognized that the virgin birth is indeed biblical and rose to the doctrine’s defense, answering the liberal objections. They did such a good a job that eventually most liberals refused even to grapple with the arguments made on behalf of this truth. They just continued in their unbelief, as some people do, in spite of the fact that the Word of God clearly teaches the virgin birth and that the objections to it have been answered.

The Virgin Birth in Matthew

Much of this debate centered around the Old Testament text that Matthew cites as a prophecy of the virgin birth: Isaiah 7:14. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (Matt. 1:23). It has been argued that Isaiah’s word for the young woman, bethulah, does not necessarily mean “virgin,” though it usually does. It can mean merely a young woman of marriageable age. But whatever Isaiah meant in his own context is a secondary matter here, since it is beyond doubt that Matthew at least meant to teach that Jesus was conceived by God apart from any human father. He makes this clear in Matthew 1:18, which reads, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”

The account then goes on to explain that Joseph was disturbed by Mary’s pregnancy, as any man in his position would be. Being a righteous (that is, an upright) man, he did not think it proper to go through with the marriage and decided to break his engagement to Mary in a private manner. But while he was pondering this, an angel appeared to him to explain that Mary had not been unfaithful to him but that the child she was carrying had been conceived by God. The angel said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (vv. 20–21).

Joseph did as the angel had commanded, and the account concludes, “But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (vv. 24–25).

Two Parallel Accounts

One thing we notice, as soon as we begin to compare Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ birth, is that they are both quite Jewish in character. Luke was a Greek who wrote in a polished Greek style. A good example is the long opening sentences (one sentence in the kjv) with which he began his Gospel (vv. 1–4). But as soon as we get past the prologue we find ourselves in one of the most Semitic sections of the New Testament (Luke 1:5–2:52). J. Gresham Machen said of Luke’s prologue, “It would be difficult to imagine a more skillfully formed, and more typically Greek sentence than this.” But he added, “This typically Greek sentence is followed by what is probably the most markedly Semitic section in the whole New Testament.”

This is so unlike Luke’s other writing that we can only explain it by assuming that Luke got this material from an Aramaic or non-Greek source. He says in verse 3 that he had “carefully investigated everything [about the life of Jesus] from the beginning.” So Luke must have talked with those who had been eyewitnesses of these events. In respect to Jesus’ birth, Luke must have gotten his details from Mary, who would have been the original, best, and, at this late date, probably the only eyewitness of the nativity events left. Moreover, Luke must have received his material in some sort of written form, which may itself also go back to Mary.

When we turn from Luke to Matthew, we find that Matthew’s account no less than Luke’s is Jewish in character, evidenced, for example, in the matter of Joseph and Mary’s betrothal and the problem it presented for Joseph. In Jewish culture at that time, a betrothal carried such a weight of personal commitment that something almost like a formal divorce was needed to dissolve the engagement. This circumstance did not prevail in the Greek or Roman cultures of the time.

As we read on, we discover that five times in the opening two chapters Matthew explains what was happening by a reference to the Old Testament. He employs a standard formula for Old Testament citations, saying, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet …” (Matt. 1:22; see 2:5, 15, 17, 23). Then he quotes the text that prophesied the event he recorded. I have already referred to Matthew 1:23, where he cites Isaiah 7:14 as proof of the virgin birth. He does the same thing in chapter 2, where he cites Micah 5:2 regarding Christ’s birth in Bethlehem; Hosea 11:1, which speaks of God calling his “son” out of Egypt; Jeremiah 31:15, which deals with the people’s weeping for the slain infants of Bethlehem; and an uncertain text prophesying that Jesus would “be called a Nazarene.”

But there are differences between these chapters and the corresponding chapters in Luke. In Luke’s Gospel, the Jewish chapters are clearly out of place. They are a Semitic island in a Greek literary sea. In Matthew’s Gospel, they are not at all out of place, for the Gospel from beginning to end is Jewish, as I began to point out in the last chapter.

And there is this important difference too. When we study the specific content of Luke’s chapters dealing with Jesus’ birth, we find that the entire content and atmosphere are pre-Christian, which fits an early origin, such as a document going back to Mary. Everything that is spoken is in terms of God’s fulfillment of his promises to Israel. There is not even a suggestion that the reason Jesus came to earth was that he might die for sin. On the other hand, when we turn to Matthew’s Gospel, though it is clearly Jewish, it is also obviously post-Christian. That is, it was written after the death and resurrection of Jesus when the gospel of his atoning death was being proclaimed throughout the world. For example, it is said that the child’s name would be “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (v. 21). This reflects a later, gospel understanding. Similarly, in chapter 2, the significance of the Magi is that they were Gentiles and that Jesus was their king too.

True or False Accounts?

What is the relationship between these two accounts? When I consider parallel accounts (such as these or others in the Bible), I think of the way Reuben A. Torrey handled parallel accounts when he spoke of the resurrection. He pointed out that parallel accounts must have been produced by one of three methods: (1) They were invented in collusion, the people getting together to write their accounts, or (2) they were invented separately, that is, independently of each other, or (3) they were not invented at all but are factual records of observed events.

Into which of these categories do Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts of the virgin birth fit?

1. The accounts were invented in collusion. On the surface this is a possibility. The writers could have gotten together in Jerusalem when Luke was there with Paul on Paul’s last journey to the city. Luke could have said, “You know, Matthew, I’m writing a Gospel about Jesus, and I want to tell something about his birth. I wonder if you could help me with a few of the details.” Matthew might have answered, “That’s very interesting, Luke, because I’m doing the same thing. But I have to tell you that there’s not much firsthand information about it anymore. We are going to have to make most of it up.” So they would have put their heads together and begun to work out the details of their story.

Or there is another way it could have happened. We could suppose that Matthew had already written his Gospel and had passed from the scene. Perhaps he had died. But then Luke came to Jerusalem and, while researching the life of Jesus, came upon Matthew’s papers and made use of them for his narrative. Or again, both authors might have made use of an entirely separate account of the birth of Jesus that had somehow been floating around the city.

Do these possibilities explain what we actually have in these two Gospels? If Matthew and Luke made up these accounts, would there be the kind of noticeable, apparent discrepancies we find? Luke talks about an angel appearing to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus. Matthew has an angelic announcement too, but Matthew’s angel does not appear to Mary; he appears to Joseph. This is not a discrepancy. It might be expected that God explained what was happening to both Mary and Joseph. But this is not the kind of thing that would have been allowed to stand if these men had been creating their stories together. Luke would have said, “Matthew, that’s a good story you’ve got about an angel appearing to Joseph, but in my account I have him appearing to Mary. We can’t have both. We’ve got to decide who it’s going to be.” They would have picked one version only. Or if they had kept both, they would have included both versions in both narratives.

Here is another apparent contradiction. Luke tells about shepherds coming to worship the infant Christ. Matthew tells about wise men. I can imagine Matthew saying to Luke, “That is a very poignant and touching story you have there, but you have missed the point I am making. I want to present Jesus as Israel’s king, and for that reason I need to show that even Gentile kings bowed before him.” Luke might answer, “That’s a good point, but we haven’t seen many kings converted yet. Most Christians are simple people. Wouldn’t it be better if we talked about humble shepherds and forgot about the kings?”

There are other examples. Luke says that Joseph and Mary came from Nazareth and went to Bethlehem because of the decree of Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. But Matthew begins with Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1). Matthew does not mention Nazareth until the end of chapter 2. Again, Luke indicates that after Jesus’ birth the family returned to Nazareth from Bethlehem. But Matthew has an account of Herod’s murder of the innocents and of the family’s flight to Egypt, so that it was from Egypt rather than from Bethlehem that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus actually returned to Nazareth.

It is clear from these differences that the accounts of Matthew and Luke were not made up in collusion, for if they were, these seeming discrepancies would have been eliminated.

2. The accounts were made up separately. What about the second possibility, that Matthew and Luke invented their stories separately? Suppose Matthew was sitting in his little office in Jerusalem, and Luke was sitting in his little office somewhere else. They did not even know the other writer was working on a Gospel. They just decided on their own to make up stories about Jesus’ birth. If that were the case, we could understand the existence of differences, but we could not explain the strong, underlying agreements, for there is no mistaking the fact that we are dealing with the same basic story in each Gospel. The central characters are the same, and the central event, the miraculous conception of Jesus by means of God’s Holy Spirit, is identical.

When we put the accounts together, we have a long but consistent history. First, Zechariah was informed concerning the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5–25). The annunciation to Zechariah was followed by the annunciation to Mary, an account parallel to the first (Luke 1:26–38). Understandably, Mary then went to visit Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, Mary’s relative (Luke 1:36), stayed with her for three months, and then returned to Nazareth (Luke 1:39–56). Luke’s first chapter ends with the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57–80).

Matthew picks up the story at this point. He says nothing of what has gone before, but what Luke has told is necessary to understand what happens. Matthew tells of the discovery of Mary’s condition, of Joseph’s puzzled indecision, and then the explanation of what was happening to Joseph by the angel (Matt. 1:18–25).

Luke continues by telling of the journey to Bethlehem, which explains how the couple got there (Luke 2:1–5). Matthew and Luke both record the birth, though Luke, who is writing from Mary’s perspective, reports it at greater length (Matt. 1:25; Luke 2:6–7). Then Luke continues, telling of the visit of the shepherds to the manger (Luke 2:8–20), the circumcision of Jesus eight days after his birth (Luke 2:21), and the presentation of the child at the temple on the fortieth day, including several incidents linked to that presentation (Luke 2:22–40).

At last, Matthew records the visit of the Magi (Matt. 2:1–12), the flight to Egypt (Matt. 2:13–18), and finally the return to Nazareth, which is also told by Luke, though he does not relate the other instances (Matt. 2:19–23; Luke 2:39). It is impossible that there could have been this much harmony between the two accounts if they had been made up by Matthew and Luke working separately.

3. The accounts were not made up at all; they are factual. Where does that leave us? If we eliminate the possibility that the stories of the birth of Jesus were made up in collusion and the possibility that they were made up separately, the only other possibility is that they were not made up at all but rather are two, separate, accurate records of the events connected with Jesus’ birth as their authors knew them. All we must add is that, although these events are fully historical, they are also supernatural, for this is the supreme moment in human history when the supernatural broke into the normal flow of historical events by the grace of our good God.

Call Him “Jesus”

Yet, how simply the story is told! “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The explanation of the meaning of Jesus’ name is from the Old Testament, though Matthew does not draw attention to the fact. It is from Psalm 130, a psalm in which Israel is encouraged to “put your hope in the Lord” (v. 7). Why? Because, says the psalmist, “He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (v. 8). Even in the psalmist’s day it was clear that these words pointed forward to a redeemer and an act of redemption yet to come. But in Matthew, as we begin the New Testament, we learn that the time of that redemption has come and that the one who is to perform the work is none other than God himself in the person of his one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

What a name this is! Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Jeshua or Joshua, and it means quite literally “Jehovah is salvation.” This is the message that was conveyed to Joseph primarily, for he was told that the one who had been conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit was a divine Messiah, the one who had been promised from the very beginning of Israel’s history, and even before that, and that the work of this divine person would be a work of salvation, since “he will save his people from their sins.” The prophesy from Isaiah reinforces this, for in addition to predicting that the Lord’s conception would be supernatural (“the virgin will be with child”), the text also declares that he will be God incarnate, since his name will be Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isa. 7:14).

This is what captured the sanctified imagination of Charles Wesley when he composed the second stanza of his great Christmas hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Wesley must have had this passage in mind when he moved from the thought of Jesus’ heavenly preexistence to his incarnation, ending with the powerful name Immanuel.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,

Christ, the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of the virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail the incarnate deity,

Pleased as man with men to dwell.

Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King.”

Here is a point where, although we are still at the very beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, we need to look forward to the end. For at the very end, in the very last sentence, the promise of this text returns again. Jesus has been crucified and raised from the dead. He has appeared to his disciples to commission them for the work he still has for them to do. They are to go into all the world and there make disciples of all nations. He tells them how this is to be done. They are to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and they are to teach obedience to everything he has commanded. Then he concludes, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Immanuel! God with us! And to the very end of this age!

At the beginning of the Gospel we find that Jesus is “God with us” by a supernatural conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary. But here at the end he is still with us, and will be with us always.

What a wonderful list of names we have for Jesus! The Bible is full of them. He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega, the Ancient of Days. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is the Anointed One, the Messiah. He is our Prophet, Priest, and King. He is our Savior, the Only Wise God. He is our Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. He is the Lord, the Almighty. He is the Door of the sheep, the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. He is the Lamb Slain from before the foundation of the world. He is the Logos, the Light, the Light of the World, the Light of Life, the Tree of Life, the Word of Life, the Bread that came down from heaven, the Spring which, if a person drink of it, he will never thirst again. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. He is the Resurrection and the Life. He is our Rock, our Bridegroom, our Beloved, and our Redeemer. He is the Head over all things, which is his body, the church.

But above all, he is “God with us,” Immanuel, and he came from heaven to earth to save us from our sins.[2]

Joseph, Son of David, Accepts Jesus as His Son (1:18–25)

18 The Messiah’s origin14 was like this. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together she was found to be pregnant through16 the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband, because he was a righteous man and yet did not want to expose her to scandal, came to the conclusion that he should break the engagement18 privately. 20 But when he had decided on this, suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to accept Mary as your wife; for the child she has conceived is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because it is he who will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this happened to fulfill what had been declared by the Lord through the prophet, who said,

23 “Look, the virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and they will give him the name Immanuel”—which is translated23 “God with us.”

24 When Joseph got up from sleep, he did just as the angel of the Lord had directed him: he accepted his wife, 25 and he did not have intercourse with her until she had given birth to a son; and he gave him the name Jesus.

The “book of origin” has left us with an unresolved problem. Joseph has been shown to be the “son of David,” the heir to the royal dynasty of Judah, but in v. 16 Matthew has abandoned his regular formula to indicate that Jesus, the son of Joseph’s wife Mary, was not in fact Joseph’s son (and Matthew carefully avoids ever referring to Joseph as Jesus’ “father”). What then is the relevance of this dynastic list to the story of Jesus, son of Mary? These verses will explain, therefore, how Jesus came to be formally adopted and named by Joseph, despite his own natural inclinations, and thus to become officially “son of David;” the angel’s address to Joseph as “son of David” in v. 20 will highlight the issue.

Joseph’s decision is directed by God, through an angelic revelation in a dream. Specific emphasis is placed both in the angel’s message and in the subsequent narrative on Joseph’s role in naming Jesus, which was the responsibility of the legal father and which ensured the official status of the son and heir (cf. Isa 43:1: “I have called you by name; you are mine”). So not only is the name Jesus in itself theologically significant, but also the fact that it is given to him under divine direction, and by whom it is given. It is through this act of Joseph that Jesus also becomes “son of David.”

Joseph is persuaded to take this bold step by the assurance that Mary’s pregnancy is not the result of infidelity but is of divine origin. The tradition of Jesus’ virgin conception, already hinted at in the formulation of v. 16, is thus central to these verses, and is underlined by Matthew’s statement that Joseph had no intercourse with Mary until after Jesus’ birth. Here is the most impressive agreement between the opening chapters of Matthew and those of Luke, despite their almost complete independence in terms of narrative content (on which see above). What Luke achieves by his story of the angelic annunciation to Mary (Luke 1:26–38) Matthew conveys by the angelic announcement to Joseph. Mary’s incredulity in Luke 1:34 is matched here by Joseph’s initial natural assumption as to the source of the pregnancy, and each needs explicit angelic explanation to overcome it. Both evangelists specifically attribute the pregnancy to the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matt 1:18, 21), and both explicitly refer to Mary as “virgin” (Luke 1:34; Matt 1:23 with 1:25).

It is this aspect of the story which prompts Matthew’s first formula-quotation. The passage of Scripture which undergirds this first of the five narrative cameos in 1:18–2:23 is Isa 7:14, with its explicit mention (in Greek) of a virgin becoming pregnant and giving birth. While Matthew presents the quotation as his own editorial comment rather than as part of the angel’s message to Joseph, he expects his readers to incorporate this scriptural authentication for Mary’s unique experience into their understanding of why Joseph changed his mind. The Isaiah quotation underlines the assurance that this is from God.

But Matthew has noticed that Isaiah’s words also include the naming of the child, which is just what Joseph is now being called on to do. Unlike most of Matthew’s formula-quotations, this one sticks closely to the LXX text, but it diverges at one significant point. Whereas the Hebrew probably says “she” (the mother) will give the child his name, and the LXX probably28 says “you” (singular, referring to Ahaz to whom the prophecy is addressed) will do so, Matthew has a generalizing “they,” which leaves the way open for Jesus to be given his name not by Mary but by Joseph. The name given in Isaiah is not of course the name Jesus, but far from being embarrassed by the problem of two different names, Matthew draws the name Immanuel also into his presentation of the theological significance of the coming of the Messiah by adding a literal translation of it as “God with us.” Probably Matthew expected his readers to reflect that the “salvation” which is the explicit meaning of the name Jesus in v. 21 was to be accomplished by the coming of God among his people, but he has not made any such linking of the meanings of the two names explicit.

The phrase “God with us” which thus marks the beginning of Matthew’s presentation of Jesus will have its arresting counterpart at the end of the gospel when Jesus himself declares “I am with you always” with reference not to a continuing life on earth but a spiritual presence (28:20). Cf. also the remarkable words of 18:20, “Where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them.” At this point it would be possible to read Immanuel only in its probable OT sense as a statement of God’s concern for his people, “God is with us,” but the name as applied to one who has just been declared to owe his origin to the direct work of the Holy Spirit was probably in Matthew’s mind a more direct statement of the presence of God in Jesus himself, so that Jesus’ declaration in 28:20 is only drawing out what has already been true from the time of his birth, that God is present in the person of Jesus. Matthew’s overt interpretation of “Immanuel” thus takes him close to an explicit doctrine of incarnation such as is expressed in John 1:14.

Thus, while these verses do not use the title “Son of God”, Matthew could hardly have recorded both the supernatural conception of Jesus and the scriptural title “God with us” without reflecting on the fact that the Messiah is much more than only a “son of David,” as will later be made explicit in 22:41–45. When we are invited to reflect on God’s calling his “son” out of Egypt in 2:15, and still more when Jesus is explicitly declared to be God’s Son in 3:17, the ground will have been well prepared.

18 The order of the opening words, which is less natural in Greek than in my translation, draws attention again to the title “Messiah” by putting it first. Verse 1 has promised to reveal the “origin” of the Messiah, and the repetition of that word here (see p. 46, n. 14) shows that that promise is still being fulfilled.33 The list of names now requires to be supplemented by a narrative account in order to explain how the identity of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah can be recognized despite the unusual and potentially self-defeating way the “book of origin” ended in v. 16.

The difference between our modern concept of “engagement” and that of first-century Jews is indicated by the description of Joseph already in v. 19 as Mary’s husband and by the use of the normal word for divorce to describe the ending of the engagement. Though the couple were not yet living together, it was a binding contract entered into before witnesses which could be terminated only by death (which would leave the woman a “widow”) or by divorce as if for a full marriage (m. Ketub. 4:2); sexual infidelity during the engagement would be a basis for such divorce. About a year after the engagement (m. Ketub. 5:2; Ned. 10:5) the woman (then aged normally about thirteen or fourteen) would leave her father’s home and go to live with the husband in a public ceremony (such as is described in 25:1–12), which is here referred to as “coming together” and will be recorded in v. 24.

The role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ conception (which will be explained in v. 20; as yet Joseph knows nothing of it) reflects the OT concept of the Spirit of God active in the original creation (Gen 1:2; Ps 33:6) and in the giving of life (Ps 104:30; Isa 32:15; Ezek 37:1–14); cf. the possibility considered above that v. 1 is intended to suggest a new creation. The Spirit is also thought of in the OT as having an eschatological role in connection with the coming of the Messiah (Isa 11:2; 42:1; 61:1 etc.), and this theme will be taken up in 3:16–17, but the mention here links the Spirit not just with Jesus’ adult ministry but with his whole earthly life. The delicate way in which both Matthew and Luke express the process of Jesus’ conception contrasts sharply with Greek and Roman stories of gods (often having assumed the form of a male human or even animal) having intercourse with human women, resulting in the birth of demigod heroes like Heracles.

19 That Joseph was “righteous” is sometimes thought to explain his avoidance of a public scandal because he was “merciful” or “considerate,” but the more basic sense of the word is of one who is careful to keep the law. The law as then understood required the termination of the engagement in the case of “adultery;”38 in OT times the penalty for adultery was stoning. Deut 22:13–21 deals specifically with the case of a woman found not to be a virgin at the time of marriage, and 22:23–24 with that of consenting “adultery” on the part of an engaged woman. But by the first century (when Roman rule had abolished Jewish death penalties)40 divorce was the normal course. John 8:5–7, if historical, would then be describing a deliberately extreme response. As a law-abiding man Joseph would be expected to repudiate his errant fiancée publicly in a trial for adultery; for the force of deigmatizō cf. Col 2:15 where Jesus “makes a public example” of the principalities and powers, and for the public humiliation of an adulteress see m. Soṭah 1:4–6. If “righteous” is understood in that sense, therefore, it stands in contrast with rather than as an explanation of his desire to spare her; hence my inclusion of “yet” in the translation above. The resultant dilemma suggests to him the course, still legally correct but also more compassionate, of a “private” annulment of the contract, avoiding a public accusation of adultery and the resultant trial; the Mishnah allows for the divorce of a suspected adulteress before just two witnesses (m. Soṭah 1:1; for the necessity of witnesses to a divorce cf. e.g. m. Giṭ. 9:4, 8), though it is hard to see how this could long be kept secret from a society aware of the original engagement.42

20–21 My translations “came to the conclusion” (v. 19) and “when he had decided on this” reflect Matthew’s aorist tenses, which suggest that before the divine intervention Joseph’s mind was made up. Four times in these chapters we are told of divine communications to Joseph in dreams (cf. 2:13, 19, 22), in all but the last case with an angel as the messenger. It is fanciful to explain this by Matthew’s memory of the famous dreams of another Joseph in Gen 37:5–11, 19–20: the OT Joseph did not receive divine directions (or see angels) in his dreams and Matthew makes no attempt to connect the two Josephs; moreover he attributes comparable dreams also to the magi (2:12) and to Pilate’s wife (27:19). Divine guidance both by dreams and by the appearance of angels are of course a regular feature of OT spirituality, and would need no explanation. The point of their concentration in these chapters is to emphasize the initiative of God in guiding Joseph’s actions through this crucial period.45

The angel’s address to Joseph as “son of David” reminds us what is at stake in the decision Joseph has just reached: the loss of Jesus’ royal pedigree if he is not officially recognized as Joseph’s son. So, despite his previous decision, he is called to take two decisive actions, first to accept Mary as his wife rather than repudiating her and secondly to give her son a name, which will confirm his legal recognition of Jesus as his own son and hence as also a “son of David.”

The second part of the angel’s message (v. 21) corresponds quite closely to the wording of the quotation from Isa 7:14 which will follow in v. 23, though of course with Jesus’ actual name rather than the symbolic name Immanuel. The interpretations given to the two names (“he will save his people from their sins” and “God with us”) invite the reader to reflect on the nature of the Messiah’s mission. On the name Jesus see above on v. 1. The Hebrew Yehôšuaʿ is normally taken to mean “Yahweh is salvation,” so that the interpretation in terms of saving from sin derives from the popular Hebrew understanding of the name; the similarity to the Hebrew verb yôšîaʿ (“he will save”) may have helped with Matthew’s formulation of the meaning of the name in a future verb, “he will save.” But whereas the OT name spoke of God as the savior, Mary’s son is himself to be the agent of salvation; here is scope for profound christological reflection on the part of any of Matthew’s readers who can see behind the common Greek name to its Hebrew origin. “His people” in relation to the mission of a “son of David” must in the first place denote Israel,47 but even if at this stage Matthew’s readers have not yet recognized the universalistic implications of the title “son of Abraham” and of the non-Israelite women in the genealogy they will not have to read far into the book before they become aware that the scope of salvation is being spread more widely. Indeed, one of the key issues which will dominate the final confrontation in Jerusalem, and will be brought to its climax in 28:18–20, will be who are to constitute the continuing people of God and the role of Jesus in bringing into being what he will significantly describe in 16:18 as “my ecclesia.”

This universal scope of the Messiah’s mission is not as yet on the surface, but there is a clear break from popular Jewish expectation in the statement that the salvation Jesus will achieve will be “from their sins.” Several OT eschatological passages speak of the need for sins to be atoned for and forgiven, e.g. Isa 53:4–12; Jer 31:31–34; Ezek 36:25–31. But while the spiritual condition of God’s people was still the concern of at least some contemporary messianic expectation (notably the Pharisaic hope expressed in Pss. Sol. 17:21–46, though there it is intertwined with political restoration), there seems little doubt that the dominant concern in first-century Jewish hope was with their political subjection, with the restoration of the kingdom of David as the messianic goal. The angel’s words thus signal at the start that any political euphoria which may have been evoked by the Davidic and royal theme of the “book of origin” is wide of the mark of what Jesus’ actual mission is to be. His ministry will begin in the context of a call to repentance from sin (3:2, 6; 4:17), and while the focus of that ministry will be on teaching, healing and exorcism, he will also assert his “authority on earth to forgive sins” (9:6). His mission will culminate in his death “as a ransom for many,” (20:28) “for the forgiveness of sins.” (26:28) This son of David will not conform to the priorities of popular messianic expectation.

22 Matthew now introduces the first of his “formula-quotations” (see above, pp. 11–14), which typically take the form of editorial comment on the incident being narrated. Formally, this quotation interrupts the narrative, but its role is in fact central to the pericope, which has been framed so as to demonstrate the fulfillment of the prophecy (note that phrases from Isa 7:14 are echoed in the narrative of vv. 18, 21, 25). The introductory formula in these quotations varies, the common factor (except in 2:5 and 23, see comments there) being the phrase “to fulfill (or “then was fulfilled”) what had been declared through the prophet [sometimes named], who said.” There are two expansions of the basic formula here. “What had been declared” is here (and in 2:15) explained by adding “by the Lord.” The verb-form translated “declared”54 has a solemn, formulaic ring, and is used in the NT only by Matthew: in addition to its repetition ten times in this formula his other three uses of it are all to introduce a biblical quotation or allusion (3:3; 22:31; 24:15); “by the Lord” therefore makes explicit what the verb-form already implies, the authoritative declaration of God in Scripture. The other expansion is the opening phrase “All this happened” (cf. 21:4, “This happened;” in 26:56 the same wording as here introduces a general statement of scriptural fulfillment rather than a specific quotation), and again the language is slightly artificial in that Matthew uses the perfect of ginomai rather than the aorist which he normally uses in narrative. The effect of this addition is to ensure that the reader looks for the fulfillment of Isa 7:14 not only in the virgin conception of Jesus but in the whole complex of events which “have come to pass,” including conception, birth, and especially the naming of the child.

23 A reader familiar with modern study of Isaiah will notice two problems about Matthew’s first formula-quotation. In the first place, while the LXX, which Matthew follows (except for one word) unambiguously refers to “the virgin,” English versions of Isaiah generally translate the Hebrew as “the young woman.” The definite article suggests that a particular woman is in view, but the context does not identify her; interpreters have suggested Ahaz’s wife (note that the prophecy is addressed to the “house of David,” v. 13) or Isaiah’s (in view of the similar symbolic use made of the birth of Isaiah’s son in 8:1–4). But if this is what he meant it is remarkable that Isaiah did not use the normal Hebrew word for a “woman” or “wife,” ʾiššâ, which would be expected of a childbirth within marriage. The word that is actually used is ʿalmâ, which occurs very rarely in the OT. While it is clear from some of those OT contexts that the ʿalmâ is sexually mature, the word is not used elsewhere of a married woman; the person referred to as ʿalmâ in Gen 24:43 has been specifically described as a virgin in v. 16. Isaiah’s choice of this unusual word in connection with childbirth therefore draws attention; it does not explicitly mean “virgin” (the Hebrew for which is betûlâ), but it suggests something other than a normal childbirth within marriage. It was presumably on this basis that LXX translated it by parthenos (“virgin”). Matthew is following the LXX, but the Hebrew underlying it is sufficiently unusual to suggest that it was not an arbitrary translation.

The second problem is that Isaiah’s prophecy, uttered to Ahaz in about the year 735 b.c., is not about an event in the distant future. Its point is to specify the time of the imminent devastation of both Judah’s enemies and Judah herself through the Assyrian invasion: it will be before the son called Immanuel, soon to be born, has grown up (Isa 7:15–17). This raises an issue which we will note several times in Matthew’s use of OT prophecy, that whereas we prefer to think of a single specific fulfillment of a prophet’s prediction, Matthew’s typological interest leads him rather to find patterns which will recur repeatedly throughout God’s dealings with his people. In this case, he has good warrant for taking the prophecy concerning Immanuel as having a relevance beyond its undoubted immediate aim, for the name Immanuel will occur again in Isa 8:8 as that of the one to whom the land of Judah belongs, and its meaning will be developed in 8:10, “for God is with us.” Moreover, the prophecy in 7:14 of the birth to the “house of David” (Isa 7:13) of a child with so extraordinary an honorific title prepares us for the even more remarkable description in 9:6–7 of a child who is to be born “for us,” and whose multiple and still more extravagant title marks him out not only as the Messiah of the line of David but also as “Mighty God, Everlasting Father.” The theme will be taken up again in 11:1–5 with the prophecy of the spiritually-endowed “shoot from the stump of Jesse.” These last two passages would have been recognized then, as they still are today, as messianic prophecies, and it seems likely that Isaiah’s thought has moved progressively from the virgin’s child, “God with us,” to whom the land of Judah belongs, to these fuller expressions of the Davidic hope. If then Isa 7:14 is taken as the opening of what will be the developing theme of a wonder-child throughout Isaiah 7–11, it can with good reason be suggested that it points beyond the immediate political crisis of the eighth century b.c., not only in Matthew’s typological scheme but also in Isaiah’s intention.

To focus on these issues raised by modern scholarship is, however, to be distracted from the purpose of Matthew in including this quotation. There are three elements in this Isaiah text which would have attracted Matthew’s attention, two with regard to his immediate narrative context (a child born to a virgin mother, and the naming of the child) and one in relation to his underlying christology, the title “God with us.” His one deviation from the LXX is in the plural subject of the verb, “they will call.” In his immediate narrative context it will be Joseph who will give the child his name (which neither the Hebrew “she will call” nor the LXX “you will call” would have allowed), but that name will be Jesus, not Immanuel. Matthew’s plural may therefore be looking ahead to what “people” (especially those whom he will “save from their sins,” v. 21) will eventually learn to say about Jesus, that in him God is with us. We have no indication that Matthew’s plural verb came from any source other than his own creative interpretation of the text.67 For the theological significance of the title Immanuel see introductory comments above.

24–25 Matthew’s editorial comment in vv. 22–23 has interrupted the flow of the narrative which now resumes from the end of v. 21. Joseph’s obedient response to the angel’s words is indicated by the repetition of the same words to describe the first and third of his actions, accepting his wife and giving his son the name Jesus. But between these two actions, which together completed the legal “adoption” of Jesus as Joseph’s son, Matthew mentions a third which was not explicit in the angel’s instructions: “he did not have intercourse with her until she had given birth.” For Joseph to “accept” his wife required the public completion of the marriage by taking Mary to his own house (the “coming together” of v. 18), which would normally have been the point at which sexual relations began. Matthew does not explain Joseph’s abstinence, but it is not hard to understand it in the light of the assurance that Mary was pregnant “through the Holy Spirit.” If Matthew has an apologetic reason for inserting this statement, it is presumably to take away any doubt as to the supernatural origin of Mary’s child. There is nothing in his text to suggest that he subscribed to the later idea of Mary’s “perpetual virginity,” and indeed the “until” most naturally indicates that after Jesus was born normal marital relations began (as indeed the straight-forward sense of Jesus having “brothers and sisters” requires, 13:55–56; cf. Luke 2:7, “her first-born son”).

The pericope concludes triumphantly with the naming of Jesus. Verse 21 has explained the theological significance of the name, and the whole chapter so far has set up the problem of legal parentage to which this is the essential answer. Jesus of Nazareth is now securely adopted as “son of David.”[3]

The Origin of Jesus

Matthew 1:18–25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 1:18)

In our home we tell the story of each child’s birth once a year, on her birthday. One telling begins, “It was a stormy night, late in the fall, when the last leaves were clinging to the trees.” We then proceed to tales of sleepless nights, intimidating nurses, tender moments, and ardent prayers. After the birth story, we share anecdotes from the first months of life, stories that hint at the character of the life we celebrate: “At six months, you were already crawling all over the house and you have moved nonstop ever since.” Just so, Matthew features the story of Jesus’ birth, but more, for his birth is merely the beginning. Matthew describes the beginning of Jesus’ life so that it foreshadows much of the rest of his life.

The text begins, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about,” but close reading shows that we are not yet considering the birth itself. It is more the story of the virgin conception of Jesus, as the eternal Son of God becomes a man. God’s Spirit forms the human baby in the womb of a virgin. His angel tells Joseph and Mary all they need to know to care for this child who was, months later, born into their family.

Matthew’s account describes more than a birth. In fact, the Greek word translated “birth” in 1:18 is not the ordinary word for birth at all. To translate literally, Matthew says, “The origin of Jesus Christ was like this.” Matthew wrote his account so all may know the origin and conception of this virgin-born child named Jesus.

The story is told from the perspective of Joseph and that makes sense. Through Joseph, his adopting father, Jesus receives credentials for his mission. Through Joseph, he is counted the Son of David. This fulfills the promise made long ago that Israel would have a David-like king, to rule the people with justice (2 Sam. 7:11–16). The Lord promised this to Jeremiah: “I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety” (Jer. 23:5–6).

The Israelites endured many an evil king while awaiting this Davidic deliverer. Sadly, they could have endured a thousand generations of disappointment unless something changed. But there were hints that God was orchestrating events, leading them to a climax. By the time of Mary and Joseph, the line of David had shown its sinfulness, its fecklessness. Indeed, in its calling to rule Israel, it was exhausted and all but invisible.

For this reason, Matthew reveals that Jesus is from the line of David, but not from the flesh of David. The promises to David’s line showed that Israel needed a mighty deliverer, a great and fearless king, a warrior to battle foes, and a man who loved God and his people more than life itself. Yet the history of Israel had been a sad tale of failed king following failed king. Human flesh could not deliver God’s people. They needed something different. This lesson is universal: No king or prophet can deliver us, for flesh and blood, by itself, cannot save. No politician or physician, no teacher or preacher, no father or mother, can deliver mankind.

Matthew says God has been orchestrating the needed deliverance. Since the Lord often uses names to reveal his purposes, he gives baby Jesus more than one name; no single name could describe all that he is. The baby is called both Jesus and Immanuel. Jesus means “God saves”; the name is given “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

Immanuel means “God with us.” The name Immanuel, says Matthew, fulfills a prophecy.

The birth of Jesus “took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, ‘God with us’ ” (1:22–23, citing Isa. 7). This is a surprise. The people had been looking for a son of David, but not for Immanuel. Perhaps no one genuinely heard the prophecy; nonetheless, one was given (the fact that we are deaf does not mean God fails to speak). The birth of Jesus, God’s Immanuel, fulfills several prophecies, some clear, others veiled.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit

Mary and Joseph are betrothed, not married, when the account of Jesus’ birth begins: “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (1:18). Mary and Joseph did not live in the same home. They were, Matthew says, sexually chaste; they had not yet “come together.” They were betrothed and pure, yet pregnant.

In Israel, betrothal was much weightier than engagement in Western societies today. It was so binding that Matthew already calls Joseph “her husband” (1:19). The couple did not sleep together during their betrothal, yet Mary’s body was swelling. Her body declared that she was pregnant. What a crushing blow to Joseph! He had never been with Mary but, so it seemed, someone else had. His bride-to-be was pregnant but was not carrying his child. He was a righteous man and wanted a righteous wife. If Mary had been unfaithful to him before they even married, what kind of woman was she? What kind of marriage could they have? In every moral, emotional, and legal way, he was right to plan to end the betrothal. Since betrothal was so binding, its termination amounted to a divorce. However miserable the thought, Joseph had to consider divorce: “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (1:19).

This determination indicates that Joseph was just and upright and wanted no part of a corrupt marriage. As a just man, he had every right to cancel the marriage. Joseph had never been with Mary, but she was pregnant. Given these (apparent) facts, it was sensible to put her aside. But Joseph was merciful too. He could have exposed Mary, as an unwed mother, to public disgrace and to severe penalties. A quiet divorce, however, would preserve some of her dignity. She would bear the consequences of her action, but would not suffer the most public humiliation. So Joseph settled upon a quiet divorce.

The Lord let Joseph struggle to solve his problem for a season before he revealed a better plan. He often works this way. He lets us make plans, then reveals a better way. When this happens, we must change our plans, as Joseph did. We must test our plans and purposes against God’s will, as revealed in Scripture and in the counsel of the wise. Sometimes, circumstances unfold in ways that suggest what God’s will may be. Even plans that look sound must be open to revision.

God wanted Joseph to proceed with the marriage and sent an angelic messenger to tell him why. Here we must purge our popular images of angels. In the Bible, angels are not cute and do not specialize in romance. They are as likely to say something frightening as to say something comforting. Their appearance in our realm is a rare, weighty, and awesome event.

Angels are God’s mighty messengers. There is a cluster of angel appearances near the birth of Jesus because it is such a weighty event. Here God’s angel intervenes for the sake of Joseph (and for our sake) so he will know what this virgin conception means: “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’ ” (1:20). Every phrase counts.

The address “Joseph, son of David” links the virgin conception to the Davidic genealogy. The Holy Spirit is the author of this life, yet Joseph has a role to play.

“Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” addresses his sad resolution to divorce the woman he loves. The angel assures Joseph that things are not as they seem. Because the child was conceived not by a man but by the Holy Spirit, Joseph can marry his beloved. She is as pure and godly as he had hoped. Into his new marriage, Joseph must adopt this child as his son. Jesus was conceived by the Spirit of God, but Joseph must adopt him into the line of David. From that line, the deliverer of Israel had to come. Therefore Jesus is both the Son of God and the Son of David. Because of the adoption, Jesus will grow up in a normal home, with both father and mother to love and nurture him.

“What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” The church traditionally speaks of the virgin birth, but the Gospels stress the miraculous conception, the virgin conception, of Christ. The miracle lay in the manner of Jesus’ conception. So far as we know, the process of birth itself was normal.

The Child’s Name and Mission

God tells Joseph the child is a boy and that his name must be Jesus: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (1:21). As we have seen, Jesus means “the Lord saves.” The Lord saves and delivers his people in many ways: he gives food to the hungry, he heals the sick, he comforts the brokenhearted. Many hoped the Messiah would save Israel from their Roman oppressors.

But the angel declares God’s agenda. Jesus will not save his people from physical enemies; he “will save his people from their sins.” Sin is the root of all other calamities. Yes, calamity comes from many sources: accidents, forgetfulness, disease. But the root cause of disorder is sin, and the greatest disorder is to be at odds with God. Jesus will save his people from that.

This birth of Jesus begins the unfolding of God’s salvation; it also fulfills Scripture. The precise words are instructive: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet” (1:22). That is, the prophet, Isaiah in this case, spoke as God moved him (2 Peter 1:21). These are God’s very words, spoken by a prophet, to prepare the way for God’s salvation.

The birth of Jesus shows that God is with us. In important ways, God is always with us. We can never flee from his presence. He is in the heavens and the depths, on land and at sea (Ps. 139:7–9). We can ignore God, we can deny God, we can curse God. But he never disappears. His reign extends over all creation, even, in a way, over hell itself. God is omnipresent. Nevertheless, Matthew says that with Jesus’ birth, God entered human history in a new way. He is with us, in power, for blessing.

Three times in the Gospel of Matthew we hear that Jesus is God with us: in the beginning, at its midpoint, and at the end. It is a crucial moment each time. In the beginning, we hear that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to save his people from their sins (1:21).

In the middle, we hear that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to purify his church. Jesus promises, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (18:20). We often use this verse to find assurance that God hears when we gather for prayer, and rightly so. But in its original context, Jesus had a specific prayer in mind. In the agony of church discipline, when a Christian persists in sin and will not repent, when the leaders deal with such rebellion, Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to preserve the purity of the church.

At the end of Matthew, Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to expand the church. Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus directed his disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations. It is a vast task, therefore Jesus declares, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:19–20). Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to empower the church to make disciples.

What a comfort to know that Jesus is God with us. I once traveled to Austria and Hungary on a mission trip. In Hungary, the main languages are Hungarian, Russian, and German. I understand no Hungarian, virtually no Russian, and a smattering of German, so it was a great comfort to hear my hosts promise that they would be “with me” at all times. Indeed, they were with me all the time—except when they were not with me. They were with me all the time, except when their car got caught in traffic so that there was no one to meet me when I arrived in the Budapest airport—where not one person spoke English. When I spoke at the planned conference, my host was with me all the time, except when I was in the care of my translator. Then I was with the translator all the time—except when he was late or had other business and handed me off to someone else. That “someone else” typically assumed that as an educated person, I could speak German, and so addressed me in that tongue. Otherwise, there was always an English speaker with me—except in the morning and at night and at some meals (!).

But in Christ, God is always with us. What a comfort when a child gets on a plane or travels to a camp or starts first grade or goes to college or moves to England. When we can no longer be with them, God is with them. What a comfort when we are lonely, sick, guilt-ridden, or afraid. Jesus is Immanuel—God with us.

Ahaz and Immanuel

The story of Jesus’ conception invites us to imagine a young woman, holy and yielded to God, astonished to hear that God incarnate has entered her womb. The eternal God will grow in her womb, will be her baby. We may also imagine a young man, holy and yielded, startled to find that his betrothed wife is pregnant, not by him. He will adopt this child, the Son of God.

It is the story of a young man and a young woman, but much more it is the account of God’s action. God entered human history, declaring that he is the God with whom we have to do. Immanuel is more than a title: it is a declaration that God has entered our realm and that we must reckon with him.

There are right and wrong ways to do this. This is so important that the Lord took pains to prepare his people to recognize the weight of it. To prepare us for Immanuel, he predicted it and sent a prototype of it. The prototype of the Immanuel principle came long ago, during the reign of an evil king of Judah named Ahaz.

Early in the reign of Ahaz, two neighboring kings, Pekah king of the northern tribes of Israel and Rezin king of Aram (or Syria), invaded his land, marching toward Jerusalem, the capital city. If they succeeded, they would install a puppet king and divide his country (the southern half of Israel) among themselves. Ahaz and the people shook with fear (Isa. 7:1–2).

Ahaz was not a believer, yet God sent Isaiah the prophet to offer him a gracious blessing. Isaiah said, “Do not be afraid.” The evil plan, the invasion, would fail (7:4, 7). Since Isaiah knew Ahaz might be skeptical, he added two thoughts. First, he warned: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (7:9b). Second, he offered a promise: “Ask the Lord your God for a sign” and he will grant it so you can be sure he will grant you this deliverance (7:11).

Unfortunately, Ahaz wanted no part of Isaiah or his sign. He did not believe the Lord would deliver him. Instead, he had his own plan of escape. To defeat two small powers—the northern tribes of Israel and Aram—Ahaz planned to appeal to the greatest power of his day, the king of Assyria. Ahaz, however, was unwilling to admit his plan to Isaiah, so he used a pious ploy, couched in religious jargon, to cover his rebellion. He said, “I will not ask [for a sign]; I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isa. 7:12).

Now it is true that we should not test the Lord. We should not demand that he perform signs or wonders for us. We should not tell God, “Do this and do that for me and then I will believe in you” (cf. Gen. 28:20–22; Ex. 17:1–7). But God had already resolved to give Ahaz a sign, as a gift. He knew Ahaz did not believe in him, so he offered a sign as a token of his strong love. Ahaz was saying, in essence, “I want no dealings with God—no gifts, no signs. I will care for my own destiny.”

Isaiah replied that whether Ahaz wanted a sign or not, he would receive one: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). Before this child knew right from wrong, the two kings attacking Ahaz would be destroyed (7:16). But after that, Isaiah said, God “will bring the king of Assyria” (7:17).

Ahaz intended to hire Assyria to fight for him, to make an alliance. He invited Assyria’s army to come and fight the invaders and then, most likely, to receive the booty from the defeated armies and a gift from Ahaz. We can imagine, therefore, that when Isaiah said Assyria would come, it pleased Ahaz, initially at least. Yet, Isaiah continued, Assyria would come and would deliver Ahaz, but in its own way. Assyria would come like a plague of flies, like bees swarming over the land, like a raging river sweeping over the land (7:18–19; 8:4, 7–8).

God had offered Ahaz a gentle deliverance, but Ahaz wanted a mighty warrior. Now, God says, Ahaz would find one. The mighty army of Assyria would come and sweep away the invaders. But the army of Assyria would be hard to control, like a flood, bursting the banks of a river. That army

will overflow all its channels,

run over all its banks

and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it,

passing through it and reaching up to the neck.

Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land,

O Immanuel! (Isa. 8:7–8)

When we hear “Immanuel” again, it seems like a poor fit for the context. At first we cannot grasp its meaning. Clearly, this use of “Immanuel” has no direct connection with the birth of a child then or with the birth of Jesus later on. Yet in context the sense is clear: God is with Ahaz, whether he likes it or not. Ahaz has rejected God’s deliverance. He said, “I want no dealings with God. I want to work with the king of Assyria.” In essence, the Lord replied, “Go ahead and work with the king of Assyria. Afterward he will work you over. Once his army comes your way, it will sweep over your land and do as they please. After that happens, you will know that I am Immanuel and you still must deal with me.” That is, if Ahaz refuses the gift of God because he does not want Immanuel, because he does not want God’s presence, then he must know that God is still Immanuel. God offered to be with Ahaz to bless, but if Ahaz repudiates that, then God is still present—to curse. He will let Ahaz taste the folly of inviting the Assyrian army into his land.

In the Old Testament, the principle of Immanuel teaches that if we reject God’s gracious deliverance and work something out for ourselves, we may succeed in the short run. Ahaz had deliverance for a day, when Assyria drove out the small invaders. But then Assyria stayed on, making Ahaz his vassal. Like floodwaters rising neck high, Assyria came within an inch of killing Ahaz.

So it goes to this day. When we work out our own deliverance, it often seems effective for a while. But then trouble comes swirling, up to the neck. Some find deliverance by drowning their sorrows with alcohol or drugs. It works for a while, then comes swirling up to the neck. People seek deliverance in money and career, in bodily health and strength, in education and skills, in families, in networks of well-connected people. They all work to a degree, for a season, but none can match the eternal, gracious deliverance God offers.

The original Immanuel prophecy meant that God offers to be present to bless. But if we refuse his blessing, he is still present, to judge. The original Immanuel prophecy of Isaiah bears a radical message: God is always present, always with us, either to bless or to curse.

Later on, Isaiah makes this point another way. If Israel trusts in God, “he will be a sanctuary.” If not, “he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (Isa. 8:14). Yet Israel’s lack of faith will not permanently thwart God’s plan. Deliverance will come through Immanuel, God with us. We must trust this Immanuel:

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

… upholding it

with justice and righteousness … forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

will accomplish this. (9:6–7)

Joseph, Mary, and Immanuel

According to Matthew, the blessed side of the Immanuel prophecy has now come. God has fulfilled it in the birth of Jesus. The promise of military deliverance for Ahaz prefigured something far greater. While the first Immanuel deliverance was powerful, it chiefly served to prepare for the second. In the first Immanuel, God offered to be with Ahaz in a sign. Now Jesus will be God with us in person. As before, it is God’s design to bless through Immanuel. Still, God has acted and, as we learned from Ahaz, Immanuel is here whether anyone likes it or not.

Some people respond to the birth of Jesus with indifference, much as Ahaz was indifferent to Isaiah’s promise of Immanuel. They think it is a nice tradition and an amusing tale that some people happen to believe. They may even be happy for friends or neighbors who are comforted to think that there is a supernatural power watching over them.

Such thinking completely misses the point of Isaiah and Matthew. Immanuel is not a religious option for those who choose to embrace it. Immanuel is the truth, whether we choose to embrace it or not!

Some people like to pretend uncomfortable events never really happened: Stalin’s murder of Ukrainian peasants, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the slave trade all somehow prompt groups that deny that such events actually happened. Others choose to block such tragedies from their minds. Nonetheless the tragedies did happen.

Immanuel happened too. Matthew declares that God is with us. If we believe, he is with us to bless and to save. If not, God is still with us, to call us to repentance. If you reject that, God is still with you, as judge. God’s deliverance is the only one that works in the end. Most people can work their plan for a while. But there comes a time when dark waters swirl up to every neck, when disaster or death looms. At that time we will want to be able to call upon Immanuel. He is our abiding hope.

Joseph and the Birth of Jesus, Our Immanuel

When the angel had finished speaking, Joseph awoke, believed, and “did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” That is, he “took Mary home as his wife” (Matt. 1:24). His submission to God was as powerful and complete as that of Mary, who also offered herself as the servant of the Lord. Joseph refused to be led by shame or anger. He laid aside the plausible plan of divorce and took Mary as his wife.

To make the supernatural conception of Jesus perfectly clear, Matthew says Joseph “had no union with [Mary] until she gave birth to a son.” Literally, Joseph “did not know her until she had given birth to a son.” Then Joseph took her newborn baby and “gave him the name Jesus” just as the angel had said (1:25).

What a tender picture of living faith! Mary and Joseph listened to God. They silenced their emotions of fear and shame and obeyed the Lord. Why? Because they understood that God is with his people to save. Because they were willing to listen to their Lord, whatever people might think or say. They show us how to listen and how to obey the voice of God rather than our impulses.

This portion of Matthew offers a picture of faith, but more than that it is an account of the acts of the triune God. The Father’s plan of redemption has come to the beginning of its climactic phase. The Spirit’s prophecy to Ahaz and through Ahaz set up the Immanuel principle that now comes to fulfillment. The Spirit also fashioned life in the womb of Mary and moved the hearts of Mary and Joseph to accept their role in the divine drama. Finally, the eternal Son has entered the world of humanity.

May the Spirit work in us to receive what God began to accomplish in the birth of Jesus. May we also submit our plans and our emotions to him, as Joseph did. May we give our hearts and minds to him as Mary and Joseph did. May we know that God is with us, to bless us, in every season of life. In every distress, let us turn to God for comfort. In joy and in blessing, let us not ascribe it to good fortune or hard work, but to Immanuel, who is present to bless. God is with us in the person of Jesus. May we have the faith, trust, love, and obedience to receive the blessings of Immanuel.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 11–22). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 21–28). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 46–59). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[4] Doriani, D. M. (2008). Matthew & 2. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 14–25). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

March 26 Evening Verse of The Day

16:3 Commit. Hebrew “roll.” The expression is unusual. It may mean that our plans should be entrusted to the Lord (Ps. 37:5), or devised with conscious application of the principles of God’s Word.[1]

16:3 Commit your work to Yahweh To commit one’s work to Yahweh is to trust Him (Psa 37:5).[2]

16:3 Only through union with Christ can we bear fruit (John 15:1–11).[3]

16:3 Commit. Lit. “roll upon” in the sense of both total trust (3:5–6) and submission to the will of God (Pss 22:8; 37:5; 119:133); He will fulfill your righteous plans.[4]

16:3 — Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.

How do we commit our works to the Lord? Not merely by asking Him to bless what we’ve already done, but by committing ourselves and our plans to Him before, during, and after we have done our work.[5]

16:3 The verb commit to is from a word meaning “to roll.” The idea is to “roll your cares onto the Lord.” Trusting the Lord with our decisions frees us from preoccupation with our problems (3:5, 6).[6]

16:3 The best way to insure that our dreams and goals will be achieved is to dedicate our works to the Lord. J. Allen Blair advises:

Occasionally we find ourselves disturbed and depressed, even in trying to do the Lord’s work. Could anything be further from what God desires? God cannot work through anxious hearts. Whenever a Christian reaches this state, he should stop at once and ask himself, “Whose work is it?” If it’s God’s work, never forget the burden of it is His, too. You are not the important person. Christ is! He is at work through us. What should we do then when things do not go well? Go to Him! Anything less than this is disobedience.

Prayer: “Give me the eye which sees God in all, and the hand which can serve Him in all, and the heart which can bless Him for all” (Daily Notes).[7]

16:3. Committing one’s plans (vv. 1, 9) to the Lord is essential to success. This verse, however, does not offer divine assistance to all plans. The fool (1:32) and the sluggard (6:9–11) are said to come to undesirable ends. Commit is literally “roll” (cf. Ps. 37:5).[8]

16:3. Given God’s sovereignty (v. 1) and human limitation (v. 2), the wise entrust (commit) all that they do to the Lord. Such trust includes submitting one’s plans to the Lord. When those plans accord with His will, they will be realized. It is a principle Christians articulate every time they pray, “if it be your will” (cf. Mt 6:10; Lk 22:42; Ac 18:21; Jms 4:15).[9]

Ver. 3. Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.Doing our duty is committing our way to God:

There is no instrinsic value in things. They only possess a relative value. All things depend upon seasonableness. The Scripture speaks of a “word in season.” If there can be words in season, there can be words out of season. A word not in season is merely a right thing in a wrong place. Therefore it is not the value of the thing in itself; there is no such thing; values are all from without. The idlest dream a man has is that a bit of gold has an intrinsic value. But a thing that is worthless to-day is not therefore worthless at another time. The word for to-day, in this text, is one of rest. Many people say that “committing your ways to the Lord,” is to tell them to Him when you pray. But that is only saying something. A large part of the piety of the people consists in saying feelings instead of doing. When we say “Commit thy works unto Him,” it is with a view to put down fret, fever, and distress, and to learn a lesson of the holiday of the soul, rather than of the work-day and mammon. Committing your burden unto the Lord is getting Him to carry it. It does not mean sit still and do no work. There is always something left for man to do, even when God takes the matters up. “Commit thy ways” must mean something in the spirit by which, while a man goes on in life, he gets the fret, and the burden, and the gall, and the weariness off his shoulders. There are two difficult and painful businesses. One is, to fit your circumstances to yourself; and the other is, to fit yourself to your circumstances. Ambition is seldom desirable. A profound sense of duty will do all that ambition can do, and leave nothing of the bitterness behind. Suit thyself to thy circumstances; do thy duty; and so commit thy way unto the Lord. Committing your ways is just the absence of ambition: it is to do thy work, and leave it to the great laws of God. He commits his ways unto the Lord who does his duty simply in the state in which he is. As to the results. The text notes the establishment of the thoughts—not always the success of the work—but the establishment of the man. Quietness—uprightness—“Slow gains and few shames.” Commit thyself, with all thy way, and work, and soul, to Him. Say thy prayers, confess thy sins, do thy little piece of work, and do it honestly; God will redeem thee, atone for thee, regenerate thee, be the guardian of thy tomb, fashion for thee a new body, weave for thee an eternal dress, and provide for thee “a house not made with hands.” Think of the blessed result. Be at rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him; He shall establish thy thought; He shall save thy soul; He shall crown thee with eternal peace. (George Dawson, M.A.)

Works and thoughts:

  1. The precept or counsel.
  2. The object, or thing itself, which is committed: “our works.” Either the works done by us, or the works done to, or upon us. Our affairs and businesses. Whatever action we go about, we are to commit ourselves to the Lord, and to refer ourselves still to Him for the disposing of it. We are to commit our works to the Lord in regard to our performance of them; to the acceptance of them; and to their success. Our conditions; those things which in any way concern us, we are also to commit unto the Lord.
  3. The act: “committing.” In a way of simple commendation: presenting them, and laying them open before Him. This is required in order that God may direct and assist us; and also as a piece of respect to God Himself. In a way of humble resignation. Implying that we have some sense of the difficulty and burdensomeness of those works that are upon us. This is necessary, that we may labour the more for strength and ability to the discharge of them; that we may be the more humbled for our failings and neglects in it, as coming short of that exactness and perfection that was required of us; and in reference to others, in a way of compassion; to pity those in the same condition: in a way of assistance, and concurrence with them, for easing their burden; and in a way of thankfulness and acceptance, by acknowledging that labour and pains which hath been taken by them. Committing our works to God must not be taken as allowing us to omit the doing of them. In a way of faithful improvement. Order, dispose, and direct all thine actions unto Him. Roll our works to Him as we would roll a bowl to the mark. Make Him the scope and end and aim of all our endeavours. In a way of thankful acknowledgment.
  4. The person to whom the deposition is committed. Consider His wisdom and knowledge; His strength and power; His faithfulness and truth; His willingness to undertake our burden. We are to commit our burden to Him, and to no one else: to the Lord, not to self; not to other men; not to fortune or chance.
  5. The promise, or argument to enforce it. Something implied in this sentence: “thy thoughts shall be established.” Where there are works there will be thoughts. Our chiefest business is composing and settling our minds. Establishing of our thoughts is a very great happiness and mercy. Something expressed. Thou shalt have a mind free from any other trouble and distraction when thou hast practised this counsel in the text. (T. Horton, D.D.)

Dependence on God:

The counsel implies—

  1. That all our purposes and all our doings should be according to God’s will.
  2. That none of our works can prosper without God.
  3. That it is therefore the imperative duty of intelligent creatures to own their independence, and to seek, on all occasions, the Divine countenance and blessing.
  4. That what is our duty is, at the same time, our interest.
  5. A general truth is expressed, that God will graciously smile on the efforts, and accomplish the purposes and wishes of him who, in all that he does, piously and humbly acknowledges Him and seeks His blessing. (R. Wardlaw, D.D.)[10]

16.3 God’s safe hands. Our activities and plans (av, rv, thoughts) will be no less our own for being his: only less burdensome (commit is lit. ‘roll’, as in Ps. 37:5), and better made.[11]

16:3 / Synthetic and progressive. The distinction here is from action to plans. If the actions are done according to God, then the plans will succeed. In Hebrew the imperative form can be considered the equivalent of a conditional clause (cf. also Ps. 37:5). Trust in God is also urged in Amenemope 22.5–7=23.8–10 (AEL, vol. 2, p. 159).[12]

16:3. Commit your works to the Lord, And your plans will be established.

This third verse continues the theme of verses 1–2 and uses synthetic parallelism to advance its point. The first line calls upon us to ‘Commit’ our endeavors to God. The verb is, more literally, ‘roll,’ and is used to describe rolling a large stone from the mouth of a well (Gen. 29:3, 8, 10). The idea here seems to be rolling one’s planned, and proposed, ‘works’ over onto the Lord. Through prayer, we roll the anxiety of whether or not our hopes and plans will come true over onto God (Ps. 22:8; 37:5; 55:22). ‘… [C]asting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you’ (1 Pet. 5:7).

The second line takes up ‘your plans’ (Prov. 16:1, 9), revealing that the parallel ‘works’ of line one were not yet completed, but merely projected. When we do put the burden of seeing our dreams come true upon the Lord, He promises they ‘will be established.’ The verb is one used to describe God’s work in creation (Prov. 8:27–29). God ‘established’ the heavens and the earth. So, we too are given the privilege of seeing our hopes, dreams and aspirations become a part of His-story for the world!

God does not guarantee any, and every, plan we may conjure up, but those which the Lord has had a part in (v. 1) and which He has been allowed to scrutinize (v. 2). When our plans are in line with His plan, our plan becomes a part of the story of God’s redemptive plan for this world. If we plan and undertake our dreams with utter dependence upon the Lord for their fulfillment (v. 1), and if we humbly acknowledge our accountability to Him (v. 2), He delights to mold our plans to conform to His and thus ‘establish’ them (Prov. 4:26; Ps. 90:17).[13]

3 This proverb draws the inference of the preceding two proverbs. Since the Lord assumes ownership of the disciple’s initiatives (v. 1) and he alone can evaluate the purity of the motives behind them (v. 2), the disciple should commit his planned deeds to the Lord (3a) to establish them permanently as part of his history that outlasts the wicked’s temporary triumphs (3b). Verse 2 implies that the Lord finds the prepared words and the performed deeds as pure, otherwise he would not effect either. When the motives are pure he will integrate them into his fixed righteous order (10:22; Ps. 127). The admonition commit to (gōl ʾel, lit. “roll to/upon” cf. Gen 29:3, 8, 10; Ps. 22:9, 37:5) connotes a sense of finality; roll it unto the Lord and leave it there. Gol ʾel is onomatopoeic; one almost hears the rolling sound of a stone. The indirect object the Lord, the sub-unit’s key word, infers rolling away from oneself. Works (maʿaašeh, from the common root ʿāsâ ʾto do make,” see 2:14) refers either to a planned deed (cf. Mic. 2:1) or a performed one (Gen. 44:15). The faithful must not fret or worry about their effectiveness, or even their purity, for that assessment and their achievement depends upon God, not on the doer (Ps. 22:9; 37:5; 55:23; 1 Pet. 5:7). Secular man, who feels so self-confident, paradoxically is plagued with fear. Pious people, who know God’s sovereignty and their limitations, live in prayer and peace. Conjunctive and links “your works” with your thoughts (see 12:5) that inform the deed. Verset B emphasizes their personal and subjective element by addition “heart.” Plans and deeds performed in conjunction with a total commitment to the Lord will be established (see 4:26) What you think in your inner creations will become overt historical events as enduring as the elements of the Lord’s cosmos (see 8:27–29).[14]

3 Plans, committed to God. For our plans to succeed, we must depend on the Lord. This proverb of instruction includes the result for compliance. The verb “commit” is literally “roll” (gōl, from gālal, though the LXX and Targum assume gal, “reveal”). The figure of rolling, as in rolling one’s burdens onto the Lord, is found also in Psalms 22:8[9]; 37:5; 55:22. It portrays complete dependence on God. This is accomplished with a spirit of humility and by means of a diligent season of prayer, but the plan also must have God’s approval.

The syntax of the second clause shows that there is subordination: the waw on yikkōnû, coming after the imperative of the first clause, expresses that this clause states the purpose or result of the first. People should commit their plans to the Lord so that he may establish them. Not every plan we have is pleasing to him; but for those that are, this verse is a great comfort. Greenstone, 172, says, “True faith relieves much anxiety and smoothens many perplexities.”[15]

[1] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 898). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 16:3). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1162). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 16:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Pr 16:3). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 762). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 831). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 940). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[9] Finkbeiner, D. (2014). Proverbs. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (p. 927). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[10] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). Proverbs (pp. 411–412). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[11] Kidner, D. (1964). Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 17, p. 111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[12] Murphy, R. E., & Carm, O. (2012). Proverbs. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (p. 80). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[13] Kitchen, J. A. (2006). Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (p. 351). Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[14] Waltke, B. K. (2005). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15–31 (p. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[15] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 145–146). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 26 Morning Verse of The Day

26:40 Could you not watch with Me one hour: Although addressed to Peter, the question was meant for all three disciples. Earlier Peter had claimed that he would never forsake Jesus and that he would even die for Him (v. 35); yet Peter could not stay awake to pray with Jesus at the time of His greatest need.[1]

26:40 “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping” Before we are too quick to condemn the disciples, let’s note that in Luke 22:45 the phrase “they were asleep from sorrow” describes that they were unable to bear the pain of Jesus’ prophecy about His own death and their subsequent scattering. Though Jesus longed to have human fellowship and intercession at this time of ultimate crisis in His life, He had to face this moment alone, and He faced it for all believers![2]

40. And he came to his disciples. Though he was neither delivered from fear, nor freed from anxiety, yet he interrupted the ardour of prayer, and administered this consolation. For believers are not required to be so constant in prayer as never to cease from conversing with God; but on the contrary, following the example of Christ, they continue their prayers till they have proceeded as far as their infirmity allows, then cease for a short time, and immediately after drawing breath return to God. It would have been no slight alleviation of his grief, if his disciples had accompanied him, and taken part in it; and on the other hand, it was a bitter aggravation of his sufferings, that even they forsook him. For though he did not need the assistance of any one, yet as he had voluntarily taken upon him our infirmities, and as it was chiefly in this struggle that he intended to give a proof of that emptying of himself, of which Paul speaks, (Philip. 2:7,) we need not wonder if the indifference of those whom he had selected to be his companions added a heavy and distressing burden to his grief. For his expostulation is not feigned, but, out of the true feeling of his mind, he declares that he is grieved at having been forsaken. And, indeed, he had good grounds for reproaching them with indifference, since, amidst the extremity of his anguish, they did not watch at least one hour.[3]

[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1195). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[2] Utley, R. J. (2000). The First Christian Primer: Matthew (Vol. Volume 9, p. 218). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[3] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 3, pp. 234–235). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

March 25 Evening Verse of The Day

22:14 “The-Lord-Will-Provide” is a play on the verb translated “provided.” The verb means basically “see,” as the English word “provide” is from the Latin, meaning “see beforehand.” God sees our need before it arises and makes provision for it.[1]

22:14 The Lord will provide. The Hebrew word here translated “provide” means “see,” or “see to it” (used in vv. 4, 8, 13, 14). The name by which Abraham commemorates the event shows that he perceives God’s revelation of His saving purpose.[2]

22:14 the mountain of Yahweh it shall be provided God provides a sacrificial ram as a substitute for Isaac. In response, Abraham names the place yhwy yir’eh in Hebrew (which may be literally rendered “Yahweh will see”). The narrative immediately adds “it shall be provided,” a descriptive reference to the ram. Since the ram was God’s substitute upon “seeing” Abraham’s faith, “provided” is an appropriate translation.[3]

22:14 Echoing Abraham’s earlier comment to Isaac in v. 8, the location is named The Lord will provide. On the basis of this, the belief developed (as it is said to this day) that God would provide the sacrifice necessary to atone for sin. the mount of the Lord. This probably denotes the hill on which the temple was later built in Jerusalem (see Isa. 2:3).[4]

22:14 — And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

The Lord will provide—always. He may surprise us, He may perplex us, He may make us wait. But He will always provide exactly what we need, when we need it.[5]

22:14 The wonderful name The-LordWill-Provide is developed from the faith statement of Abraham to Isaac in v. 8. Compare the name of faith that Hagar gave to the Lord, “The-God-Who-Sees” (16:13). As God provided a ram instead of Abraham’s son, so one day He would provide His own Son! Moriah is where Jerusalem and later the temple were built. And it was at Jerusalem that the Savior would die.[6]

Ver. 14. Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh.The Lord will provide:—

  1. The Lord will provide for the body. Temporal blessings, no less than spiritual, come to us through the medium of the covenant of grace.
  2. The Lord will provide food for the body. He will bring round the seasons without fail, and make corn to grow for the service of man.
  3. The Lord will provide raiment for His people. For forty years in the wilderness, amid the wear and tear of journey and of battle, the raiment of the Israelites waxed not old because Jehovah provided for them; and doth He not still remember His own?
  4. The Lord will provide for His people protection. Many times are they delivered in a most wonderful way, and to the astonishment of the world.
  5. The Lord will provide for the soul.
  6. Jehovah has provided a Lamb; in the gift of His Son we have the guarantee for the supply of every needed blessing.
  7. The Lord will provide for you His Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit comes to us through the atonement of Christ, and the sufficiency of the Sacrifice entailed and implied the promise of the Spirit, so that He who hath provided the Lamb is confidently to be trusted for this also.
  8. The Lord will provide for the soul an eternal home, as is clear from that word, “I go to prepare a place for you.” When the toils of life’s pilgrimage are over there remaineth a rest for the people of God. (J. Thain Davidson, D.D.)

Divine providence:—

This incident teaches—

  1. God’s right to our greatest blessings.
  2. Man’s duty in the highest trial.
  3. God’s providence in the greatest emergency.
  4. The provisions of the Divine interposition correspond exactly with human wants.
  5. Its provisions are obtained in connection with individual agency.

III. Its provisions are often strikingly memorable. (Homilist.)

God’s providence:—

In the season of extremity, God appears for the relief of His people.

  1. Severe trials are intended to prove the strength and purity of our faith. The Christian must walk by faith, not sight.
  2. And may not another reason be, to stir us up to fervency in prayer?
  3. We may also add, that the hand of God appears more obviously when He delivers just at the crisis of danger. Lesson: We need never despair of Divine help when we are pursuing the path of Christian obedience. (D. C. Lansing, D.D.)

The Lord our Provider, and none other:—

  1. In the first place it is a fact. God will provide. It is His province. It is His, as the Lord. Providing is not the child’s, but the father’s business. Work as I may, care as I may, it is still the Lord who provides. I work and the Lord provides.
  2. God does all His business thoroughly. Nothing that He ought to do, does He ever leave undone; and all that the Lord does, He does as God; not as man would do the thing, but as God alone can do it. If God provide, it must be in harmony with an eye that never sleeps, with hands that are ever working, with arms that are never weary, with a heart of paternal solicitude that never, never can change.
  3. Then, observe, while providing is God’s business, He does it in a Godly style. There is no doubt about God’s plans being carried out. God has not pleased you always in the provision He has made; and yet the provision has been sure and good. In plain language God has never neglected anything which He ought to have done for you.
  4. Now look at the time. When will He do it? Why, “in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” God allows you to come to the mount before He provides for you; that is, before He shows the provision. The provision is made long beforehand, but He does not show it. What does this fact say? Why this simple fact says, “wait.” If you cannot do a right thing to meet your own difficulties, do nothing. If you can do a right thing, and God give you the ability and the opportunity, that act may be God’s instrument for meeting your wants; but if you can do nothing without doing wrong, then it is quite clear you are to do nothing, and you are to say, “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” Now, why does God thus sometimes try you? Why! because you think too much of your own providing. Why! because you think too much of your fellow-creatures’ providing. Why! because you make gods of His creatures. (S. Martin.)

The Lord will provide:—

  1. Let us consider what God had provided for Abraham in time past.
  2. The Lord provided for him an unusual measure of faith.
  3. God had provided for Abraham a ram for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son.
  4. Let us consider the inference which Abraham drew from what God had provided for him in time past. “Jehovah-jireh,” said he, “the Lord will provide.” So much as to say, “What He has done is a pledge and an earnest of what He will do. Since He has shown so much of His grace and goodness to me in time past, He will show more in time to some.” Do you ask, What will He provide?
  5. He will provide for us in the life that now is.
  6. God will provide for us in that life which is to come.


  1. How precious is the grace of faith.
  2. How devoted should we be to the service of God.
  3. And lastly, how firm and assured should be the Christian’s confidence in his God. (D. Rees.)


  1. What will God provide? Two answers may be given to this question. One is furnished by the direct teaching of the passage, and the other by its inferential teaching.
  2. It is clear from the direct teaching of this passage that God will provide for the greatest necessities of His people. This was what He did for Abraham. And now the cross of Jesus stands before us as the grand illustration of the truth and meaning of this great covenant name, Jehovah-jireh. The Lord promised to provide a ransom; and the ransom is provided.
  3. And then there is an inferential teaching from this name—that He will provide for our lesser necessities. Jehovah has bridged the great gulf that once lay between us and heaven, and He will certainly bridge all the smaller gulfs that may meet us on our way.
  4. How will God provide?
  5. Wisely. He seeth the end from the beginning, and is infallible in all His plans and purposes. “The work of the Lord is perfect.” An important part of His work is to provide for His people. And when we apply the word “perfect” to this work, what an assurance we have of the wisdom that marks it! It is only when we lose confidence in this feature of God’s work that our hearts are troubled. Not long ago a Christian merchant met, unexpectedly, with some very great losses. He began to doubt the wisdom of that Providence which could allow such trials to overtake him. He returned to his home one evening in a gloomy and despairing state of mind. He sat down before the open fireplace in his library, “tossed with the tempest” of doubt and destitute of comfort. Presently his little boy, a thoughtful child of six or seven years, came and sat on his knee. Over the mantel-piece was a large illuminated card containing the words—“His work is perfect.” The child spelled out the words, and pointing to them, said, “Papa, what does perfect mean here?” And then, before his father, who was somewhat staggered by the inquiry, could make a reply, there came another question from the little prattler: “Doesn’t it mean that God never makes a mistake?” This was just the thought that troubled father needed to have brought before his mind. If the angel Gabriel had come down from heaven to help him, he could have suggested nothing more timely. And then the father, clasping the little one to his bosom, exclaimed, “Yes, my precious darling, that is just what it means.” His confidence in God revived. The dark cloud that had settled down upon him was scattered.
  6. Tenderly. He is the God of the dew-drop as well as of the thunder and the tempest. He is the God of the tender grass as well as of the gnarled and knotted mountain oak.
  7. Faithfully. He will provide for His people, not the things that they would most like to have here—not those that are the most pleasant and agreeable—but those that are the best. The foundation promise of the covenant is—“No good thing will He withhold.”
  8. Why does He thus provide for His people? Two motives operate with Him to do this. One of these has reference to His people; the other has reference to Himself.
  9. The motive in His people which leads God thus to reveal Himself as their Provider is their need—their weakness, or their want.
  10. The motive in Himself is because He has the fulness required to meet our necessities. In us is weakness, in Him is strength; in us is ignorance, in Him is wisdom; in us is poverty, in Him is riches; in us is emptiness, in Him is fulness. And it is from the blending of these two elements—this weakness in us and this strength in Him—that the resultant force is found which will lead us on to victory. Let us take a familiar illustration of this statement. Yonder is a little fly. It is walking over the ceiling of the room with its head downwards, and yet it walks as safely as you or I do on the floor of the same room with our heads up. And now let us take our stand near yonder massive rock, over which the waves of the ocean are dashing continually. See, there is a little mollusc clinging to the smooth side of that rock. The sea sends up its mighty billows to dash in foam and thunder on that rock. But they can no more move that mollusc that clings there, than they can move the rock itself from its firm base. And what gives to these feeble creatures the security that attends them in their positions of danger? Under the foot of the fly, as it walks over the ceiling, is a little vacant space, a point of emptiness. And there is the same under the shell of the mollusc, as it clings to the rock. The power of the atmosphere is brought to bear on that point of emptiness in the foot of the fly and the shell of the mollusc. This gives to the fly and to the mollusc all the security and support they realize. And the same principle applies to spiritual things. “When I am weak,” said St. Paul, “then I am strong.” When I feel my weakness, i.e., and take hold of the strength that is offered me, then I am strong. The fly and the mollusc make use of the weakness that is in them to draw strength from the atmosphere by which they are surrounded. This gives to the fly the strength of the ceiling over which it walks, and to the mollusc the firmness of the rock to which it clings. And in the same way the Christian who feels his own weakness and takes hold of God’s strength is made as strong—yes! tell it out with boldness, for it is the truth—is made as strong as the omnipotent arm on which he leans, and the Almighty Jehovah to whom he clings. (R. Newton, D.D.)

Jehovah will provide:—

  1. Look at the words as they bear on that grand central event in the world’s history to which they had a prospective reference, and in which they were destined to find their full accomplishment. For in this same place nearly two thousand years after—on or near the spot to which Abraham gave the name of “Jehovah will provide”—Jehovah did provide a Lamb for a burnt-offering, whose death will be the theme of all heaven throughout eternity! God never knew another from the beginning. I doubt not that Isaac was a Divinely ordained type of Him. Was Isaac the child of the promise? The true Child of the promise was Christ. Was Isaac long promised and long waited for before his birth? Four thousand years elapsed, of promise and long expectation, ere Simeon took up the Child Jesus in his arms, saying, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” Was Isaac’s birth supernatural? “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Did Isaac meekly submit to be bound to the altar on the wood? “He is led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.” But here the resemblances seem to stop. Or, if there be anything, as I doubt not there is much, in the semblance of Isaac’s death and resurrection, yet assuredly it is here but a shadow. For no sinner might ever die to expiate sin; and our God never would have a human sacrifice even to prefigure the true. But now behold, at last, “the Man that is God’s fellow!” Behold the Lamb for a burnt-offering—O yes, consumed by the fire of that Divine holiness and justice, of which the fire of all the burnt-offerings was but the shadow.
  2. “Hath appeared.” Abraham used the future tense—will provide. Are you in deep perplexity as to your path, and fearful of taking a false step? Write Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide counsel. The name of this Lamb is Wonderful, Counsellor—“I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way in which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with Mine eye.” Are you called to some arduous duty? Write Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide strength—“My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Are you straitened as to temporal provision? Write still this word, Jehovah-jireh, for “your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.” Do you anticipate painfully the conflict with the last enemy? Write Jehovah-jireh—“O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” And as for the eternity beyond, still write Jehovah-jireh, for “the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (C. J. Brown, D.D.)

God the provider:—

  1. What does God provide for His people? For their wants:
  2. Here.
  3. Hereafter.
  4. When is it that God provides for His people? Just when He sees fit; just as it accords with His infinite wisdom, and not as it accords with our carnal conceptions. He has “a set time” to favour Zion.
  5. In life.
  6. In sickness.
  7. In death.

III. How does God provide for His people? Little do we know of the numberless expedients to which God has recourse in His providence. (R. Luggar.)

The Lord will provide:—

No man who will tread in the steps of Abraham, that is, believe God and obey Him, will ever want a place on which to write Jehovah-jireh. He who shall do this may inscribe Jehovah-jireh on his purse, his table, his cupboard, his trade, his temptation, his trials, his afflictions, his dying day, and his future immortality. Faith—Obedience—The Lord will provide, are three points in the economy of God, as inseparable as the attributes of the Divine nature. (J. Bate.)

Money provided:—

Long before the establishment of Bible societies, the Rev. Peter Williams, a pious, distinguished clergyman of Wales, seeing that his countrymen were almost entirely destitute of the Bible, and knowing that the work of the Lord could not prosper without it, undertook, though destitute of the means, to translate and publish a Welsh Bible for their use. Having expended all his living, and being deeply involved in debt, with the work unfinished, he expected every hour to be arrested and imprisoned, without the means or hope of release. One morning he had taken an affectionate leave of his family for the purpose of pursuing his pious labours, with an expectation that he should not be permitted to return, when, just as he was mounting his horse, a stranger rode up and presented him a letter. He stopped and opened it, and found, to his astonishment, that it contained information that a lady had bequeathed him a legacy of £300 sterling. “Now,” said he, “my dear wife, I can finish my Bible, pay my debts, and live in peace at home.” (Ibid.)

Food provided:—

A lady, who had just sat down to breakfast, had a strong impression upon her mind that she must instantly carry a loaf of bread to a poor man, who lived about half a mile from her house, by the side of a common. Her husband wished her either to postpone taking the loaf of bread till after breakfast, or to send it by her servant; but she chose to take it herself instantly. As she approached the hut, she heard the sound of a human voice. Willing to hear what it was, she stepped softly, unperceived, to the door. She now heard the poor man praying, and among other things he said. “O Lord, help me! Lord, Thou wilt help me; Thy providence cannot fail; and although my wife, myself, and children have no bread to eat, and it is now a whole day since we had any, I know Thou wilt supply me, though Thou shouldst again rain down manna from heaven.” The lady could wait no longer; she opened the door, “Yes,” she replied, “God has sent you relief. Take this loaf, and be encouraged to cast your care upon Him who careth for you,” and when you ever want a loaf of bread, come to my house.” (J. G. Wilson.)

Our Provider:—

The Lord has made full provision for every human being. Behold the fields of fertile earth! Count the millions of acres on which we can grow food for man and beast. There is enough for each, for all, and for evermore.

  1. He will provide a path for our life. You have seen a book without a title-page, and may have thought, “My life is like this book; I came into the world by chance, as a mite is found on the cheese.” The Lord made provision for your life. He gave a body in which your spirit could live, eyes with which to see, the power of speech, the command of thought; and, having provided you with a beginning, He also prepared a path in the world for your life.
  2. The Lord will provide us with love. When you came into the world, He looked upon you with love, and His heart never changes. God is said to be like a sun. You can open your door and let in the blessed sunlight; and in the same way, you may open the chambers of your soul and be filled with the love of God.
  3. The Lord will provide us with pardon.
  4. The Lord also provides salvation for us.
  5. He has provided for us peace of soul. Yesterday, when coming down Oxford Street, I noticed a painter on the top of a very high ladder. People were passing to and fro continually, yet the painter did not look down, and he did not appear to have the slightest anxiety. I stood and heard him humming a song. He was in a dangerous position; on the top of a high ladder resting upon the flags with people passing who might jog against the ladder and knock it over; yet he sang forth in gladness, and when he saw me nodded with delight. What was the secret? I will tell you. At the foot of the ladder stood a man holding it firmly, and this man was his safeguard. The painter had perfect peace up there on the ladder; he knew that his friend at the bottom was holding it, and that if any one came near the ladder unawares, the man at the bottom of it would warn them off. Likewise, the Lord provides peace for all His people. He holds our souls in His hands, and nothing shall happen to us unknown to Him. He orders our steps, directs our paths, and numbers the very hairs of our heads. The man who knows this fact enjoys a solid peace which nothing can shake.
  6. Let me close by showing that He will provide us with the power of true manhood. (W. Birch.)

The cure for care:—

  1. The first thing that God provides for His people is—protection is danger. It is wonderful how many illustrations we find, both in the Bible and out of it, of the way in which God provides protection in danger for His people. When we open the Bible for these illustrations, they meet us everywhere—Noah, Joseph, Moses, Jonah, Daniel. The animal and the vegetable kingdom afford us plenty of illustrations of this same truth. Look at the scales of the crocodile, and the thick, tough hide of the rhinoceros, and the powerful trunk of the elephant, and the strength and courage of the lion. Look at the turtle, with the castle that it carries about with it, and the snail crawling along with its house on its back. When you see how God provides for the protection of all these different creatures, you see how each of them illustrates the truth which Abraham was taught on Mount Moriah, when he called the name of it Jehovah-jireh. A friend of mine has a very powerful microscope. One day he showed me some curious specimens through it. Among these were some tiny little sea animals. They were so small that they could not be seen with the naked eye. They are made to live on the rocks under the water; and, to protect themselves from being swept away by the force of the waves, they are furnished with the tiniest little limbs you ever saw. Each of these is made exactly in the shape of an anchor. This they fasten in the rock; and as I looked at them with wonder through the microscope, I thought: Why, even among these very little creatures we see Jehovah-jireh, too! The Lord provides for their protection. And every apple and pear and peach and plum that grows shows the same thing, in the skin which is drawn over them for their protection. And so does every nut, in the hard shell which grows round its kernel. And so does every grain of wheat, and every ear of Indian corn, in the coverings so nicely wrapped around them to keep them from harm. And God is doing wonderful things all the time for the protection of His people. A Christian sailor, when asked why he remained so calm in a fearful storm, said, “If I fall into the sea, I shall only drop into the hollow of my Father’s hand, for He holds all these waters there.”
  2. The second thing that God provides for His people is—relief in trouble. Here is a striking illustration of the way in which God can provide this relief, when it is needed. Some years ago there was a Christian man in England, who was in trouble. He was poor, and suffered much from want of money. A valuable property had been left to him. It would be sufficient to make him comfortable all the rest of his life, if he could only get possession of it. But in order to do this, it was necessary to find out some deeds connected with this property. But neither he, nor any of his friends, could tell where those deeds were to be found. They had tried to find them for a long time; but all their efforts had been in vain. At last, God provided relief for this man in his trouble in a very singular way. On one occasion, Bishop Chase, who was then the Bishop of Ohio, in America, was on a visit to the city of Philadelphia. He was stopping at the house of Mr. Paul Beck. One day, while staying there, he received a letter from one of the bishops of the Church of England. This letter was written to Bishop Chase, to ask him to make some inquiries about the deeds relating to the property of which we have spoken. The letter had been sent out first to Ohio, and then to Washington, where the bishop had been. From there it had been sent on after him to Philadelphia. If Bishop Chase had received this letter in Ohio, or in Washington, he would probably have read it, and then have said to himself, “I can’t find out anything about these deeds,” and would have written to his friend, the English bishop, telling him so. But the letter came to him while he was at Mr. Beck’s house. Mr. Beck was present when the letter was received. The bishop read it to him. When Mr. Beck heard the letter read, he was very much astonished. “Bishop Chase,” said he, “it is very singular that this letter should have come to you while you are at my house. Sir, I am the only man in the world that can give you the information asked for in this letter. I have the deeds in my possession. I have had them for more than forty years, and never could tell what to do with them, or where to find the persons to whom they belong.” How wonderful it was that this letter, after coming across the ocean, and going from one place to another in this country, should reach the bishop while he was in the house, and in the presence of the only man in the world who could tell about those lost deeds! And if the poor man to whom the property belonged, when he came into possession of it, knew about the singular way in which those deeds were found, he certainly would have been ready to write upon them, in big round letters, the words, “Jehovah-jireh—the Lord will provide.” God provided relief for him in his trouble.

III. But there is a third thing that the Lord will provide, and that is—salvation for the soul. Here is an illustration of a man who was very much burdened with care on account of his soul, and who had this care cured by the salvation which Jesus provides. Many years ago there was a very celebrated preacher, whose name was the Rev. George Whitefield. He went travelling all over England and this country preaching the gospel, and did a great deal of good in this way. One day a brother of Mr. Whitefield’s heard him preach. The sermon led him to see what a sinner he was, and he became very sorry on account of his sins. He was burdened with care because he thought his soul could not be saved; and for a long time it seemed as if he could get no relief from this burden. And the reason of it was that he was not willing to believe the word of Jesus. It is only in this way that we can be saved. When we read the promises of Jesus in the Bible, we must believe that He means just what he says. We must trust His word, and then we shall be saved. Well, one evening this brother of Mr. Whitefield was taking tea with the Countess of Huntingdon. This was an earnest Christian lady, who took a great interest in all good ministers, and the work they did for Jesus. She saw that the poor man was in great trouble of mind, and she tried to comfort him as they took their tea by talking to him about the great mercy of God to poor sinners through Jesus Christ. “Yes, my lady,” said the sorrowful man, “I know what you say is true. The mercy of God is infinite. I am satisfied of this. But, ah! my friend, there is no mercy for me. I am a wretched sinner, a lost man.” “I am glad to hear it, Mr. Whitefield,” said Lady Huntingdon. “I am glad in my heart that you have found out you are a lost man.” He looked at her with great surprise. “What, my lady!” he exclaimed, “glad, did you say? glad at heart that I am a lost man?” “Why, certainly I am, Mr. Whitefield,” said she; “for you know, Jesus Christ came into the world ‘to seek and to save them that are lost.’ And if you feel that you are a lost man, why, you are just one of those that Jesus came to save.” This remark had a great effect on Mr. Whitefield. He put down the cup of tea that he was drinking, and clapped his hands together, saying, “Thank God for that! Thank God for that!” He believed God’s promise then. That cured his care. It took away his trouble. It saved his soul. He was taken suddenly ill and died that same night, but he died happy.


Observe, as you read this chapter, that this was not the first time that Abraham had thus spoken. When he called the name of the place Jehovah-jireh he had seen it to be true—the ram caught in the thicket had been provided as a substitute for Isaac: Jehovah had provided. But he had before declared that truth when as yet he knew nothing of the Divine action, when he could not even guess how his extraordinary trial would end. His son Isaac had said to him, “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?” and the afflicted father had bravely answered, “My son, God will provide.” In due time God did provide, and then Abraham honoured Him by saying the same words, only instead of the ordinary name for God he used the special covenant title—Jehovah. That is the only alteration; otherwise in the same terms he repeats the assurance that “the Lord will provide.” That first utterance was most remarkable; it was simple enough, but how prophetic!

  1. It teaches us this truth, that the confident speech of a believer is akin to the language of a prophet. The man who accepts the promise of God unstaggeringly, and is sure that it is true, will speak like the seers of old; he will see that God sees, and will declare the fact, and the holy inference which comes of it. The believer’s child-like assurance will anticipate the future, and his plain statement—“God will provide”—will turn out to be literal truth.
  2. True faith not only speaks the language of prophecy, but, when she sees her prophecy fulfilled, faith is always delighted to raise memorials to the God of truth.
  3. Note yet further, that when faith has uttered a prophecy, and has set up her memorial, the record of mercy received becomes itself a new prophecy. Abraham says, “Jehovah-jireh—God will see to it”; what was he doing but prophesying a second time for future ages?
  4. When Abraham said “Jehovah will provide,” he meant us, first of all, to learn that the provision will come in the time of our extremity. The Lord gave our Lord Jesus Christ to be the Substitute for men in view of the utmost need of our race.
  5. Secondly, upon the mount the provision was spontaneously made for Abraham, and so was the provision which the Lord displayed in the fulness of time when He gave up His Son to die.

III. But, thirdly, we ought to dwell very long and earnestly upon the fact that for man’s need the provision was made by God Himself. The text says, “Jehovah jireh,” the Lord will see to it, the Lord will provide. None else could have provided a ransom. Neither on earth nor in heaven was there found any helper for lost humanity. I will only interject this thought here—let none of us ever interfere with the provision of God. If in our dire distress He alone was our Jehovah-jireh, and provided for us a Substitute, let us not think that there is anything left for us to provide. O sinner, do you cry, “Lord, I must have a broken heart”? He will provide it for thee. Do you cry, “Lord, I cannot master sin, I have not the power to conquer my passions”? He will provide strength for thee. Do you mourn, “Lord, I shall never hold on and hold out to the end. I am so fickle”? Then He will provide perseverance for thee.

  1. That which God prepares for poor sinners is a provision most gloriously made. God provided a ram instead of Isaac. This was sufficient for the occasion as a type; but that which was typified by the ram is infinitely more glorious. In order to save us God provided God. I cannot put it more simply. He did not provide an angel, nor a mere man, but God Himself. Come, sinner, with all thy load of sin: God can bear it; the shoulders that bear up the universe can well sustain thy load of guilt. God gave thee His Godhead to be thy Saviour when He gave thee His Son. But He also gave in the person of Christ perfect manhood—such a man as never lived before, eclipsing even the perfection of the first Adam in the garden by the majestic innocence of His nature. When Jesus has been viewed as man, even unconverted men have so admired His excellence that they have almost adored Him. Jesus is God and man, and the Father has given that man, that God, to be thy Redeemer.
  2. Fifthly, the provision was made effectively. Isaac did not die: the laughter in Abraham’s house was not stifled; there was no grief for the patriarch; he went home with his son in happy companionship, because Jehovah had provided Himself a lamb for a burnt-offering. The ram which was provided did not bleed in vain; Isaac did not die as well as the ram; Abraham did not have to slay the God-provided victim and his own son also. No, the one sacrifice sufficed. Beloved, this is my comfort in the death of Christ—I hope it is yours—that He did not die in vain.
  3. Turn we then, sixthly, to this note, that we may well glorify Jehovah-jireh because this provision was made for every believer.

VII. But now I close with a remark which will reveal the far-reaching character of my text. “Jehovah-jireh” is true concerning all necessary things. The instance given of Abraham being provided for shows us that the Lord will ever be a Provider for His people. As to the gift of the Lord Jesus, this is a provision which guarantees all other provision. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Lord will provide:—

A poor woman, holding the hand of her little boy, recently said to the preacher, “Sir, the word ‘Jehovah-jireh’ has been a great comfort to us through this child. Owing to my husband’s long illness we were in great want. But one Sunday Robert came running home and said: ‘Cheer up, father and mother, the Lord will be sure to provide; Jehovah-jireh!’ And often after that, when we have been in trouble, he has said: ‘Come, let us sing a verse of Jehovah-jireh—

‘ “Though troubles assail and dangers affright,

Though friends should all fail, and foes all unite,

Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,

The Scripture assures us—The Lord will provide.” ’

“Once, when we had no food left, he again told us not to forget Jehovah-jireh. He went out, but came back in a few minutes holding up a shilling he had found on the pavement, and saying: ‘Here’s Jehovah-jireh, mother; I was sure He would provide!’ ” Who will say this betokened childish ignorance and not Christian wisdom? Might not our philosophy be more sound, if we were more as “little children”? We know who said, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise.” Hast not help often come to the people of God as unexpectedly, giving rise to the proverb, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity”? Should we not gratefully acknowledge such “interposition of Providence”; such special help from Jehovah the Provider. (Newman Hall, LL.B.)

In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen:—

  1. The Lord will be seen. In His special providence to His servants in their afflictions.
  2. The time when He will be seen. “In the mount,” i.e., when things are brought to an extremity; when we think there is no more help nor hope, that is the time when the Lord will be seen.
  3. It is God’s usual manner to bring His children to extremities.
  4. And the first cause why the Lord doth so usually do it is, when He brings afflictions on His children; He lets it run along till they may think there is no more help nor hope, that so it may be an affliction to them. If a man were in a smoky house, and had a door opened, it were no difficulty for him to shift himself out of it; but when we are shut up, that is it which makes it difficult; and that it might be so, the Lord suffers it to come to an extremity.
  5. Secondly, the Lord brings us to an extremity because the Lord might be sought to; for so long as the creatures can do us any good, we will go no further; but when they fail us, we are ready to look up to the Lord; as it is with men which are on the seas, when they are in an extremity, those that will not pray at any other time, will pray now, and be ready to say with these in the prophet Hosea, “Come and let us return unto the Lord; for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up” (6:1); and the reason is, because where the creature ends, the Lord must begin, otherwise there can be no help at all.
  6. Thirdly, the Lord doth it, because that hereby it comes to pass that the Lord may be known to be the helper; that when we are delivered He may have all the praise.
  7. Fourthly, the Lord doth it, because all that we have, we may have as a new gift; therefore the Lord suffers us, as it were, to forfeit our leases, as it were, that He may renew them; otherwise we should think ourselves to be freeholders.
  8. Fifthly, the Lord doth it because He may teach us by experience to know Him. But here some man will be ready to say, Why cannot that be without these extremities? To this I answer, you must know when a man goes on in a course, without any troubles or changes, his experience is to no purpose; for he hath no great experience of the Lord. But when a man is in tribulation, that brings experience; and experience, hope; for it is another kind of experience that is so learned, than that which comes without it; and indeed nothing is well learned till it be learned by experience.
  9. Lastly, the Lord does it for proof and trial, as in the case of Abraham.
  10. In the time of extremities will the Lord be seen, and not before. Why?
  11. Because the Lord knows this is the best way to draw forth the practice of many graces and good duties, which otherwise would be without use.
  12. Because He would give a time to men to repent and meet Him in, which is good for His children; otherwise we would not seek unto the Lord.
  13. To let us know the vanity of the creature. The use of it is to teach us not to make too much haste for deliverance in the time of distress, but to wait upon the Lord, yea, depend upon His providence when we seem to be without help. If we look upon the creature, yet then are we to depend upon the Lord, so as never to say there is no help, but on the contrary to say, “I will trust in Him though He kill me.”

III. Godly men’s extremities are but trials, sent for their good; not punishment sent for their hurt and ruin. Ay, but what is that good? Why, this; first, it shall increase grace in your hearts; for as the gold which is tried loseth nothing but dross, and so is made the better thereby, so it is with our afflictions, for “the trial of our faith,” saith the apostle, “bringeth forth patience”; for the greater thy trial is, the more it strengthens thy faith, and so increaseth comfort; for when the afflictions of the apostle abounded, his consolation abounded also. Again, you shall have the greater wages; for when a man hath a friend that hath been employed about any great thing for him, why, the greater the trouble was which he did undergo for him, the more will he be beholden to him, and the greater reward will he bestow upon him; even so, the greater the trials are from the Lord, the greater benefit will come to us by them. (J. Preston.)

God’s providence:—

The celebrated Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, who rose from a humble station in life to the highest rank, and passed through strange and trying vicissitudes, used these words as his motto, and ordered them to be engraved on his tomb: “God’s providence is my inheritance.” (Old Testament Anecdotes.)

Trust in the Lord:—

Paul Gerhardt, the German poet and preacher, after ten years of pastoral work in Berlin, was deprived of his charge by the King of Prussia, and expelled from the country. He turned towards Saxony, his native land, accompanied by his wife and little children, all on foot, without means and without prospect. They stopped at a village inn to pass the night, and there the poor woman naturally gave way to a burst of sorrow and anxiety. Her husband endeavoured to comfort her, especially dwelling upon the words of Scripture, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” The same evening two gentlemen entered the inn parlour, and mentioned that they were on their way to Berlin to seek the deposed clergyman, Paul Gerhardt, by order of Duke Christian, of Merseburg, who desired to settle a considerable pension on him as a compensation for the injustice from which he had suffered. (Fifteen Hundred Illustrations.)[7]

14. Jehovah-jireh is, apart from the name for God, the expression Abraham had used in 8. Provide is a secondary meaning of the simple verb ‘to see’ (cf. our ‘see to it’), as in 1 Samuel 16:1c. Both senses probably coexist in the little saying of 14b (which deserves to be better known), i.e. ‘In the mount … it will come clear’.[8]

14. And Abraham called the name of that place. He not only, by the act of thanksgiving, acknowledges, at the time, that God has, in a remarkable manner, provided for him; but also leaves a monument of his gratitude to posterity. In most extreme anxiety, he had fled for refuge to the providence of God; and he testifies that he had not done so in vain. He also acknowledges that not even the ram had wandered thither accidentally, but had been placed there by God. Whereas, in process of time, the name of the place was changed, this was done purposely, and not by mistake. For they who have translated the active verb, ‘He will see,’ passively, have wished, in this manner, to teach that God not only looks upon those who are his, but also makes his help manifest to them; so that, in turn, he may be seen by them. The former has precedence in order; namely, that God, by his secret providence, determines and ordains what is best for us; but on this the latter is suspended; namely, that he stretches out his hand to us, and renders himself visible by true experimental tokens.[9]

14. That is, the Lord will provide. Reader! cannot your experience bear a thousand testimonies to this sweet scripture? Have you not been called upon many times, to set up your Jehovah-jirehs?[10]

14 Appropriately Abraham names this place Yahweh-yireh, “Yahweh sees (or provides).” He does not call this site “Abraham-shama” (“Abraham obeyed”). The name does not draw any attention to Abraham’s role in the story. Thus his part in the story is not memorialized; rather, it is subordinated to that of Yahweh. The name highlights only the beneficent actions of Yahweh. The reader will come away from this story more impressed with God’s faithfulness than with Abraham’s compliance.

This emphasis is borne out by the fact that the following phrase, and even today it is said, lifts the event out of Abraham’s time and projects it into the time of the narrator. Thus the phrase gives to the entire narrative a certain timelessness. It witnesses to the gracious provisions of God.

There are some textual problems in the last few words of the verse: behar YHWH yērāʾeh. The following are possible translations of the text as it stands: “In the mountain of Yahweh he is seen”; “In the mountain of Yahweh he shall be seen”; “In the mountain of Yahweh it shall be provided.” The problem here is to identify the relationship, if any, between the active of rāʾá in Yahweh-yireh, “Yahweh sees,” and the passive of rāʾá, yērāʾeh, “is seen.”

The ancient versions do not reflect the MT. Hence LXX En tṓ órei kýrios ṓphthē, “in the mountain the Lord is seen,” necessitates reading the first word in the MT (behar) as bāhār. The Vulg. reads yirʾeh (Qal) for MT yērāʾeh (Niphal), and thus translates “In the mountain the Lord sees” (in monte Dominus videbilt).

Other suggestions are that the variation of yirʾeh and yērāʾeh reflects the fact that the Masorah possessed two vocalizations of the place name and has preserved both variants, or that the relative clause in v. 14b is so obscure that it probably did not originally belong with v. 14a. Perhaps even “Yahweh-yireh” is an explanation for a lost name.

The use of the active and passive of rāʾá may be deliberate, and if so, we should be hesitant about excising it. God not only sees and provides for the needs of his servants but also shows himself to his servants. Elohim is no anonymous philanthropist. But in this incident at least, God shows himself not in any self-revelation but by his act of providing a ram in lieu of Isaac. Revelation for Abraham at Moriah was a visible manifestation of God’s act.66[11]

[1] 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., Ge 22:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 45). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 22:14). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 88). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ge 22:14). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 44). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Genesis (Vol. 2, pp. 123–131). London: James Nisbet & Co.

[8] Kidner, D. (1967). Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 1, p. 155). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] Calvin, J., & King, J. (2010). Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis (Vol. 1, p. 571). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[10] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Genesis–Numbers (Vol. 1, p. 92). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[11] Hamilton, V. P. (1995). The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50 (pp. 113–114). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

March 25 Morning Verse of The Day

4:39 God in heaven … there is no other: Since no other God was Creator, Lord of history, Teacher, and the Lover of His people, Israel had to respond to God alone. This is a major theme of Deuteronomy and of the prophets. The incomparability of Yahweh is also the heart of the basic creed of Israel, the “Shema” (6:4).[1]

Ver. 39. Consider it in thine heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath.—The relation of man to God:—

We must have God before we can understand Him. We must receive Him into our loving trust before we can make any advance in knowing what He is, what are His qualities and His attributes, and what is all the meaning that is written in His infinite heart. I am delighted to tell again and again of the poor woman who, upon being interrogated by her minister concerning formal divinity, before she could be admitted as a guest at the Lord’s table, was utterly unable to answer a single question; whereupon the minister informed her that she was not fit to be admitted to the table of the Lord. “Sir,” said she, with womanly feeling and pathos, “I can’t answer these questions, but I could die for Him.” That is religion! Not answering questions only, not being able to enter into critical disquisitions, but sending the heart out to receive God into its trust and love. Hence the exhortation of the text, “Consider it in thine heart.” You may consider the question in the intellectual region, and get little or nothing out of the considerations. When the heart knows its own hunger and its own bitterness, then, in that sad but holy hour, the heart may get some hold upon the idea of God. I can imagine the man of average education and intelligence, whom I am imaginatively addressing, asking me some such question as this, How is it that God does not show Himself more clearly to us than He does, and so put an end to all uncertainty concerning Himself? I answer, Are we capable of understanding what is and what is not the proper degree and method of Divine manifestation? Is it becoming in men, who cannot certainly tell what will happen in one single hour, that they should write a programme for God, and appoint the way of the Almighty? These things cause me to say that religious questions, if they are to be profitably considered at all, must be considered in a deeply religious spirit. You can make no advancement in this learning unless you bring a right heart with you. That is the beginning. There was a peculiar controversy or conversation in my garden the other day; it quite entertained me. There were, after those heavy rains, two worms that had struggled out of the earth, and found their way upon the wet green grass; and they began to talk in a very decided and mocking manner about myself. One, the elder and better-to-do of the two, said, “Eh, eh, eh! We have been told that this garden has an owner or somebody that takes care of it, that nourishes the roots of things, and that altogether presides over the affair. Eh, eh, eh, I never saw him. If there is such an owner, why doesn’t he show himself more clearly?—why doesn’t he come to the front and let us see him, eh?” And the leaner one of the two said, “That is an unanswerable argument. I never saw him. There may be such a being, but I care nothing about him; only, if he is alive, why don’t he show himself?” They quite wriggled in contemptuous triumph; yet all the while I was standing there, looking at the poor creatures, and hearing them! I could have set my foot upon them and crushed them; but I did not. There is a way of wasting strength; there is also a way of showing patience. But the worms could not understand my nature. I was standing there, and they knew me not! What if it be so with ourselves in the greater questions? Proceeding with our statement respecting the revelation of God, I have now to ask you to believe with me, as a matter of fact—

  1. 1. That we stand to God in the relation of dependants. That is our actual position in life. “What hast thou, that thou hast not received?” Let a man begin his studies there, and he will become correspondingly reverent. Have you genius? Who lighted the lamp? Have you health? Who gave you your constitution? Do you find the earth productive? “Yes.” Who made it productive? “I did. I till it; I supply all the elements of nourishment needful; I did.” Did you? Can you make it rain? Can you make the sun shine? If a man once be started on that course of reflection, the probability is, that he who begins as a reverent inquirer will end as a devout worshipper.
  2. 2. Then I ask you to believe, in the next place, that the very fact of being dependent should lead us to be very careful how we measure the sovereignty and the government of God. He has made us servants, not masters. We are little children, not old beings, in His household and universe. We are mysteries to ourselves. We need not go from home to seek mysteries.
  3. 3. I have to ask you, in the third place, to believe that the very fact of the mystery of our own life should be the beginning and the defence of our faith in God. Reason from yourself upwards. There is a way out of the human to the Divine. It is a commendable course of procedure to reason from the known to the unknown. If you are such a mystery to your own child, if the philosopher is such a mystery to the uninstructed man, if you are such a mystery to yourself—why may there not be a power around more mysterious still, higher and nobler yet? Reason from yourselves—from your own capacities and your own resources. Is not the maker greater than the thing made? Take away the idea of God from human thinking, and mark the immediate and necessary consequences. This is a method of reasoning which I commend to the attention of young inquirers who are earnest about this business. The method, namely, of withdrawment. If a man doubts concerning God, I shall withdraw the idea of God from human thinking, and see the necessary consequences. If a man has any argument to adduce against Christianity, take Christianity out of the country, and see what will be left. Take out the doctrine, take out the practice, take out not only Christian theology, but Christian morality, and see how many hospitals would be left, and how many penitentiaries, infirmaries, schools, and asylums for the deaf and the dumb and the blind and the idiotic. So take away the idea of God from human thinking, and see the immediate and inevitable consequences. There is no God; then there is no supreme supervision of human life as a whole; for none could have the eye that could see the whole orbit of things. We see points, not circumferences. There is no God; then there is no final judgment by which the wrongs of centuries can be avenged; there is no heart brooding over us to which we can confide the story of our sorrow, or tell the anguish of our pain. Set God again on the throne, and all that makes life worth having, even imaginatively, comes back again. Set God upon the throne, and all things take upon them a new, true, beautiful meaning; there is hope of judgment, and a certainty that right will eventually be done. Shall I ask you to remember—observe, I still speak to my scholar whom I assume to be diligent and earnest—that our little day has been too short to know the full mystery of God? When an infant of yours has gone to school, do you expect the little one to come back at twelve o’clock on the first day and be able to read you a chapter even out of the simplest book? You are an old man; yes, but a young being, an infantile being. Very old indeed, if you think of insuring yourself, or buying another estate, or laying out a great sum of money—very, very old indeed; but if you are talking of the universe, you are the insect of a moment—hardly born! But you wish to read the book called the Universe through at one sitting, like a cheap novel. Thou art of yesterday, and knowest nothing; and I, thy teacher, what am I but a man who, having seen one ray of light amid thick and terrible gloom, come to thee and stand here that you may see the same beautiful revelation! All this shows us what our spirit ought to be. He who comes to school with this spirit will learn most and learn it most quickly. And this let me tell you, young man, the greatest men I have ever known have been the most humble, docile, self-distrustful. ( Parker, D.D.)[2]

39. Know therefore this day. He again inculcates what we have lately spoken of, that the glory of the one true God was proved by the miracles, but he does so by way of exhortation. For he desires them carefully and attentively to consider what God had shewn them, because in so plain a matter there would be no excuse for error or ignorance. He therefore infers from what had gone before, that the people must beware of shutting their eyes against the clear revelation of God’s power, and therefore urges them to keep it in memory, because man’s ingratitude is but too prone to forgetfulness. He afterwards reminds them wherefore God would be known, viz., that they might keep His Law and obey His statutes. The sum is, that they would be inexcusable if they did not obediently receive the Law, which they knew to have come from God; for they must needs be worse than stupid if the majesty of God, known and understood by so many proofs, did not awaken them to reverence. And lest they should undervalue the doctrine as proceeding from a mortal man, he expressly confesses, indeed, that he is the minister, and yet that he had set before them nothing which he had not received from God.[3]

[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 240). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[2] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Deuteronomy (pp. 71–72). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[3] Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. (2010). Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Vol. 1, pp. 353–354). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

March 24 Evening Verse of The Day

78:4 We will not hide them from their children Israel failed to follow God throughout its history. The psalmist seems to be saying that he will not hide the past from God’s people but instead use it for teaching.

the praises of Yahweh The focus of Israel’s faith is not their goodness, but God’s help to them over the course of their history.

wonders The Hebrew word used here, niphla’oth, is usually associated with the events of the exodus from Egypt (see Exod 7:3).[1]

78:4 — We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.

It is our job to tell our children not only the great things God did in Bible times, but also the wonderful works He has performed in our own lives. They need to see God at work in us.[2]

4. “We will not hide them from their children.” Our negligent silence shall not deprive our own and our father’s offspring of the precious truth of God, it would be shameful indeed if we did so. “Shewing of the generation to come the praises of the Lord.” We will look forward to future generations, and endeavour to provide for their godly education. It is the duty of the church of God to maintain, in fullest vigour, every agency intended for the religious education of the young; to them we must look for the church of the future, and as we sow towards them so shall we reap. Children are to be taught to magnify the Lord; they ought to be well informed as to his wonderful doings in ages past, and should be made to know “his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.” The best education is education in the best things. The first lesson for a child should be concerning his mother’s God. Teach him what you will, if he learn not the fear of the Lord, he will perish for lack of knowledge. Grammar is poor food for the soul if it be not flavoured with grace. Every satchel should have a Bible in it. The world may teach secular knowledge alone, ’tis all she has a heart to know, but the church must not deal so with her offspring; she should look well to every Timothy, and see to it that from a child he knows the Holy Scriptures. Around the fire-side fathers should repeat not only the Bible records, but the deeds of the martyrs and reformers, and moreover the dealings of the Lord with themselves both in providence and grace. We dare not follow the vain and vicious traditions of the apostate church of Rome, neither would we compare the fallible record of the best human memories with the infallible written word, yet would we fain see oral tradition practised by every Christian in his family, and children taught cheerfully by word of mouth by their own mothers and fathers, as well as by the printed pages of what they too often regard as dull, dry task books. What happy hours and pleasant evenings have children had at their parents’ knees as they have listened to some “sweet story of old.” Reader, if you have children, mind you do not fail in this duty.[3]

Ver. 4. We will not hide them from their children.Children:

  1. The interesting objects of our solicitude mentioned. Consider—
  2. The love which welcomes them.
  3. The evils which surround them.
  4. The possibilities which await them.
  5. The sacred duties which we owe to them.
  6. They are weak; we must protect them (Gen. 33).
  7. They are helpless; we must provide for them.
  8. They are ignorant; we must instruct them.

III. The object which we hope shall be realized.

  1. The knowledge of truth shall be perpetuated.
  2. Our children will put their hope in God.
  3. They shall be better than their fathers. (The Study.)

The knowledge of national benefits and deliverances transmitted to the rising generation:

  1. Point out a few of those things which we have heard and known, or which our fathers have told us, and which we, with the psalmist, may style “The praises of the Lord, and His strength, and the wonderful works that He hath done.”
  2. Recommend and enforce the resolution in my text. The great God may justly expect that we acquaint ourselves with His ways and works; that we endeavour to trace Him in the natural, providential, and civil world, and in the world of grace; and that we treasure up in our hearts each signal deliverance He hath wrought. But a genuine disciple of Jesus, and a child of God, will neither wish to live nor to die unto himself. What we have known of the wonderful works of God in favour of our fathers, of ourselves, or of ages to come, we should transmit to the rising generation. I am apprehensive that one cause of the languishing state of public spirit, and of pious zeal, in this age, is the want of knowledge. Had the minds of persons in the present day been early and deeply impressed with the conduct of God to this highly favoured country, the privileges they enjoy would be more dear and important in their esteem, and patriotism would not be that empty boast which we have too much reason to apprehend it now is. With the knowledge of those “things we have heard, and known, and which our fathers have told us,” transmit, as far as possible, the things themselves. On our part let nothing be left untried, that they who are soon to fill our places in civil and religious life, and that their descendants, even to the world’s last period, may stand forth, under God, the guardians of each important and sacred right, and approve themselves the unshaken friends of their country, of Jesus, and of the Gospel. (N. Hill.)

The transmission of Scriptural truth to posterity:

The text presents four grand arguments why we should zealously devote ourselves to this duty.

  1. The peculiar character of Scriptural truth. Consider it—
  2. As a revelation of God.
  3. As a law of duty.
  4. As a history of God’s conduct.
  5. The manner in which we have been put into its possession. As we have received the knowledge of God and the way of happiness from our fathers, who showed us by their lips and their lives the way of happiness, we are bound, by every consideration of gratitude, to give to others what has been so freely given to us.

III. The Divine arrangements as to its transmission. Fathers are commanded to make known the commands and the character of God to their children. Various powerful reasons might be assigned for this infinitely wise arrangement. The young come into our world with an awfully strong bias to evil, and it is unspeakably important to check the workings of their depravity by presenting the most powerful considerations which tend to the accomplishment of such an end. Nor must it be forgotten here, that, as immortal creatures, the character of man is usually formed in youth for eternity.

  1. The great results which it is intended to accomplish. Every individual who receives the knowledge of God, in the love of it, becomes a moral sun, diffusing light and warmth around him, the glorious effects of which shall be felt through all the changes of time, and in eternity itself. (J. Belcher.)

The true method by which generation helps generation:

  1. True religious knowledge is a thing imparted to man. It is that “which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.” It is not inbred nor discovered. Without denying that man has a capacity to discover God as the Creator, all history shows that he has never done so; and as to His redeeming capacity, that, in the nature of the case, transcends all human conceptions. As sinners, this is the knowledge of God we require, and it involves the former. And we have it, not by intuition or discovery, but by impartation. It has been transmitted to us through many generations.
  2. They have handed it down to us by inspired documents.
  3. They have handed it down to us by their own teaching.
  4. True religious knowledge is imparted to us, not to monopolize, but to transmit (vers. 5–8). The transmittory arrangement implies—
  5. That the children of every generation have a capacity for receiving this knowledge. There is no danger of teaching religion boo soon.
  6. That the children of every generation will require this knowledge. Coming generations may not require our philosophies, poetries, and governments; they may out-grow our sciences, and despise our civilization, but they will require our religion. Though they may not require our lamps, they will need our sun.
  7. The eternal harmony of all God’s operations. The Eternal does not contradict Himself. The first Divine act on earth’s theatre will harmonize with the last. The whole will form one great anthem filling eternity with music.

III. True religious knowledge is to be thus transmitted in order to elevate posterity.

  1. The grand result aimed at is threefold—

(1) Rightness of intellect. “Not forget the works of God.” A constant recognition of Divine agency.

(2) Rightness of heart. “That they might set their hope in God,” and “set their heart aright”; the heart fixed on God as the supreme Good.

(3) Rightness of conduct. “Keep His commandments.” To bring immortal man to this sublime rightness—this rightness in thought, feeling, and action, is the grand and ultimate end of all this teaching. Glorious end!

  1. It is coming slowly but surely. Humanity is rising, and every true thought arid virtuous act helps it on. (Homilist.)[4]

4. We will not conceal them from their children in the generation to come. Some take the verb נכחד, nechached, in the nephil conjugation, and translate it, they are not concealed or hidden. But it ought, according to the rules of grammar, to be resolved thus:—We will not conceal them from our posterity, implying, that what we have been taught by our ancestors we should endeavour to transmit to their children. By this means, all pretence of ignorance is removed; for it was the will of God that these things should be published from age to age without interruption; so that being transmitted from father to child in each family, they might reach even the last family of man. The end for which this was to be done is shown—that they might celebrate the praises of Jehovah in the wonderful works which he hath done.[5]

4. How lovely is it to behold, even from the days of the patriarchs, the care and attention with which the fathers handed down the testimony they had received concerning the promised seed. Hence we find Abraham telling Isaac, and Isaac Jacob, and Jacob, when dying, holding forth to his children, the blessing of redemption by Christ, upon which their own souls had lived, and with which they were most familiarly acquainted. Gen. 49:1; 50:24.[6]

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done (v. 4). These object lessons from history were not to be concealed, but rather revealed! Covenantal history was a record of what God had done for his people, and the power and wonderful deeds that he had demonstrated were worthy of praise and adoration. The word ‘hide’ (kâchad, Pi.) conveys the idea of refusing to make something known. The truth about the past had to be told to successive generations.[7]

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 78:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ps 78:4). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[3] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 56-87 (Vol. 3, p. 331). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[4] Exell, J. S. (1909). The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms (Vol. 3, pp. 397–398). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.

[5] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 3, p. 230). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[6] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Job–Psalms (Vol. 4, p. 413). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[7] Harman, A. (2011). Psalms: A Mentor Commentary (Vol. 1–2, p. 584). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

March 24 Morning Verse of The Day

9:15 His indescribable gift refers to God’s Son, Jesus. Giving ought to be an expression of appreciation to God for sending Jesus (Jn 3:16).[1]

9:15 This verse should be read in connection with 8:9. God’s “indescribable gift” is His own precious Son (cf. John 3:16). Giving is again directed to the cross for its proper motivation. God gave His best; He gave His all. All Christian giving should be a humble and joyful response of praise, worship, thanksgiving, and gratitude for God’s wonderful gift, which human words are truly inadequate to describe.[2]

9:15 Our giving is only a small imitation of God’s own excellent generosity to us, especially in the “inexpressible gift” of His Son (John 3:16).[3]

9:15 his indescribable gift Refers to Christ, who brought about salvation through His life, death, and resurrection. It may also refer to His generosity: He became poor so that those who believe in Him might become rich (8:9). Paul appropriately closes his appeal for the Corinthian church to give generously by thanking God for His generous gift.[4]

9:15 The gift of the Corinthians reflects the inexpressible gift God has given to believers in Christ (cf. 8:9; Rom. 8:32).[5]

9:15 Paul summarized his discourse by comparing the believer’s act of giving with what God did in giving Jesus Christ (cf. Ro 8:32), “His indescribable gift.” God buried His Son and reaped a vast harvest of those who put their faith in the resurrected Christ (cf. Jn 12:24). That makes it possible for believers to joyfully, sacrificially, and abundantly sow and reap. As they give in this manner, they show forth Christ’s likeness (cf. Jn 12:25, 26; Eph 5:1, 2).[6]

9:15 — Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

The greatest gift we could ever receive is the marvelous grace of God, which hit its apex in the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The only reason we have the privilege of giving is that God already gave far more.[7]

9:15 God’s indescribable gift is His Son, Jesus Christ. Our gifts can never compare to God’s sacrifice for us.[8]

9:15. The ultimate expression of this grace is found in Jesus Christ, who provides the basis for all the other graces. Paul therefore ends this section by saying Thanks (charis) be to God for His indescribable gift![9]

9:15 At this point Paul simply bursts out into an exclamation! This verse has been a puzzle to many Bible scholars. They cannot see that it is closely connected with what has gone before. And they wonder what is meant by His indescribable gift.

But it seems to us that as the Apostle Paul reaches the end of his section on Christian giving, he is forced to think of the greatest Giver of all—God Himself. He thinks, too, of the greatest gift of all—the Lord Jesus Christ. And so he would leave his Corinthian brethren on this high note. They are children of God and followers of Christ. Then let them follow such worthy examples![10]

9:15. This thought was so magnificent in Paul’s outlook that it caused him to break forth in praise. He wrote, Thanks be to God. His heart broke out in adoration for God’s indescribable gift which made all of this possible—the gift of salvation through Christ. He was overwhelmed by the thought of Gentiles in Corinth joining with other Gentile churches to provide for Jewish believers in Jerusalem. He overflowed with joy that all of these churches would join together in the praise of God and in prayer for one another. Paul was so ecstatic at the thought he could go no further.[11]

9:15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” Some take this context to refer to the Corinthian gift, but because of (1) Jesus’ great sacrifice mentioned in 8:9, or (2) the gospel of Christ mentioned in 9:13, it must refer to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.

The self-giving ministry of the Son (cf. 8:9) was meant to inspire these believers to give thanks (eucharistia, vv. 11, 12; charis, v. 13) to God and money to needy believers.















“beyond all telling”


This is the term ekdiēgeomai, which means to explain completely or mention all the details, plus the ALPHA PRIVATIVE, which negates it. In some ways the love of God is too wonderful for humans to grasp all its facets (cf. Deut. 30:11; Job 11:7; Ps. 139:6; Prov. 30:18; Isa. 55:8–9; Rom. 11:33).[12]

15. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

This text often appears on Christmas cards with the message that God has given us the gift of his Son. No one questions the truth of this message, but those readers who take the time to look at the context of this verse immediately notice that Paul says nothing about Jesus’ birth.

What is Paul trying to convey? With the words of a prayer, “Thanks be to God,” he introduces a doxology, which is a fitting conclusion to the preceding reference to God’s surpassing grace. God receives the tribute that is due him for his providence to make the collection a blessing to the entire church.

Paul expresses his gratitude to God “for his indescribable gift” of Jesus Christ. The apostle John writes about the unfathomable love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), but Paul notes the gift of God. This gift of God to the world is the birth, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and eventual return of his Son. For Paul, the thought of God giving his Son to mankind is astounding. He sees the glorious results in the faith both Jew and Gentile place in Jesus Christ, in the breaking down of racial barriers, and in the unity of the Christian church. Presently the church of Jesus Christ is spanning the globe, so that everywhere Christians gather and worship the Lord. Believers meet in cathedrals, churches, chapels, private homes, a variety of other buildings, forests, caves, and hidden places. By means of the airwaves, the printed page, and the spoken word, the gospel goes forth throughout the world and accomplishes the purpose for which God has sent it (Isa. 55:11).

We see God’s indescribable gift, namely, his Son Jesus Christ, in the development and progress of the church. In his lifetime, Paul saw God’s kingdom advancing from Jerusalem to Rome and parts of the Roman Empire. In our times we witness its worldwide growth, power, and influence. Paul called attention to God’s inexpressible gift of salvation and gave thanks. With him, we too express our gratitude to God for the coming of his Son. On this earth we will never be able to fathom the depth of God’s love for us, the infinite value of our salvation, and the gift of eternal life. God’s gift indeed is indescribable![13]

15. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! This verse strikes a note sounded already in 8:9. There the grace of Christ was shown in his becoming poor for our sakes so that we might become rich. That was God’s indescribable gift. The word indescribable (anekdiēgetos) which Paul uses here is found neither in classical Greek nor in the papyri. It appears first in the New Testament and only in this verse. It appears to be a word the apostle himself coined to describe the ineffable character of God’s gift. Once coined by Paul, it was used by Clement of Rome in his letter to the Corinthians (written c. ad 95) when writing of God’s ‘indescribable’ judgments, love and power (1 Clem 20:5; 49:4; 61:1). The important thing to note is that for Paul all Christian giving is carried out in the light of God’s indescribable gift, and therefore ought to be done with a cheerful heart as an expression of gratitude to God, as well as in demonstration of concern for, and partnership with, those in need.

Paul’s confidence that the Corinthians would contribute to the collection was finally rewarded. When the apostle wrote Romans during his three-month stay in Greece (after the problems reflected in 2 Corinthians had been settled for the time being), he was able to say, ‘Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem’ (Rom. 15:25–26, italics added; cf. Acts 24:17).


Paul’s exhortations concerning the collection in chapters 8–9 provide important teaching about Christian giving. Generosity is an aspect of the grace of God in people’s lives. The grace of God in the Macedonians was evident in their being joyful in the midst of trials, generous in the midst of poverty, begging for the privilege of participating in the collection, and dedicating themselves to the Lord himself and to Paul in support of the collection. As a result, they could be held up as an example for the Corinthians, so that they too might excel in the grace of generosity as they excelled in other spiritual graces. Christian generosity cannot be demanded, but the example of Christ who became ‘poor’ so that we might become ‘rich’ is the supreme example and provides fundamental motivation for believers to be generous.

It is important to remember that people’s capacity to be generous is ultimately made possible by God’s generosity. He who provides ‘seed to the sower’ can enrich us in every way and increase our capacity to give to those in need. This, of course, presupposes that there will always be those who are in need (as Jesus said, ‘The poor you will always have with you’, Mark 14:7), and they must not be expected to be generous in the same way as those who are rich.

In dealing with financial matters, it is crucial that things be done in a way that is pleasing to God and right in the eyes of our fellow human beings. This will mean making conscious efforts, as Paul did, to avoid criticism by acting transparently and by involving people of good repute in the enterprise.

In advocating Christian generosity, Paul emphasized that his purpose was not to relieve some at the unreasonable expense of others. He only wanted there to be a form of equality whereby those who were well-off contributed to meeting the necessities of those suffering want. And those who do contribute have the joy of seeing people’s needs met, thanks being given to God, and the hearts of the recipients responding in love to their benefactors. The whole matter of Christian giving is to be done in the light of God’s ‘indescribable gift’.

The significance of the collection for Paul and his mission is the subject of much debate. Clearly, the collection was intended to be a compassionate response to the pressing needs of Judean Christians, and an expression of the unity of the Jewish and Gentile sections of the church (2 Cor. 8:14–15; cf. Rom. 15:25–27). Some similarities (and some differences) have been noted between the way Paul speaks of the collection and the way in which the Jewish temple tax was administered. And, more conjecturally, it has been suggested that Paul conceived the bearing of the collection to Jerusalem by representatives of the Gentile churches in terms of the Old Testament prophecies of the latter days when the nations and their wealth would flow into Zion (Isa. 2:2–3; 60:5–7; Mic. 4:1–2). Furthermore, it is proposed that Paul hoped this would convince Jewish Christians that God was fulfilling his ancient prophecies, and as this realization dawned upon unbelieving Jews, they would become jealous when they saw Gentiles enjoying the blessings of God first promised to them, and that would trigger the repentance of Israel for which Paul longed (Rom. 11:11–14, 25–32). Unfortunately, things did not work out as Paul is thought to have hoped. Although he was warmly received by those in the Jerusalem church when he arrived with those bearing the collection (Acts 24:17–26), it did not trigger repentance on the part of unbelieving Jews. Shortly afterwards, his presence in the temple with those undergoing purification rites resulted in a tumult, his arrest and a further hardening of Jewish people against the gospel. This suggestion that Paul thought of the collection in terms of those Old Testament prophecies has been found unconvincing by the majority of recent commentators, for it constitutes a large superstructure built upon the foundation of inferences from a rather limited evidential base.[14]

15 I have judged it proper to consider this verse alone, and unconnected with every other, from the very great sweetness, and importance of it. For, in whatever point of view the Apostle meant it, the beauty and loveliness is the same. It is probable, that he intended it by way of enforcing, upon higher principles than he had before mentioned, the charity he was recommending to the Corinthian Church. And to be sure, it doth form the highest, and the best of all arguments; the unequalled, and unspeakable love of God, in the gift of his dear Son. For who that properly considers, the free, unmerited, unlooked-for, gift of Christ, in all his suitableness, seasonableness, and preciousness, and lives in the enjoyment of Christ, and his fulness, and all-sufficiency; could pause a moment, from flying to the relief of all Christ’s distressed members, wherever he heard of them, or met them?

But, after paying all due respect on this ground, to the words of the Apostle, I would beg to consider them, on a point of infinitely higher moment. In what sense soever is meant this unspeakable gift: whether Christ, or the Holy Ghost, in either, or in both, the doctrine is most blessed. Some have conceived, that by the unspeakable gift, Christ is understood: and some have thought, that it is the Holy Spirit which is meant.

If we suppose Christ, as Christ, and as the gift of God; in every sense the mercy is so great, that it may well be called unspeakable. For the infinite dignity of his Person, and the infinite cause for which he is given; all the vast concerns involved in this gift, first before the world was formed, then during the whole of the present time-state of the Church; and, lastly, the eternal world which follows, and in which, all those immense purposes, for which Christ was given to the Church, and the Church to Christ, are to be accomplished: in whatever way the subject be considered, every child of God, in contemplating Christ, finds reason to join the Apostle, and cry out: now thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

And there is another view, which tends to enhance this gift, and render it unspeakably more dear and precious: I mean, in that it was given freely, without any one motive, moving the infinite mind of Jehovah to be thus gracious, but his own sovereign will, and from his own everlasting love. So far were the highly objects of this unspeakable mercy, from seeking it, or even from knowing that they needed it, that they were altogether ignorant, both of the Gift, and the Giver. And therefore, in the contemplation of God the Father’s love, in such unequalled proofs of it, as the free, full, and never to be recalled gift of his dear Son, with all the glorious purposes contained in it; every motive compels them to be unceasingly engaged, in praising God for his unspeakable gift.

And, if God the Holy Ghost in his office-character be supposed as implied in this unspeakable mercy; there is no less reason for admiring, adoring, and giving praise to God, for such a token of divine love.

When I speak of God the Holy Ghost as the gift of God, I beg to be clearly understood, as speaking upon Scriptural grounds, and by Scriptural authority. There is a gift of his Person, and a gift of his graces, in his office-character in the Covenant of grace. But this must never be understood, as lessening in our view the infinite glories of the Person of the Holy Ghost, in his own eternal power, and Godhead. In the essential glories of the Godhead, all the Persons are equal, in every point, which can distinguish the divine nature. Distinguished only by their personalities, they are One, in essense, will, power, and in all the sovereignty which constitutes Godhead. They are the Three which bear record in Heaven; and Which three are One. Such is the unity of the divine Nature. 1 John 5:7. Deut. 4.

And in relation to the account given to the Church in Scripture, concerning them; they are equally proposed to us in all the revelations of the sacred word, as entitled to the joint love, adoration, obedience, and praise, of all their creatures. Hence, they have in Covenant engagements, entered into certain offices, by which they are pleased to be made known to the Church, in the accomplishment of those grand purposes, from all eternity designed. God the Father’s office-character is represented, as choosing the Church in Christ, giving the Church to Christ, accepting the Church in Christ, and everlastingly blessing the Church in Christ, with all suited blessings, of grace here, and glory to all eternity. Hence in this office-character, Christ is said to be sent of the Father, to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14. And in like manner, the Holy Ghost is said to be the gift of God the Father, in, and through, Christ. Hence Jesus, when speaking to his disciples on the coming of the Holy Ghost, said: the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name. John 14:26. And in the same discourse, the Lord Jesus speaks of the Holy Ghost being sent to them by himself. It is expedient for you, (said Jesus,) that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto you. John 16:7. But in both instances it is plain, from the dignity of God the Holy Ghost, in his own Person, eternal nature, and Godhead, which he possesseth in common with the Father and the Son; that these things refer to the office-character, which in the Covenant of grace, God the Holy Ghost hath entered into, and engaged for: and not as if implying any inferiority, in his Almighty Person, and Godhead.

If in this sense, the Apostle meant the Holy Ghost, as the unspeakable gift of God; the Lord the Spirit is indeed unspeakably precious, in all that relates to his office-character and relation. And the Reader, as well as the Writer, of this Poor Man’s Commentary, if so be he hath partaken in His manifold gifts, and graces; may well join Paul in the same short, but expressive hymn of praise, and say: Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift![15]

15 And so Paul himself ends this appeal in the very way he indicates their response will be received in Jerusalem, with praise to God for his indescribable gift. Here, then, is the conclusion to the exposition of chapters 8–9. The word “grace” (charis—8:1), with which Paul began, he now uses symbolically in this final statement. To be sure, the meanings are different; at the beginning it means “grace,” while here it means “thanks.” Indeed, the word charis, although used with different nuances and meanings throughout this long passage, has served to give an overarching unity to the whole, thus forming an “elaborate inclusio.”

It is, of course, “God” to whom the apostle expresses his “thanks” (see on 8:16; cf. 2:14). Thanksgiving—first by the “saints” of Jerusalem (vv. 11–12) and now by the apostle—has dominated these final verses of his exposition.

What is “[God’s] indescribable gift” (dōrea72) for which Paul offers his thanks to God? It is “the surpassing grace of God to you,” as stated in the previous verse, which has sparked a chain reaction. What began in free, unconditioned generosity has issued in thankfulness and longing in the fellowship within the “household of faith … the Israel of God,” in which there can be “neither Jew nor Greek” because “all are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 6:10, 16; 3:28). While the immediate context demands such an answer, a broader sweep of this passage hints that, ultimately, “God’s indescribable gift” can only be gracious Jesus himself, who, though rich, impoverished himself to make the poor rich (see on 8:9). Jesus Christ is “the divine gift which inspires all gifts” (so Tasker).

So conclude chapters 8–9, a remarkable and sustained exposition of the “grace of God” as applied to the historic situation in Corinth where the members of the church had allowed their contributions to Paul’s collection to fall into abeyance. Despite his powerful desire that the Corinthians complete the collection, at no point does Paul weaken his grip on this great truth of the gospel. As he began, so he ends, with “grace,” God’s “indescribable gift,” as he calls it, or rather him, Jesus Christ.

Paul’s words stand as a rebuke to the Corinthians’ myopic individualism and congregationalism (8:7). Paul’s emphasis is upon “equality” within the worldwide people of the new covenant and the mutual responsibility each member is to show to others, regardless of geographic separation or ethnic difference (8:13–15). The Corinthians displayed a lack of practical commitment to this reality as compared with the zeal and generosity of the very poor Macedonians. Paul presents these northern Greek believers, in whom the grace of God was at work, as a shining example of loving generosity to others in time of need, beyond their immediate circle.

Moreover, God’s righteousness, in covenantal fidelity (9:9) to the people to whom he has given his forensic righteousness (5:21), is to be expressed by them in the bountiful fruits of their righteousness (9:10), that is, in generous “sharing” with others (9:6–10) within the worldwide covenant people (9:13). God’s grace does not terminate in the recipient, but is to be reproduced in generosity. This is the “proof of love” (8:8, 24) and of obedience to the confession of Christ through the gospel (9:12). Sharing with others beyond the immediate congregation glorifies God and will be reciprocated by the recipients’ prayers for and longing toward the givers (9:13–14), the distant brothers and sisters in congregations beyond. Against Corinthian fears that their own needs would be unmet should they “share” in the collection (8:13–15), Paul gives assurances as to the power and faithfulness of God in providing for their own ongoing needs and for their own ongoing generosity toward others (9:6–10).

Various views have been expressed regarding Paul’s theological motivation in activating the collection. Prominent among these is that, in fulfillment of the promises of the prophets, the collection represents the ingathering of the Gentiles, which, in Paul’s view, would provoke a Jewish acceptance of the Messiah (as in Rom 9–11), thus hastening the Parousia. As noted earlier, we do not subscribe to this interesting view; Paul sets forth his own reasons for the collection, and the above hypothesis is not found among them (see Rom 15:15–33). Significantly, too, Paul states that the “sharing” is also for “everyone else” (v. 13), not only for the “saints” in Judaea.

Whatever the case, the collection was Paul’s. It was his “ministry of service … for the saints” (8:4; 9:1, 12, 13), in which the churches were asked to “share.” As such it was a merciful “ministry” (diakonia), which should be bracketed with the “ministry of reconciliation” that God had “given” him (5:18). Edifyingly, Paul’s exercise of the “ministry of service … for the saints” was conducted with careful forward planning (8:10; 1 Cor 16:1–4), with prudent attention to detail (8:16–24), with sensitivity to matters of probity (8:20), with perseverance in face of difficulty and disappointment (8:6–12), and, not least, in unswerving devotion of the doctrine to the grace of God (8:1–9:15 passim).[16]

15 This doxology is a final appeal to the lofty grandeur of divine giving (cf. 8:9; 9:8, 10–11). Since the gift is said to be given by God (“his … gift”) and beyond adequate human description (“indescribable”), it could hardly be the Corinthian contribution or even the boon of Jewish—Gentile reconciliation in Christ alluded to in v. 14a, but must refer secondarily to the “surpassing grace” that God imparts (v. 14b) and primarily to the Father’s gift of the Son (cf. Ro 8:32).[17]

Likeness to God

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (9:15)

This simple concluding benediction is one of the richest statements in Scripture. God’s indescribable gift is, of course, His Son—the most magnanimous, glorious, wonderful gift ever given, the gift that inspires all other gifts.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16–17)

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law. (Gal. 4:4)

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9–10)

God’s gift of the Lord Jesus Christ is the basis for Christian giving. Jesus was the “grain of wheat [that] falls into the earth and dies, … but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). God, as it were, planted Him as a seed and reaped a harvest of redeemed people. Believers are called to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1), and they are never more like Him than when they give.

Subsequent history reveals how the Corinthians responded to Paul’s plea in chapters 8 and 9 regarding the offering. Sometime after writing 2 Corinthians, Paul visited Corinth as he had planned (2 Cor. 12:14; 13:1–2). He remained there about three months (Acts 20:1–3), during which time he penned Romans. In that letter, Paul revealed that the Corinthians had responded positively concerning the collection:

Now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. (Rom. 15:25–27)

Not only had they contributed, but “they were pleased to do so”; they were joyful, happy, cheerful givers. They were on the path to true prosperity.[18]

[1] Easley, K. H. (2017). 2 Corinthians. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1849). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] 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., 2 Co 9:15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1684). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (2 Co 9:15). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2235). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Co 9:15). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (2 Co 9:15). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1506). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[9] Hunt, D. L. (2010). The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 804). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.

[10] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1855). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[11] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 408). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[12] Utley, R. J. (2002). Paul’s Letters to a Troubled Church: I and II Corinthians (Vol. Volume 6, p. 274). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[13] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 322–323). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[14] Kruse, C. G. (2015). 2 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary. (E. J. Schnabel, Ed.) (Second edition, Vol. 8, pp. 220–223). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

[15] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s New Testament Commentary: Acts–Ephesians (Vol. 2, pp. 543–545). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[16] Barnett, P. (1997). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 448–450). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[17] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 510). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[18] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 319–320). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

March 23 Evening Verse of The Day

41:2 To be blessed in the land was the hope of all those in Israel who were loyal to the Lord and to his covenant with them (see note at 37:3).[1]

41:2 in the land. The Lord preserves the life of His people, but He will also prosper them in the land. This applies the promise of the land found in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1–3).[2]

41:2 be called blessed upon the earth. The verb “be … blessed” is from the same Heb. root as the exclamatory description “blessed” of v. 1 (on other occurrences of the verb, cf. Pr 3:18; 31:28; SS 6:9).[3]

2. “The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive.” His noblest life shall be immortal, and even his mortal life shall be sacredly guarded by the power of Jehovah. Jesus lived on till his hour came, nor could the devices of crafty Herod take away his life till the destined hour had struck; and even then no man took his life from him, but he laid it down of himself, to take it again. Here is the portion of all those who are made like their Lord, they bless and they shall be blessed, they preserve and shall be preserved, they watch over the lives of others and they themselves shall be precious in the sight of the Lord. The miser like the hog is of no use till he is dead—then let him die; the righteous like the ox is of service during life—then let him live. “And he shall be blessed upon the earth.” Prosperity shall attend him. His cruse of oil shall not be dried up because he fed the poor prophet. He shall cut from his roll of cloth and find it longer at both ends.

“There was a man, and some did count him mad,

The more he gave away the more he had.”

If temporal gains be not given him, spirituals shall be doubled to him. His little shall be blessed, bread and water shall be a feast to him. The liberal are and must be blessed even here; they have a present as well as future portion. Our Lord’s real blessedness of heart in the joy that was set before him is a subject worthy of earnest thought, especially as it is the picture of the blessing which all liberal saints may look for. “And thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.” He helped the distressed, and now he shall find a champion in his God. What would not the good man’s enemies do to him if they had him at their disposal? Better be in a pit with vipers than be at the mercy of persecutors. This sentence sets before us a sweet negative, and yet it were not easy to have seen how it could be true of our Lord Jesus, did we not know that although he was exempted from much of blessing, being made a curse for us, yet even he was not altogether nor for ever left of God, but in due time was exalted above all his enemies.[4]

2. Jehovah will keep him, and preserve him in life. Here David follows out the same sentiment expressed in the preceding verse, when he says that the Lord will keep the afflicted, whose destruction cruel and unjust men represent as inevitable. It is likewise necessary always to bear in mind the contrast which is stated between the day of evil and the blessing of deliverance. In this verse the expressions denoting restoration to life, and blessedness on the earth, are of similar import. By these expressions, David means to show that although he had been to all appearance a dead man, yet the hope of life both for himself and for all the faithful had not been extinguished. There might, it is true, appear some inconsistency in his promising himself a happy life in this world, seeing our condition here would be miserable indeed if we had not the expectation of a better state in the world to come. But the answer to this is, that as many had despaired of his recovery, he expressly declares that he will yet be restored to his former state, and will continue alive, nay, that in him there will be seen manifest tokens of the favour of God. He does not in the least exclude by these expressions the hope of a better life after death. What follows concerning the bed of sorrow has led some to form a conjecture which, in my opinion, is not at all probable. What David says of affliction in general, without determining what kind of affliction, they regard as applicable exclusively to sickness. But it is no uncommon thing for those who are sorrowful and grieved in their minds to throw themselves upon their bed, and to seek repose; for the hearts of men are sometimes more distressed by grief than by sickness. It is, certainly, highly probable that David was at that time afflicted with some very heavy calamity, which might be a token that God was not a little displeased with him. In the second clause of the verse there is some obscurity. Some understand the expression, turning the bed, in the same sense as if God, in order to give some alleviation to his servant in the time of trouble, had made his bed and arranged it, as we are wont to do to those who are sick, that they may lay themselves more softly. Others hold, and, in my opinion, more correctly, that when David was restored to health, his bed, which had formerly served him as a sick couch, was turned, that is to say, changed. Thus the sense would be, that although he now languish in sorrow, whilst the Lord is chastening him and training him by means of affliction, yet in a little while he will experience relief by the hand of the same God, and thus recover his strength.[5]

41:2 The Lord protects and preserves them—they are counted among the blessed in the land. The first part of the verse refers to the Lord keeping the psalmist alive. The word that the NIV renders “counted among the blessed” (root ’shr) is similar to the word that begins the psalm, ’ashre (“blessed”), and may be translated in this way. Another meaning, however—and my preference—is “to take steps” (Prov. 9:6). It would be translated “he will take steps on the earth,” which is a logical sequence to the psalmist’s restoration from his sickness (i.e., “he will walk again”).[6]

The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes (v. 2). The theme of the Lord as the keeper of Israel finds fuller development in Psalm 121:7–8. Part of the protection referred to here was preservation in time of serious illness. The phrase ‘preserve his life’ can also be rendered ‘keep him alive’. There are difficulties with the following words. The Hebrew text has: ‘he will be blessed in the land and do not you give him …’ The niv follows the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Syriac in translating it as active (‘he will bless’), but the passive form still yields good sense: ‘he will be blessed in the land.’ The change to a second person singular form in the final clause is understandable if it is part of the prayer addressed to God: ‘May the Lord protect … and preserve … and not surrender him into the life of the enemy’. In the good land he will be kept safe (see Ps. 37:22), and his enemies will not see their desire for him fulfilled.[7]

[1] Warstler, K. R. (2017). Psalms. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 855). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 772). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 41:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 27-57 (Vol. 2, p. 256). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[5] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 2, pp. 115–116). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[6] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 314–315). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Harman, A. (2011). Psalms: A Mentor Commentary (Vol. 1–2, pp. 343–344). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

March 23 Morning Verse of The Day

33:19 my goodness … my name. Though the visible magnificence of this theophany is apparent from the text, the emphasis falls on a revelation to Moses of God’s sovereign, gracious, and compassionate nature (cf. 34:5–7). In Jesus Christ, the glory of the gracious and compassionate God that was withheld even from Moses is displayed to believers through the Spirit (John 1:14; 2 Cor. 3:18).

to whom … on whom. The Lord is sovereign in His purposes of mercy (Rom. 9:14–16). See “The Purpose of God: Predestination and Foreknowledge” at Mal. 1:2.[1]

33:19 the name of Yahweh’ Yahweh has already revealed His name to Moses (3:14). In ot theology, the “name” (shem) of God was another way to refer to the person of God Himself (e.g., Isa 24:15; 30:27; Prov 18:10; Psa 75:1).[2]

33:19 The Lord’s words appear to be a response to Moses’ requests—that the Lord would show him his ways (v. 13) and his glory (v. 18). The description points forward to the event of the Lord’s self-declaration that is to come: “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’ (see 34:5–6) … I will be gracious … and will show mercy” (see 34:6). Paul cites this in Rom. 9:15 to show that, when God shows mercy, it is because he has chosen to do so.

33:19 God as sovereign works his will in election (Rom. 9:15).[3]

33:19 — “ … I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

God consistently reveals Himself as a God of grace and compassion—something that greatly comforts us during difficult times or when we sin or make errors in judgment. It’s a promise we can always count on.[4]

33:19 Amazingly, the Lord responded positively. My goodness speaks of the sense of the wonder of God, of His divine attributes, of His essential worth and majesty. Proclaim the name of the Lord: The name of God is the expression of His person, who He is. be gracious … have compassion: The Lord’s sovereignty is paramount in His dealings with people. God can do anything He wants. Yet, in His mercy, He responded to Moses’ plea. What a great gift this is: The Creator of the universe tenderly granting the audacious request of His servant (Ps. 40:1).[5]

Ver. 19. I will be gracious.—Election no discouragement to seeking souls:—Because God is the Maker, and Creator, and Sustainer of all things, He has a right to do as He wills with all His works.

  1. Let us begin with this assertion, which we are absolutely sure is correct: this doctrine does not oppose any comfort derived from other scriptural truths. There is not the slightest shadow of a conflict between God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness. He may be a sovereign, and yet it may be absolutely certain that He will always act in the way of goodness and love. It is true that He will do as He wills; and yet it is quite certain that He always wills to do that which, in the widest view of it, is good and gracious.
  2. That this doctrine has a most salutary effect upon sinners. To the awakened sinner, next to the doctrine of the Cross, the doctrine of distinguishing grace is perhaps the most fraught with blessings and comfort.
  3. In the first place, the doctrine of election, applied by the Holy Ghost, strikes dead for ever all the efforts of the flesh.
  4. Again, this doctrine gives the greatest hope to the really awakened sinner.
  5. Moreover, do not you see how the doctrine of election comforts the sinner in the matter of power. His complaint is, “I find I have no power to believe; I have no spiritual power of any kind.” Election stoops down and whispers in his ear “But if God wills to save you, He gives the power, gives the life, and gives the grace; and therefore since He has given that power and might to others as weak as you, why not to you? Have courage, look to the Cross of Christ and live.” And oh! what emotions of gratitude, what throbbings of love does this doctrine cause in human hearts. I wanted to have said a word as to the effect of this gospel upon incorrigible sinners. If you are ever to be pardoned, God must do it. (C. H, Spurgeon.)

Moral glory:

How precious is the thought suggested by this—that when God is seen to be most good to His creatures, He is then seen to be most glorious in the universe; that the glory and the goodness of God are so connected together that where the one is most revealed, the other shines in its richest splendour. Not power in creating, not justice in punishing, but goodness in saving, sets forth most the glory of God. Creation is the mirror of His power; Sinai is the pedestal of His justice; but Calvary is the scene of His goodness, and therefore of His great glory. And we all know that great genius may make us wonder, great riches may make us envy, great strength may startle us; but great goodness rises upon the soul with an influence like the sun in his shining light, making us love as well as admire, and reverence, and esteem. Lost as man is, goodness is still most impressive on the heart of the very worst. Even with all our depravity, who does not admire Howard, the philanthropist, vastly more than Byron, the poet? There may have been little genius in Howard, as the world calls genius, but there was a beneficence that went into the retreats of fever, into the lairs of vice, shut its eyes to monumental remains of ancient days, and opened his heart only to the cry of them that were appointed to die. And when one hears what he did, and what he dared under the inspiration of goodness, one is not awed, but charmed and delighted, with the character of Howard. But when we see, on the other hand, great genius—and one cannot but admire such a genius as that gifted nobleman had—we wonder at the greatness and the versatility of intellect; but when that intellect was used only to scathe, and to wither, and to blast, we look upon it in the same way as upon the sirocco in the desert, we are rather terrified at it, or retreat from it, or would rather wish we should not see it at all. But how complete is the contrast between goodness in a Howard, and mere power in a Byron! And is there one in this assembly that would not infinitely rather take the example of Howard as his model, than wish the power of Byron to be his possession? But this is in the human, and I quote it in the human only to show you more clearly the truth I am trying to teach; that not the manifestation of power, not the manifestation of justice, but the manifestation of goodness, is the most impressive on the heart. (J. Cumming, D.D.)[6]

19. Proclaim before you my name. God’s revelation will be of his ‘name’ (that is, his nature) proclaimed in terms of his deeds to man. God’s nature is here defined as ‘goodness’ (Heb. ṭûb), and this is further described in terms of ‘grace’ and ‘mercy’. Driver rightly says that the object of this divine grace and mercy is sinful Israel: without this quality of ‘loving-kindness’ as God’s basic characteristic, Israel would be utterly lost. See Hyatt for various meanings of ṭûb in the Bible. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious. Romans 9:15 quotes this verse with reference to the sovereignty of God. Israel can only marvel that she has been chosen as an object for divine mercy, for she cannot explain it in any human terms. Commentators point out that the Hebrew phrase used here does not imply any abrupt arbitrariness on the part of God, as its English translation might suggest. It simply draws attention to the fact that these are qualities of God which may be seen in certain specific historic instances, without going into further detail.[7]

19. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass. At the outset He declares how far He has listened to Moses; but a limitation is presently added to prevent excess. Thus his prayer is not altogether rejected, but only so far as he was too eagerly set on beholding the perfection of God’s glory. The passing by signifies a vision of brief duration; as if He had said, Let it suffice thee to have seen once, as for a moment, my glory, when it shall pass before thine eyes. The word טוב, tub, which I have rendered beauty, (decorem,) others translate good, (bonum😉 and hence, some take it to mean goodness; but the expression beauty (pulchritudinis, vel decoris) is more suitable, in which sense we find it used more than once. Hence that which is pleasing and delectable is said to be good to be looked upon.

“To call in the name of the Lord,” I understand thus, to declare in a clear and loud voice what it is useful for us to know respecting God Himself. It had been said before to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,—but by my name,—was I not known to them.” (Exod. 6:3.) Whereas, then, Moses was already superior to the patriarchs, he is now still more highly exalted, inasmuch as God makes Himself more fully known to him, and carries His manifestation of Himself to its very utmost. First, therefore, it must be borne in mind that God was now known to Moses more familiarly than heretofore; still, at the same time, let it be observed, that although a vision was exhibited to his eyes, the main point was in thethe voice; because true acquaintance with God is made more by the ears than by the eyes. A promise indeed is given that he shall behold God; but the latter blessing is more excellent, that God will proclaim His name, so that Moses may know Him more by His voice than by His face; for speechless visions would be cold and altogether evanescent, did they not borrow efficacy from words. Thus, therefore, just as logicians compare a syllogism to the body, and the reasoning, which it includes, to the soul; so, properly speaking, the soul of a vision is the doctrine itself, from whence faith takes its rise.

and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious. It will be well to consider how this sentence is connected with the foregoing, which has been either altogether neglected, or not sufficiently attended to. As to me, although I think that God’s mercy is magnified by the fact, that He deals so indulgently to this guilty people, still I have no doubt but that He desired purposely to cut off occasion from the audacity of men, lest they should exclaim against His unwonted and as yet unheard of liberality; for, whether God executes His judgments, or mercifully pardons sins, profane men never cease to quarrel with Him; thus, out of mere disputatiousness, they ask why He delayed the advent of His Son for so many ages; why He has deigned to bring forth the light of the Gospel out of darkness in our own days; nay, they take flight even to the creation of the world, inasmuch as it seems absurd to them that God should have been idle for so many ages, and therefore they inquire, in ridicule, why it at length entered His mind to make the world, which has not yet reached its sixth millennium? Especially, however, does the frowardness of many advance beyond all due bounds on this point, viz., because the reason does not appear, why God should be merciful to one nation or one age, and severe both to other ages and other nations. Hence the admirable counsel of God, whereby He has chosen some, and reprobated others, has always been exposed to the calumnies of ungodly men; for unless they see the cause of the diversity, they do not hesitate to condemn the injustice of God in making this distinction between the two.2 God here checks this insanity, and asserts His power, which men, or rather worms of the earth, would gladly deprive Him of, viz., that according to His own will He exercises peculiar mercy towards whomsoever He pleases. When the Prophet relates how the fathers obtained possession of the land of Canaan, he assigns no other reason except that God “had a favour unto them.” (Ps. 44:3.) And this doctrine, which filthy dogs endlessly assail with their barking, everywhere occurs in the Scriptures. Especially, however, do they rail when God shews Himself to be propitious, and beneficent towards the unworthy. For this reason Paul reminds believers of the incomprehensible counsel of God, because, by the preaching of the Gospel, He revealed the mystery, which was kept secret from all eternity. (Rom. 16:25.) Again, because by ingrafting the Gentiles into the body of the Church, from which they had so long been aliens, He commends the depths of that mystery, which, though hidden even from angels, He made known to all men in the fulness of time. (Eph. 3:9.) With the same intent, He here expressly declares that the cause why He manifests Himself to Moses more fully than of old to the patriarchs, is only to be sought in His own counsel or good-pleasure. Now, although this in the first place relates to Moses, still, inasmuch as he beheld the glory of God for the common good of the people, this mercy, which is referred to, extends to them all. And assuredly it was an inestimable proof of God’s grace that, after this most disgraceful fall and wicked apostasy of the people, He nevertheless revealed Himself more clearly than before to Moses for their spiritual good. This, indeed, is certain, that by this reply a restraint is put upon whatever carnal feelings might allege in consideration of the novelty of the act; as if God had declared in one word that the dispensation of His grace is in His own sole power; and that men not only do amiss, but are carried away by impious and blasphemous madness when they endeavour to interfere with Him; as if it were their business to arraign that supreme Judge whose subjects they are. The mode of expression simply tends to this, that God’s will is superior to all causes, so as to be the reason of all reasons, the law of laws, and the rule of rules. And surely, as long as men permit themselves to inquire into the secret counsels of God, there will be no bounds to their seditiousness. God, therefore, does not correct this insanity by disputing with it, but by the assertion of His right to be free in the dispensation of His grace; for in His sovereignty He says that He will be merciful to whomsoever He will. Let us beware, then, lest, when He is kind, our eyes should be evil.

Further, the better to convince dissatisfied men of their pride and temerity, He sets forth His mercy and compassion; as much as to say, that He is under obligation to none; and hence that it is an unworthy thing in them to murmur, because He does not indiscriminately do good to them to whom He owes nothing. Hence it is clear how appropriately Paul, when treating of gratuitous election, accommodates this passage to the matter in hand, (Rom. 9:15,) viz., that God must be by no means accounted unjust, because He passes by some and elects others; for the words loudly proclaim that God’s grace is destined to a certain number of men, so as not to appear equally in all. The phrase itself needs no exposition, for it is common in all languages when we wish to prevent our reasons from being investigated, to repeat the point in question; thus, a person, wishing to rid himself of the censures of others, would say, I will go whither I will go, or I will do what I will do.[8]

19. Observe, God’s glory in the salvation of sinners is his goodness; Jesus is the Father’s glory. Heb. 1:3.[9]

And the Lord said, “I (at my initiative and under my control) will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence” (33:19). ‘Goodness’ and ‘name’ are substituted for ‘glory’. Moses is not going to be exposed to the full intensity of the divine radiance, but he is going to learn all that can be known about the Lord’s covenant dealings with his people. ‘Goodness’ points to the benefits God sovereignly bestows on those whom he calls to himself. What this involves is spelled out in 34:6–7. Moses will also be permitted to hear the divine name, that is, what has been revealed of God’s nature and essence. There is a change from what is visible and perceptible to what is verbal, requiring the inner acceptance of faith before it can be comprehended. ‘Pass’ indicates that this privileged experience is to be transient. It will be a time of special blessing, which Moses is not going to be permitted to enjoy for the rest of his earthly life.

The Lord emphasises the inscrutability of his grace. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. There is no humanly accessible logic that can explain why the Lord works in the way he does, either at the level of his showing favour to mankind who are in rebellion against him or at the level of the individuals he calls to himself. The contemplation of the divine name emphasises the wonder of his mercy and of his compassion. For ‘mercy’, see on ‘gracious’ (34:6), and for ‘compassion’, see on ‘compassionate’ in the same verse. The repetitive nature of the expression is an emphatic device to bring out the sovereignty of God’s action (Rom. 9:15; see discussion at 3:14). There is no formula that can predict the recipients of his mercy.[10]

[1] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 144). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ex 33:19). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 199). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ex 33:19). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 143). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Exodus (pp. 577–578). New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company.

[7] Cole, R. A. (1973). Exodus: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 235–236). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. (2010). Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Vol. 3, pp. 377–381). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[9] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Genesis–Numbers (Vol. 1, p. 385). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[10] Mackay, J. L. (2001). Exodus (p. 558). Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

March 22 Evening Verse of The Day

11:11 Sarah The wife of Abraham; one of several women in Genesis who were barren (Gen 11:30; 25:21; 29:31).

one who had promised In spite the natural odds against him, Abraham believed that God was faithful and obeyed Him (Gen 15:6; 17:22–27).[1]

11:11 By faith Sarah was miraculously empowered to conceive when she was about ninety years old. The record clearly states that she was past the time of life when she could bear a child. But she knew that God had promised her a baby, and she knew He could not go back on His word. She had shatterproof faith that He would do what He had promised.[2]

11:11 “Sarah” Some ancient Greek manuscripts (P46, D) add “barren.” It is significant that none of the patriarch’s wives (except Leah) could conceive without the help of God. Also, none of the first born children were the heirs of promise. God acted to show that He was in charge!

Sarah, like Abraham, was a mixture of fear and faith. She gave Abraham her servant; she also laughed at God’s promise (cf. Gen. 18:12).[3]

11. It is perhaps surprising to find Sarah spoken of as an example of faith, for according to Genesis she was more conspicuous as an example of doubt. But since the birth of the theocratic community is in mind, Sarah’s part was as important as Abraham’s. In view of her advancing years she needed some power (dynamis) beyond herself if she was to conceive and bring forth a child. An alternative text attributes to Abraham the receiving of power to conceive, which is more natural than attributing it to Sarah. The change in the text, however, looks like an attempt to avoid an apparent difficulty. In spite of the fact that Sarah laughed when first hearing that she was to have a child, her mockery must have turned to faith long before Isaac was born. It needed a woman of faith to be wife of a believer as outstanding as Abraham. She too had to come to the same conviction as her husband that the God who had promised would honour his word (she considered him faithful who had promised). In all spiritual encounters it is easier to doubt than to believe, and Sarah must be commended for her willingness to change her approach and to make way for the development of her faith. The conviction that God is faithful is one of the cardinal aspects of biblical doctrine. It is as strong in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. It is the foundation stone of the faith of God’s people.[4]

11. Through faith also, Sarah herself, &c. That women may know that this truth belongs to them as well as to men, he adduces the example of Sarah; which he mentions in preference to that of others, because she was the mother of all the faithful.

But it may seem strange that her faith is commended, who was openly charged with unbelief; for she laughed at the word of the angel as though it were a fable; and it was not the laugh of wonder and admiration, for otherwise she would not have been so severely reproved by the angel. It must indeed be confessed, that her faith was blended with unbelief; but as she cast aside her unbelief when reproved, her faith is acknowledged by God and commended. What then she rejected at first as being incredible, she afterwards as soon as she heard that it came from God, obediently received.

And hence we deduce a useful doctrine,—that when our faith in some things wavers or halts, it ceases not to be approved of God, provided we indulge not the spirit of unbelief. The meaning then is, that the miracle which God performed when Isaac was born, was the fruit of the faith of Abraham, and of his wife, by which they laid hold on the power of God.

Because she judged him faithful, &c. These reasons, by which the power and character of faith are set forth, ought to be carefully noticed. Were any one only to hear that Sarah brought forth a child through faith, all that is meant would not be conveyed to him, but the explanation which the Apostle adds removes every obscurity; for he declares that Sarah’s faith was this,—that she counted God to be true to his word, that is, to what he had promised.

There are two clauses to this declaration; for we hence learn first, that there is no faith without God’s word, for of his faithfulness we cannot be convinced, until he has spoken. And this of itself is abundantly sufficient to confute the fiction of the sophists respecting implicit faith; for we must ever hold that there is a mutual relation between God’s word and our faith. But as faith is founded chiefly, according to what has been already said, on the benevolence or kindness of God, it is not every word, though coming from his mouth, that is sufficient; but a promise is necessary as an evidence of his favour. Hence Sarah is said to have counted God faithful who had promised. True faith then is that which hears God speaking and rests on his promise.[5]

11 According to the transmitted text, as commonly translated, we now have a statement about the faith of Sarah. There are difficulties in the way of the traditional interpretation, some of them less weighty and some of them more so.

(i) Sarah, it is said, is not a good example of faith. According to Gen. 18:12 she laughed when she overheard the divine promise that she would give birth to a son, and the comment of God on her laughter (Gen. 18:13f.) makes it plain that it was the laughter of incredulity. Chrysostom indeed, in dealing with this difficulty, suggests that her subsequent denial of her laughter was “by faith”; but of course it was nothing of the kind: “Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid” (Gen. 18:15). Yet according to promise she gave birth to Isaac nevertheless. No doubt when Isaac was born she laughed in a manner that betokened no incredulity but exulting wonder: “God has made laughter for me; every one who hears will laugh over me” (Gen. 21:6). But our author speaks of an act of faith that preceded her conception of Isaac. Still, this is not an insuperable objection. Our author elsewhere in this chapter can see faith where most people would not, and there may be something in R. V. G. Tasker’s comment:96 “It is surely just the paradoxical character of the illustration which is a sign of its genuineness; and kai autē [‘even herself’] so far from making a poor connexion, as Zuntz asserts, may well give us the insight we need into the author’s thought about Gen. xviii. Even Sarah’s acceptance of a promise which at first she seemed to hear with indifference is to the mind of the auctor ad Hebraeos a venture into the unseen world which faith makes real.”

(ii) In v. 12 it is still Abraham’s faith that is the subject, so that v. 11, if it refers to Sarah, is a digression. Even so, it would not be an irrelevant digression; Sarah was very much involved in the fulfilment of the promise that Abraham would have a son.

(iii) The Genesis narrative lays stress on the quality of Abraham’s faith in accepting God’s promise that he would have descendants when he was still childless. It is in this particular context that Abraham “believed Yahweh; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). Paul, following the Genesis narrative, emphasizes that “no distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:20f.). But on the usual reading of our present passage the author of Hebrews has nothing to say about this signal demonstration of Abraham’s faith. If the language of v. 11 were unambiguous, we should simply have to accept this situation; but in fact the language of v. 11 points in another direction.

(iv) The one firm argument against taking v. 11 as a statement of Sarah’s faith lies in the fact that the phrase traditionally rendered “to conceive seed” just does not mean that; it refers to the father’s part in the generative process, not the mother’s. A literal translation would be, “for the deposition of seed”; it does not denote the receiving or conception of seed. This is a straightforward matter of the natural sense of a Greek word, and had it not been for the apparent presence of “Sarah” as subject of the sentence no one would ever have thought of finding a reference to conception here.100 Tasker describes this objection to the traditional interpretation as a “notorious difficulty”; but adds: “do we know enough about Greek usage at the time to say definitely that an active noun of this kind could not also carry a passive sense?” All that we know of the usage of this Greek noun at the time renders it in the highest degree improbable that it would be employed in the sense of “conception,” especially by one so sensitive to Greek usage as our author is. But Tasker is certainly right in saying that the solution proposed by Zuntz and others “seems a too drastic cutting of the knot.” They suggest that the words “Sarah herself” should be rejected as a very early addition to the text; the verse would then be rendered: “By faith he [Abraham] also received power to beget a child even after the natural season of life …” But it is not necessary to cut out “Sarah herself” from the text. If the adjective “barren” belongs to the original text, “Sarah herself being barren” is best taken as a circumstantial clause103 and “Abraham” remains the subject of “received power.” If “barren” is regarded as a later addition to the text, then “Sarah herself” may be construed in the dative case instead of the nominative, and the verse then runs: “By faith he [Abraham] also, together with Sarah, received power to beget a child even after the natural season of life, because he reckoned the one who gave the promise to be trustworthy.” In either case, v. 12 then follows on naturally.[6]

11 These comments will follow TNIV, which has, rightly in my view, placed in the text what in the NIV was given as a footnote (see note below for the textual issue). As we noted above, the inclusion of Sarah within the account of Abraham’s faith is a surprise, especially when she is not only listed as an example of “faith” but is said to have “considered him faithful who had made the promise.” In Genesis 18:10–15, Sarah hears the promise she will have a son and laughs, not with pleasure, but out of cynicism, and is rebuked for her unbelief. When eventually her son is born, the laughter of unbelief gives way to the laughter of joy, from which Isaac gets his name (Ge 21:6–7), but there has been no indication in the narrative that the change was the result of faith rather than of the undeniable evidence of pregnancy. It is not surprising, therefore, that the verse was found difficult and that variants arose which attributed the faith to Abraham rather than to Sarah. But our author has apparently judged Sarah by her whole experience rather than by the specific incident recorded in Genesis 18:10–15. For a hitherto barren woman of ninety (Ge 17:17) to bear a child was a remarkable instance of God’s overruling of circumstances, and the woman at the heart of the story, even if initially unable to believe it, must have been a woman who took God seriously, though at first she had to lean on Abraham’s faith rather than her own. Thus, despite her initial unbelief, “even Sarah” (the phrase reveals the author’s own awareness of the boldness of his claim) finds herself, along with Moses’ mother (v. 23) and Rahab the prostitute (v. 31), representing the women of the OT in our author’s gallery, just as in 1 Peter 3:5–6 she stands as a representative godly wife for Christian wives to imitate.[7]

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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2197). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Utley, R. J. (1999). The Superiority of the New Covenant: Hebrews (Vol. Volume 10, p. 117). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[4] Guthrie, D. (1983). Hebrews: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 15, pp. 234–235). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[5] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (pp. 280–282). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[6] Bruce, F. F. (1990). The Epistle to the Hebrews (Rev. ed., pp. 294–296). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[7] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 152). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 22 Morning Verse of The Day

1:18 The words of Jesus Christ are in an emphatic position in the Greek text, implying that the circumstances of Jesus’s birth differed from those of everyone else in the genealogy. Although several of those people were conceived by miracles, they all had a human father. Only Jesus was born of a virgin. Mary had been engaged to Joseph. However, ancient Jewish engagement was as legally binding as marriage. The couple did not live together or engage in sexual intercourse. But the engagement could only be ended by divorce (thus, Joseph’s decision in 1:19). Before they came together means that Joseph and Mary had not yet had intercourse. Joseph thus assumed that Mary had been unfaithful. Pregnant from the Holy Spirit means that Mary’s pregnancy was a miracle performed by the Spirit, not that God assumed material form and physically impregnated her. This makes Jesus’s conception dramatically different from Greek myths that speak of children born to gods who lay with women.[1]

1:18 “Betrothed” means “engaged,” but the meaning of the word in Jesus’ day goes beyond our own. Jewish law looked upon engagement, which lasted one year in Galilee, as a formal bond that could be dissolved only by divorce (Deut. 22:23, 24). Hence, Joseph is called Mary’s husband in v. 19 (cf. Gen. 29:21), though the marriage had not been consummated through sexual intimacy (vv. 18b, 25).[2]

1:18 betrothed Refers to a permanent relationship nearly equivalent to marriage.

came together Refers to cohabitation or physical union.

she was found to be pregnant Suggests that Mary was in her second trimester—that is, her pregnancy was beginning to show.[3]

1:18 Mary had been betrothed to Joseph. The custom of betrothal was different from “engagement” in modern society. Customarily the parents of a young man chose a young woman to be engaged to their son. A second stage of betrothal involved official arrangements and a prenuptial agreement before witnesses, which was a legally binding contract and could be broken only by a formal process of divorce. found to be with child. Mary is about four months pregnant, having spent three months with Elizabeth, her “relative” (Luke 1:36, 56).[4]

1:18 betrothed. Jewish betrothal was as binding as modern marriage. A divorce was necessary to terminate the betrothal (v. 19) and the betrothed couple were regarded legally as husband and wife (v. 19)—although physical union had not yet taken place. See note on Lk 2:5. with child by the Holy Spirit. See vv. 20, 23; Lk 1:26–35.[5]

1:18 — Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ can be our sinless sin-bearer because He alone out of all the human family was born “without sin.” Through the virgin birth, He could be both fully human and unstained by sin.[6]

1:18 betrothed: Universally, the basic element of marriage is a contract (Mal. 2:14). In Jewish culture this covenant was made about a year before the consummation of the marriage. It was during the one year period of betrothal that Mary was found with child. The fact that Mary was a virgin at this time is clearly implied by before they (Joseph and Mary) came together, and the virgin conception, which is to be deduced from Matthew’s account, is stated clearly in Luke 1:34, 35. The righteous quality of Joseph and his desire to divorce Mary when her pregnancy became known (1:19) shows that the discovery of Mary’s pregnancy would have been a cruel shock to Joseph. Mary spent the first three months of her pregnancy with Elizabeth in Judea (Luke 1:36–56). Elizabeth understood the miraculous nature of Mary’s conception; she also had a supernatural intervention in her pregnancy (Luke 1:39–45). When she returned to Nazareth, Mary’s condition became known to Joseph.[7]

1:18. The story of the birth of Jesus begins with a young Jewish girl named Mary [who] was betrothed to Joseph. By Jewish custom, the marriage would have been contracted but not consummated. It was a binding relationship unlike engagements today that can be easily broken.

When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant, he knew he was not the one responsible. Since Mary was carrying a child while still engaged to Joseph, she could have been charged with adultery under OT Law (Deut 22:22–24), a sin worthy of death (v 23).

Unknown to Joseph, Mary had done no wrong. Her pregnancy was the action of the Holy Spirit.[8]

1:18 The birth of Jesus Christ was different from any of the births mentioned in the genealogy. There we found the repeated formula: “A begot B.” But now we have the record of a birth without a human father. The facts surrounding this miraculous conception are stated with dignity and simplicity. Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph, but the wedding had not yet taken place. In NT times, betrothal was a form of engagement (but more binding than engagement today) and it could be broken only by divorce. Although an engaged couple did not live together until the marriage ceremony, unfaithfulness on the part of the betrothed was treated as adultery and punishable by death.

During the time of her betrothal, the Virgin Mary became pregnant by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. An angel had previously announced this mysterious event to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). A cloud of suspicion and scandal hung over Mary. In all of human history there had never been a virgin birth. When people saw an unwed woman who was pregnant, they had only one possible explanation.[9]

Notes. 18 The birth of Jesus is not in fact the subject of the section; the Gk. word genesis (used also in v 1) means rather ‘origin’ or ‘beginning’.[10]

1:18. As Matthew launched the account of Jesus’ birth, note that he was careful to highlight the title Christ—the title he used in the preceding passage that demonstrated Jesus had the right to claim deity. Watch for Matthew’s use of this title throughout his Gospel. His purpose in writing was to make the case for Jesus as the promised king.

To understand the significance of some statements in this passage, it is necessary to understand the Jewish marriage customs of the day. The bride and groom went through a period of betrothal or engagement. In that culture and time, betrothal was virtually as binding as marriage. In this waiting period, Mary was found to be pregnant. Matthew was careful to protect the virtue of Mary and the supernatural origin of Christ.

Why is it so important that the Christ, the promised king, be born to a virgin? The virgin birth is more than a miracle to draw attention to the unique nature of this child. Because Mary was a virgin, only God could have been the father of Jesus, making Jesus the one and only God-Man in all the universe. God’s plan would have been impossible if Jesus had been anything less.[11]

1:18 “the birth” There is a Greek manuscript variant between “beginning” [genesis] and “birth” [gennasis]. The term genesis was original (cf. MSS P1, א, B, C). While both terms can mean “birth,” the first had wider connotations (creation, generation) and could have meant “begotten.” It has been supposed that later scribes changed the first term to “birth” deliberately to counteract later Christological (gnostic) heresies (cf. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart P. Ehrman, pp. 75–77).

“betrothed to Joseph” Betrothal was a legally binding Jewish custom, usually lasting about a year before marriage. The parties lived separately but were considered contractually married. Only death or divorce could break the betrothal arrangement.



“she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit”




“she was found with child of the Holy Spirit”




“she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit”




“she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit”


JB “she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit”


This refers to the virgin birth, which was not a sexual experience for Mary or the Spirit. This was a prophetic fulfillment of Gen. 3:15 (“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel”), and in a multiple fulfillment sense, of Isa. 7:14 (“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel”). Surprisingly, no apostolic sermons in Acts or the Epistles mention this, possibly because it could have been confused with Greco-Roman mythology.[12]

18. What was already implied in the genealogy is here clearly taught: Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened as follows: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they had begun to live together she found herself to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

Mary had been “betrothed”—solemnly promised in marriage—to Joseph. The marriage feast and living together was a matter for later date. Matthew makes his point of departure a moment of time shortly after the betrothal. Betrothal among the Jews must not be confused with present-day engagement. It was far more serious and binding. The bridegroom and bride pledged their troth to each other in the presence of witnesses. In a restricted sense this was essentially the marriage. So also here, as is clear from the fact that from that moment on Joseph is called Mary’s husband (verse 19); Mary is called Joseph’s wife (verse 20). According to the Old Testament regulation unfaithfulness in a betrothed woman was punishable with death (Deut. 22:23, 24). Yet, though the two were now legally “espoused,” it was considered proper that an interval of time elapse before husband and wife begin to live together in the same home. Now it was before Joseph and Mary had begun thus to live together, with all this implies both as to domestic and sexual relations, that Mary discovered her pregnancy. She was still a virgin, and not yet “married” in the full sense of the term. She knew immediately that the cause of her condition was the powerful life-imparting operation of the Holy Spirit. She knew it because the angel Gabriel had told her that this would happen (Luke 1:26–35). She knew that Joseph had not made her pregnant.[13]

18. The reading in rsv, omitting the name Jesus, is very likely the original. (It derives from the early Latin and Syriac versions; the substitution of the more familiar title ‘Jesus Christ’ in the Greek mss would be natural.) It emphasizes the Messiahship of the one whose ‘origin’ (genesis) Matthew now records. Jesus’ conception took place when Mary was betrothed to Joseph. In Jewish law betrothal, which lasted about one year, was much more than our engagement. It was a binding contract, terminable only by death (which left the betrothed a ‘widow’) or by a divorce as for a full marriage. The man was already the husband (v. 19), but the woman remained in her father’s house. The marriage was completed when the husband took the betrothed to his home in a public ceremony (v. 24; cf. 25:1–13); thus they came together, and sexual intercourse could begin. That the Holy Spirit was the agent in Jesus’ conception (cf. v. 20) is stressed also by Luke (1:35). In the Old Testament the Spirit of God appears as the agent of God’s activity, especially in creation and the giving of life (Gen. 1:2; Ezek. 37:1–14; etc.); thus the divine initiative is made clear. The agency of the Spirit in bringing the Messianic age (Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; Joel 2:28; etc.) is also in view.[14]

18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ. Matthew does not as yet relate the place or manner of Christ’s birth, but the way in which his heavenly generation was made known to Joseph. First, he says that Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Not that this secret work of God was generally known: but the historian mixes up, with the knowledge of men, the power of the Spirit, which was still unknown. He points out the time: When she was espoused to Joseph, and before they came together. So far as respects conjugal fidelity, from the time that a young woman was betrothed to a man, she was regarded by the Jews as his lawful wife. When a “damsel betrothed to an husband” was convicted of being unchaste, the law condemned both of the guilty parties as adulterers: “the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife,” (Deut. 22:23, 24.) The phrase employed by the Evangelist, before they came together, is either a modest appellation for conjugal intercourse, or simply means, “before they came to dwell together as husband and wife, and to make one home and family.” The meaning will thus be, that the virgin had not yet been delivered by her parents into the hands of her husband, but still remained under their roof.[15]

18. The subject of the miraculous conception, here intimated, being in itself so highly momentous, I would beg the Reader to attend to it with an affection equal to its vast importance. For this once admitted, brings up after it the glorious doctrine of the Atonement, with all the blessings connected with redemption. Let us consider therefore the subject particularly.

The expression here used respecting the miraculous conception, is most striking indeed. The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. And the parallel passage in Luke, is to the same amount. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Luke 1:35. Hence it must undeniably follow, that the conception was without the intervention of an human father, and wrought by the express work of God the Holy Ghost. And, as if to confirm this still more, the Angel further declared, that what was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, was of the Holy Ghost. Verse 20. So much then in proof of the agency of God the Holy Ghost.

Let us next enquire, what Scripture speaketh further of divine agency on this wonderful subject. That God the Father had an hand, in this great work, is as plainly declared by Christ himself, under the spirit of prophecy. For, speaking to the Father of the inefficacy in all sacrifices to take away sin, and making a voluntary offer of himself, Jesus saith, A body hast thou prepared me. Compare Psm. 40:6 with Heb. 10:5. And elsewhere, speaking still in the spirit of prophecy, Christ saith, Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made: when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought on the lowest parts of the earth; that is, the dark chamber of his mother’s womb. Psm. 139:13, 14, 15.

Hence, therefore, in the agency of God the Father, which is here most plainly shewn, added to what we before noticed of the work of God the Holy Ghost, everything most decidedly proves, that the conception was wholly miraculous.

Let us next call into our view what the Scriptures relate concerning Mary. That she was what the Jews called Almah, that is, a pure virgin, will never be questioned by those who believe the word of God. And therefore I shall not think it at all necessary to dwell upon it. But, what I wish chiefly to have impressed upon the Reader’s mind, respecting the part Mary bore in the miraculous conception, is this, that no taint of our corrupt nature was taken into the act. The promise at the fall was, the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. And therefore Christ, to fulfil this promise, must be of the seed of the woman. By his incarnation in her womb, he fully proved this. But then this incarnation being without an human father, and accomplished wholly by the work of both God the Father and God the Holy Ghost; the mere act of conception was all which Mary bore in the great deed. And as this conception was not by generation, in the ordinary way, so there was nothing in it that could pollute or defile. The angel’s message to Joseph, most clearly shews this: fear not, said he, to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

And I desire the Reader to consider the subject yet further, for it is a point never to be lost sight of on this occasion. Christ is no where said in the scripture to be begotten of a woman, but made of a woman. God sent forth his Son, made of a woman. Gal. 4:4. And who was the maker but God the Father? A body hast thou prepared me. And who wrought upon the body of the Virgin Mary but God the Holy Ghost? The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Now mark what follows. Therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. So that it was not man generating, but God the Holy Ghost overshadowing. Had Mary’s conception been by the act of generation by man, no doubt but the same taint of sin must have followed, as follows all the generations of our race. Then, (as David said of his mother, and we may all say of ours), in sin did my mother conceive me. Psm. 51:5. But the Virgin’s womb became only the sacred chamber of formation; whereas Christ saith, he was fearfully and wonderfully made. And her conception was of that pure and holy Thing as the angel called Christ, being wrought by the Holy Ghost, which was holy, harmless, undefiled; separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. And hence was fulfilled that which the Prophet was appointed to foretell. The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man. Jerem. 31:22. Hence Christ also is called the second man, the Lord from heaven. 1 Cor. 15:47.

If I have succeeded in stating the scripture account of this most sublime subject, in terms sufficiently plain to be understood by the Reader of my Poor Man’s Commentary; I shall hope, under divine teaching, that the Reader will not only henceforth be led to form proper and just apprehensions of the miraculous conception; but also be taught to connect with it the great and glorious doctrine of the atonement, which immediately follows. For wherefore was this miraculous conception of Mary, and this holy incarnation of Christ, but for the express purpose to make his soul an offering for sin? And wherefore this offering for sin, but to do away sin by the sacrifice of himself? And now the Lord Jesus Christ, having by that one offering of himself, once offered, finished transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in an everlasting righteousness: this righteousness is to all, and upon all that believe: for by that one offering of himself once offered, he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. See Dan. 9:24. Rom. 3:21, 22. Heb. 10:14.[16]

1:18 the birth of Jesus the Messiah. The word rendered “birth” in 1:18 is the same term used already in 1:1, genesis (there translated as “genealogy”). While both translations are quite in line with the different senses of this Greek word, the connection between the two sections (1:1–17, 18–25) is strengthened in that they both explicate Jesus’ “origins.” The first half of the chapter gives the genealogical and kingly origins of Jesus, specifically the genealogical line from Abraham through David. The latter half gives the more immediate familial origins, providing the connection between Joseph’s genealogy and his adoption of Jesus into his family line.

pledged to be married. Jewish engagements were initiated by a contract of marriage, and a legal action was required to break the engagement. This is what is meant by Joseph’s intention to “divorce her” (apolyō [1:19]). According to (later) rabbinic traditions, engagements, which usually were arranged when a young woman was about twelve years old, lasted about a year, after which the couple was married, and the wife lived with the husband’s family.[17]

18 The order of the opening words, which is less natural in Greek than in my translation, draws attention again to the title “Messiah” by putting it first. Verse 1 has promised to reveal the “origin” of the Messiah, and the repetition of that word here (see p. 46, n. 14) shows that that promise is still being fulfilled.33 The list of names now requires to be supplemented by a narrative account in order to explain how the identity of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah can be recognized despite the unusual and potentially self-defeating way the “book of origin” ended in v. 16.

The difference between our modern concept of “engagement” and that of first-century Jews is indicated by the description of Joseph already in v. 19 as Mary’s husband and by the use of the normal word for divorce to describe the ending of the engagement. Though the couple were not yet living together, it was a binding contract entered into before witnesses which could be terminated only by death (which would leave the woman a “widow”) or by divorce as if for a full marriage (m. Ketub. 4:2); sexual infidelity during the engagement would be a basis for such divorce. About a year after the engagement (m. Ketub. 5:2; Ned. 10:5) the woman (then aged normally about thirteen or fourteen) would leave her father’s home and go to live with the husband in a public ceremony (such as is described in 25:1–12), which is here referred to as “coming together” and will be recorded in v. 24.

The role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ conception (which will be explained in v. 20; as yet Joseph knows nothing of it) reflects the OT concept of the Spirit of God active in the original creation (Gen 1:2; Ps 33:6) and in the giving of life (Ps 104:30; Isa 32:15; Ezek 37:1–14); cf. the possibility considered above that v. 1 is intended to suggest a new creation. The Spirit is also thought of in the OT as having an eschatological role in connection with the coming of the Messiah (Isa 11:2; 42:1; 61:1 etc.), and this theme will be taken up in 3:16–17, but the mention here links the Spirit not just with Jesus’ adult ministry but with his whole earthly life. The delicate way in which both Matthew and Luke express the process of Jesus’ conception contrasts sharply with Greek and Roman stories of gods (often having assumed the form of a male human or even animal) having intercourse with human women, resulting in the birth of demigod heroes like Heracles.[18]

18 The word translated “birth” is, in the best MSS (see Notes), the word translated “genealogy” in 1:1. Maier prefers “history” of Jesus Christ, taking the phrase to refer to the rest of Matthew’s gospel. Yet it is best to take the word to mean “birth” or “origins” in the sense of the beginnings of Jesus Messiah. Even a well-developed Christology would not want to read the man “Jesus” and his name back into a preexistent state (see comments at 1:1). The pledge to be married was legally binding. Only a divorce writ could break it, and infidelity at that stage was considered adultery (cf. Dt 22:23–24; Moore, Judaism, 2:121–22). The marriage itself took place when the groom (already called “husband,” Mt 1:19) ceremoniously took the bride home (see comments at 25:1–13). Mary is here introduced unobtrusively. Though comparing the gospel accounts gives us a picture of her, she does not figure largely in Matthew.

“Before they came together” (prin ē synelthein autous) occasionally refers in classical Greek to sexual intercourse (LSJ, 1712); in the other thirty instances of synerchomai (GK 5302) in the NT, there is, however, no sexual overtone. But here sexual union is included, occurring at the formal marriage when the “wife” moved in with her “husband.” Only then was sexual intercourse proper. The phrase affirms that Mary’s pregnancy was discovered while she was still betrothed, and the context presupposes that both Mary and Joseph had been chaste (cf. McHugh, Mother of Jesus, 157–63; and for the customs of the day, m. Qidd. [“Betrothals”] and m. Ketub. [“Marriage Deeds”]).

That Mary was “found” to be with child does not suggest a surreptitious attempt at concealment (“found out”) but only that her pregnancy became obvious. This pregnancy came about through the Holy Spirit (even more prominent in Luke’s birth narratives). There is no hint of pagan deity-human coupling in crassly physical terms. Instead, the power of the Lord, manifest in the Holy Spirit who was expected to be active in the messianic age, miraculously brought about the conception.[19]

The Virgin Birth

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. (1:18)

Though it does not by itself prove divine authorship, the very fact that the account of Jesus’ divine conception is given in but one verse strongly suggests that the story was not man-made. It is simply not characteristic of human nature to try to describe something so absolutely momentous and marvelous in such a brief space. Our inclination would be to expand, elaborate, and try to give every detail possible. Matthew continues to give additional information related to the virgin birth, but the fact of it is given in one sentence—the first sentence of verse 18 being merely introduction. Seventeen verses are given to listing Jesus’ human genealogy, but only part of one verse to His divine genealogy. In His divinity He “descended” from God by a miraculous and never-repeated act of the Holy Spirit; yet the Holy Spirit does nothing more than authoritatively state the fact. A human fabrication would call for much more convincing material.

Birth is from the same Greek root as “genealogy” in verse 1, indicating that Matthew is here giving a parallel account of Jesus’ ancestry—this time from His Father’s side.

We have little information about Mary. It is likely that she was a native of Nazareth and that she came from a relatively poor family. From Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25 we learn she had a sister named Salome, the mother of James and John (who therefore were Jesus’ cousins). From Luke 3 we receive her Davidic lineage. If, as many believe, the Eli (or Heli) of Luke 3:23 was Joseph’s father-in-law (Matthew gives Joseph’s father as Jacob, 1:16), then Eli was Mary’s father. We know that Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias, was Mary’s “relative” (Luke 1:36), probably her cousin. Those are the only relatives, besides her husband and children, of whom the New Testament speaks.

Mary was a godly woman who was sensitive and submissive to the Lord’s will. After the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would be the mother of “the Son of God,” Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:26–38). Mary was also believing. She wondered how she could conceive: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). But she never questioned the angel was sent from God or that what he said was true. Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” testified of Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (v. 45). Mary’s humble reverence, thankfulness, and love for God is seen in her magnificent Magnificat, as Luke 1:46–55 is often called. It begins, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.… For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name” (vv. 47, 49).

We know even less of Joseph than of Mary. His father’s name was Jacob (Matt. 1:16) and he was a craftsman, a construction worker (tektōn), probably a carpenter (Matt. 13:55). Most importantly, he was a “righteous man” (1:19), an Old Testament saint.

It is possible that both Joseph and Mary were quite young when they were betrothed. Girls were often betrothed as young as twelve or thirteen, and boys when they were several years older than that.

By Jewish custom, a betrothal signified more than an engagement in the modern sense. A Hebrew marriage involved two stages, the kiddushin (betrothal) and the huppah (marriage ceremony). The marriage was almost always arranged by the families of the bride and groom, often without consulting them. A contract was made and was sealed by payment of the mohar, the dowry or bride price, which was paid by the groom or his family to the bride’s father. The mohar served to compensate the father for wedding expenses and to provide a type of insurance for the bride in the event the groom became dissatisfied and divorced her. The contract was considered binding as soon as it was made, and the man and woman were considered legally married, even though the marriage ceremony (huppah) and consummation often did not occur until as much as a year later. The betrothal period served as a time of probation and testing of fidelity. During that period the bride and groom usually had little, if any, social contact with each other.

Joseph and Mary had experienced no sexual contact with each other, as the phrase before they came together indicates. Sexual purity is highly regarded in Scripture, in both testaments. God places great value on sexual abstinence outside of marriage and sexual fidelity within marriage. Mary’s virginity was an important evidence of her godliness. Her reason for questioning Gabriel’s announcement of her conception was the fact that she knew she was a virgin (Luke 1:34). This testimony protects from accusation that Jesus was born of some other man.

But Mary’s virginity protected a great deal more than her own moral character, reputation, and the legitimacy of Jesus’ birth. It protected the nature of the divine Son of God. The child is never called the son of Joseph; Joseph is never called Jesus’ father, and Joseph is not mentioned in Mary’s song of praise (Luke 1:46–55). Had Jesus been conceived by the act of a man, whether Joseph or anyone else, He could not have been divine and could not have been the Savior. His own claims about Himself would have been lies, and His resurrection and ascension would have been hoaxes. And mankind would forever remain lost and damned.

Obviously Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit is a great mystery. Even had He wanted to do so, how could God have explained to us, in terms we could comprehend, how such a blending of the divine and human could have been accomplished? We could no more fathom such a thing than we can fathom God’s creating the universe from nothing, His being one God in three Persons, or His giving an entirely new spiritual nature to those who trust in His Son. Understanding of such things will have to await heaven, when we see our Lord “face to face” and “know fully just as [we] have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). We accept it by faith.

The virgin birth should not have surprised those Jews who knew and believed the Old Testament. Because of a misinterpretation of the phrase “A woman shall encompass a man” in Jeremiah 31:22, many rabbis believed the Messiah would have an unusual birth. They said, “Messiah is to have no earthly father,” and “the birth of Messiah shall be like the dew of the Lord, as drops upon the grass without the action of man.” But even that poor interpretation of an obscure text (an interpretation also held by some of the church Fathers) assumed a unique birth for the Messiah.

Not only had Isaiah indicated such a birth (7:14), but even in Genesis we get a glimpse of it. God spoke to the serpent of the enmity that would henceforth exist between “your seed and her [Eve’s] seed” (Gen. 3:15). In a technical sense the seed belongs to the man, and Mary’s impregnation by the Holy Spirit is the only instance in human history that a woman had a seed within her that did not come from a man. The promise to Abraham concerned “his seed,” a common way of referring to offspring. This unique reference to “her seed” looks beyond Adam and Eve to Mary and to Jesus Christ. The two seeds of Genesis 3:15 can be seen in a simple sense as collective; that is, they may refer to all those who are part of Satan’s progeny and to all those who a part of Eve’s. That view sees the war between the two as raging for all time, with the people of righteousness eventually gaining victory over the people of evil. But “seed” also can be singular, in that it refers to one great, final, glorious product of a woman, who will be the Lord Himself—born without male seed. In that sense the prediction is messianic. It may be that the prophecy looks to both the collective and the individual meanings.

Paul is very clear when he tells us that “When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). There is no human father in that verse. Jesus had to have one human parent or He could not have been human, and thereby a partaker of our flesh. But He also had to have divine parentage or He could not have made a sinless and perfect sacrifice on our behalf.[20]

[1] Quarles, C. L. (2017). Matthew. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1498). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] 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., Mt 1:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Mt 1:18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1821). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 1:18). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Mt 1:18). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1138). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] Haller, H. M., Jr. (2010). The Gospel according to Matthew. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 12). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.

[9] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1205). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[10] France, R. T. (1994). Matthew. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 908). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[11] Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, p. 17). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[12] Utley, R. J. (2000). The First Christian Primer: Matthew (Vol. Volume 9, pp. 8–9). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[13] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, p. 130). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[14] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 82). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[15] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 93–94). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[16] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s New Testament Commentary: Matthew–John (Vol. 1, pp. 6–8). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[17] Brown, J. K. (2015). Matthew. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 16). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[18] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 50–51). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[19] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 99–100). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[20] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 14–17). Chicago: Moody Press.

March 21 Evening Verse of The Day

1:17 All things refers to everything created (v. 16). The preposition before most likely is a temporal reference to the preexistence of Christ before creation. The phrase by him all things hold together presents Christ as the one who sustains all creation.[1]

1:17 A strong restatement of the temporal priority and universal significance of Christ, this verse makes explicit what was implicit in v. 16: Christ existed before all creation. He is Himself not created. Nor can it be said, as followers of Arius (c. a.d. 250–336) later maintained, that “there was a time when he was not.” The thought that Jesus is the moment-by-moment sustainer and unifying power of the universe is echoed in Heb. 1:2, 3.[2]

1:17 in him all things hold together. Christ continually sustains his creation, preventing it from falling into chaos or disintegrating (cf. Heb. 1:3).[3]

1:17 He is before all things. When the universe had its beginning, Christ already existed, thus by definition He must be eternal (Mic 5:2; Jn 1:1, 2; 8:58; 1Jn 1:1; Rev 22:13). hold together. Christ sustains the universe, maintaining the power and balance necessary to life’s existence and continuity (cf. Heb 1:3).[4]

1:17 before all things: Both in time and in supremacy. Because of Christ’s supreme authority and oversight, all things consist (hold together).[5]

1:17 He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. Paul says, “He is before all things,” not “He was before all things.” The present tense is often used in the Bible to describe the timelessness of Deity. The Lord Jesus said, for instance: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).

Not only did the Lord Jesus exist before there was any creation, but also in Him all things consist. This means that He is the Sustainer of the universe and the Source of its perpetual motion. He controls the stars and the sun and the moon. Even while He was here on earth He was the One who was controlling the laws by which our universe functions in an orderly manner.[6]

17 Because Jesus exists before all things, one could not rightly say, as the second-century. heretic Arius did: ‘There was once when he was not’. As the pre-existent one (Jn. 8:58) Jesus is Lord of the universe. The emphatic he corresponds to the solemn ‘I’ of the OT which refers to Yahweh, the Lord himself. In him all things hold together. The whole of creation is established permanently in him alone. He is the sustainer of the universe and the unifying principle of its life. Apart from his continuous sustaining activity (indicated by the tense of the Greek verb) all would fall apart (cf. Heb. 1:2–3). Although there are similarities with the language of Stoicism here, Paul’s statement is different from the all-embracing world-soul of the Stoics. All men and women, whether they recognize it or not, are totally indebted to the Lord Jesus as Creator and Sustainer. For not only has he made every person who enters the world; he also sustains their lives daily, giving life and breath to each one. Those who are ‘in Christ’, and therefore know him in a personal way, should express their gratitude to him as Creator and Sustainer by living godly lives. Those who have not honoured him or given him thanks (Rom. 1:21) are urged to repent and turn to him in faith.[7]

1:17. Jesus is eternally existent (an attribute that can only be true of God) because he is before all things. Jesus is also the powerful sustainer of the universe. Because of him all things hold together. His power guarantees that the universe is under control and not chaotic.[8]

© 1:17 “He is before all things” There has never been a time when Jesus was not! Jesus is preexistent deity (cf. John 1:1–2; 8:58; 17:5, 24; Phil. 2:6–7; Heb. 10:5–7)! Notice the emphatic use of “He” (autos) in vv. 17 and 18, “He, Himself, is before all things” and “He, Himself, is head of the body”!




“in Him all things hold together”




“in Him all things consist”




“in union with him all things have their proper place”


This is a PERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE of the “syn” compound “to stand with” (sunistēmi) which implies “to continue, to endure, or to exist.”

This is the doctrine of providence (cf. Heb. 1:3) and it is personal! “All things” refers to creation—material and spiritual. Jesus is the sustainer as well as creator of all things. In the OT these functions describe the work of Elohim (God).[9]

17. Now if all things have been created through him and with a view to him (verse 16), it stands to reason that he preceded all created beings in time. In fact, “there never was a time when he was not.” He was “begotten of the Father before all worlds” (Nicene Creed). Accordingly, the “hymn” continues, And he is before all things. He is, accordingly, the Forerunner. The doctrine of Christ’s pre-existence from eternity is taught or implied in such passages as John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6; Rev. 22:13. He is indeed the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. And this temporal priority in turn suggests pre-eminence and majesty in relation to all creatures: And all things hold together in him. The central position of Christ is defended here over against those who rejected it. The One with reference to whom, through whom, and with a view to whom all things were created is also the One who maintains them. The unity, order, and adaptation evident in all of nature and history can be traced to the Upholder or Sustainer of all (cf. Heb. 1:1–3).

All things hold together; that is, they continue and cohere.

There is, accordingly, unity and purpose in all of Nature and History. The world is not a chaos but a cosmos. It is an orderly universe, a system. This, to be sure, does not always appear on the surface. Nature seems to be “raw in tooth and claw,” without harmony and order. Yet, a closer look soon indicates a basic plan. There is adaptation everywhere. For their perpetuation certain plants need certain definite insects. These insects are present, and so wondrously constructed that they can perform their function. The polar bear is able to live where there is ice and snow. It is kept from slipping on the ice by having fur even on the soles of its feet. The yucca plant can live in the hot, dry desert because not only does it have roots reaching down deeply into the soil for water but also leaves so formed that evaporation is very slow. Our lungs are adapted to the air we breathe, and our eyes to the light by which we see. Everywhere there is coherence.

This is true also in the daily events of History. Here, too, things are not as they seem. Often Confusion seems to be rampant. A Guiding Hand is nowhere visible. Instead, we hear the cry of battle, the shriek of anguish. The newspapers, moreover, are filled with accounts of burglary, murder, rape, and race-clash. If we compare the wheel of the universe to a machine, we might say that its gear-teeth seem not to mesh. To be sure, one day in the far-flung future, all will be harmony: the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.… They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:6–9). But that time has not yet arrived. All is chaos now. But is it really? Should we not rather compare our world to a weaving, whose underside forms no intelligible pattern, but whose upperside reveals beauty and design? Or to an international airfield? Though its planes, constantly coming and going, make us dizzy, so that we expect a collision any moment, we need not really hold our breath, for the man in the control-tower directs each take-off and landing. Thus, too, all creatures in all their movements throughout history are being held together. And that which holds them together is not Chance or Fate or the laws of Nature or even the “nine orbs, or rather globes” of Scipio’s Dream. On the contrary, “all things hold together in him.” It is the Son of God’s love who holds in his almighty hands the reins of the universe and never even for one moment lets them slip out of his grasp (cf. Rev. chs. 4 and 5). Though the man of flesh regards this as so much pious twaddle, the man of faith proclaims with the inspired author of the Hebrews, “Now we see not yet all things subjected to him. But we behold … Jesus … crowned with glory and honor” (2:9). The believer knows that while the rule of Christ has not been established in every human heart, the over-rule is an actual fact even now (Rom. 8:28; cf. N.T.C. on Phil. 1:12). And at the sea of crystal the Church Triumphant will forever praise and glorify God for his mighty works and ways (Rev. 15:1–4).

Summarizing, the hymn has shown that with respect to all creatures, Christ is Firstborn (verse 15), Point of Reference, Agent, Goal (verse 16), Forerunner, and Sustainer—Governor (verse 17).[10]

Ver. 17. By Him all things consist. That is, Christ upholds, rules, and governs all things by His providence, as is shown elsewhere (Heb. 1:2, 3; Prov. 8:15; John 5:12). Christ is not like a carpenter that makes his house and then leaves it, or like a shipwright that frames his ship and never guides it.

  1. All things are said to consist in Him in respect of 1. Conservation: in that He keeps all things in their being. 2. Precept: in that from Him are prescribed the laws by which nature, policy, and religion are governed. 3. Operation: in that all things move in Him. 4. His position of means to end. 5. As the universal cause of nature and natural instincts in all creatures, by which they further their own preservation.
  2. In Him all things consist. 1. As He is God—(1) In respect of ubiquity; He comprehends all things, and is comprehended of nothing. The nations are but a drop of His bucket, and time but a drop of His eternity. (2) In respect of power; in that this whole frame stirreth. (3) In respect of omniscience and wisdom, for all is within His knowledge, and receiveth order from His wisdom. (4) In respect of decree, for the world to be made did from everlasting hang in the foreknowledge and pre-ordination of Christ. 2. As He is Redeemer. All things consist in Him—(1) Because He is that atonement which kept the world from being dissolved. (2) Because the respect of Him and His Church is that which keeps up the world to this day. Were His body complete the world could not stand one hour. (3) Because the promise made to man concerning His prosperity in the use of all creatures is made in Christ.

III. In Him all things consist. Which word notes—1. Order. By an excellent order the creatures agree together in a glorious frame; for God is the God of order, not of confusion. (1) But are there not many evils in the world? (a) There may be order in respect of God, though not in respect of us. (b) It follows not that there is no order because we see none (Rom. 11:33). (c) Many of the reasons of human misery are revealed—sin entailing punishment. (d) There may be order in respect of the whole, though not in respect of every part. (2) But there are many sins in the world, and those consist not in Christ, neither tend they to order. (a) These are restrained by Christ. (b) Work out His purposes. 2. Continuance. The world, men, and lower creatures, &c., are maintained in being by Christ, 3. Co-operation. By the providence of Christ all things work together. (1) For Christ’s glory; (2) for His people’s good. 4. Immortality. Uses—1. For reproof of men’s security in sin. Seeing that all things consist in Christ, they cannot stir but He seeth them. 2. It should teach us to trust in Christ, not in second causes. 3. If all things consist in Christ, then much more are the righteous preserved with a special preservation. (N. Byfield.)

All things exist in Christ:—All things stand together in Him as the causal and conditional sphere of their continued existence. In Him they live and move and have their being, and in Him the sustentation or upholding of the universe rests. How wondrous, then, the glory and power of the Son of God! Without Him the sun would not shine, nor the seasons revolve; without Him the rain would not descend, nor the rivers run, nor the trees grow, nor the oceans ebb and flow. His power is necessary to summer and winter, seed time and harvest, to earth and sky. He upholdeth all things by the word of His power, and without Him creation would collapse. Every province of the empire of immensity, with all its contents of life, force, and motion, depends on Him. The intellect of angels reflects His light, the fire of seraphs is the glow of His love, the energy of our own souls is an evidence of His beneficence and skill. In Him all things consist—the power of their support, the primal centre of their order, the rule of their operation. This is the Being in whom we have redemption. What sublimity His greatness sheds around the gospel! What moral richness His gospel throws around nature and humanity! How lofty should be our adoration, how strong our confidence, how warm our love, how complete our submission! (J. Spence, D.D.)[11]

17. Paul now sums up his statement of Christ as the intermediary of creation, before setting in parallel to this the fact of his work in the new creation. He (niv omits the ‘and’ at the start of the line, thus losing the exact parallel with 18a) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. ‘Before’, like ‘firstborn’ earlier, is ambiguous, and probably refers again to primacy of both time and rank. The second clause, asserting that the world is now sustained and upheld by Christ, transfers to him one more aspect of ‘wisdom’ thought (see Wisdom 1:7; Ecclus. 43:26; and in the NT cf. Heb. 1:3). The verb, again, is in the perfect, indicating that ‘everything’ has held together in him and continues to do so. Through him the world is sustained, prevented from falling into chaos. No creature is autonomous. All are God’s servants (Ps. 119:91) and dependents (Ps. 104).[12]

17. All things were created by him, and for him. He places angels in subjection to Christ, that they may not obscure his glory, for four reasons: In the first place, because they were created by him; secondly, because their creation ought to be viewed as having a relation to him, as their legitimate end; thirdly, because he himself existed always, prior to their creation; fourthly, because he sustains them by his power, and upholds them in their condition. At the same time, he does not affirm this merely as to angels, but also as to the whole world. Thus he places the Son of God in the highest seat of honour, that he may have the pre-eminence over angels as well as men, and may bring under control all creatures in heaven and in earth.[13]

1:17 / The phrase he is before all things reaffirms some of the things that Paul has already said about Christ. But the new thought is that, in him all things hold together. The Greek word synestēken here connotes preservation or coherence. Thus the Lord who creates the universe also sustains it.[14]

The glory of Christ’s pre-existence (v. 17)

This verse speaks of Jesus Christ’s dignity: ‘He is before all things and in him all things consist’. Jesus was not part of Creation but he was before it. The Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) says ‘there never was a time when he was not’. The doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ from eternity is taught in several places (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; 2 Cor. 8:9). He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Rev. 22:13). He did not pre-exist in human form but became man at the Incarnation (Phil. 2:6–8). Everything is held together and sustained by him (Heb. 1:1–3). Through him the cosmos is prevented from falling into chaos and the principle of coherence (unity) is found in him.[15]

Recapitulation (1:17)

17 With the glories of the Son as Creator—eikōn and prōtotokos—now spelled out in vv. 15–16, the hymn’s author recapitulates the whole in one simple sentence: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (1:17). Two claims are made, involving the Son’s temporal, hierarchical superiority and his life-enabling sustenance of “all things.” This verse emphasizes what has been said by repetition of vv. 15–16. There are but two concerns for the exegete: the meaning of “before” and the nuances of “hold together.”

Some scholars see here a focus on temporal priority: “he was before all in time.” But in light of what has been said in vv. 15–16, the superiority of the Son is complex: temporal, hierarchical, and ontological. The more correct rendering then is “above all.” Evidence for this understanding can be found in the hierarchical nuance of pro in Jas 5:12; 1 Pet 4:8, but even more at Col 1:15, 18, where the Son is given an all-encompassing preeminence. The problem with “above” as a translation is that it erases the temporal priority, but both are involved: the Son is superior in temporal priority as the preexistent one, and he is hierarchically superior in ontology.

All of this content is tied into one verb in the perfect tense, a tense (as we have indicated already) that is used by authors to depict hyperpresence: the Son is depicted right now in front of our very eyes as sustaining life, holding all things together by virtue of his temporal priority and hierarchical superiority. Because he is before all and above all, he can sustain life for all things. In fact, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says that the “Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (1:3). Once again, the work of Christ sustaining all things occurs “in him” (see notes at 1:2). As Harris puts it, “What Christ has created he maintains in permanent order, stability, and productivity.”

Paul’s language and terms trade in the language of the Hellenistic Jewish wisdom tradition much more than in Stoicism or later gnostic thinking. Wisdom had temporal, creational priority (Sir 1:4), and the Logos sustained all of creation (Sir 43:26; Wis 1:7); though the Greek terms are not identical, the evidence suggests we are in the same world of thought:

Wisdom was created before all other things,

and prudent understanding from eternity. (Sir 1:4)

Because of him each of his messengers succeeds,

and by his word all things hold together. (Sir 43:26)

Because the spirit of the Lord has filled the world,

and that which holds all things together knows what is said. (Wis 1:7)

However much the language reveals a connection with the Jewish wisdom tradition, the startling fact remains that Paul sees cosmic, universal unity, not in an idea or personification (Word, Wisdom), but in a person. And not just a person, but one who had recently been crucified at the hands of Rome but raised from the dead by God. The language may be culturally connected, but the theology at work is remarkably bold.[16]

17  The teaching of vv. 15 and 16 is now recapitulated in a twofold reaffirmation of the preexistence and cosmic significance of Christ: “he is indeed before all things, and they all cohere in him.” “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” says Genesis; but in that beginning, says John, which was the beginning of all created things, the divine Word already existed (John 1:1). No matter how far back our imagination may press, we can never reach a point of which we may say, with Arius, “there was once when he was not.” For he is “before all things”124—a phrase which not only declares his temporal priority to the universe but also suggests his superiority over it (as the title “firstborn” has already implied).

As for the statement that all things cohere or hold together in him, this adds something to what has been said about his agency in creation. What has been brought into being through him is maintained in being by him. Similarly, in Heb. 1:2–3 the Son of God is not only the one through whom the worlds were made but also the one who upholds them by his almighty and enabling word. The Greek verb translated “cohere” is found as a Platonic and Stoic term: according to Philo, the material of the human body “coheres and is quickened as into flame by the providence of God.” Ben Sira affirms that by the word of God “all things hold together” (Sir. 43:26). But for Paul the living Christ, who died to redeem his people, is the sustainer of the universe and the unifying principle of its life.[17]

17 The assertion that Christ is the “firstborn over all creation” (1:15b) is reinforced in the statement “he is before all things.” Once again, while temporal overtones may well be intended here, as in 1:15b, the claim that Christ is before all things serves to emphasize Christ’s supremacy and not solely or even primarily his temporal priority (so Caird, 179). That being said, even though 1:17a affirms and underscores the present lordship of Christ (note the present tense verb estin, “is”), it does not deny and could well imply that the One who is before all things was (and forevermore will be) before all things. In fact, Lightfoot, 155, has suggested that the “he is” here corresponds precisely to the “I am” of John 8:58.

This “hymn” not only celebrates Christ as the agent of and Lord over creation; it also proclaims his guardianship over all things. Bruce, 65, notes, “What has been brought into being through him is maintained in being by him.” Paul does not portray Christ as a distant deity away on an extended holiday; rather, he presents and praises an ever-present Power who has held and continues to hold the created order together. (Note the perfect tense of the verb synistēmi, “hold together,” GK 5319.) The cosmos (and all who inhabit it) owes its existence, coherence, and continuance to Christ (cf. Ac 17:28; Ro 11:36). Additionally, as the second strophe of this “poem” will pronounce, the One who holds all things together is the very One who placed all things together through his reconciling work on the cross (v. 20).[18]

Jesus Christ in Relation to the Universe

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (1:16–17)

Paul gives three reasons for Jesus’ primacy over creation. First, He is the Creator. The false teachers at Colossae viewed Jesus as the first and most important of the emanations from God, but they were convinced it had to be a lesser being much further down the chain who eventually created the material universe. But Paul rejects that blasphemy, insisting that by Him all things were created. That truth is affirmed by the apostle John (John 1:3) and the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 1:2). Because the Colossian errorists viewed matter as evil, they argued that neither the good God nor a good emanation could have created it. But Paul maintains that Jesus made all things, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible. He refutes the false philosophic dualism of the Colossian heresy. Jesus is God, and He created the material universe.

By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (one hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions, or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. That is roughly the number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches.

The universe also bears witness to the tremendous wisdom and knowledge of its Creator. Scientists now speak of the Anthropic Principle, “which states that the universe appears to be carefully designed for the well-being of mankind” (Donald B. DeYoung, “Design in Nature: The Anthropic Principle,” Impact, no. 149 [November 1985]: p. ii). A change in the rate of Earth’s rotation around the sun or on its axis would be catastrophic. The Earth would become either too hot or too cold to support life. If the moon were much nearer to the Earth, huge tides would inundate the continents. A change in the composition of the gases that make up our atmosphere would also be fatal to life. A slight change in the mass of the proton would result in the dissolution of hydrogen atoms. That would result in the destruction of the universe, because hydrogen is its dominant element.

The creation gives mute testimony to the intelligence of its Creator. Max Planck, winner of the Nobel Prize and one of the founders of modern physics, wrote, “According to everything taught by the exact sciences about the immense realm of nature, a certain order prevails—one independent of the human mind … this order can be formulated in terms of purposeful activity. There is evidence of an intelligent order of the universe to which both man and nature are subservient” (cited in DeYoung, “Design in Nature,” p. iii). It is no wonder that the psalmist wrote, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world” (Ps. 19:1–4).

The testimony of nature to its Creator is so clear that it is only through willful unbelief that men can reject it. Paul writes in Romans 1:20, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Like those who deny Christ’s deity, those who reject Him as Creator give evidence of a mind darkened by sin and blinded by Satan.

Jesus also has primacy over the creation because He is before all things. When the universe began, He already existed (John 1:1–2; 1 John 1:1). He told the Jews in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (not “I was”). He is saying that He is Yahweh, the eternally existing God. The prophet Micah said of Him, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2). Revelation 22:13 describes Him as “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” As was previously mentioned, anyone existing before time began at the creation is eternal. And only God is eternal.

A third reason for Jesus’ primacy over creation is that in Him all things hold together. Not only did Jesus create the universe, He also sustains it. He maintains the delicate balance necessary to life’s existence. He quite literally holds all things together. He is the power behind every consistency in the universe. He is gravity and centrifugal and centripetal force. He is the One who keeps all the entities in space in their motion. He is the energy of the universe. In his book The Atom Speaks, D. Lee Chesnut describes the puzzle of why the nucleus of the atom holds together:

Consider the dilemma of the nuclear physicist when he finally looks in utter amazement at the pattern he had now drawn of the oxygen nucleus.… For here are eight positively charged protons closely associated together within the confines of this tiny nucleus. With them are eight neutrons—a total of sixteen particles—eight positively charged, eight with no charge.

Earlier physicists had discovered that like charges of electricity and like magnetic poles repel each other, and unlike charges or magnetic poles attract each other. And the entire history of electrical phenomena and electrical equipment had been built up on these principles known as Coulomb’s law of electrostatic force and the law of magnetism. What was wrong? What holds the nucleus together? Why doesn’t it fly apart? And therefore, why do not all atoms fly apart? ([San Diego: Creation-Science Research Center, 1973], pp. 31–33)

Chesnut goes on to describe the experiments performed in the 1920s and 1930s that proved Coulomb’s law applied to atomic nuclei. Powerful “atom smashers” were used to fire protons into the nuclei of atoms. Those experiments also gave scientists an understanding of the incredibly powerful force that held protons together within the nucleus. Scientists have dubbed that force the “strong nuclear force,” but have no explanation for why it exists. The physicist George Gamow, one of the founders of the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, wrote,

The fact that we live in a world in which practically every object is a potential nuclear explosive, without being blown to bits, is due to the extreme difficulties that attend the starting of a nuclear reaction. (cited in Chesnut, The Atom Speaks, p. 38)

Karl K. Darrow, a physicist at the Bell (AT & T) Laboratories, agrees:

You grasp what this implies. It implies that all the massive nuclei have no right to be alive at all. Indeed, they should never have been created, and, if created, they should have blown up instantly. Yet here they all are.… Some inflexible inhibition is holding them relentlessly together. The nature of the inhibition is also a secret … one thus far reserved by Nature for herself. (cited in Chesnut, The Atom Speaks, p.38)

One day in the future God will dissolve the strong nuclear force. Peter describes that day as the one when “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). With the strong nuclear force no longer operative, Coulomb’s law will take effect, and the nuclei of atoms will fly apart. The universe will literally explode. Until that time, we can be thankful that Christ “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus Christ must be God. He made the universe, existed outside and before it, and preserves it.

Jesus Christ in Relation to the Unseen World

whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities (1:16b)

Thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities refer to the various ranks of angels. Far from being an angel, as the Colossian errorists taught, Christ created the angels. The writer of Hebrews also makes a clear distinction between Christ and the angels: “Of the angels He says, ‘Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom’ ” (Heb. 1:7–8). Jesus has been exalted “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come” (Eph. 1:21). As a result, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10). With that truth the apostle Peter agrees: “[Christ] is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22).

Scripture is clear that Jesus is not an angel, but the Creator of the angels. He is above the angels, who in fact worship Him and are under His authority. Jesus’ relation to the unseen world, like His relation to the visible universe, proves He is God.[19]

[1] Köstenberger, A. J. (2017). Colossians. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1895). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1729). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2294). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Col 1:17). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1562). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1994). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] O’Brien, P. T. (1994). Colossians. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., pp. 1266–1267). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 283). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8, p. 18). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[10] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, pp. 74–76). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[11] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Philippians–Colossians (Vol. 2, pp. 70–71). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[12] Wright, N. T. (1986). Colossians and Philemon: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 12, pp. 77–78). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[13] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (pp. 151–152). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[14] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 31). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[15] McNaughton, I. S. (2006). Opening up Colossians and Philemon (p. 29). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[16] McKnight, S. (2018). The Letter to the Colossians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (pp. 153–154). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[17] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 65–66). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[18] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 290–291). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[19] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 47–50). Chicago: Moody Press.

March 21 Morning Verse of The Day

1:7 Redemption means that believers have been bought with the price of Christ’s blood (1Co 6:20; 1Tm 2:6; 1Pt 1:18–19) and have been redeemed from sin, Satan, and the misery of sinful self. The result of redemption is a sending away or banishment of our sin debt, resulting in complete forgiveness.[1]

1:7 redemption The Greek word used here, apolytrōsis, refers to the act of paying to free a slave. See also Col 1:14 and note.

through his blood Refers to Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross (Rom 3:24; Rev 5:9).[2]

1:7 Redemption denotes ransoming someone from captivity or from slavery. The supreme OT example was the exodus, where God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt (see Ex. 15:13; Deut. 7:8; 2 Sam. 7:23; Mic. 6:4). Forgiveness of our trespasses explains the nature of redemption: Christians are freed from slavery to sin and guilt. This was effected by Christ’s blood, which means his death as an atoning sacrifice (see also Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:14; 2:13; 4:30; Heb. 9:15).[3]

1:7a redemption through His blood. The term used here relates to paying the required ransom to God for the release of a person from bondage. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross paid that price for every elect person enslaved by sin, buying them out of the slave market of iniquity (see notes on 2Co 5:18, 19). The price of redemption was death (cf. Lv 17:11; Ro 3:24, 25; Heb 9:22; 1Pe 1:18, 19; Rev 5:8–10).

1:7b, 8 the forgiveness of our trespasses … In all wisdom and insight. Redemption brings in the limitless grace of God (Ro 5:20) and forgiveness of sin (cf. Mt 26:28; Ac 13:38, 39; Eph 4:32; Col 2:13; 1Jn 1:9). It brings divinely-bestowed spiritual understanding. Cf. 1Co 2:6, 7, 12, 16.[4]

1:7. In Him we have redemption through His blood. Redemption means to purchase by paying a price. Jesus tells believers He did not come to be served but to serve and give His life (Mark 10:45). Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin so that He could redeem those who believe and set them free through His blood. By means of His shed blood believers are purchased and set free (Rev 5:9). They have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (1 Pet 1:18–19). There can be no payment for sin without the shedding of blood (Heb 9:22). Only the blood of a perfect person can pay for mankind’s sins. Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of God who died to pay for sins, thereby satisfying God (1 John 2:2).

By faith in Jesus Christ people have forgiveness of sins. “To forgive” means to take away or to remove. In Jesus Christ there is forgiveness and God has removed sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). Forgiveness comes by faith (Acts 10:43; 13:38). People sin as they miss the mark and fall short (Rom 3:23) and are in open rebellion to God and act contrary to His Word (Eph 2:1). Believers are blessed in Christ, having been redeemed and receiving the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.[5]

1:7 As we trace the sublime sweep of God’s eternal plan for His people, we come next to the fact of redemption. This describes that aspect of the work of Christ by which we are freed from the bondage and guilt of sin and introduced into a life of liberty. The Lord Jesus is the Redeemer (In Him we have redemption). We are the redeemed. His blood is the ransom price; nothing less would do.

One of the results of redemption is the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is not the same as redemption; it is one of its fruits. Christ had to make full satisfaction for our sins before they could be forgiven. This was done at the cross. And now—

Stern justice can demand no more

And mercy can dispense her store.

The measure of our forgiveness is given in the words, according to the riches of His grace. If we can measure the riches of God’s grace, then we can measure how fully He has forgiven us. His grace is infinite! So is His forgiveness![6]

1:7. Redemption (apolytrōsin) denotes release or deliverance from a state of slavery (cf. Col. 1:14). The idea of release is seen in some of the other verses where this Greek word appears (Luke 21:28; Rom. 3:24; 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7, 14; 4:30; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:15; 11:35). (See the chart “New Testament Words for Redemption” at Mark 10:45.) This redemption is from sin (Heb. 9:15), and thus this work of Christ delivers believers from slavery to sin. This is further defined by the forgiveness of sins (cf. Eph. 4:32; Col. 1:14), which is the immediate result of a believer’s release from sin’s hold. (The word for “sins” is paraptōma, lit., “false steps or transgressions,” also used in Rom. 4:25; 5:16–17, 20; Eph. 2:1, 5, and elsewhere.) God could not treat sin lightly for it required the sacrifice of blood (cf. Heb. 9:22).

The means of redemption is the sacrificial substitutionary death of Christ (through His blood; cf. Eph. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:19), which completely satisfied God’s justice (Rom. 3:24–25). This was accomplished in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (cf. Eph. 1:6; 2:7). The cost of Christ’s blood is the measure of the wealth of God’s unmerited favor to every believer. It was accomplished not “out of” but “according to” (kata) the wealth of His grace (cf. Phil. 4:19). Six times in Ephesians Paul referred to God’s riches (1:7, 18; 2:4, 7; 3:8, 16).[7]

1:7. To be redeemed means to be “bought back.” It carries with it the sense of being released from slavery. By being redeemed by Christ, we are freed from sin, both the penalty and the enslaving power. This redemption was accomplished by the death of Christ on the cross where he shed his blood and died to secure our redemption. His death paid the price for our release from sin and death.

Forgiveness goes hand in hand with redemption. We cannot have one without the other. To forgive means to give up the right to punish someone for a transgression. Making forgiveness possible was a major accomplishment in God’s eyes, since it required the sacrifice of blood and the death of his Son, Jesus. This magnanimous decision to do this for us grew out of God’s grace which he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.[8]

1:7 “we have” This verb is in the PRESENT TENSE, while the surrounding verbs are all AORIST TENSE. We currently possess the benefits of all that God has accomplished in Christ. However, notice in the same Greek sentence (v. 14) that redemption is future. Salvation begins with the call of God, the wooing of the Spirit (cf. John 6:44, 65). It issues in a repentant/faith decision followed by a life of trust and obedience that will one day be consummated into complete Christlikeness (cf. 1 John 3:2). Salvation is a relationship as well as a pronouncement, a person as well as a message.[9]

7. In the second paragraph the attention is shifted from heaven to earth, from the past to the present, and, in a sense, from the Father to the Son. I say “in a sense,” for the change is by no means abrupt. The infinitely close connection between the Father and the Son in the work of redemption is fully maintained. It is the Father who caused his grace to overflow toward us (verse 8), made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure (verse 9), etc. Nevertheless, the emphasis has changed from the work of the Father to that of the Son. It is the Beloved, that is, the Son, in whom we have our redemption. It is he who shed his blood for us (verse 7). It is he also in whom the Father’s purpose of grace was concentrated (verse 9), under whose headship all things are brought together (verse 10), in connection with whom we have been made heirs (verse 11), and in whom we centered our hope (verse 12). Accordingly, Paul continues: (the Beloved) in whom we have our redemption. Redemption here, as in Col. 1:14 (cf. also Exod. 21:30; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Rom. 3:24, Heb. 9:12, 15), indicates deliverance as a result of the payment of a ransom. There was no other way for sinners to be saved. God’s justice must be satisfied. Anyone who doubts the necessary, objective, voluntary, expiatory, substitutionary, and efficacious character of the act of the Father’s Beloved whereby he offered himself for his people should make a diligent study of the passages mentioned in N.T.C. on I and II Timothy and Titus, p. 376.

This redemption implies: a. emancipation from the curse, that is, from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin (John 8:34; Rom. 7:14; 1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 3:13), and b. restoration to true liberty (John 8:36; Gal. 5:1). It was, moreover, a redemption through his blood, a redemption, therefore, which implied substitution of the life of One for the life of others. Thus, thus only, atonement could be made (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Moreover, the blood through which alone redemption could be accomplished was his blood, that of the perfect Redeemer. The blood of animals was merely symbolical and typical (Ps. 40:6–8; Heb. 9:11–14; 10:1–14). Yet, when mention is made of redemption through his blood, this blood must never be dissociated from the voluntary sacrifice of the entire life, the self (Lev. 17:11; Isa. 53:10–12; Matt. 26:28; cf. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6). Expressions such as, “He gave his blood,” “He gave his soul,” and “He gave himself,” are synonymous. They all indicate that the Redeemer was made (and made himself) an offering for sin (Isa. 53:10; 2 Cor. 5:21); that he suffered the eternal punishment due to sin; that he did this vicariously, and that he did all this for those who by nature were “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). What enhances the glory of this sacrifice even more is the fact that although the Beloved came into the world to do many things, for example, to still the boisterous waves, cast out demons, cleanse lepers, open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and even raise the dead, yet the over-arching purpose of his coming was to seek and to save the lost, to give himself a ransom for many (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15). Truly, “Jesus from his throne on high came into this world to die.” No wonder that Paul cries out, “Blessed (be),” that Peter urges upon those committed to his charge the thankful response of a holy life, adding “knowing that you were redeemed not with corruptible things, with silver or gold … but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, (even the blood) of Christ” (1 Peter 1:15–19), that “angels desire to look into the sufferings of Christ and the glories that were to follow them” (1 Peter 1:10–12), that, with their minds and hearts fixed on the infinite greatness of this sacrifice, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders in their new song are forever exclaiming, “Worthy art thou … for thou wast slain, and didst purchase with thy blood men of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9), and that the ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels join in with this grand jubilation by lifting up their voices in exuberant adoration, shouting, “Worthy is the Lamb who has been slain!” (Rev. 5:12).

Now the purpose of this redemption was “that we might from sin be free.” It was with that objective in mind and heart that he “bled and died upon the tree.” Hence, Paul says, “the Beloved, in whom we have our redemption through his blood,” the forgiveness of our trespasses. These two—a. redemption by blood and b. forgiveness of trespasses—go together. Redemption would not be complete without procuring pardon. Even Israel in the old dispensation understood this. On the day of atonement the blood of one goat was sprinkled on the mercy-seat. The other goat, over whose head the people’s sins had been confessed, was sent away, never to return. Now here in Eph. 1:7 this idea of complete removal of sin constitutes the very meaning of the word, used in the original, rendered forgiveness (or remission). Other passages that shed light on the meaning are Ps. 103:12 (“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”), Isa. 44:22 (“I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins: return to me, for I have redeemed you”), Jer. 31:34 (“… and their sin I will remember no more”), Mic. 7:19 (“Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea”), and 1 John 1:9 (“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”).

As to its derivation, the word rendered trespass means a falling to the side of. A trespass, then, is a deviation from the path of truth and righteousness. Such deviations may be either of a gross or of a less serious nature. That in Ephesians no deviation is excluded, and that the totality of these deviations is regarded as a serious matter, one that is rooted in the very nature of man as corrupted by the fall, is clear from 2:1, “And you (he made alive) when you were dead through your trespasses and sins” (cf. 2:3, 5). With reference to forgiveness see also N.T.C. on Colossians, pp. 118–120.

Now forgiveness takes place according to the riches of his [the Father’s] grace. Forgiveness and grace are in complete harmony. The standard established by God’s grace determines the measure of his forgiveness. For the meaning of grace see on 1:2 above; cf. also 1:6; 2:5, 7, 8. Note that the Father forgives not merely of, but according to, his riches, riches of grace. Illustration: Here are two very rich persons. When asked to contribute toward a good cause, both give of their riches. The first one, however, donates a very paltry sum, far less than had been expected of him. He merely gives of his riches, not according to. The second is lavish in his support of every noble cause. He gives according to the amount of his wealth. God ever gives and forgives according to his riches. And he is rich, indeed! His favor toward the undeserving is infinite in character.[10]

Redemption and Forgiveness (vs. 7). “Redemption” and “the forgiveness of sins [trespasses]” (vs. 7) are joined together in such a way as to suggest the closest possible relation, but they are not identical concepts. “Redemption” denotes a release brought about by the payment of a price. Barclay calls attention to the varied uses of the word: of ransoming a slave or a prisoner of war, of releasing a man under penalty of death for some crime, of the emancipation of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and of God’s rescuing His people in the time of their trouble. “In every case,” he explains, “the conception is the delivering or the setting free of a man from a situation from which he himself was powerless to liberate himself, or from a penalty which he himself could never have paid” (p. 93). In Christ we have been delivered from the shackles of sin, from enslavement to Satan, and from all the misery attendant on such enslavement.

The ransom price, the means by which this release has been effected, is “his [i.e., Christ’s] blood” (vs. 7). This sacrificial term calls to mind the blood of victims offered to God in the Old Testament economy. Here the word represents the death of Christ in its character as a sacrifice for sin and is a reminder to us of the infinite price God paid for our redemption.

To the idea of redemption Paul adds that of “the forgiveness of sins.” The figure in the Greek word rendered by “sins” is that of a falling by the way, an offense, a trespass. Here the plural signifies the accumulation of sinful acts that were chargeable to us. “Forgiveness,” a word of frequent occurrence in the New Testament, means literally “a dismissal,” “a sending away” (cf. Ps. 103:11, 12). The entire phrase signifies the removal of sin’s guilt and the pardon of the sinner. By putting the phrase “forgiveness of sins” in grammatical apposition with the word “redemption,” Paul implies that forgiveness is the central feature of our redemption.

The measure of redemption is expressed in the phrase “according to the riches of his grace” (vs. 7). God’s bequests are in proportion to the abundance of His treasures. He does not give in stinted fashion but with unbounded liberality. If redemption were according to the measure of man’s merit, there would be no redemption. But who can measure the wealth of God’s grace?[11]

Ver. 7. In whom we have redemption through His blood.—

Redemption in Christ:—God has made Christ an Adam, head, root, receptacle and storehouse, in whom are treasured all those good things which from Him are communicated to us. 1. By nature we are no better than in a spiritual bondage. (1) Under a stern task-master—the law. (2) Unable to do anything spiritually good. (3) Forced to endure many things most grievous (Heb. 2:15). 2. We have deliverance from our spiritual thraldom by Christ. (1) Reason for thanksgiving. For such redemption we should sing with Mary our Magnificat. (2) Reason for joy (Isa. 44:23). 3. That by which we are ransomed and redeemed is the blood of Christ. (1) From the guilt of sin. (2) From the power of the devil. (3) From the captivity of lusts, &c., through the Spirit dwelling in us. (4) From evil of every kind. All tears, in God’s time, shall be wiped from our eyes; and meanwhile all our sufferings are so changed, that we know them to be not the result of God’s vengeance, but of His fatherly love and care, His design being that we may partake further, by means of them, in the quiet fruit of righteousness. (Paul Bayne.)

Our redemption:

  1. Who are the subjects of this redemption? “We” who were chosen in Christ to be holy; “we” who have believed and trusted in Christ. Redemption, though offered to all, is actually bestowed only on those who repent and believe.
  2. What is the nature of this redemption? It is the redemption of the soul from the guilt of sin by pardon.

III. The way and manner, in which believers become partakers of this privilege. “Through the blood of Christ.”

  1. The fountain from which our redemption flows. “The riches of His grace.” (J. Lathrop, D.D.)


  1. The meaning of redemption. Suppose any article, pledged for a certain sum, and that it was redeemed, would it not revert to its owner again, and be his own, and be free? Suppose a man a prisoner, and ransomed, or redeemed by having a ransom paid for him. If the ransom were sufficient and accepted, would he not be free? Suppose an estate mortgaged and redeemed from its mortgage, would it not be free? Does not redemption in all these cases mean a complete and perfect deliverance, so that if there be not deliverance, then the term redemption cannot be applied; for the person or the thing is really not redeemed.
  2. The means of its accomplishment. The price—“through His blood.” If any other means had been sufficient, is it possible, think you, that Christ would have died? Would the precious blood of the Lamb of God have been poured out if any price less costly had been sufficient? If you could save your children from destruction by any other means than the peril of your life, would you risk that life unnecessarily? And surely the Father had not sent His beloved Son to die upon the cross if other ransom could have been found for guilty man.

III. How different is the ground of our forgiveness from the natural expectation of the heart. How different from the miserable hope that men derive from the thought that they are not so bad as others. How different from the miserable hope they derive from the idea that they have amended their lives and reformed their habits, and are better than their former selves, and therefore trust that they are on this ground more acceptible to God. How different from any such miserable hope—if hope it can be called, which must ever be clouded by the consciousness of sin, by the feeling that, however imperfect and false, the standard of attainment be which we have raised, we must fall short of our own standard, and sink beneath its level, when measured even by our own conscience. True it is, indeed, that if a sinner believes the gospel his life will be totally changed; he will be different from those who believe it not, and different from what he was himself as an unbeliever; but this is the effect, not the cause, of his salvation; he is changed not to be saved, but because he is saved. (R. J. McGhee, M.A.)

Blessings resulting from the death of Christ:

  1. We must notice the privileges themselves. These are twofold—“we have redemption,” and we have “the forgiveness of sins.” We shall speak of them in order:—and, First, with respect to redemption. It denotes a change of state from bondage to liberty; and thus may be considered as implying—1. Deliverance from the power of our adversary the devil. 2. Redemption respects our deliverance from sin. It no longer reigns in those who are Christ’s, although it may not yet be thoroughly eradicated. 3. This redemption, again, respects our deliverance from the fears of death—death corporeal, and death eternal. We now pass on to notice the other privilege mentioned in the text, and that is, “the forgiveness of sins.” 1. This forgiveness is full. It reaches to all sins—past, present, and future. 2. This forgiveness is altogether free. The distinctive excellency of the gospel of Jesus Christ is freeness. All the blessings it brings are as free as the air we breathe.
  2. The procuring cause of these privileges. Says the apostle, “In whom we have redemption.” But who is He? Why the same who is referred to in the preceding verse. He in whom we are “blessed with all spiritual blessings”. He in whom we were “chosen before the foundation of the world.” He by whom we have received the adoption of children, and in whom we stand accepted in the sight of God. And who is He but the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom we read in another place, “that God having in time past spoken unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son”; and by Him alone, for “there is no other name given among men whereby we can be saved.” Hence you will observe that it is seldom, perhaps never, that the sacred writers fail to direct us to Christ, when they unfold any distinguishing privilege, or fundamental doctrine of the gospel: so it is here, the apostle is tracing our salvation up to its source, the love of God, but he also refers to the channel through which it flows, and that is Christ.

III. We must glance at the original source. It is according to the “riches of His grace.” Everything that God has done for sinners, shows us that He is a God of grace; but more especially in the coming of Christ, and in His elevation upon the cross, do we see the “riches of His grace.” This surely ought to encourage sinners to draw near to God; “that “they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Essex Remembrancer.)

Redemption by the blood of Jesus:

  1. The certainty with which Christ has, in point of pact, redeemed His people. 1. Show how we came to need redemption. 2. Christ Jesus, as Mediator, at a certain period of this world’s history, gave Himself a ransom for His people.
  2. I come now to mention some of the properties of that redemption with which Christ redeems His people. 1. It is free or unmerited on the part of man. 2. A full redemption. 3. This redemption takes effect in time. 4. This redemption is for eternity. 5. Redemption by Jesus implies that we could not redeem ourselves. It is a law in nature that like produces like; and if it be once settled that our progenitors were corrupted and depraved, and at the same time granted that we are descended from them, the contrary of which is self-contradictory; then as sure as the corrupted fountain sends forth a polluted stream, so sure are we backward to that which is good, and forward to that which is evil. And sooner may the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots—which would be nature inverting nature’s course, for it is natural for them to be as they are—than can man who is born of a woman cease to do evil, and learn to do well. I shall now conclude this discourse with a few remarks, by way of improvement. 1. From this subject learn the high privilege of the children of men to be redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 John 3:1). Redemption is doubly endeared to man by the love of God, and by the sufferings of Jesus. 2. From this subject learn the duty of Christian diligence (2 Pet. 3:14). 3. Learn from what has been said, that the end of refusing this redemption is eternal death (Isa. 30:33). 4. From this subject learn the blessedness of the redeemed (1 Cor. 2:9). (R. Montgomery.)

Redemption:—The expression “redemption” as direct and immediate reference to our ruined and wretched condition in consequence of the fall; and it is used to signify our entire deliverance from all the evils involved or implied in our being sinners against God under His righteous and holy law. It is a term which comprehends our complete emancipation from sin and its consequences. 1. In the first place, and most important of all, he is a guilty being, because he is a sinner. 2. Man through sin has become habituated to sin. He is incarcerated in a prison house of sinful vices and habits, and held fast by legal chains of spiritual wickedness. Now, from its actual slavery, we are redeemed by Christ, in consequence of His atonement, and by virtue of His gracious Spirit. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace; sin, therefore, shall not have dominion over you.” 3. We must consider all the outward and physical evils which sin has brought into the world, of which death may be said to be the climax. From all these, however sad and melancholy, “redemption” effects a substantial deliverance now, whilst we have to battle against them, and a complete and glorious riddance at last, in our recovery from the grave. The first thing to be effected in the case of sinners under a sovereign God and a righteous law, is to remove their guilt, that they may stand free from all blame-worthiness, and become exempt from the curse. But, this effected, the rest may be expected certainly and surely to follow, from the same grace and mercy which have already been brought into exercise. “The forgiveness of sins” is just a way of expressing the idea that all guilt whatsoever is removed; so that the sinner stands before God, in the eye of His law, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. In the completeness of this forgiveness, we recognize its highest excellence; for did but one sin remain against the sinner, that alone were sufficient to condemn him. As by one sin man originally fell, so, if but one were to abide unforgiven, he could not be raised up again. But, blessed be God! “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” It is not by a system of moral recovery; it is not merely by truth, that you are redeemed. A prior difficulty must be surmounted, and that could only be accomplished by the surrender of His well-beloved. But we are redeemed by blood—by the sufferings of Jesus Christ—by His atoning sacrifice. 1. This wondrous plan is God’s own device or method. It originated in Him—in His love and wisdom. 2. The sacrifice was offered up freely by Christ. He gave Himself. He had power to lay down His life and He had power to take it up again. But He said, “Lo! I come. I delight to do Thy will, O My God.” “Christ also hath loved us, and gave Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” 3. The offering was accepted by God as a full satisfaction for the sins of His people. (W. Alves.)

Redemption through Christ’s blood, with royal forgiveness:

  1. Redemption only through Christ’s blood. 1. What is redemption? Ransom or deliverance. It is love, mercy, grace, and glory—all in one. 2. Illustrate this great Christian doctrine by a few examples. (1) Suppose a Christian man, or benevolent rich man, went into the East, or some land of captives—a matter done often during the Crusades in former times. He sees there some lovely or noble slave, perhaps a countryman of his own, doomed to base servitude, to the galling chains, to labour at the oar, to dig in the mines, or toil beneath the lash in the fields for life. Pity fills his breast, and he buys the slave for the money demanded; he does more—he gives him freedom. Such is redemption. (2) A mighty warrior leads forth his army to battle against the foes of his country. Some of his brave soldiers are overwhelmed by numbers, or taken captive by stratagem. There is no way of obtaining their liberty, unless by exchange of prisoners, or by ransom-money, as in ancient times; but this is readily done for their release; and this restoration is an emblem of redemption. (3) There is war between civilized and savage tribes. Some Christians are circumvented; the savages care not for money; they doom some poor captive to terrible death by torture or fire; the general hears of the fatal design; he starts at once with a brave band of soldiers to deliver the captive, who is bound to the fatal stake; conflict ensues, but he is just in time to rescue the prisoner from all the agonies of fire, although the deliverance was only achieved with great difficulty, and perhaps the death of the leader himself; but the rescue is accomplished with victory over the foe. This is redemption. 3. Now, can any one tell me of the soul-thrilling delight of a person thus rescued from slavery, from galling bondage, from impending death. The sailor on London Bridge, of whom I once heard, may shadow its joys. He purchased a large cage full of birds, and went to the river-side; then he took from the cage one bird after another, and let it fly in the golden light of heaven, rejoicing in its sudden freedom with a sweet note or song of joy. When remonstrated with for spending his money so foolishly, he said, quietly: “Wait a little. I have reason for this—to give happiness to these birds!” And when all the cage was empty, he turned round triumphantly, with a bright eye, and said: “I was once a captive myself in bondage, in a strange land. I vowed, if I got freedom, to give liberty to the first captives I found at home. The birds have got it, and my heart rejoices in the deed!” But how burning must be the emotions of a man rescued from instant death by some unforeseen deliverance! Redemption commands our highest gratitude; more gratitude than rescue from death by water or fire by some powerful arm. Dr. Doddridge once obtained a pardon from the sovereign for a prisoner condemned to death. He went himself to the convict’s cell, and presented it to the unhappy man. He fell at the feet of the Doctor, and said, with deep feeling; “Sir, I am yours ever; every drop of my blood is yours; it thanks you for having mercy on me; all my life is yours!” Such, indeed, must be the deathless gratitude of a soul saved, to Christ the Lord for His great work of redemption, which infinitely transcends all deliverance here! 4. Remark how this great work was effected; it is redemption by His blood. He who is both God and man, shed His blood for sinners, obtaining for us redemption, pardon, sanctification, and salvation.
  2. Free forgiveness of all sin by Christ alone.

III. The absolute fulness of Divine blessings. (J. G. Angley, M.A.)

Errors with respect to the doctrine of the Atonement:

  1. The Atonement has frequently been represented as if it was intended to pacify the wrath of an offended, an angry, and a displeased Creator. It is very true that the Scriptures do describe God as in the exercise of wrath banishing men from His presence; but it is equally true that the Scriptures must be taken in many instances as employing metaphorical and figurative language, which we are bound to interpret upon the principles of metaphorical and figurative interpretation. If we overlook these principles, and take every term literally and every phrase literally, we shall be found to misrepresent the whole will of God, and the whole system of our common Christianity. But if we take the wrath of God, as it is mentioned in the Scriptures, to indicate nothing more than the course of just punishment which it inflicts—if we understand that He is described to be wrathful when He does that which we do when we are wrathful, putting forth His power to punish, but doing it under principles very different from those under which we act—we may then have a right view of what is meant by the wrath of God. It means nothing more, in the Scripture, than His displeasure with sin—His disapprobation of all that is impure and all that is unholy—His sentence against all that is morally unclean, and His rejection of all that would pollute His government.
  2. The Redeemer is frequently represented as suffering precisely the degree of punishment due to the parties whom He came to redeem. We forget altogether the dignity of the Atonement of Christ, when we speak thus of the degree of suffering that He had to endure. It was because the Redeemer was God as well as Man, that His suffering was infinitely valuable; and not because He sustained exactly the measure of suffering which His people ought to have endured. Such a mercantile, such a commercial mode of viewing the Atonement of Christ is unknown to the Scriptures of truth. An exact payment for the required discharge is not known to the glorious economy of the gospel. A sacrifice of infinite value was given, no matter what the amount of the sufferings; and from its infinite value those sufferings, however light or however severe, must derive all their value and all their efficacy. We rejoice in resting upon the Atonement of the Son of God; not in resting on the blood of one who suffered as much as we had to suffer.

III. Again, it is sometimes said that Christ came into the world for the purpose of dying for particular persons, to the exclusion of all others. This is another idea connected with the Atonement. Here, again, we find a variety of evil consequences resulting from error. Tell an assembled multitude that Christ came to die for particular persons, and that all others were to be excluded from the range of His Atonement; and would not any thinking assembly say: “Then if we were of that number we must be redeemed, for He died for us; if we were not of that number it is useless for us to attempt to share the privilege.” What answer could we give to this? But when we come to the Word of God, we find no foundation for this.

  1. But again, in the fourth place, another error connected with the doctrine of Atonement is, that it was intended to introduce a relaxed administration of government; that, in other words, it was intended to bring before the world a remedial system—a subdued, a modified demand on the obedience of mankind, and that it was intended to make the law of more easy aspect to persons that had fallen, and that if they could not come up to its requirements, the efficacy of the Atonement would make up for their deficiency, and that in that case they might themselves be saved by doing the best they could, the Atonement supplying their lack of service. Now the Word of God contains nothing of this description. “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” says the Redeemer; “but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The New Testament admits of no relaxation of the law of God. When the Redeemer demands the obedience of His people, He says: “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
  2. Another error is this: “that the Atonement of Christ was intended to abolish the obligation to obey the moral law. But what does such a doctrine as this really teach us? It teaches us that the moral law was broken, and it teaches us that God sent His own Son to be an Atonement, not to mend the breach, but to justify the breach!
  3. The Atonement is very frequently so misrepresented, as if Deity had suffered. Such a notion never belonged to Christianity, although it has very often been advanced with reference to the Atonement of Christ. Then, if the Deity could not suffer, what did suffer? The perfect humanity of Christ. What gave efficacy to the sufferings of that humanity? Its union with the Deity of Christ. The union of the humanity of Christ with His divinity, gave to all His acts and all His sufferings an infinite value; and from that union, and that union alone, must be derived all the efficacy and all the glory of the Atonement; and the efficacy and glory of the Atonement will be found to be abundant, when connected with the union of the perfect humanity of Christ and the infinite glory of His Divine nature. We are wrong, therefore, in speaking of the sufferings of God. We are misrepresenting the Atonement of Christ.

VII. But without adding any more of the errors that may be current upon this subject (and I think I have embraced the principal part of them), it is due now to you that, in a few moments, I should state to you what I conceive to be the real character of the Atonement. Let us look, first, at the nature of sin itself. What is it but the direct violation of the law of God? Here is the Majesty of heaven, the great Lawgiver; here is the perfect law that He reveals; He demands perfect obedience from the creature; we rebel against that demand; we are at variance with Him on the ground of that rebellion. What is to be done to heal the breach that has taken place between us? He is a God of love as well as a God of power and justice; He is willing to save, but He must do it in a way that will not encourage human rebellion. He seeks that His own hands shall be free to be gracious; He seeks that His own law shall permit Him to be merciful; He seeks that the perfection of His own purity shall permit Him to be kind, without for a moment sinking the character and the rectitude of His administration. How is He to be placed in a position in which He can honourably, and without disparagement to the public law of the universe, tell a man that he can be saved? He desires to tell him this; but He desires to find means to vindicate that act. He turns to His own Son; and the Son volunteers to accept the service assigned to Him. Volunteering to accept it, we find Him going forth, taking upon Him our nature, in that nature suffering and dying, and presenting Himself, not to man but to God. The priest presented the sacrifice on the altar to the Majesty of Israel; the sacrifice had direct reference to God—the mercy had reference to the people. In the same way the sacrifice presented in the Atonement of Christ has reference to God; it is to Him that its incense, its perfume arises; the mercy has reference to us. The sacrifice, therefore, is presented to the King of kings that He may be able, consistently and worthily and holily, to proclaim mercy through the blood of the Lord Jesus. He looks to no specific individuals; He looks to no specific sins; He looks to the altar—the Cross where the Redeemer died. God looks to that sacrifice, and He sees in that sacrifice the means by which He can be vindicated in the proclamation of His kindness throughout the world, in the announcement of His love, in the extension of His mercy. Now His hands are free; His law is “magnified and made honourable,” and yet He can condescend to be gracious. We can now “have redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” There is now ample scope made for free and sovereign grace to proclaim its readiness to be merciful. No one can point to the Cross and say, “The offering there made was for me”; no individual can point to the Cross and say, “There the anger of the Father against me was appeased, and I may approach and find Him gracious”; no, but the Father Himself looks down upon the Cross, and lifting the light of His countenance on the wondrous offering of His own Son in His own love, and the love of the Father concurring in accepting that offering, He looks round on the whole human race, and says: “Behold the measure of My love, and behold at the same time the vindication of My justice, while I proclaim My mercy, and invite all to come.” This view of the Atonement makes it a great sacrifice to public justice; and when I speak of a sacrifice to public justice, I speak of justice as vindicated before the whole universe. Why do I call it public justice? Do not the angels of heaven look to it? Do not the angels of hell look to it? Do they not expect to see God consistent with what He has proclaimed? Does not the whole intelligent universe look to it? Will not the whole assembled creation at the day of judgment look to it? Is it not, then, public justice? And is it not necessary for God to have a vindication ready when He assembles the intelligent universe? He has it ready—He has it ready now—a satisfaction to public justice and public law; and now grace can invite all the sinners of mankind, and accept every returning transgressor. (John Burnet.)

Gratitude for redemption:—A gentleman, visiting a slave-mart, was deeply moved by the agony of a slave-girl, who had been delicately reared, and fearing lest she should fall into the hands of a rough and unkind master, inquired her price, paid it to the slave-dealer; then, placing the bill of sale in her own hands, announced to her that she was free, and could now go home. The poor slave-girl could not realize the change at first; but, running after her redeemer, cried out: “He has redeemed me! he has redeemed me! Will you let me be your servant?” How much more should we serve Him who has redeemed us from sin, and death, and hell?

God’s motives in redemption:—How should we extol and adore the wisdom which discovered a way to harmonize the glory of a holy God and the good of guilty men! In the salvation of the human family God was undoubtedly moved by a regard to both these ends. It is an imperfect vision that sees but one motive here. This subject may be compared to those binary stars which seem to the naked eye but one, yet, when brought into the range of the telescope, resolve themselves into two distinct and shining orbs, that roll in brightness and beauty around a common, but invisible, centre. Though He loved His own glory, yet He “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,” that by Him the world might be redeemed from perdition. (T. Guthrie, D.D.)

Effects of redemption:—A few years ago I was going away to preach one Sunday morning, when a young man drove up in front of us. He had an aged woman with him. “Who is that young man?” I asked. “Do you see that beautiful meadow,” said my friend, “and that land there with the house upon it?” “Yes.” “His father drank that all up,” he said. Then he went onto tell me all about him. His father was a great drunkard, squandered his property, died, and left his wife in the poorhouse. “And that young man,” he said, “is one of the finest young men I ever knew. He has toiled hard and earned money, and bought back the land; he has taken his mother out of the poorhouse, and now he is taking her to church.” I thought, that is an illustration for me. The first Adam, in Eden, sold us for nought; but the Messiah, the Second Adam, came and bought us back again. The first Adam brought us to the poorhouse, as it were; the Second Adam makes us kings and priests unto God. (D. L. Moody.)

Redemption through the blood of Christ:—I dare assert, without fear of successful contradiction, that the inspired writers attribute all the blessings of salvation to the precious blood of Jesus Christ. If we have redemption it is through His blood; if we are justified, it is by His blood; if washed from our moral stains, it is by His blood, which cleanseth us from all sin; if we have victory over the last enemy, we obtain it not only by the Word of the Divine testimony, but through the blood of the Lamb; and if we gain admittance into heaven, it is because we “have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, and therefore are we before the throne of God.” Everything depends on the blood of Christ, and “without shedding of blood is no remission.” (R. Newton.) The forgiveness of sins

Forgiveness and redemption:—God’s forgiveness is, so to speak, the preliminary grace, which enables the beginning of a new life, so that we become holy and loving children. Forgiveness is the prerogative of him who has been sinned against. “Who can forgive sins save God only?” He forgives on grounds sufficient in the estimation of His own righteous love. He cannot be coerced or coaxed into forgiveness. He cannot forgive until He sees it right to forgive. He cannot connive at the sinner being let off, if righteousness demands that he should suffer penalty. Nothing can be weaker or more immoral than to represent God as moved merely by pity, by a merciful compassion. That He is infinitely pitiful and loving is the uniform representation of Scripture. But His love works in a far profounder and holier and greater way than by mere pitiful feeling. He Himself “gave the only begotten Son” to redeem us, to die as a sacrifice for sins, that He might righteously forgive, that He might be “a just God and yet a Saviour.” The entire representation is of God’s love as the moving cause of Christ’s mission and redeeming work. Christ is given by the Father to redeem us—that is, as the apostle here explains it, to obtain for us the forgiveness of sins. Sin is not a misfortune, a necessity of our nature—it is a guilty act. We need not sin; we wilfully sin: and before we can become loving children of God, our sin must be forgiven. This is the first step in our redemption; forgiveness is made possible for us, is obtained for us by Jesus Christ. The further phrase “redemption through His blood,” shuts us up to the idea that the shedding of His blood by Christ, was that which made forgiveness a possible thing. It is only natural that men should ask, How, in what way, did the death of Christ constitute a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of men? Such questions have been asked from the beginning of Christianity, and have in a hundred ways been answered in creeds and in systems of theology. These are purely human conceptions of the great fact which the New Testament affirms, and they have continuously changed as the spiritual intelligence of the Church has grown. Perhaps no one could now be found capable of entertaining the gross notions of the earlier and middle ages of Christianity. Whatever theory we may form, it must be taken only as our fallible human idea. The fact of the great sacrifice for sin is authoritatively affirmed; very little is said in explanation of what we may call the philosophy of it. That it had an aspect Godwards, that it is the ground or reason of God’s forgiveness of sins, we are expressly told. And that it has an aspect manwards, that it is a moral constraint upon human feeling, “the power of God unto salvation” is equally affirmed. “Lifted up from the earth, He draws all men unto Him.” One or two things may be said. Christ suffered, of course, as a man—a perfectly holy man, suffering for human sin as if He Himself had sinned. To enable this He became incarnate. He was “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death.” It is clear that He did not suffer to appease any implacable feeling in God—to incline God to save. Every representation of Scripture is of God’s yearning pity and love. His love was the origin, the cause, of Christ’s Incarnation—He “spared not His only-begotten Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all.” That God is angry with sin is only to say that He is a Holy Being. If God can delight in the holiness of His creatures, He must hate their sin. He is not a passionless Being, incapable of feeling. How could He be loved if He were? No expressions can be stronger than those which represent God’s feeling towards sin. “He is angry with the wicked every day”; “The wrath of God abideth upon him”; “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness,” for those that “obey unrighteousness there is indignation and wrath.” We are “saved from wrath through Him.” We are by nature “children of wrath”; “the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.” That God was not angry with His well-beloved Son needs not be said, save that this, too, is a misrepresentation that the rejectors of the Atonement are not ashamed to persist in. “Therefore doth the Father love Me, because I lay down My life for the sheep.” That Jesus Christ ever thought the Father angry with Him it is impossible to think. When, in the extreme anguish of His spirit, He felt as if His Father had forsaken Him, He immediately added: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Was not His anguish simply the vivid realization by His human heart of what human sin was? If any of us had a brother or a sister, a father or a mother, who committed a murder, would not our anguish at the crime be greater than even that of the murderer himself, just in proportion as his heart was murderous and ours was humane? Many a father, many a mother, feels infinitely more anguish for the sin of a profligate son, of a fallen daughter, than the sinner himself. May not this suggestion help us to understand the agony of the garden and of the cross? (H. Allen, D.D.)

The glories of forgiving grace:—The forgiveness of sins is an article in the creed, but I want it to be a substantive in your lives. Most men say that they believe it, but their belief is often nominal, and a nominal faith, like nominal wealth, only makes the absence of the reality the more deplorable. In two instances there is clearly no faith in forgiven sin. 1. Those who have never felt that they are sinful. How can he who does not believe in the existence of sin believe in the forgiveness of it? His whole confession on that matter belongs to the region of fiction. If sin is not a terrible fact to you, pardon will never be more than a notion. 2. Those who know the guilt of sin, but are not yet able to believe in the Lord Jesus for the remission of their transgressions. They need to be admonished as Luther was by the godly old monk. When he was greatly distressed under conviction of his guilt, the aged man said, “Didst thou not say this morning in the creed, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins‘?” Oh, be not theoretical believers. You believe in sin, believe also in its pardon. Let the one be as much a truth as the other.

  1. From the text we learn the measure of forgiveness. 1. Observe, then, that the measure of forgiveness is the riches of God’s grace, and this statement leads us to observe that it is not the character or person of the offender which is the measure of mercy, but the character of the offended One. Is there not rich consolation in this undoubted fact? The pardon to be hoped for is not to be measured by you and what you are, but by God and what He is. One man will forgive a grievous wrong, while another will not overlook a wry word. Take an instance from English history: John had most villainously treated his brother Richard in his absence. Was it likely that when he of the lion’s heart came home he would pass over his brother’s grievous offence? If you look at John, villain that he was, it was most unlikely that he should be forgiven; but then, if you consider the brave, high-souled Richard, the very flower of chivalry, you expect a generous deed. Base as John was, he was likely to be forgiven, because Richard was so free of heart, and accordingly pardon was right royally given by the great-hearted monarch. Had John been only half as guilty, if his brother Richard had been like himself he would have made him lay his neck on the block. If John had been Richard and Richard had been John, no matter how small the offence, there would have been no likelihood of pardon at all. So is it in all matters of transgression and pardon. You must take the offence somewhat into account, it is true, but not one-half so much as the character of the person who has been offended. Let us establish this fact, and then see what light it throws upon the probability of pardon to any of you who are seeking it. With whom are you dealing? You have offended—who is He whom you have offended? Is it one whose anger is quickly aroused? No, the Lord is long-suffering, and exceedingly patient. Forty years long was He grieved with one generation; and many a time did He pity them and remove His wrath from them. 2. Since the forgiveness of sins is “according to the riches of His grace,” then it is not according to our conceptions of God’s mercy, but according to that mercy itself, and the riches of it. God’s love is not to be measured by a mercer’s yard, nor His mercy to be weighed in the balances of the merchant. 3. If, again, the measure of mercy is “according to the riches of His grace,” then no limit to pardon can be set by the amount of human sin which can be forgiven. Sin is no trifle, and yet pardon is no impossibility. 4. Another comfortable conclusion follows from this, that no limit is set to the time in which a man has sinned, so as to bound the reach of grace by the lapse of years. Our text does not say that there is forgiveness of sins according to such and such a time of life, but “according to the riches of His grace.” 5. Let me draw another inference. If pardon be “according to the riches of His grace,” it is not according to the bitterness of the sorrow which has been felt by the sinner. There is a notion abroad that we must pass through a period of keen remorse before we can expect to be accepted with God. 6. And let me say that the measure of God’s forgiveness is not even the strength of a man’s faith. The measure of God’s forgiveness is “according to the riches of His grace.” You, dear soul, are to come and trust in what Jesus Christ did when He bled away His life for sinners, and then your pardon shall be measured out to you, not according to the greatness and strength of your confidence, but according to the immeasurable mercy of the heart of God. You may have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, your faith may only dare to touch the garment’s hem of the great Saviour, you may get no further than to say, “He hath said, ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out,’ and I do come to Him: if I perish, I will perish trusting Him,” and yet that faith will save you. Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee if thou believest in Jesus; for the measure of thy forgiveness is not thy faith, nor thy tears of repentance, nor thy bitter regrets, nor thy sin, nor thy conception of God’s goodness, nor thy character, either past or present or future; but the forgiveness which is granted from the Lord is “according to the riches of His grace.”
  2. The manner of forgiveness. 1. Absolute freeness. “According to the riches of His free favour,” for that is the meaning of the word “grace.” God forgives none because of payment made by them in any form. If we could bring Him mountains of gold and silver, they would be nothing worth to Him. Forgiveness, like love, is unpurchaseable by us. God’s pardons are absolutely free. 2. Royal ease. When you and I give away money to the poor, we have to pause, and see how much is left in our purse; we have to calculate our incomes to see whether we may not be spending too much in charity; but those who have great riches can give and not calculate: even so God when He grants forgiveness gives it “according to the riches of His grace.” He never has to think whether He will have grace enough left; He will be none the richer if He withholds it, none the poorer if He bestows it. There is a magnificent ease about the benefactions of God: He scatters the largesse of His mercy right and left with unstinted liberality. The Roman conquerors, traversing the Via Sacra in triumph, were accustomed to scatter gold and silver with both hands as they rode along, and the eager crowd gathered up the shower of gifts. Our Lord, when He ascended on high and led captivity captive, scattered gifts among men with royal splendour and munificence. 3. Unquestionable fulness. The blood of Jesus makes us whiter than snow, and absolute innocence cannot be more white than that. 4. Irreversible certainty. “No condemnation.” 5. Unfailing renewal. Daily forgiveness for daily sin, a flesh spring rising for fresh thirst.

III. The manifestation of this pardon. 1. Forgiveness of sin comes to us entirely through Jesus Christ our Saviour; and if we go to Jesus Christ, fixing our eyes especially upon His atoning sacrifice, we have pardon by virtue of His blood. Pardon by any other means is impossible, but by Jesus Christ it is certain. Everything else fails, but faith in Christ never fails. 2. This pardon is a possession. “We have” it. No longer is the weight and burden of sin lying on your conscience and heart: your load is lifted; you are forgiven. If your child has been offending you, and you are angry with him, he feels ill at ease in your presence. At last you say, “My boy, it is all gone now; do not offend again. You are quite forgiven; come here, and let me kiss you.” Does he reply, “Father, I am afraid”? If so, it is evident that he does not understand that you have forgiven him: and even if he receives your kiss, but still remains unhappy in your presence, it is clear that he does not believe in you or in the sincerity of your forgiveness. As soon as the light dawns on his mind “Father has quite put all my fault away,” then he is merry in his play and easy in his conversation with you. Now, be with God like a child at home. Do not act towards Him as if still He frowned upon you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The forgiveness of sins:—The earlier verses of this chapter contain Paul’s conception of the Divine ideal of human nature. It was the Divine purpose “before the foundation of the world” that men should share the life and sonship of the eternal Son of God. It was for this that human nature received its wonderful capacities. Its sanctity and righteousness were to be secured by union with Christ. The human race was to be a great spiritual organism, having Christ for the root of its life and blessedness. Abiding in Christ, the race was to abide in God; and only by abiding in Christ could the race achieve the perfection and glory for which it was created. But the Divine purpose did not suppress human freedom. It could be fulfilled only by the free concurrence of the race with the Divine righteousness and love; and the whole order of the development of the Divine thought has been disturbed by sin. In His infinite goodness God has delivered us from the immense catastrophe which came upon us through our revolt against His authority. In Christ we have redemption and forgiveness. I. What forgiveness is not. 1. Forgiveness is not a change in our minds towards God, but a change in God’s mind towards us. Take an illustration. A son has been guilty of flagrant misconduct towards his father; has insulted him, slandered his character, robbed him, and almost ruined him. The son discovers his guilt and is greatly distressed. He does all he can to atone for his wickedness. He has become a better man, and there is a great change in his mind and conduct towards his father. But it is possible for all the change to be on one side. He may be unable to remove or even to lessen his father’s indignation against him. His father may continue for years bitter, relentless, unforgiving. I do not mean to suggest that God will be hard with us when we repent; but if we are to have any clear and true thoughts about this subject we must see distinctly that it is one thing for us to repent of sin and to become better, and quite another thing for God to forgive us. 2. Nor must the Divine forgiveness be confounded with peace of conscience. I have known many people who were restless and unhappy, dissatisfied with themselves, and unable to find any rest of heart in the Divine mercy. The reason was plain: they were not troubled by the Divine hostility to their sin, and therefore the assurance that God was willing to forgive them afforded them no relief. It was not God’s thoughts about them that occasioned their distress, but their own thoughts about themselves. They did not want to obtain the Divine forgiveness, but to recover their own self-respect, which had been wounded by the discovery of their moral imperfections. But it is clearly one thing for God to be at peace with us, and quite a different thing for us to be at peace with ourselves. 3. We must not suppose that as soon as God forgives us we escape at once from the painful and just consequences of our sins. The sins may be forgiven, and yet many of the penalties which they have brought upon us may remain. There is a certain alliance between the laws of nature and the laws of righteousness, and there is a similar alliance between the natural laws of society and the laws of righteousness. No Divine act arrests the operation of the natural laws which punish the penitent for his former drunkenness. There are vices, such as flagrant lying, gross treachery, deliberate dishonesty, which involve a man in heavy social penalties. He does not escape these penalties when he repents of the vices and receives the Divine pardon. He is maimed for life. His chances are lost. He will recover with difficulty the confidence of even kindly and generous men. Positions of public trust and honour will be closed against him, He will be excluded from many kinds of usefulness.

  1. What it is for God to forgive sins. 1. Forgiveness among ourselves implies that there has been just resentment against the person whom we forgive, resentment provoked by his wrongdoing. When we forgive him the resentment ceases. And so also does God regard, not with disapproval only, but with resentment, those who sin; and when He forgives men, His resentment ceases. 2. When God forgives, He actually remits our sin. Our responsibility for it ceases. The guilt of it is no longer ours. When His resentment against us ceases, the eternal law of righteousness ceases to be hostile to us. When He pardons our transgressions, the eternal law of righteousness no longer holds us responsible for them. The shadow which they had projected across our life, and which lengthened with our lengthening years, passes away. We look back upon the sins which God has forgiven and we condemn them still, but the condemnation does not fall upon ourselves; for God, who is the living law of righteousness, condemns us no longer. 3. The peace and blessedness of this release from guilt are wonderful. The soul is conscious of a Divine freedom. It can approach God with happy trust and with perfect courage, for the past is no longer a source of terror, and the future is bright with immortal hope. (R. W. Dale, LL.D.)

Forgiveness defined:—Forgiveness may be defined—1. In personal terms—as a cessation of the anger or moral resentment of God against sin. 2. In ethical terms—as a release from the guilt of sin, which oppresses the conscience. 3. In legal terms—as a remission of the punishment of sin, which is eternal death. (R. W. Dale, LL.D.)

The forgiveness of sin and the death of Christ:—That our Lord Jesus Christ declared that men were to receive redemption or the remission of sins through Himself, and especially through His death, appears from several passages in the Gospels; and the great place which His last sufferings occupied in His thoughts from the very commencement of His ministry, the frequency with which He spoke of them, the wonderful results which He said were to follow them, the agitation and dismay which He felt as they approached, and His anxiety to pass through them and beyond them, show that to Christ His death was not a mere martyrdom but an awful and glorious crisis in His own history and in the history of the human race. The apostles Peter, Paul, and John, though each had his own characteristic conception of the work of Christ and the Christian salvation, are agreed in declaring that the ground of our forgiveness is in Christ, and they are also agreed in attributing a mysterious importance and efficacy to His death (2 Cor. 5:14; Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:18; 2:24; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:9; Rom. 5:8; 3:24–26). But no collection of isolated passages gives an adequate impression of the strength of the proof that both our Lord and His apostles taught that in Him “we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of [God’s] grace.” This truth is wrought into the very substance of the Christian gospel.

  1. We have the forgiveness of our trespasses “in Christ.” It is in harmony with the fundamental law of human nature that the reason and ground of our forgiveness should be in Christ; for the reason and ground of our creation, of our righteousness, and of our blessedness as the sons of God, are in Him.
  2. We have the forgiveness of our trespasses in Christ “through His blood.” 1. The relations of Christ to the Father are the transcendent expression and original root of our relation to the Father. We are related to the Father through Him. And since the relation of moral submission on our part to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin was an indispensable condition of the forgiveness of sin, it became necessary that Christ Himself should assume this relation of moral submission to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin, that His submission might be the transcendent expression of ours. 2. There is no righteousness in us which is not first in Christ. And since our submission to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin was an indispensable condition of our forgiveness, Christ’s submission became necessary to render ours possible. His submission carries ours with it. 3. His death is the death of sin in all who are one with Him. (1) Christ, the eternal Son of God and the root of our righteousness, having become Man, endured death in order to render possible our moral consent to the justice of the Divine resentment against sin, and to the justice of the penalties in which that resentment might have been revealed. Had God withdrawn from us His light and life, and destroyed us by revealing His moral resentment against our sin, this would have been an awful manifestation of the moral energy of His righteousness and of His abhorrence of moral evil. Its moral value would have been infinitely heightened by the intensity of His love for us. But God in the greatness of His love shrank from depriving us of that blessed and glorious destiny for which we were created; and in order to secure our moral submission to the righteousness of His resentment, a moral submission which was the necessary condition of our forgiveness, He surrendered His own eternal Son to spiritual desertion and to death. In this surrender, made for such a purpose, there was a sublimer moral manifestation of the Divine thought concerning sin than there would have been in condemning the race to eternal death. (2) The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the Moral Ruler of the human race. The moral supremacy of God in manifested and exerted through Him. It was His function to punish sin, and so to reveal His judgment of it. But instead of inflicting suffering. He has elected to endure it, that those who repent of sin may receive forgiveness and may inherit eternal glory. It was greater to endure suffering than to inflict it. (Ibid.)

The forgiveness of sins:—Forgiveness is much more than pardon. Pardon is not a New Testament word at all; it does not occur in the New Testament, only in the Old Testament. Pardon is only the remitting the punishment of sins; forgiveness goes deeper—it is the taking away the memory of sins; it is an act of the heart which cancels both the punishment and the sin itself. Both words, “pardon” from the French, and “forgiveness” from the English, or Saxon, both have in them the word “gift.” It is a gift. Both the remitting the penalty, and the banishment of the thought of the wrong thing that has been done out of the heart, both are a gift. But forgiveness is the greater gift; it is pardon and forgiveness as well, for if you are forgiven, the sin itself is divided from the person forgiven, as though it had never been. All that is wanted is to go for your forgiveness in a right state of mind. That state of mind means four things. I. You must feel and confess that you have sinned—sinned against God. It is not enough to feel that you have sinned against man, or to your own injury: you must feel and own from the bottom of your heart that you have offended God. “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.” II. You must have a sincere and holy resolve in you heart that you will not commit that sin any more; that you will lead a better and religious life. This resolve must be firm and earnest, with a deep sense of your own weakness and inability to keep the promise; but you are prepared to meet any sacrifice, and overcome all difficulties, God helping you. III. You must come with the faith that God can, and will, and does forgive you, for the sake of Him who has already paid all your debt, and satisfied His justice. IV. You must be in a state of forgiveness, forgiveness with all who have ever injured you. These four are the only pre-requisites which God has laid down as necessary for the forgiveness of every sin. Besides these, not only you need not, you must not bring anything in your hand. No merit, no plea, but that you are a poor sinner, and that “God is love,” and that Christ has died for you and instead of you, and suffered your punishment. Can those forgiven sins ever rise up again? Never, never! See what God says upon that subject: “The scapegoat is borne away into a land not inhabited.” Who shall see them, or talk about them, where there is none to speak? “A land not inhabited.” They shall not be mentioned. They are nailed to the cross. They are dead and buried, and there is no resurrection to a forgiven sin. God has put them behind His back, where He cannot see them! Do you say I make it too easy? Would it not be presumptuous to believe in such an instant and complete forgiveness? Would there not be encouragements for the careless to go on and sin again, because they can again be so easily forgiven? Let me tell you what will be the effect. The feeling of that forgiveness, the wonderful surprise that you are forgiven; that God’s eye is on you; that you are His own dear child, and that you may, notwithstanding all the past, serve Him and please Him, and be happy in this world and go to heaven when you die; this will melt you to tears, it will melt your heart to tears. You will be so soft. Your penitence, after you feel forgiven, will be much deeper than before you were forgiven. (J. Vaughan, M.A.)

Value of forgiveness:—History relates the story of a many a sagacious and far-sighted man, whose example it is our safety, our salvation to follow. He had committed heinous crimes against his sovereign and the state. He knew his life to be forfeited; and that if, allowing events to take their course, he waited to be tried, he was certain to be condemned. The case is exactly ours. In these circumstances he repaired to the palace to fling himself at the feet of his sovereign, and making full confession of his crimes, to beg for mercy. Through the clemency of his king, and the intercession of a powerful friend at court, he found mercy; and, with a full pardon in his bosom, signed by the king’s own hand, left the royal presence a happy man. In course of time, the day of trial arrives, gathering a great concourse of people. He repairs to the place. Ignorant of his secret, anxious friends tremble for his fate; and the spectators wonder at his calm and placid bearing as he passes the scaffold where they think he is so soon to die, and enters the court, certain, as they fancy, to be condemned. He steps up to the bar as lightly as a bridegroom to the marriage altar; and, to all men’s surprise, looks boldly around, on the court, his judges, and his accusers. At this, however, they cease to wonder, when, after listening unmoved to charges enough to hang twenty men in the place of one, he thrusts his hand into his bosom to draw forth the pardon, to cast it on the table, and find himself, amid a sudden outburst of joy, locked in the happy embraces of his wife and children. Let us go and do likewise. The bar of Divine judgment is a place not to sue for mercy, but to plead it. Appearing there robed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, justified, forgiven, in our hands a pardon signed and sealed with blood, we shall look around us undismayed on all the terrors of the scene—to ask with Paul, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” (T. Guthrie, D.D.) According to the riches of His grace.

The riches of God’s grace:

  1. The riches of God’s grace are illustrated by the nature and cause of these evils from which God is willing to redeem us. It is not misfortune we are suffering from, but guilt; the anger of God has not come upon us by accident; hell is not a mere calamity, the pains of eternal death are not undeserved. All the evils of our condition, from which God is eager to save us, are the result of our own fault. We have sinned; and the sin is regarded by God with deep and intense abhorrence. If a man whom you have trusted lies to you again and again, you fling him off from you with contempt. If you have detected a man whom you have trusted in an attempt to commit deliberative fraud upon you, you close your doors against him and forbid him ever to enter your house. If he be drunken, profane, and profligate, you think of him with disgust. And whatever abhorrence and loathing we may feel for gross sin, God, who is infinitely purer than we are, feels for all sin, and it is sin which has brought all our woes upon us. We have sinned, not ignorantly, but knowingly. We have sinned for years, and perhaps some of us are only now beginning to think of amendment. And yet to us sinners, to the guiltiest and most flagrant sinner among us, God offers redemption, and shows “the riches of His grace.”
  2. The riches of His grace are illustrated in what He has none to effect our redemption. “Through the blood of Christ.” The Son of God, the Creator of our race, the moral Ruler of the universe, with whom it rested, when we had sinned, fully to express the Divine sense of the magnitude of our guilt, and to inflict the penalties which we deserved; laid His glory by, in order that He might endure the penalty instead of inflicting it, that He might express His sense of our sin by enduring death before He forgave it, instead of inflicting death on us because we had transgressed.

III. The conditions on which God offers salvation illustrate the riches of His grace. A free gift—the only condition being that we be willing to receive it. “Arise, and be free!” is Christ’s message to all.

  1. The very name by which the Christian revelation is known illustrates this. It is not called a system or doctrine, else it might be necessary to master the doctrine before you could secure redemption. It is not a moral but a spiritual discipline, else it might be necessary that you should subject yourself to its vivifying and invigorating power before redemption could be yours. It is not a law, else you would have to obey it before its promises could be fulfilled. It is not a promise of redemption, nor an assurance that God is willing to accomplish your redemption, else there might be conditions attached to the promise by which you might be perplexed and hindered. No; but it is a gospel—good news from heaven to earth, from God to man; good news of the Divine love which anger against sin has not quenched; good news of a great redemption wrought out in us; good news that God through Christ is nigh at hand and eager to forgive sins; good news that everything that is necessary to complete our salvation God has actually conferred upon us through Christ Jesus our Lord, and that we have only to receive it in order to rejoice in eternal blessedness.
  2. The concern God has shown about our salvation illustrates the riches of His grace. We sometimes speak of those who are seeking God. The New Testament speaks of God seeking us. The Good Shepherd goes out into the wilderness after the sheep that has gone astray, before there is any terror felt at its danger, or any desire on its part to return. This is God’s conduct towards us. Is it not so? Why is it that any of you are at this moment restless because of your guilt, alarmed because of your danger, and longing to find your way into the peace of God? Is it the result of strenuous and laborious effort of your own to discover whether or not you had incurred guilt and exposure to danger? Has it not all come to you, you know not how? And yet, when you begin to consider, you conclude that it has been awakened in your heart by God. Can you be so ungrateful for His persistent love? (R. W. Dale, LL.D.)

The treasure of grace:

  1. First, consider the riches of His grace. In attempting to search out that which is unsearchable, we must, I suppose, use some of those comparisons by which we are wont to estimate the wealth of the monarchs, and mighty ones of this world. It happened once that the Spanish ambassador, in the halcyon days of Spain, went on a visit to the French ambassador, and was invited by him to see the treasures of his master. With feelings of pride he showed the repositories, profusely stored with earth’s most precious and most costly wealth. “Could you show gems so rich,” said he, “or aught the like of this for magnificence of possessions in all your sovereign’s kingdom? Call your master rich?” replied the ambassador of Spain, “why, my master’s treasures have no bottom”—alluding, of course, to the mines of Peru and Petrosa. So truly in the riches of grace there are mines too deep for man’s finite understanding ever to fathom. However profound your investigation, there is still a deep couching beneath that baffles all research. As by necessity of His Godhead He is omnipotent, and omnipresent, so by absolute necessity of His Divinity is He gracious. Recollect, however, that as the attributes of God are of the like extent, the gauge of one attribute must be the gauge of another. Or, further, if one attribute is without limit, so is another attribute. 1. Now, you cannot conceive any boundary to the omnipotence of God. What cannot He do? He can create, He can destroy; He can speak a myriad universes into existence; or He can quench the light of myriads of stars as readily as we tread out a spark. As He hath power to do anything, so hath He grace enough to give anything—to give everything to the very chief of sinners. 2. Take another attribute if you please—God’s omniscience, there is no boundary to that. We know that His eye is upon every individual of our race—He sees him as minutely as if he were the only creature that existed. It is boasted of the eagle that though he can outstare the sun, yet when at his greatest height, he can detect the movement of the smallest fish in the depths of the sea. But what is this compared with the omniscience of God? 3. There is no limit to His understanding, nor is there to His grace. As His knowledge comprehendeth all things, so doth His grace comprehend all the sins, all the trials, all the infirmities of the people upon whom His heart is set. The next time we fear that God’s grace will be exhausted let us look into this mine, and then let us reflect that all that has ever been taken out of it has never diminished it a single particle. All the clouds that have been taken from the sea have never diminished its depth, and all the love, and all the mercy that God has given to all but infinite numbers of the race of man, has not diminished by a single grain the mountain of His grace. But, to proceed further; we sometimes judge of the wealth of men, not only by their real estate in mines and the like, but by what they have on hand stored up in the treasury. God’s treasury is His covenant of grace, wherein the Father gave His Son, the Son gave Himself, and the Spirit promised all His influence, all His presence, to all the chosen. This, my brethren, if ye think it over, may well make you estimate aright the riches of God’s grace. If you read the roll of the covenant from beginning to end, containing as it does, election, redemption, calling, justification, pardon, adoption, heaven, immortality—if you read all this, you will say, “This is riches of grace—God, great and infinite! Who is a God like unto Thee for the riches of Thy love!” The riches of great kings again, may often be estimated by the munificence of the monuments which they reared to record their feats. We have been amazed in these modern times at the marvellous riches of the kings of Nineveh and Babylon. Modern monarchs with all their appliances, would fail to erect such monstrous piles of palaces as those in which old Nebuchadnezzar walked in times of yore. We turn to the pyramids, we see there what the wealth of nations can accomplish; we look across the sea to Mexico and Peru, and we see the relics of a semi-barbarous people; but we are staggered and amazed to think what wealth and what mines of riches they must have possessed ere such works could have been accomplished. Solomon’s riches are perhaps best judged of by us when we think of those great cities which he built in the wilderness, Tadmore and Palmyra. When we go and visit those ruins and see the massive columns and magnificent sculpture, we say, Solomon indeed was rich. We feel as we walk amid the ruins somewhat like the Queen of Sheba, even in Scripture the half has not been told us of the riches of Solomon. My brethren, God has led us to inspect mightier trophies than Solomon, or Nebuchadnezzar, or Montezuma, or all the Pharaohs. Turn your eyes yonder, see that blood-bought host arrayed in white, surrounding the throne—hark, how they sing, with voice triumphant, with melodies seraphic, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” And who are these? Who are these trophies of His grace? Some of them have come from the stews of harlotry; many of them have come from the taverns of drunkenness. Nay, more, the hands of some of those so white and fair, were once red with the blood of saints. I see there Manasseh, who shed innocent blood so much, and the thief who in the last moment looked to Christ, and said, “Lord, remember me.” Now we turn to another point to illustrate the greatness of the riches of God’s grace. A man’s riches may often be judged of by the equipage of his children, the manner in which he dresses his servants and those of his household. It is not to be expected that the child of the poor man, though he is comfortably clothed, should be arrayed in like garments to those which are worn by the sons of princes. Let us see, then, what are the robes in which God’s people are apparelled, and how they are attended. Here, again, I speak upon a subject where a large imagination is needed, and my own utterly fails me. God’s children are wrapped about with a robe, a seamless robe, which earth and heaven could not buy the like of if it were once lost. For texture it excels the fine linen of the merchants; for whiteness it is purer than the driven snow; no looms on earth could make it, but Jesus spent His life to work my robe of righteousness. Look at God’s people as they are clothed too in the garments of sanctification. Was there ever such a robe as that? it is literally stiff with jewels. He arrays the meanest of His people every day as though it were a wedding day; He arrays them as a bride adorneth herself with jewels; He has given Ethiopia and Sheba for them, and He will have them dressed in gold of Ophir. What riches of grace, then, must there be in God who thus clothes His children! But to Conclude this point upon which I have not as yet begun. If you would know the full riches of Divine grace, read the Father’s heart when He sent His Son upon earth to die; read the lines upon the Father’s countenance when He pours His wrath upon His only begotten and His well-beloved Son. So much, then, concerning the riches of His grace.
  2. For a minute or two, let me now dwell upon the forgiveness of sins. The treasure of God’s grace is the measure of our forgiveness; this forgiveness of sins is according to the riches of His grace. We may infer, then, that the pardon which God gives to the penitent is no niggard pardon. Again: if pardon be in proportion to the riches of His grace, we may rest assured it is not a limited pardon, it is not the forgiving of some sins and the leaving of others upon the back. No, this were not Godlike, it were not consistent with the riches of His grace. When God forgives He draws the mark through every sin which the believer ever has committed, or ever will commit.

III. And now I conclude by noticing the blessed privileges which always follow the forgiveness which is given to us according to the grace of God. 1. Peace of conscience. That heart of yours which throbs so fast when you are alone, will be quite still and quiet. When once a man is forgiven, he can walk anywhere; and, knowing his sins to be forgiven, he has joy unspeakable. 2. Then, to go further, such a man has access to God. Another man with unforgiven sin about him stands afar off; and it he thinks of God at all it is as a consuming fire. 3. Then another effect of this is that the believer fears no hell. 4. Once more, the forgiven Christian is expecting heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The riches of God’s grace:—In a country village if a man has a few hundred pounds he is thought to be quite rich. In a large town a man must have several thousands. But when you come to London and frequent the Stock Exchange you inquire of so and so—Is he a rich man? And someone will perhaps reply, “Yes, yes, he is worth a hundred thousand pounds.” Put the same question to a Rothschild with his millions, and he answers, “No! he is a little man: he is not rich: he only owns a hundred thousand pounds”; for these great bankers count their money by millions. Well, but what are these great Rothschilds with all their millions when they are reckoned up according to the wealth of heaven? The Lord alone is rich. God is so rich in mercy that you cannot tell how rich He is. His is overflowing riches, marvellous riches, exceeding riches. (Ibid.)

God abounds in grace:—An indigent philosopher at the court of Alexander sought relief at the hand of that sovereign, and received an order on his treasurer for any sum he should ask. He immediately demanded ten thousand pounds. The treasurer demurred to the extravagant amount; but Alexander replied, “Let the money be instantly paid. I am delighted with this philosopher’s way of thinking: he has done me a singular honour. By the largeness of his request, he shows the high opinion he has of my wealth and munificence.” Even so they do most honour God’s grace who remember that it abounds towards us. Abounding grace:—Payson, when he lay on his bed dying, said, “All my life Christ has seemed to me as a star afar off; but little by little He has been advancing and growing larger and larger, till now His beams seem to fill the whole hemisphere, and I am floating in the glory of God, wondering with unutterable wonder how such a mote as I should be glorified in His light.” But he came to that after a long life. (H. W. Beecher.)[12]

7. So what is it we are praising that involves Jesus? That is the theme of verses 7–12. It is redemption through his death, forgiveness and the riches of grace. In him we have redemption through his blood. Technically, ‘in him’ is ‘in whom’, which refers back to the Beloved One (v. 6)—that is, ‘in Christ’. Jesus’ death is what the reference to the blood points to: an act that has brought a rescue (Matt. 26:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:25, 27; Heb. 9:11–12). Redemption points to the payment of a price that leads to something (often the freeing of a slave: Exod. 21:8; Lev. 25:48; Letter of Aristeas33; Philo, Good Person 114). Here it is Jesus’ sacrificial death that pays the moral penalty of the debt sin creates (Rom. 3:24; Heb. 9:15). Ransom is a common idea in the New Testament (Mark 10:45; 1 Pet. 1:18–19; Heb. 9:12; Rev. 1:5; 5:9). The image of Jesus as a lamb of sacrifice underscores this picture (1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:9–12; 6:1). It is him for us. The New Testament is not concerned with to whom this debt is paid, but focuses instead on the fact that it is paid, with the gift of the indwelling Spirit delivering spiritual capability and freedom to walk with God as a result. The expression pictures deliverance (Exod. 6:6) and the resultant position in which we now exist. The verb we have is present tense, so it looks at where we are now in the light of what we were given by grace. Redemption includes the forgiveness of our trespasses (cf. Col. 1:14; Titus 2:14). None of this is deserved; it is according to the riches of [God’s] grace. Later Paul will pray that the Ephesians might appreciate the riches of the inheritance we have in Christ, another allusion to verse 6. This redemption and forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrificial death is a key part of that treasure.[13]

7. The blessing of redemption follows, for our prior need of grace is of redeeming, restoring grace. Such redemption is found in Christ—not merely through him, but by coming to live in him (cf. Rom. 3:24; Col. 1:14). Again the Old Testament provides the background for our understanding. There, provision was made for the redemption of lands or persons that had passed from their original owner to become the property of another (see Lev. 25:25–27, 47–49; Num. 18:15). The people of Israel, moreover, were themselves essentially a redeemed people. They had been slaves in Egypt, and later, through their own sinfulness, in Babylon as well. Yet God had redeemed them, and by redemption they were made his people (Exod. 15:13; Deut. 7:8; Isa. 48:20; 52:9). The fundamental idea of redemption is that of the setting free of a thing or a person that has come to belong to another. Sometimes, in both Old and New Testaments, there is no specific reference to the price paid for redemption, and in some places the word has the basic sense of release (e.g. Luke 21:28; Rom. 8:23; Heb. 9:15). But Paul’s mind often dwelt on the thought of the costliness of redemption, and in a number of places in the New Testament this is obviously present (see Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18–19; Rev. 5:9).

We cannot say here that Paul speaks explicitly of the cost of redemption, but he says immediately that it is through his blood. Nor would he have hesitated to say that what is the means of liberation is in fact also the price. In the case of the Passover, a sacrifice was associated with the redemption of the people. The primary object of most of the old sacrifices, however, was the setting aside of sin. Instilled deeply into the consciousness of the people was the fact that sin could not be set aside lightly. Sin required sacrifice: ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins’ (Heb. 9:22; cf. Lev. 17:11). Christ fulfilled the need expressed throughout the Old Testament sacrificial system. His death means that blood has been shed as a sacrifice for sin; it may also be described in terms of sin’s defeat and so the release of men and women from its bondage. The sacrifice is thus the means of redemption which is the forgiveness of our trespasses. Sin involves the bondage of mind and will and members, but forgiveness is freedom, and aphesis, the word used here, means literally the loosing of a person from that which binds. This forgiveness, Paul says, is according to the riches of his grace, grace which is rich beyond human understanding and infinitely beyond any earthly wealth (cf. Matt. 6:19–20; 1 Tim. 6:17–19; Heb. 11:26). Six times in this letter the apostle speaks thus of the riches of God, revealed and made available, the wealth of his grace and mercy and glory (v. 18; 2:4, 7; 3:8, 16), and the expression is characteristically Pauline (cf. Rom. 2:4; 9:23; 11:33; 2 Cor. 8:9; Col. 1:27; 2:2). And God’s giving is not merely out of these riches but according to their measure (cf. Phil. 4:19).[14]

7 In this verse we now come to the subject of redemption. Redemption! A word, taken in all its vast dimensions, bigger than a thousand such worlds as ours. Let us, however, proceed regularly into this mysterious subject. We have noticed, (though briefly,) in the former verses, the gracious personal acts of God the Father, in relation to the Church. Here we enter upon the gracious personal acts of God the Son, resulting, as this verse expresseth it, and as the former had done, from the riches of his grace. This is a precious point always to be kept in view. For, as it was said of the Father, his sovereign acts of grace flowed from the good pleasure of his will; so the Son’s from the riches of his grace; and so the Holy Ghost’s, as we shall hereafter (when we come to that part of the subject) discover, from his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself, verse 9.

I begin the subject contained in this verse, with observing, that when the Apostle, in reference to Christ, saith, that we have redemption in his blood, there is included in it the cause of this redemption, in the Church’s union with her Lord, as her Head and Husband. This is of course implied. Christ’s redemption of his Church presupposes his interest in his Church, and, of consequence, in all that belongs to her. It is a comprehensive way of speaking. Redemption includes every thing, in relation to the Person, work, offices, and characters, in which the Son of God engaged, when assuming our nature, and when he came into this our world, in this time-state of the Church, and accomplished redemption by his blood and righteousness.

But though the vast subject of redemption compriseth every thing that is blessed for the Church to meditate upon, night and day, during the whole of her present time-state upon earth, as it will call up her intellectual faculties, when full ripened hereafter in heaven, to dwell upon for ever; yet, I must not in this place enter at large upon it. In several parts of this Poor Man’s Commentary, as the scriptures led to it, I have glanced at it, and, therefore, would there refer the Reader. See all the Gospels upon it. See also Rom. 3:25. Gal. 3:13. and Commentary on both. A few of the outlines only can I here detain the Reader with.

And first. The Apostle speaks of this vast work of redemption, as a thing possessed. We have redemption. Yes! Christ on the cross declared it to be finished. John 19:30. But for the matter itself, who shall speak its value? Its dimensions are infinite, for it reacheth through all time, and through all eternity. And the nature of it, as well as its duration and extension, is attended with such difficulty to explain, that unless we could determine the nature of sin, we can never determine the vastness of redemption. But so infinitely important is it in itself, that without an interest in it, notwithstanding the Church being chosen in Christ, predestinated to the adoption of children in Christ, and accepted in Christ; yet, having forfeited all right to these blessings by the Adam-fall, and our whole nature being thereby degraded and sunk, but for redemption we must have remained in the captivity of sin, and under the heavy penalty to the breaches of it, as well as also been totally unqualified to enjoy the privilege of children to all eternity. Oh! the unspeakable blessings included in redemption!

Secondly. The greatness of redemption is enhanced by the greatness of the Redeemer. We may in some measure form an idea, however imperfectly to what it really is, of the immensity of the blessings, by the immensity of his nature, who alone could accomplish it. God and man in one Person. In whom, (saith the Apostle,) we have redemption. How blessedly Scripture speaks of Christ in numberless places. For thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of Hosts is his Name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, The God of the whole earth shall he be called! Isaiah 54:5. See also Isaiah 43:1–7.

Thirdly. How redemption hath been wrought. Through his blood. Here again, all created wisdom is incompetent to enter into any adequate apprehension of the mysterious work. The Scriptures declare the fact itself. But no created powers, either angels or men, are able to conceive of it, with any clearness of knowledge. We are told, indeed, that the angels do not understand, but desire to look into. 1 Pet. 1:12.

Fourthly As the Person who alone could bring salvation, and the work he wrought in the accomplishment, exceed our utmost faculties to describe; so the effect baffles all conception also, to form equal ideas. We are told, that we have by it the forgiveness of all our sins; yea, in Him himself we have this vast mercy. But who shall calculate the greatness, or the number; the nature, or the quality of sins. It takes in, and includes our whole lives, past, present, and future. And, therefore, so infinitely extensive in its efficacy is redemption, from sin in all its consequences, that it reacheth through all time, and through all eternity. And so infinitely great in its power, that it cleanseth from all sin. 1 John 1:7.

And, fifthly, to sum up all, as if to silence for ever all the pretensions of the proud, and all the fears of the humble, the whole is said to be the sole result of the riches of his grace. So that grace, and the riches of that grace, provides the remedy, and grace accepts its own providing. And all, from beginning to end, is the sole effect of grace.

Some have stumbled at this account of the Holy Ghost, and in the pride of their unhumbled heart, have boldly questioned, how free grace can be said to do all, and yet Christ hath purchased the redemption of his people by his blood? But such men have not been taught of God, and, therefore, err, because they know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Matt. 22:29. It was free grace to admit a Surety for the Church, when in the Adam-nature she had sinned, and come short of the glory of God. And it was not only free grace, but the riches of that grace, not only to admit a Surety, but to provide One. And this God the Father did, when he gave his dear Son as the Head, Husband, and Surety of his Church. For Jesus was made a Surety. Heb. 7:22. Now the Lord Jehovah magnified the riches of his grace, in this very way and manner. He had chosen the Church in Christ, to be holy in Christ, to a sonship in Christ, and to an acceptation in Christ, and that from all eternity. But to magnify the riches of this grace, the Church, during the time-state of her being, falls into sin, and forgets her adoption-character, and comes under the curse of a broken law. Here then opens a way for the fullest display of grace, in causing her recovery, and by such a plan of wisdom, love, and power, as enhanceth every blessing tenfold. Jesus shall redeem her by his blood. So that redemption is the effect of the original grace. And so far is it from militating against the freedom of that grace, that it is in fact, one of the highest fruits of it. God’s children in Christ, when fallen in sin, shall be redeemed by Christ, and redemption, which is the biggest of all blessings, in the time-state of the Church, shall be found to be the result of the first, original, and eternal design of God, in his purposes towards the Church, from all eternity. And God the Holy Ghost elsewhere beautifully expresseth the precious truth, when he saith, we are justified freely by his grace; but he adds, it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:24. Redemption purchaseth not our sonship, for that was from all eternity. But redemption purchaseth our pardon, when as children we had sinned, and come short of God’s glory. Hence this blessed Scripture declares the soul refreshing truth; In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. Hence, also, the song of heaven. Rev. 5:9.[15]

1:7 / There is a definite parallel here to Colossians 1:14, where redemption and the forgiveness of sins are closely connected. But in Ephesians, the means of redemption is amplified by the phrase through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. The emphasis here is upon forgiveness, which in turn is followed by the resounding response concerning the greatness of God’s grace. Since sonship takes place through baptism, and since sonship and forgiveness are so closely linked in this passage, one wonders if the author still has the baptismal event in mind when he speaks of the forgiveness of sins.[16]

Redemption (v. 7)

In Jesus, Paul reminds us, we have “redemption through His blood.” Redemption is a slave-market term. In the ancient world, if a person desired to grant freedom to a slave (or if a slave had the wherewithal to purchase his or her own freedom), a redemption price would be paid to the owner of that slave; a sum of money would be handed over in order to redeem that man, woman, boy, or girl from his or her enslavement. This, says the apostle, is also what God has done for his people! We were enslaved to sin. We were in bondage to our own sinful natures and lusts. And yet our Father in heaven paid the price to set us free. We have “redemption through [Jesus’] blood.” This is why we can now become “holy and blameless” (v. 4)—because we are no longer slaves to sin! Remind yourself of that fact when temptation tugs like a chain around your ankle, dragging you back toward your old ways. Say to yourself, “In Christ, I am no longer a slave! God paid my redemption price through the blood of Jesus! I am free! And I’m going to live like it! I have ‘redemption through His blood.’ ”

Forgiveness (v. 7)

In addition to having been set free from sin’s power, Christians have also been redeemed from sin’s debts. “Redemption,” Paul says in verse 7, includes “forgiveness.” An ancient slave, in some cases, might be not only a slave, but also a debtor. The whole reason he or she was owned by another human being was because of a failure to pay some debt. So, if such a person was redeemed, if his or her liberty was purchased, the debt was, at the same time, canceled out as well! This person was now not only free, but also forgiven! And so it is with the Christian. We owed a great debt to God because of our trespasses and sins. But “through [Jesus’] blood,” the debt was paid. “Through His blood” we are set free, not only from slavery to sin, but also from our debt to God and from its corresponding penalty! Restitution has been made in full. “Through His blood” we have “the forgiveness of our trespasses.” Do you have forgiveness? Do you know that your sin debts have been removed by the blood of Christ?[17]

Redemption—and Its Cause (1:7a)

The reclamation process Paul first describes is “redemption” (Eph. 1:7a). Redemption involves the payment of a ransom to reclaim something that has been taken away or is held captive. Sin (both our personal sin and the sin nature we inherited from Adam) takes away the righteousness God intended to characterize our lives and holds us hostage to Satan’s purposes. Apart from Christ’s provision, we would perpetually exist in a prison of guilt and shame. We cannot escape by our actions. They too are tainted by our sin. We have to be rescued from this sinful state by something outside ourselves. The price for our ransom from sin’s captivity is the sacrifice of God’s Son. By the gift of his life, we are freed from our captivity to sin. Here, as elsewhere (e.g., Col. 1:20), this redemption clearly is tied to Christ’s shed blood on the cross. Paul also emphasizes the redemptive nature of Jesus’ “blood” in Romans 3:25; 5:9; and we honor this redeeming sacrifice in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:25, 27).

We know the truths so well that it may be hard for them still to affect us as the apostle intends. We who were made in God’s image, holy and privileged, through the fall of our first parents became slaves to sin and bound to its penalties forever. Yet God so loved us that he sent his own Son to die in our behalf. We are purchased with a price, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 1:18–19). With his blood the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world purchased persons for God from every tribe, and language, people and nation (Rev. 5:9; 13:8; and see Eph. 2:13).

Along a highway near St. Louis, a row of blossoming pear trees lines the border of a state prison. In the springtime all that highway drivers see is the appearance of beauty, but behind the blossoms are razor wire and imprisonment. We are to understand that this is the Bible’s perspective on the condition of humankind. Each day we can put on the appearance that everything is fine, even beautiful, but behind the appearance is imprisonment to our sin nature from which release does not come except at the price of Christ’s blood.

Remission—and Its Extent (1:7b–8)

There is an additional effect of this shed blood: forgiveness—or, more specifically, the remission of sins. When you remit something, you cancel a debt or remove a penalty. Because of Christ’s death for us, we have no penalty to pay for our sins. In this passage the general term “sins” actually translates a word that could more literally be translated “trespasses.” We trespass when we cross boundaries God has set for us to obey or veer off the path he has designed for our righteousness. Because the blood of Christ also deals with our trespasses, we know that his blood redeems us not only from the original sinfulness of our human nature, but also from the guilt of our individual and daily transgressions. Every dimension of my sin—all my individual trespasses—was covered by the blood of my Savior.

Christ wants me to know how vast is the mercy that covers matters small and large. Helpful translators rightly note that this forgiveness is “in accord with,” not out of the riches of, God’s grace (Eph. 1:7c). The One who possesses the riches of the universe does not reach into his penny purse to provide a little grace to cover my sin. No, his grace is in accord with his vast riches. The abundance of his heavenly goodness is raining down on me, immersing me, washing me, taking my sin away as far as the east is from the west, so that now, continually and forever, because I am united to Christ, I am clothed with the righteousness of God’s own Son.

This redemption and remission are “lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (v. 8). Commentators struggle over this phrase. Does God lavish on us “wisdom and understanding” (i.e., are the wisdom and understanding ours), or does he lavish us with grace through his wisdom and understanding?4 I think that it is the latter. While wisdom and understanding (or insight) regarding himself and his ways are surely benefits that God grants to us when he redeems us, in this particular case he seems to be measuring the lavishness of his grace by saying that he grants it despite his insight into us. Think of that. In his wisdom he knows more about the nature and horror of my trespasses than I do—and he is wise enough to know what will be needed to compensate for my wrong. He understands that my trespasses will require the blood of his own Son to cancel my debt, and still he redeems me and remits my sin so that I have Christ’s own righteousness to my credit.

This idea is exemplified in our friends who have adopted a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. They are wise enough to know that the background of this child will result in many problems. Enslaved to its birth nature, this child will tax them—they will pay as with blood for this child’s future good. But, despite this insight, they offer themselves to one to whom they owe no obligation or debt. They simply give themselves to reclaim this child from the horror of her background, and the misdeeds of her present and future, purely for the good of this child. As our Savior gives himself to reclaim us, so they reflect his grace in their care of their daughter. This is truly rich.

Once I sensed a measure of the lavish richness of Christ’s reclaiming blood in a phone call from a leader in our church. Though he was responsible for the spiritual oversight of others, he became enslaved to sexual sin. Cover-up lies further bound him in a web of deception which was eventually discovered and led to his discipline and departure from the church. He left very angry, but the Spirit was working in his heart. Years later he asked to enter a process of restoration. We allowed it with very strict conditions relating to confessing the sin, counseling, and accountability measures. He agreed to every condition. He even asked, “Dr. Chapell, is there anything else I should do, or anyone else I should tell, or anything you want from me?” How different were this tone and attitude from those of the one who had once hidden his sin and resisted discipline. He did all we asked and still wanted to know what else he could do to satisfy his debt. He was so changed. I told him as much. “Bill,” I said, “you are so different. Why?” His reply reflected his knowledge of God’s lavish mercy. He said, “I know now that I do not have to hide any of my sin. His blood paid my debt and canceled the wrong of my sins. Now a phrase from a Christian song has become the motto of my life: ‘Jesus paid it all.’ I can live free of guilt and shame because Jesus paid everything I owed.”

My friend now wants to do more than anyone on earth requires. He is motivated by the love that reclaimed him through Christ’s redemption and the remission of sins. The Lord has lavished such grace upon this man that he knows whatever has happened or will happen in this life, he remains God’s beloved by Christ’s provision.[18]

7  Those who were chosen in Christ before the world’s foundation have been redeemed in him in the course of time. The mention of redemption and forgiveness is paralleled in Col. 1:14, on which indeed it may depend, except that “sins” in Colossians is replaced by “trespasses” here and the reference to redemption is amplified by the phrase “through his blood.”58 The blood of Christ, that is, his sacrificial death, is the means by which his people’s redemption has been procured. A similar explanatory phrase occurs in Rom. 3:25,  and while there it is more closely attached to “atonement”60 than to “redemption” (in v. 24), in sense it is applicable to both.

“Trespasses” and “sins” are used as synonyms by Paul and other NT writers. In Eph. 2:1 the two words are used together to express one idea. If “sins” is the word used in Col. 1:14, “trespasses” is used in Col. 2:13; in both places they are the object of God’s pardoning act.

“Wealth” is a term found repeatedly in this letter with reference to the divine attributes: “the wealth of his grace” is mentioned again in Eph. 2:7, “the wealth of his glory” in Eph. 1:18 and 3:16 (cf. also Eph. 3:8). It is a Pauline usage: cf. “the wealth of his kindness” in Rom. 2:4; “the wealth of his glory” in Rom. 9:23; “the wealth of God’s wisdom and knowledge” in Rom. 11:33.[19]

7 Paul takes his worship to the next level, exulting in what Christ specifically did for us (parallels Col 1:14, with eight identical Greek words). In Christ we possess “redemption.” Perhaps related to the word for “ransom” (Mk 10:45), in Greek usage “redemption” denoted deliverance from bondage or imprisonment through the payment of some price. For example, a slave attained freedom (i.e., was redeemed) from slavery upon the payment of the required fee. The concept occurs in the OT as well (Ex 6:6; 21:30; Nu 18:15–16; see 2 Sa 7:23 for redeeming a people). Using this metaphor, Paul pictures what Christ has done to secure forgiveness for his people: he died for them. Paul probably doesn’t intend us to understand “blood” as the literal price paid, as some medieval theologians theorized. (Paul does say we were bought with a price in 1 Co 6:20; 7:23.) Rather, he appears to switch to a biblical metaphor, the sacrificial system that required the shedding of blood to gain forgiveness (e.g., Ex 30:10; 2 Ch 29:24; Heb 9:14, 22; 13:11; 1 Jn 1:7). Through his death, Christ secured forgiveness of his people’s sins. “Sins” here translates paraptōma (GK 4183), a word that means a violation of moral standards, an offense, wrongdoing, or sin (cf. BDAG, 770) and one of several terms Paul regularly uses for “sins.” Paul reiterates the essential foundation of the biblical message of salvation: by Christ’s own violent death on a Roman execution rack, he secured his people’s release from their slavery to sins. He died so that people dead in transgressions and sins (2:1) might live.[20]

[1] Dockery, D. S. (2017). Ephesians. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1870). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Eph 1:7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2262). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Eph 1:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Bond, J. B. (2010). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 863). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1909). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Hoehner, H. W. (1985). Ephesians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 617–618). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, pp. 92–93). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8, p. 75). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[10] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 81–84). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[11] Vaughan, C. (2002). Ephesians (pp. 24–25). Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press.

[12] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Ephesians (pp. 31–45). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[13] Bock, D. L. (2019). Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary. (E. J. Schnabel, Ed.) (Vol. 10, p. 39). London: Inter-Varsity Press.

[14] Foulkes, F. (1989). Ephesians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 10, pp. 57–59). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[15] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s New Testament Commentary: Acts–Ephesians (Vol. 2, pp. 637–639). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[16] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 154). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[17] Strassner, K. (2014). Opening up Ephesians (pp. 27–28). Leominster: Day One.

[18] Chapell, B. (2009). Ephesians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 34–37). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[19] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 259–260). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[20] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 50). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 20 Evening Verse of The Day

3:29 To be Abraham’s seed is the same thing as being his “sons” (v. 7), but now the additional element of being heirs is introduced, previewing 4:7 (Rm 8:15–17).[1]

3:29 descendants of Abraham Faith is what makes a person a descendant of Abraham—not ethnicity or circumcision. Those who have aligned themselves with Abrahamic faith are not obligated to become circumcised or to observe the law, both of which came later. Paul sees the work of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham (vv. 7–9; Gen 12:1–3).[2]

3:29 Abraham’s offspring. Paul states the main point of his argument: those who belong to Christ are part of Abraham’s family, and hence they do not need to be circumcised to become part of God’s people.[3]

3:29 Abraham’s descendants. See note on v. 7. Not all physical children of Abraham are the “Israel of God” (cf. 6:16), that is, true spiritual children of Abraham (Ro 9:6–8). Gentile believers who are not physical children of Abraham are, however, his spiritual children in the sense that they followed the pattern of his faith (see note on Ro 4:11, 12). heirs according to promise. All believers are heirs of the spiritual blessing that accompanied the Abrahamic Covenant—justification by faith (Ge 15:6; cf. Ro 4:3–11).[4]

3:29 To be Christ’s through faith (3:26, 27) also means to be Abraham’s sons (seed) (3:7) and blessed (heirs) with him (3:9), according to God’s promise (Gen. 12:3).[5]

3:29. Paul now turns a corner in his argument. Christ is the singular Seed that was promised. Thus if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed. This is wonderful truth. And since Abraham was the heir, all his seed (spiritual descendants) are heirs according to the promise.

All believers, faithful or not, have this passive inheritance of which Paul has been speaking thus far (cf. 3:18). Having returned to the theme of heirship, Paul now considers that more carefully.[6]

3:29 The Galatians were deluded into thinking that they could become Abraham’s seed by keeping the law. Paul shows otherwise. Christ is the seed of Abraham; the inheritance promised to Abraham was fulfilled in Christ. When sinners believe on Him, they become one with Him. Thus they become Abraham’s seed and, in Christ, they inherit all of God’s blessings.[7]

3:29. Third, believers in Christ are Abraham’s seed. As Paul previously stated, Christ is the Seed of Abraham (vv. 16, 19); therefore being in Christ makes a believer a part of that seed and an heir of the promise to Abraham. Any discussion of the seed of Abraham must first take into account his natural seed, the descendants of Jacob in the 12 tribes. Within this natural seed there is a believing remnant of Jews who will one day inherit the Abrahamic promises directed specifically to them (cf. Rom. 9:6, 8). But there is also the spiritual seed of Abraham who are not Jews. These are the Gentiles who believe and become Abraham’s spiritual seed. They inherit the promise of justification by faith as Paul explained earlier (cf. Gal. 3:6–9). To suggest, as amillenarians do, that Gentile believers inherit the national promises given to the believing Jewish remnant—that the church thus supplants Israel or is the “new Israel”—is to read into these verses what is not there.[8]

3:29. Furthermore, in Christ, believers are Abraham’s seed. As the offspring of Abraham, we are heirs of the promise of righteousness through faith. Thus, grace is superior to the law because it unites us with God and one another in a way that the law could not.[9]

3:29 “if” Here, “if” introduces a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE, assumed to be true from the author’s perspective or for his literary purposes.

© “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” Not all national or racial Israel was truly spiritual Israel (cf. 6:16; Rom. 2:28–29; 9:6), but all who are the true Israel are so by faith. Therefore, no more distinction was made between Jew and Gentile; only between those who have faith in the Messiah and those who do not. There is no favoritism with God. God’s one-time, universal gracious plan for the redemption of mankind is repentance and faith in His crucified Son. Those who respond by faith are made sons and heirs of God! There is no longer the OT distinction of Jew vs. Greek.[10]

29. Paul concludes this beautiful chapter as follows: And ifyou belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise. The close connection with verses 27, 28, as well as with verses 6–9 and 16–18, is immediately apparent. It is unnecessary, therefore, to repeat what has already been said in the discussion of these passages. Clearly, the apostle once again stresses the fact that “belonging to the seed of Abraham is not determined by physical descent but by faith” (Ribberbos, op. cit., p. 150). “In Christ” the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile no longer exists. Therefore, the Judaizers have no right to demand of the Gentiles anything else than that which they demand of the Jews, namely, true and living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout the whole vast earth the Lord recognizes one, and only one, nation as his own, namely, the nation of believers (1 Peter 2:9). These are Abraham’s seed. These, too, are the heirs (for this concept see on 3:18) according to the promise which centers in Christ.[11]

Because of Union with Christ we Receive a Full Inheritance (3:29)

The third matter Paul states here is, because of this union, we have entered into the fullness of our inheritance: And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Because of union with Christ, we are the seed of Abraham. The term translated ‘offspring’ is ‘seed.’ Because of faith in Christ, we are reckoned as descendants of Abraham. In other words, the Gentile Christian is as much a descendant of Abraham as the Jewish Christian.

The inheritance then belongs to us on the basis of promise believed and not by works performed. Our inheritance is not something that is postponed until heaven; it begins now. There are at least three things involved in this inheritance. First, there are the spiritual benefits that are ours in Christ. We have already enumerated these: regeneration, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, union, redemption, assurance, boldness in prayer, all these things are ours right now as part of our inheritance.

Second, there is eternal life itself. We have begun to participate in eternal life, but at our death we will enter into the personal glorification that will be perfected at the second coming of Christ.

Third, the inheritance includes the earth itself. The earth does not belong to the wicked, instead they use it by usurpation. The earth belongs to the family of God. God in His providence has not necessarily given great possessions to His people now, but what He has given to them is theirs to enjoy. The Bible knows no bifurcation of spiritual and material. Part of our inheritance, if we are in Christ, is that we may enjoy the beauty of this world that Christ has made. We can enjoy food, music, gardens and trees, history, geography, and geology; all of these things are ours in Christ. God will not withhold any good thing from us. He delights in blessing us. Our problem is that we turn blessings into gods. The fault lies not in the created world; it lies in our hearts. We need to understand that as the sons and daughters of God we have been given this world to enjoy as part of our inheritance.

And so we are in the family of God; it is a glorious reality. We should think often on it and aim to live in the full reality of union with the Lord Jesus Christ.[12]

In Christ we are Abraham’s seed (verse 29)

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. We have seen that in Christ we belong to God and to each other. In Christ we also belong to Abraham. We take our place in the noble historical succession of faith, whose outstanding representatives are listed in Hebrews 11. No longer do we feel ourselves to be waifs and strays, without any significance in history, or bits of useless flotsam drifting on the tide of time. Instead, we find our place in the unfolding purpose of God. We are the spiritual seed of our father Abraham, who lived and died 4,000 years ago, for in Christ we have become heirs of the promise which God made to him.

These, then, are the results of being ‘in Christ’, and they speak with powerful relevance to us today. For our generation is busy developing a philosophy of meaninglessness. It is fashionable nowadays to believe (or to say you believe) that life has no meaning, no purpose. There are many who admit that they have nothing to live for. They do not feel that they belong anywhere, or, if they belong, it is to the group known as ‘the unattached’. They class themselves as ‘outsiders’, ‘misfits’. They are without anchor, security or home. In biblical language, they are ‘lost’.

To such people comes the promise that in Christ we find ourselves. The unattached become attached. They find their place in eternity (related first and foremost to God as His sons and daughters), in society (related to each other as brothers and sisters in the same family) and in history (related also to the succession of God’s people down the ages). This is a three-dimensional attachment which we gain when we are in Christ—in height, breadth and length. It is an attachment in ‘height’ through reconciliation to the God who, although radical theologians repudiate the concept and we must be careful how we interpret it, is a God ‘above’ us, transcendent over the universe He has made. Next, it is an attachment in ‘breadth’, since in Christ we are united to all other believers throughout the world. Thirdly, it is an attachment in ‘length’, as we join the long, long line of believers throughout the whole course of time.

So conversion, although supernatural in its origin, is natural in its effects. It does not disrupt nature, but fulfils it, for it puts me where I belong. It relates me to God, to man and to history. It enables me to answer the most basic of all human questions, ‘Who am I?’ and to say, ‘In Christ I am a son of God. In Christ I am united to all the redeemed people of God, past, present and future. In Christ I discover my identity. In Christ I find my feet. In Christ I come home.’[13]

29. That the use of the heis (‘one person’) in verse 28 rather than the neuter hen (‘one thing’) is no accident is shown by this verse. Grammatically, it says if you are Christ’s, but the meaning is stronger than this. We might almost paraphrase ‘if you are part of Christ’s body’. Paul is going to apply to the collective whole of the Christian church that which he has previously predicated of Christ in person, that is, the inheritance of the Abrahamic promise. Those who in this way are Christ’s are (collectively) the ‘offspring’ (singular again) mentioned in the famous passage in Genesis, and so the ‘heirs’ (plural, for we severally enjoy the benefits) in fulfilment of God’s promise. This in itself will show that Paul’s insistence on the use of the singular in 3:16 is more an exegetic device than anything else. Once we see that the primary reference is to Christ, Paul is prepared to allow that there is a secondary and collective reference to all Christians, as being ‘in Christ’.[14]

29. Then are ye Abraham’s seed. This is not intended to convey the idea, that to be a child of Abraham is better than to be a member of Christ,—but to repress the pride of the Jews, who gloried in their privilege, as if they alone were the people of God. They reckoned no distinction higher than to belong to the race of Abraham; and this very distinction he makes to be common to all who believe in Christ. The conclusion rests on this argument, that Christ is the blessed seed, in whom, as we have said, all the children of Abraham are united. He proves this by the universal offer of the inheritance to them all, from which it follows, that the promise includes them among the children. It deserves notice, that, wherever faith is mentioned, it is always in relation to the promise.[15]

3:29 / Paul asserts that the Galatian believers belong to Christ, which means that they are Abraham’s seed. The word “seed” is plural and brings to mind Paul’s comments in 3:16. In that verse Paul argued that the promise was given to the singular “seed,” Christ. Now Paul includes the Galatian believers in that promise on the basis of their belonging to Christ. The key element for receiving the promise of inheritance is whether or not one is “in Christ,” or, as Paul puts it here, “belongs to Christ.” Those who are in Christ are the heirs. Paul’s use of the simple present tense, you are, highlights his desire to convince the Galatians to acknowledge and embrace the wondrous new life they have.[16]

29 Paul now comes full circle, unfolding the logical consequences of the preceding discussion for the question under debate in Galatia, namely, Who are the heirs of the divine promises? Answer: “And if you are of Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs in accordance with promise.” English translations typically understand “if you are of Christ” to mean “if you belong to Christ” (taking “of Christ” as a genitive of possession, so NRSV, NIV, CEB; see also NLT, ESV). The preceding material, however, might more readily dispose the hearer to understand the meaning as “if you are a part of the larger whole that is Christ” (a “wholative” genitive, also called a partitive genitive). Paul has been speaking of the many, both Jews and gentiles, being incorporated together into Christ, even being “plunged into Christ” through baptism.

Paul has been addressing this question from the outset of chapter 3, first calling the Galatian converts to remember their actual experience of receiving the Spirit and of God’s working in their midst (3:1–5)—in other words, to remember that they had already received what was promised (3:14). He went on to demonstrate from Scripture that “those who exhibit trust,” following Abraham’s example, are Abraham’s genuine sons and daughters (3:7) and receive the blessing along with Abraham (3:9). He demonstrated from a close reading of the promises themselves that God bequeathed this blessing upon Abraham and upon a particular offspring of Abraham, and not Abraham’s descendants generally, such that those who joined themselves to that particular Seed (Christ) joined themselves to the heir, to share the inheritance (3:15–18). He returns to this argument, claiming that he has now demonstrated what he had set out to prove, much as a mathematician signs “Q.E.D.” at the conclusion of a mathematical proof. In baptism, the Galatian converts joined themselves to Christ, the Seed of Abraham, thereby becoming collectively that Seed of Abraham to whom God gave the promise, the true heirs of God’s promise of the Spirit and of righteousness and, thereby, the life that the Spirit was given to nurture and bring to completion (3:29). There is nothing more that Torah observance or circumcision could do for the Galatian Christians, save undo the work of the Spirit in their midst.

A major goal for Paul in Galatians is to demonstrate that the social lines of division created by the distinctions made between Jew and gentile and enforced by the regulations of Torah for keeping the two groups separate are transcended in the new community formed in Christ, with the result that the regulatory principles of the “old creation” (even those once given by God!) no longer have authority over relationships in the community of the “new creation” (Gal 6:15). Paul’s vision continues to challenge the global Christian community wherever Christians allow longstanding ethnic and racial divisions, prejudices, and hostilities to guide their interactions with one another ahead of our unity in Christ. To name just the largest of a herd of elephants in the room for American Christianity, Christians of European descent and Christians of African descent often find the history of race relations in America regulating and restricting their relationships to a far greater extent than their mutual experience of being submerged into Christ and adopted into God’s one family. Paul’s vision challenges us all to work very diligently, and in the Spirit’s power, to love one another as sisters and brothers—and address the very real issues that continue to plague race relations in America from that mutual love and commitment—rather than continue to live out the scripts that the broken domination systems of America have written for us over the centuries. “New creation” is indeed waiting to be birthed in this regard.

One could rewrite the preceding paragraph, changing what is required, again and again in country after country. In Sri Lanka, it is the challenge to live and love as brothers and sisters in Christ first, rather than as Sinhalese and Tamils in line with the scripts written for these ethnic groups over decades of alienating practices and civil war. Whatever its particular local manifestation, Paul’s vision calls Christians to take the necessary steps to come to a place where Christ’s actions on behalf of Christians from both groups (or from multiple groups) are valued more highly and regulate interaction more completely than the history of those groups as written in and by “this present, evil age.”

Paul goes on to include two other pairs reflective of social divisions and vast inequalities. He denies any prescriptive relational value to the labels “slave” and “free person” in the Christian community. While Paul in the context of the Roman Empire could not abolish slavery per se any more than he could abolish the valuing of ethnic distinctions in the world at large, he could urge members of the new community in Christ to reject those distinctions and the regulatory weight they exercised on the lives of individuals and on their interrelationships. Such urging is seen most clearly in his letter to Philemon. Tragically read in ways that supported the institution of slavery in the antebellum American South, this letter actually challenged Philemon forcefully to make his own Christian identity real by honoring the new identity of the newly converted Onesimus as a brother above—and even in place of—their former relationship of master and slave. Christians are challenged by Paul’s vision not to allow the socioeconomic or caste divisions in their societies to limit, constrain, or regulate the life of and relationships within the community of the new creation.236 This community is called to order its common life in ways that demonstrate the lack of stratification (and the affinities and avoidances such stratification nurtures) among those whom God has made sisters and brothers in the one family of God.

Finally, while the physical differences between, and hence the division of humanity into, “male and female” are inherent in nature (see Aristotle, Politics 1.2 [1252a25–32]) and perhaps even in God’s design for creation itself (Gen 1:27), the expectations that relegate females to supporting roles are not. These are, instead, inherent in the fall and the curse (see Gen 3:16c). A Christian husband and wife are first and foremost fellow heirs of the gift of life and are called to bestow mutual honor (1 Pet 3:7), and on that basis to extend mutual submission (Eph 5:21). This mutuality extends, of course, into the larger life of the Christian community, which is to become a place where one’s immersion into Christ and one’s responsiveness to the Holy Spirit—and not one’s gender—guide how one will contribute, and be valued as a contributor, to the life of the church.238 We can look to certain scriptural texts for support in resisting this vision, but when we do so, we should also bear in mind that the rival teachers could and did do so as well.

In the one family that God has created in Christ, the dividing walls of ethnicity are torn down, social prejudices are neutralized, and gender inequalities and male chauvinism are negated. Paul challenges us to continue to examine our hearts and our practice along these lines, asking continually, what would life in our congregation (and all its components) look like if we approached all such issues from the position articulated in Gal 3:26–28 and committed ourselves to live out fully this facet of the baptismal life, the new creation? Does our practice perpetuate these divisions and the social inequalities they inscribe, or does our practice challenge them, witnessing to the “new humanity” being formed in Christ in their communities, where Christ is all and in all?[17]

29  As those who are united to Christ and who participate in the new existence made possible by him, believers “thus belong to Christ,” and since Christ is the true offspring of Abraham (v. 16b), those who thus belong to Christ are collectively also Abraham’s true “issue,” and as such individually heirs in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

Thus the new dispensation of faith is described in these verses (26–29) as one in which believers become sons of God through faith, since they are united to Christ by baptism, being constituted thereby Abraham’s true offspring and therefore heirs of the promised inheritance.

Before going further in Paul’s argument we pause to note several important considerations that arise from vv. 23–29.

(1) V. 24 states, again, that justification is through faith, but a comparison of v. 22 and vv. 23f. reveals a further point. The theme of imprisonment is repeated from v. 22a and strengthened in v. 23, and the divine purpose is described both as the imparting of the promise through faith to those who believe (v. 22b) and as justification by faith (v. 24b): just as “through faith” in v. 24b corresponds to the same phrase in v. 22b (where it is paraphrased by NEB), so also “that we might be justified” (v. 24, RSV) corresponds to “that the promise … might be given to those who believe” (NASB). This means that the “promise” of v. 22b is to be understood as the promised blessing of justification; this is in harmony with our conclusion reached earlier (on v. 22) that the promise there has to do with the righteousness mentioned in v. 21. Therefore, justification by faith is seen to be the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, a conclusion which is in line with our earlier observation (on 3:8) that the promise to Abraham implicitly involves and anticipates the doctrine of justification by faith.

(2) From vv. 26–29 it is seen that believers are individually God’s sons and collectively the true offspring of Abraham. They are God’s sons since by faith they have been incorporated into Christ, the Son of God, and they are collectively the true seed of Abraham since, by virtue of their faith-union with Christ, they are one person in him who is the true “issue” of Abraham (cf. v. 16). Materially, therefore, God’s sons are also the true issue of Abraham and sonship to Abraham is identical with sonship to God; since the promise is fulfilled in sonship to Abraham (v. 29c), it is fulfilled in sonship to God. But we have just seen that the promise is fulfilled in justification, and earlier (on vv. 7–14) that it is fulfilled in reception of the Spirit; hence, justification by faith, reception of the Spirit by faith, and becoming sons of God by faith are intimately linked together as different expressions for the fulfillment of the promise. From this we may infer that these three are not separate and distinct experiences but closely interwoven parts or aspects of the single experience of faith-union with Christ. Experientially, they take place at the same time in fulfillment of the same promise; logically, however, they are distinguishable and their logical relationships to one another will become clear in the next section of the text (4:1–7).

(3) The promise to Abraham is seen to have a double fulfillment. From the salvation-historical point of view, it is fulfilled in Christ, the promised seed (v. 16), and in all those who are comprised in him (v. 29). Experientially considered, on the other hand, it is fulfilled in the individual believer’s threefold experience just referred to: justification, reception of the Spirit, becoming a son of God. These two points of view are, of course, complementary: the latter takes place in the individual when he comes to be “in Christ,” an incorporation effected by faith. Hence it is by faith-union with Christ that the individual aligns himself with the central event of salvation history and partakes of the benefits accruing therefrom.

(4) The principle of justification by faith is again presented within the framework of salvation history as that which comes into force in the new dispensation, which is sharply set off from the earlier dispensation at the point where the Christ-event cuts into history. The coming of Christ as the ground of salvation also ushers in the principle of faith as the means of justification, and this is set over against the function of law which held sway until the coming of Christ and the revelation of faith: the coming of Christ meant the cessation of law, so that the principle of justifying faith could take over. This division of history into two parts, with Christ as the line of demarcation, is connected with Paul’s interpretation of the apocalyptic doctrine of the aeons: the present evil age (cf. 1:4) is still dominated by law, but in Christ the age to come has dawned and the law has ceased to be valid for those who through union with Christ already exist in the age to come.[18]

heirs of the promise

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (3:29)

The spiritual promise of eternal salvation and blessing given to Abraham belongs to all those who belong to Christ. They are all heirs according to that promise, which is fulfilled in Christ. This is not a reference to the promises given to Abraham regarding the land (Gen. 12:1; 13:14–15; 17:8), but refers to the spiritual blessings that come to all who, being justified by faith just as Abraham was (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3–11), will inherit the spiritual promises given to Abraham. Not all the physical seed of Abraham will receive the promises of salvation (Rom. 9:6–11), but many who are not physical seed of Abraham will receive them by coming to God by faith as he did, thereby becoming his spiritual offspring.

Those who are children of God are “heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Christ’s inheritance belongs to “all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32), His fellow “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). They are “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13), the promise of inheriting God Himself. “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup,” exulted David (Ps. 16:5).

In his vision on Patmos, John “heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.… He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son’ ” (Rev. 21:3–4, 7).

John Stott lucidly summarizes his comments on this passage in the following words: “We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we have first been to Moses to be condemned. But once we have gone to Moses, and acknowledged our sin, guilt and condemnation, we must not stay there. We must let Moses send us to Christ” (The Message of Galatians [London: Inter-Varsity, 1968], p. 102).[19]

[1] Luter, A. B. (2017). Galatians. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1862). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ga 3:29). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2251). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ga 3:29). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1523). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] Wilkin, R. N. (2010). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 838). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1886). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Campbell, D. K. (1985). Galatians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 600). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[9] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 40). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[10] Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians (Vol. Volume 11, p. 39). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[11] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Galatians (Vol. 8, p. 151). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[12] Pipa, J. A., Jr. (2010). Galatians: God’s Proclamation of Liberty (pp. 141–142). Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.

[13] Stott, J. R. W. (1986). The message of Galatians: Only one way (pp. 101–102). Leicester, England; Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[14] Cole, R. A. (1989). Galatians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 9, pp. 156–157). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[15] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 112). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[16] Jervis, L. A. (2011). Galatians (p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book.

[17] deSilva, D. A. (2018). The Letter to the Galatians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (pp. 340–343). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[18] Fung, R. Y. K. (1988). The Epistle to the Galatians (pp. 176–178). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[19] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (pp. 100–101). Chicago: Moody Press.

March 20 Morning Verse of The Day

9:6 Although Mt 4:16 applies the passage as a whole (vv. 2–7) to Jesus Christ by implication, the NT does not specifically apply to Him the names, or titles, listed in this verse. Some commentators believe Isaiah was describing a Judean ruler to come during his own time; thus, these names were applied to the reigns of Hezekiah, Josiah, and even Ahaz. But even if the names do not recur, as such, in the NT, they fit the ministry and messianic role of Jesus. As a “Wonderful Counselor,” He is a doer of “miracles, wonders, and signs” (Acts 2:22) who sends the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to continue His work (Jn 14:26). Hailed as “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28) in His resurrection, Jesus has been given “all authority … in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18). As one with the Father (Jn 10:30), He is eternal—“alive forever and ever” (Rv 1:18). As a member of David’s royal line (Rm 1:3) He is the Prince who brings peace between Jew and non-Jew (Eph 2:14), whose rule over all kingdoms (Rv 1:5) brings an end to wars.[1]

9:6 “Wonderful, Counselor” is actually one name instead of two. Government was considered a burden and thus was often described as being borne on the back or shoulders. “Mighty God” (˒el gibbor, Heb.) is literally “God Hero,” i.e., “an heroic God,” an emphasis upon the deity of the Messiah. The word “Father” describes the relationship God is to have with His people (63:16; Ps. 103:13), while “Everlasting” defines the type of fatherhood, forever guarding and sustaining. He establishes a peace beyond the temporary cessation of warfare. Taken together, the four names of the coming Messiah are an extension of the name “Immanuel.” They are not names in the modern sense but rather attributes of the One to whom they are given (cf. 7:14, note).[2]

9:6 child … son. The good news is the birth of Jesus Christ. The four royal names express His divine and human qualities, giving assurance that He is indeed “Immanuel” (7:14).

born … given. The verbs are consistent with His humanity and deity respectively.

Mighty God. As a warrior, God protects His people (10:21; Deut. 10:17; Jer. 32:18).

Everlasting Father. The Father and King cares for His subjects (40:9–11; 65:17–25; Matt. 18:12–14; 23:9–12; Rom. 8:15–17).

Prince of Peace. His government brings peace (2:4; 11:6–9; Ps. 72:7; Zech. 9:10; Luke 2:14).[3]

9:6 a son has been given to us The promise of hope through a future Davidic king. Attempts to connect this promise to a ruler of Isaiah’s day usually focus on Hezekiah, son and successor of Ahaz, the king to whom Isaiah delivered his warnings and who rejected his offer to provide a sign in Isa 7:12.

The sign provided in 7:14 and the prediction of a future ideal Davidic ruler point ultimately to the Messiah, but immediate hopes for Judah’s future would have been directed at the Davidic line, continued through Hezekiah. However, Hezekiah was likely already born during the Syro-Ephraimite conflict that forms the historical backdrop of this part of Isaiah.

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God This list of titles or attributes for the future king include divine titles that would be unusual if referring to a human Davidic king. For example, “Mighty God” clearly refers to Yahweh Himself in 10:21.[4]

9:6 to us. A gift of divine grace to sinners. a child … a son. This is the invincible figure striding across the world stage, taking gracious command, according to vv. 4–5 (cf. Ps. 2:7–9; Luke 1:32). Isaiah presents the events as if it were the time of the child’s arrival, with an expectation of what he will achieve (Isa. 9:7). Wonderful Counselor. A “counselor” is one who is able to make wise plans (cf. 11:2). He is a ruler whose wisdom is beyond merely human capabilities, unlike intelligent but foolish Ahaz (cf. 28:29). Mighty God. A title of the Lord himself (10:20–21; Deut. 10:17; Neh. 9:32; Jer. 32:18). Everlasting Father. A “father” here is a benevolent protector (cf. Isa. 22:21; Job 29:16), which is the task of the ideal king and is also the way God himself cares for his people (cf. Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Ps. 103:13). (That is, this is not using the Trinitarian title “Father” for the Messiah; rather, it is portraying him as a king.) Prince of Peace. He is the ruler whose reign will bring about peace because the nations will rely on his just decisions in their disputes (cf. Isa. 2:4; 11:6–9; 42:4; 49:7; 52:15). This kind of king contrasts with even the best of the Davidic line that Judah has experienced so far, because these titles show that this king will be divine. Thus this cannot refer to, say, Hezekiah (whose father Ahaz was king at the time), who for all his piety was nevertheless flawed (cf. 39:5–8) and only human.

9:6 The Messiah is both human (from the line of David) and divine (see John 1:14; Col. 2:9).[5]

9:6 child … son. These terms elaborate further on Immanuel, the child to be born to the virgin (7:14). The virgin’s child will also be the royal Son of David, with rights to the Davidic throne (9:7; cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31–33; 2:7, 11). government. In fulfillment of this verse and Ps 2:9, the Son will rule the nations of the world (Rev 2:27; 19:15). Wonderful Counselor. In contrast to Ahaz, this King will implement supernatural wisdom in discharging His office (cf. 2Sa 16:23; 1Ki 3:28). Mighty God. As a powerful warrior, the Messiah will accomplish the military exploits mentioned in 9:3–5 (cf. 10:21; Dt 10:17; Ne 9:32). Eternal Father. The Messiah will be a Father to His people eternally. As Davidic King, He will compassionately care for and discipline them (40:11; 63:16; 64:8; Pss 68:5, 6; 103:13; Pr 3:12). Prince of Peace. The government of Immanuel will procure and perpetuate peace among the nations of the world (2:4; 11:6–9; Mic 4:3).[6]

9:6 Born speaks of the Child’s humanity and given of His deity. Wonderful, Counselor is one name, meaning “wonderful divine Counselor” (11:1–5). Mighty God indicates that the Lord is a powerful Warrior (10:21). Everlasting Father describes a King and Father who provides for and protects His people forever (40:9–11; Matt. 11:27–30). Thus the word Father is used here of the Savior’s role as an ideal king. Prince of Peace is the climactic title (2:4; 11:6–9; 53:5; Luke 2:14; Rom. 5:1). The Child is the true Prince—the One who has the right to reign and who will usher in peace. The four double names combine aspects of Jesus’ deity and His humanity. Together, these four double names assert the dual nature of the Savior: He is God become man.[7]

9:6 The First Advent is described in verse 6a: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The first clause speaks of His humanity, the second of His deity. The next part of the verse points forward to the Second Advent:

the government will be upon His shoulder—He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. The rest of the verse describes His personal glories:

His name will be called Wonderfulthis name is a noun, not an adjective, and speaks of His Person and work.

Counselor—His wisdom in government.

Mighty God—the omnipotent, supreme Ruler.

Everlasting Father—or better, the Father (or “Source”) of eternity. Eternal Himself, He confers eternal life on those who believe in Him. Vine comments: “There is a twofold revelation in this: (1) He inhabits and possesses eternity (57:15); (2) He is loving, tender, compassionate, an all wise Instructor, Trainer, and Provider.”

Prince of Peace (Sar-Shālôm)—the One who will at last bring peace to this troubled world.[8]

6. For unto us a child is born. Isaiah now argues from the design, to show why this deliverance ought to be preferred to the rest of God’s benefits, namely, because not only will God bring back the people from captivity, but he will place Christ on his royal throne, that under him supreme and everlasting happiness may be enjoyed. Thus he affirms that the kindness of God will not be temporary, for it includes the whole of that intermediate period during which the Church was preserved till the coming of Christ. Nor is it wonderful if the Prophet makes a sudden transition from the return of the ancient people to the full restoration of the Church, which took place many centuries afterwards; for in our observations on chapter 7:14, we have remarked, that there being no other way that God is reconciled to us than through the Mediator, all the promises are founded on him; and that on this account it is customary with the Prophets, whenever they wish to encourage the hearts of believers by good hope, to bring this forward as a pledge or earnest. To this must be added, that the return from the captivity in Babylon was the commencement of the renovation of the Church, which was completed when Christ appeared; and consequently there is no absurdity in an uninterrupted succession. Justly, therefore, does Isaiah teach that they ought not to confine their attention to the present benefit, but should consider the end, and refer everything to it. “This is your highest happiness, that you have been rescued from death, not only that you may live in the land of Canaan, but that you may arrive at the kingdom of God.”

Hence we learn that we ought not to swallow up the benefits which we receive from God, so as instantly to forget them, but should raise our minds to Christ, otherwise the advantage will be small, and the joy will be transitory; because they will not lead us to taste the sweetness of a Father’s love, unless we keep in remembrance the free election of God, which is ratified in Christ. In short, the Prophet does not wish that this people should be wholly occupied with the joy occasioned by the outward and short-lived freedom which they had obtained, but that they should look at the end, that is, at the preservation of the Church, till Christ, the only Redeemer, should appear; for he ought to be the ground and perfection of all our joy.

A child is born. The Jews impudently torture this passage, for they interpret it as relating to Hezekiah, though he had been born before this prediction was uttered. But he speaks of it as something new and unexpected; and it is even a promise, intended to arouse believers to the expectation of a future event; and therefore there can be no hesitation in concluding that he describes a child that was afterwards to be born.

He is called the Son of God. Although in the Hebrew language the word son, I admit, has a wide acceptation, yet that is when something is added to it. Every man is the son of his father: those who are a hundred years old are called (Is. 65:20) the sons of a hundred years; wicked men are called the sons of wickedness; those who are blessed are called the sons of blessing; and Isaiah called a fruitful hill the son of fatness. (Is. 5:1.) But son, without any addition, can mean none else than the Son of God; and it is now ascribed to Christ, by way of eminence, (κατʼ ἐξοχὴν,) in order to inform us, that by this striking mark he is distinguished from the rest of mankind. Nor can it be doubted that Isaiah referred to that well-known prediction, which was in the mouth of every person, I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son, (2 Sam. 7:14,) as it is afterwards repeated, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Ps. 2:7.) Had it not been commonly and generally known that the Messiah would be the Son of God, it would have been foolish and unmeaning for Isaiah simply to call him the Son. Accordingly, this title is derived from the former prediction, from which the Apostle reasons, that the excellence of Christ exalts him above all the angels. (Heb. 1:5.)

Now, though in the person of a child Christ might have a mean appearance, still the designation of Son points out his high rank. Yet I do not deny that he might have been called the Son of David, but it is more natural to apply it to him as God. The titles which follow are still less applicable to Hezekiah. I shall soon give an ample refutation of the sophistry by which the Jews attempt to evade this passage. Let them slander as they may, the matter is sufficient plain to all who will calmly and soberly examine it.

A Son hath been given to us. There is weight in what he now adds, that this Son was given to the people, in order to inform the Jews that their salvation and that of the whole Church is contained in the person of Christ. And this giving is one of the chief articles of our faith; for it would have been of little avail to us, that Christ was born, if he had not likewise been our own. What this child will be, and what is his rank, he declares in the following statements.

And the government hath been laid upon his shoulder. To suppose, as some do, that this is an allusion to the cross of Christ is manifestly childish. Christ carried the cross on his shoulders, (John 19:17,) and by the cross he gained a splendid triumph over the prince of this world. (John 14:30.) But as the government is here said to have been laid on his shoulders in the same sense in which we shall see that the key of the house of David was laid on the shoulders of Eliakim, (Is. 22:22,) we need not go far to seek ingenious expositions. Yet I agree with those who think that there is an indirect contrast between the government which the Redeemer bore on his shoulders and the staff of the shoulder which was just now mentioned; for it agrees well, and is not liable to any objections. He therefore shows that the Messiah will be different from indolent kings, who leave off business and cares, and live at their ease; for he will be able to bear the burden. Thus he asserts the superiority and grandeur of his government, because by his own power Christ will obtain homage to himself, and he will discharge his office, not only with the tips of his fingers, but with his full strength.

And his name shall be called. Though יקרא, (yĭkrā,) he shall call, be an active verb, I have not hesitated to translate it in a passive sense; for the meaning is the same as if he had made use of the plural number, they shall call. We have a French idiom that resembles it, on appellera, literally, one shall call, that is, he shall be called. The Jews apply it to God, and read it continously, he shall call his name Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. But it is very evident that this proceeds from a desire, or rather from a licentious eagerness, to obscure the glory of Christ; for if they had not laboured with excessive keenness to rob him of his Godhead, the passage would run on very smoothly as interpreted by our divines. Besides, what necessity was there for ascribing to God those attributes, if the Prophet meant nothing more than that God gave a name to Messiah? For the attributes which are usually ascribed to God are either perpetual or accommodated to the case in hand, neither of which suppositions can here be admitted. Again, it would have been an interruption of the regular order to insert the name of God in the midst of various titles, but it ought to have run thus, the mighty God, Wonderful, Counsellor, shall call. Now, I do not see how the name יועצ (yōgnētz) can be applied absolutely to God, for it belongs to counsellors who attend kings or other persons. If any obstinate wrangler shall contend for the notion of the Rabbins, he will show nothing but his own impudence. Let us follow the plain and natural meaning.

Wonderful. It ought to be observed that those titles are not foreign to the subject, but are adapted to the case in hand, for the Prophet describes what Christ will show himself to be towards believers. He does not speak of Christ’s mysterious essence, but applauds his excellencies, which we perceive and experience by faith. This ought to be the more carefully considered, because the greater part of men are satisfied with his mere name, and do not observe his power and energy, though that ought to be chiefly regarded.

By the first title he arouses the minds of the godly to earnest attention, that they may expect from Christ something more excellent than what we see in the ordinary course of God’s works, as if he had said, that in Christ are hidden the invaluable treasures of wonderful things. (Col. 2:3.) And, indeed, the redemption which he has brought surpasses even the creation of the world. It amounts to this, that the grace of God, which will be exhibited in Christ, exceeds all miracles.

Counsellor. The reason of this second title is, that the Redeemer will come endowed with absolute wisdom. Now, let us remember what I have just noticed, that the Prophet does not here reason about the hidden essence of Christ, but about the power which he displays towards us. It is not, therefore, because he knows all his Father’s secrets that the Prophet calls him Counsellor, but rather because, proceeding from the bosom of the Father, (John 1:18,) he is in every respect the highest and most perfect teacher. In like manner we are not permitted to get wisdom but from his Gospel, and this contributes also to the praise of the Gospel, for it contains the perfect wisdom of God, as Paul frequently shows. (1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Eph. 1:17; Col. 1:9.) All that is necessary for salvation is opened up by Christ in such a manner, and explained with such familiarity, that he addresses the disciples no longer as servants but as friends. (John 15:14, 15.)

The mighty God. אל (El) is one of the names of God, though derived from strength, so that it is sometimes added as an attribute. But here it is evidently a proper name, because Isaiah is not satisfied with it, and in addition to it employs the adjective גבור, (gibbōr,) which means strong. And indeed if Christ had not been God, it would have been unlawful to glory in him; for it is written, Cursed be he that trusteth in man. (Jer. 17:5.) We must, therefore, meet with the majesty of God in him, so that there truly dwells in him that which cannot without sacrilege be attributed to a creature.

He is, therefore, called the mighty God, for the same reason that he was formerly called Immanuel. (Isa. 7:14.) For if we find in Christ nothing but the flesh and nature of man, our glorying will be foolish and vain, and our hope will rest on an uncertain and insecure foundation; but if he shows himself to be to us God and the mighty God, we may now rely on him with safety. With good reason does he call him strong or mighty, because our contest is with the devil, death, and sin, (Eph. 6:12,) enemies too powerful and strong, by whom we would be immediately vanquished, if the strength of Christ had not rendered us invincible. Thus we learn from this title that there is in Christ abundance of protection for defending our salvation, so that we desire nothing beyond him; for he is God, who is pleased to show himself strong on our behalf. This application may be regarded as the key to this and similar passages, leading us to distinguish between Christ’s mysterious essence and the power by which he hath revealed himself to us.

The father of the age. The Greek translator has added μέλλοντος, future; and, in my opinion, the translation is correct, for it denotes eternity, unless it be thought better to view it as denoting “perpetual duration,” or “an endless succession of ages,” lest any one should improperly limit it to the heavenly life, which is still hidden from us. (Col. 3:3) True, the Prophet includes it, and even declares that Christ will come, in order to bestow immortality on his people; but as believers, even in this world, pass from death to life, (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14,) this world is embraced by the eternal condition of the Church.

The name Father is put for Author, because Christ preserves the existence of his Church through all ages, and bestows immortality on the body and on the individual members. Hence we conclude how transitory our condition is, apart from him; for, granting that we were to live for a very long period after the ordinary manner of men, what after all will be the value of our long life? We ought, therefore, to elevate our minds to that blessed and everlasting life, which as yet we see not, but which we possess by hope and faith. (Rom. 8:25)

The Prince of Peace. This is the last title, and the Prophet declares by it that the coming of Christ will be the cause of full and perfect happiness, or, at least, of calm and blessed safety. In the Hebrew language peace often signifies prosperity, for of all blessings not one is better or more desirable than peace. The general meaning is, that all who submit to the dominion of Christ will lead a quiet and blessed life in obedience to him. Hence it follows that life, without this King, is restless and miserable.

But we must also take into consideration the nature of this peace. It is the same with that of the kingdom, for it resides chiefly in the consciences; otherwise we must be engaged in incessant conflicts and liable to daily attacks. Not only, therefore, does he promise outward peace, but that peace by which we return to a state of favour with God, who were formerly at enmity with him. Justified by faith, says Paul, we have peace with God. (Rom. 5:1) Now, when Christ shall have brought composure to our minds, the same spiritual peace will hold the highest place in our hearts, (Philip. 4:7; Col. 3:15,) so that we will patiently endure every kind of adversity, and from the same fountain will likewise flow outward prosperity, which is nothing else than the effect of the blessing of God.

Now, to apply this for our own instruction, whenever any distrust arises, and all means of escape are taken away from us, whenever, in short, it appears to us that everything is in a ruinous condition, let us recall to our remembrance that Christ is called Wonderful, because he has inconceivable methods of assisting us, and because his power is far beyond what we are able to conceive. When we need counsel, let us remember that he is the Counsellor. When we need strength, let us remember that he is Mighty and Strong. When new terrors spring up suddenly every instant, and when many deaths threaten us from various quarters, let us rely on that eternity of which he is with good reason called the Father, and by the same comfort let us learn to soothe all temporal distresses. When we are inwardly tossed by various tempests, and when Satan attempts to disturb our consciences, let us remember that Christ is The Prince of Peace, and that it is easy for him quickly to allay all our uneasy feelings. Thus will these titles confirm us more and more in the faith of Christ, and fortify us against Satan and against hell itself.[9]

[1] Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1006). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] 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., Is 9:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 963). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 9:6). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1257). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 818–819). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 947). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 1, pp. 306–313). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.


March 19 Evening Verse of The Day

19:26 For the wealthy to shift their primary allegiance to God is humanly impossible, but with God all things are possible, as evidenced by the conversions of rich men like Joseph of Arimathea (27:57) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9–10).[1]

19:26 The Lord replied, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Humanly speaking, it is impossible for anyone to be saved; only God can save a soul. But it is more difficult for a wealthy man to surrender his will to Christ than for a poor man, as evidenced by the fact that few rich men are converted. They find it almost impossible to replace trust in visible means of support for faith in an unseen Savior. Only God can effect such a change.

Commentators and preachers invariably inject here that it is perfectly all right for Christians to be rich. It is strange that they use a passage in which the Lord denounces wealth as a hindrance to man’s eternal welfare, to justify the accumulation of earthly treasures! And it is difficult to see how a Christian can cling to riches in view of the appalling need everywhere, the imminence of Christ’s Return, and the Lord’s clear prohibition against laying up treasures on earth. Hoarded wealth condemns us as not loving our neighbors as ourselves.[2]

26. Fastening his eyes on them Jesus said, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. In this dramatic moment the eyes of Jesus, as he fixed them on his disciples, must have been filled with deep earnestness and tender love. When he now tells them, “With men this is impossible,” he means exactly that. At every point, beginning, middle, end, man is completely dependent on God for salvation. Of himself man can do nothing. If he is to be saved at all he must be born again or “from above” (John 3:3, 5). Even when by faith—God-given faith! (Eph. 2:8)—he reaches out to God, yet in order to do this he must be enabled and supported every day, hour, minute, and second by God’s omnipotent grace. For the religion of the rich young ruler (see verses 16, 20), which was the religion current among the Jews of that day and age, there is no room here. Not only Pelagianism but even Arminianism stands condemned.

Glory be to God, however: there is a way out. What is impossible with men is possible with God, with whom all things are possible. It is he who, through Christ, is able to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25). His grace extends even to the determined and relentless persecutor Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1; 26:9–11; 1 Cor. 15:8–10; Gal. 1:15, 16; 1 Tim. 1:15). Just how, through the Mediator, this salvation is brought about, Jesus has already begun to reveal (Matt. 16:21; 17:22, 23). He will continue to do so with increasing clarity (see 20:17–19; especially 20:28; 26:26–29).[3]

26. With men this is impossible. Christ does not entirely free the minds of his disciples from all anxiety; for it is proper that they should perceive how difficult it is to ascend to heaven; first, that they may direct all their efforts to this object; and next, that, distrusting themselves, they may implore strength from heaven. We see how great is our indolence and carelessness; and what the consequence would be if believers thought that they had to walk at ease, for pastime, along a smooth and cheerful plain. Such is the reason why Christ does not extenuate the danger—though he perceives the terror which it excited in his disciples—but rather increases it; for though formerly he said only that it was difficult, he now affirms it to be impossible. Hence it is evident, that those teachers are guilty of gross impropriety, who are so much afraid to speak harshly, that they give indulgence to the slothfulness of the flesh. They ought to follow, on the contrary, the rule of Christ, who so regulates his style that, after men have been bowed down within themselves, he teaches them to rely on the grace of God alone, and, at the same time, excites them to prayer. In this manner, the weakness of men is seasonably relieved, not by ascribing anything to them, but by arousing their minds to expect the grace of God. By this reply of Christ is also refuted that widely embraced principle—which the Papists have borrowed from Jerome—“Whoever shall say that it is impossible to keep the law, let him be accursed.” For Christ plainly declares, that it is not possible for men to keep the way of salvation, except so far as the grace of God assists them.[4]

19:26 with God all things are possible. This final saying highlights the basis of salvation as God’s work in redemption. In relation to the status issues that have been raised by Jesus’ teaching that a rich person does not have greater access to and blessing from God than the poor, Matthew highlights that God’s power and grace to save are the great equalizer (and means of status reversal; see 20:1–15).[5]

[1] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1862). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1277). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 728–729). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 402–403). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[5] Brown, J. K. (2015). Matthew. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 223). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

March 19 Morning Verse of The Day

2:21“By virtue of its connection to the Lord Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, the universal church as a whole is in the process of becoming the holy dwelling place of God. The passive being put together indicates this is not being accomplished by us, but by God himself” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians).[1]

2:21 holy temple The temple in Jerusalem had an outer area called the Court of the Gentiles. Gentiles could not enter the temple courtyard; they were segregated from the Jews. Through Christ’s work of reconciliation, Gentiles are brought together with Jews (see Eph 2:14 and note).[2]

2:21 joined together. Christians are the temple of God corporately; belonging to the visible church is not optional for followers of Christ. holy temple. Where God meets with his people in joyful worship and fellowship. Believers do not have to worship in Jerusalem today because they themselves have become the new temple of God (see John 4:21).[3]

2:21 a holy temple in the Lord. Every new believer is a new stone in Christ’s temple, the church, Christ’s body of believers (see note on 1Pe 2:5). Christ’s building of His church will not be complete until every person who will believe in Him has done so (2Pe 3:9).[4]

2:21 The words, in whom, refer to Christ: He is the source of the church’s life and growth. Blaikie says:

In him we are added to it; in him we grow in it; in him the whole temple grows towards the final consummation, when the topstone shall be brought out with shouts of ‘Grace, grace unto it.’

The unity and symmetry of the temple are indicated by the expression, the whole building, being fitted together. It is a unity made up of many individual members. Each member has a specific place in the building for which he or she is exactly suited. Stones excavated from the valley of death by the grace of God are found to fit together perfectly. The unique feature of this building is that it grows. However, this feature is not the same as the growth of a building through the addition of bricks and cement. Think of it rather as the growth of a living organism, such as the human body. After all, the church is not an inanimate building. Neither is it an organization. It is a living entity with Christ as its Head and all believers forming the Body. It was born on the day of Pentecost, has been growing ever since, and will continue to grow until the Rapture.

This growing building of living materials is described as a holy temple in the Lord. The word Paul used for temple referred not to the outer courts but to the inner shrine (Gk., naos), not the suburbs but the sanctuary. He was thinking of the main building of the temple complex, which housed the Most Holy Place. There God dwelt and there He manifested Himself in a bright, shining cloud of glory.

There are several lessons for us here: (1) God indwells the church. Saved Jews and Gentiles form a living sanctuary in which He dwells and where He reveals His glory. (2) This temple is holy. It is set apart from the world and dedicated to Him for sacred purposes. (3) As a holy temple, the church is a center from which praise, worship, and adoration ascend to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul further describes this holy temple as being in the Lord. In other words, the Lord Jesus is its source of holiness. Its members are holy positionally through union with Him, and they should be holy practically out of love for Him.[5]

2:21. Paul then discussed the formation of the building. In Christ the whole building is joined together. The ASV has “each several building” (rather than “the whole building”). But it is preferable to understand the Greek to refer to one whole superstructure, perhaps in several parts. The participle translated “is joined together” is synarmologoumenē, used only here and in 4:16. It denotes that the various parts of the building are skillfully fitted to each other, not haphazardly thrown together. This structure rises to become (lit., “continually grows [pres. tense] into”) a holy temple in the Lord. This indicates that the church is a living and growing organism, as new believers are included in this temple’s superstructure (cf. 4:15–16; 1 Peter 2:5). Both Jewish and Gentile believers are being “joined together” into this one organism labeled “a holy temple” (cf. “one new man” [Eph. 2:15] and “one body” [v. 16]). The word for temple (naos) always refers to the sanctuary within the physical structure in Jerusalem, not to the entire temple area with its open courts (hieron).[6]

2:21. The stones are forming a living, spiritual temple to glorify the Lord. In the Old Testament, the presence and glory of God inhabited a literal stone building. Now God dwells not in a stone building but in the hearts of believers. Christ is the unifying factor that takes the separate stones and creates a temple. This temple is holy, set apart for God. In this temple God receives worship and praise. The hearts of believers is thus the basic worship place in God’s kingdom on earth.[7]

21. The apostle adds: in whom the entire building, harmoniously fitted together, is growing into a holy sanctuary in the Lord.

Another thought is added now to the one just expressed. We now learn that Christ, in addition to being the principle of the church’s stability and direction is also the principle of its growth. It is in vital union with him that the entire building is “growing” or “rising.” There is nothing static about this edifice. It is a living building consisting of living stones: believers. And since each living stone makes his own contribution to the growth and beauty of the building, the latter is described as “harmoniously fitted together.” Compare 4:16. Thus the building becomes, ever increasingly, “a holy sanctuary in the Lord.” It is holy, that is, cleansed and consecrated, because of the blood and Spirit of Christ.[8]

21. It is in Christ that the building also grows: in him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. This new entity is a sacred space in the midst of a common world. The church is dynamic as it is growing (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5). The joining together of the pieces of the temple allows it to grow. Another syn– prefix of the participle being joined [or ‘fitted’] together (synarmologoumenē) points to the repeated emphasis on God bringing Jew and Gentile together. The present tense sees this as currently taking place. This exact term will appear again in 4:16. The growth pictures the reality that more people are coming into the church, and may suggest that maturity is being added to the church all the time. The emphasis here is on the adding of people as the church grows, but their maturity is where the discussion is headed later. People are fitted into and are transformed in the church (2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21). In Colossians 2:19, a metaphor using the body makes a similar point.

God is responsible for this fitting together, so it is something the parts of the temple should recognize. They are designed to function together. God also has given them all that is necessary to make that design work. The image is important as it takes a great deal of work to smooth the edges of stones so that they fit together to form a building. The fit is snug. The term the whole building refers to the singularity of the church in all its locales. Grammatically, Paul could be referring to each church, but the image in the background is of the one foundation and the one building that is the temple. So the unity of the design is another key point; God has brought them together to function together.

The term for temple (naos) is important. It refers to the most sacred part of the temple, the holy place and holy of holies (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). This is the place where God was said to dwell. The point is that the church is God’s inner sanctum, the place of God’s presence, in the world. We have truly been brought near. This temple is holy, set apart to God, and is that which represents him in the world. For a city that had its own magnificent temple to Artemis, the image is a powerful one. The real transcendent presence resides in the church, not with the goddess. The church’s presence points to God’s presence. In another series of texts, Paul makes it clear that we are accountable for how we function in this sacred space (1 Cor. 3:10–17; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Tim. 3:15).[9]

21. In whom all the building groweth. If this be true, what will become of Peter? When Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, speaks of Christ as a “Foundation,” he does not mean that the church is begun by him and completed by others, but draws a distinction arising out of a comparison of his own labours with those of other men. It had been his duty to found the church at Corinth, and to leave to his successors the completion of the building. “According to the grace of God which is given to me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth on it.” (1 Cor. 3:10.)

With respect to the present passage, he conveys the instruction, that all who are fitly framed together in Christ are the temple of the Lord. There is first required a fitting together, that believers may embrace and accommodate themselves to each other by mutual intercourse; otherwise there would not be a building, but a confused mass. The chief part of the symmetry consists in unity of faith. Next follows progress, or increase. Those who are not united in faith and love, so as to grow in the Lord, belong to a profane building, which has nothing in common with the temple of the Lord.

Groweth unto an holy temple. Individual believers are at other times called “temples of the Holy Ghost,” (1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16,) but here all are said to constitute one temple. In both cases the metaphor is just and appropriate. When God dwells in each of us, it is his will that we should embrace all in holy unity, and that thus he should form one temple out of many. Each person, when viewed separately, is a temple, but, when joined to others, becomes a stone of a temple; and this view is given for the sake of recommending the unity of the church.[10]

2:21 / The construction of this verse in the Greek is ambiguous and has led to a variety of translations and interpretations. Literally, it reads, “in whom every structure (pasa oikodomē) is joined together” (synarmologeō). The big question is whether pasa oikodomē should be translated as “every structure” or “the whole structure” and whether the thoughts should be taken literally or metaphorically.

Those opting for the former believe that this “sacred temple in the Lord” is like the Jewish temple, in which many buildings, rooms, and parts (see Moule, p. 85; Westcott, p. 41) made up the “whole temple.” Mitton accepts “every structure” as preferred grammatically but gives it a metaphorical rather than literal meaning. Hence, he follows a line of interpretation that takes the “parts” as the local congregations that make up the one universal or catholic church (p. 115).

From the context of the passage, however, one seriously wonders whether the apostle has local congregations in mind, because he has been so concerned about the unity of the entire body. Robinson, for one, admits that the words are ambiguous but, within the context of the passage, emphasizes the process of building and takes the phrase to mean “all that is builded,” that is, whatever building is being done (pp. 70, 165). What is in the author’s mind, therefore, is the entire operation of the building rather than single structures that make up the whole (cf. also Abbott, pp. 74, 75. Barth, Eph. 1–3, p. 272; Foulkes, p. 87). The niv follows this line of interpretation in its translation, in him the whole building is joined together.

The concept of a building process is continued in the following phrase: Christ is the one in whom it rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. Though the imagery is that of a building, the next verse (2:22) makes it clear that the author has a spiritual “house” in mind where God’s presence is manifested. The holy temple is the translation of naon hagion—naos being the inner part of the temple where God was believed to reside and meet his people. In early Christian theology, believers are referred to as God’s sacred temple, not in a material sense, but as a “spiritual building” where God dwells and manifests himself. Christians are that holy (or “sacred”) temple by virtue of being in the Lord.[11]

Rising to a Temple (2:21)

Knowing of God’s provision of his Son, and seeing the eternal and holy purposes of the house that God builds on this divine cornerstone, Paul writes, “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord” (Eph. 2:21). The household that rests on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and depends upon the cornerstone for stability and design, is fulfilling a heavenly purpose so that it is not merely a house but also a house of God, a temple. When we rest on the foundation of God’s Word and build on the cornerstone that is Christ, then we too are fulfilling a holy purpose, even when we may not seem to be achieving much of any purpose at all in the eyes of the world.

The way that God expresses his glory through us is beautiful and cause for his praise. God makes our lives a temple for his praise even when we may not think anything special is happening to or through us. Think again how this happened in David Sebastian’s account: Mandy from Missouri, a man in a distant town writing a letter, a boy riding a bicycle, a pastor in a small town, and a group of seminary presidents—all had a role in expressing the assurance of which I now write for many more people. Their lives became a place of testimony for the God who moves across time, speaks through prophets, sheds his blood, and sends his Spirit to let us know that we are dear to him and that we are secure in him. Through God’s plan, they have become a temple for God’s glory, even when human eyes would have seen little significance in what they were doing.[12]

21  It is in relation to the cornerstone that every other part of the building is allotted its proper place. In the margin of the NEB Christ is here called the “keystone,” which holds the entire structure together.154 Under his direction the whole building “grows up” to form a sanctuary. With the importation of biological language into the architectural figure may be compared the importation of architectural language into the biological figure of Eph. 4:16. This passage does not mean that “every building” grows together to form one grand complex edifice, as though the reference were to a multiplicity of local churches making up the church universal.156 The church universal is viewed as a structure complete in itself, just as in 1 Cor. 3:9–17 the local church is similarly viewed. Moreover, as the local church is God’s sanctuary, a dwelling-place for his Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16–17), so is the church universal.

An important background to the conception of the community as a sanctuary is provided at Qumran, where the community constituted “a most holy dwelling for Aaron … and a house of perfection and truth in Israel.” (“Aaron” denotes the priestly members of the community and “Israel” the lay members: the community, in other words, was regarded as a living sanctuary in which the laity constituted the holy place and the priesthood the holy of holies. Any such distinction between laity and priesthood is foreign to the conception of the church in the NT.)[13]

21 Paul then explains what happens in Christ, the chief cornerstone, and this takes us into a textual problem. Essentially there are two options: (1) pasa oikodomē (lit., every building) or (2) pasa hē oikodomē (lit., all the building). Option #1 has much better manuscript evidence to support it, but it reads in an odd way. Why in this letter that emphasizes the universal church, not local congregations, would Paul say that in Christ every building is joined together? Paul does not refer to the church as local buildings in this letter. Option #2 is more natural for Paul and in this context: the entire building made up of Jews and Gentiles is joined together. Beside being supported by better manuscript evidence, option #1 is the more difficult reading; that is, one is hard-pressed to understand how a scribe would intentionally drop the article (producing option #1), but it is easy to understand its insertion to obviate the difficulty. Besides, reading #1 can make sense, for oikodomē (“building,” GK 3869) can be used in a wider sense—not merely “every distinct church” but the entire operation of the building. Lincoln, 156, suggests that we take this “as a Hebraism which has affected Koine usage and … [understand it] … as ‘all the building’ or ‘the whole building.’ ” O’Brien, 218 n. 265, comes to the same conclusion. This makes good sense, paralleling “all Israel” (no article) in Romans 11:26. Virtually every translation adopts some variation of the NIV and NASB: “the whole building” (cf. “the whole structure,” NRSV). In this case, Paul teaches that God inhabits the universal church.

Two verbs in this verse should be given special attention: a present tense passive participle (synarmologoumenē) meaning “fitly joined together,” and a present tense finite verb (auxei) meaning “is growing” (NIV, “rises”); both identify the church as an organism (cf. 4:15–16). The former probably simply adds an attendant circumstance to the latter, and so most translations connect the two with the conjunction “and.” God is actively fitting each piece together, and as a result it continues growing. Paul changes the metaphor from a household to a specific kind of building, namely, a “temple” (naos, GK 3724; 2 Co 6:1 also employs this term) “holy” in the Lord, i.e., Jesus. Holiness is God’s goal for the corporate body (cf. 5:27)—not merely for individual believers—for God himself dwells there. Paul pictures God in the process of putting all the individual Christians—of whatever race—together into a structure in which he himself dwells. God meets his people in the church, for it is his temple (cf. 1 Co 3:16–17, where Paul also uses naos of the corporate church). In so doing, Paul again highlights the corporate nature of the church.[14]

[1] Wallace, D. B. (2017). Perseverance of the Saints. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1875). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Eph 2:21). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2266). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Eph 2:21). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1924). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Hoehner, H. W. (1985). Ephesians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 627). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 115). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[8] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, p. 143). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[9] Bock, D. L. (2019). Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary. (E. J. Schnabel, Ed.) (Vol. 10, pp. 87–88). London: Inter-Varsity Press.

[10] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (pp. 244–245). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[11] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 202–203). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[12] Chapell, B. (2009). Ephesians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 129–130). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[13] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 306–307). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[14] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 81–82). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 18 Evening Verse of The Day

15:3 The Hebrew word for observing or being vigilant implies that proper action will be taken with regard to what is observed. It is used of the capable wife who watches over her household (31:27), of the watchman in Ezekiel who is obligated to sound the alarm (Ezk 33:6), and of God himself who watches and judges the nations (Ps 66:7).[1]

15:3 eyes of the Lord. See 2 Chr. 16:9; Ps. 33:13–15. The sages sometimes looked beyond the observable events and natural retribution to remind themselves of the reality of divine justice. See theological note “God Sees and Knows: Divine Omniscience.”[2]

15:3 keep watch over the evil and the good Yahweh sees the ways of all people (Prov 5:21). The Psalms portray Him as examining humanity from His heavenly throne (Psa 11:4–5). He watches so He can eventually bring all actions under His judgment (Eccl 12:14).[3]

15:3 The eyes of the Lord is a major theme in Proverbs: the Lord knows the actions and hearts of all, so he is neither pleased with nor fooled by one who offers sacrifices while continuing in the way of wickedness (cf. vv. 8–9, 11, 26, 29).[4]

15:3 eyes of the Lord. Cf. 5:21. This refers to God’s omniscience. Cf. 1 Sam 16:7; 2Ch 16:9; Job 24:23; Pss 33:13–15; 139:1–16; Jer 17:10.[5]

15:3 — The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Nothing ever escapes the notice of God, so nothing ever surprises Him. Since nothing ever surprises Him, He always has exactly the right plans in place to accomplish precisely what He desires—for reward or for judgment.[6]

15:3 That the eyes of the Lord are in every place watching everything chills those who do evil and comforts those who submit to Him (Eccl. 12:14).[7]

15:3 God is omniscient, that is, He knows everything. His eyes are in every place. Nothing is hidden from Him. He is keeping watch over every word, act, thought, and motive, both on the evil and the good. This caused David to exclaim, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Ps. 139:6).[8]

15:3. In His omniscience God sees and knows what everyone does (cf. 5:21; Heb. 4:13; also note the eyes of the Lord in 2 Chron. 16:9), keeping watch like a watchman guarding a city. Wicked people should be warned and good people comforted by this truth. He sees even death and destruction (Prov. 15:11). The second line of verse 3 is a participial clause that completes the thought of the first line, so this verse has synthetic parallelism (see “Literary Style” in the Introduction).[9]

15:3. The Lord sees everything everywhere. His omnipresence and omniscience should be a warning to the evil and an encouragement to the good.[10]

Ver. 3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.On the omniscience of God:

  1. Prove this doctrine—
  2. Where a cause or agent acts, there that cause or agent must virtually be. The power of the Almighty Father is manifest in every part of creation. The Divine agency is very different from any laws of mechanism, or operations of chance, that we can even imagine. These can relate only to matter, while the former comprehends instincts and passions, reason and imagination; the minds of intellectual creatures in their origin, their endless diversity, and progress to perfection. The Supreme Cause, therefore, is ever acting, and ever present. His presence governs, animates, and preserves the whole universe of existence.
  3. Another argument may be derived from the consciousness of the human soul in the moment of transgression. This consciousness, and its effects, are not originally produced by prejudice and superstition, but are the great moral instinct of our nature. Given us by our heavenly Father, it serves as an additional sense to remind us of His continual presence, then, when we chiefly need it, in the season of temptation and in the hour of guilt. Further, the omnipresence of God follows, as a natural consequence, from His wisdom and His power. And it seems absolutely necessary to that perfect justice which we are assured He will render to every man at the last day.
  4. Show the advantages we ought to derive from this truth.
  5. It is one of the highest privileges of our nature. In the course of nature, and in the affairs of mankind, are found His

(1) Sustaining and

(2) Directing power. That God sustains and upholds all things alone can account for our bodies putting themselves in motion at the command of our wills; or for the curious circulation of the blood within our veins; or for the adhesion of matter; or for the descent of all bodies toward the earth, which the philosophers call gravitation. Prophecies and miracles prove that God directs and interposes in our human affairs. If God sustains and upholds all things here below by His power, this calls upon us reasonable creatures to exert ourselves in praise and thanksgiving, in all the other duties of gratitude and in prayer. (Bp. Z. Pearce.)

The eye of God on the sons of men:

The great truths of divinity are of great use to enforce the precepts of morality.

  1. An eye to discern all; not only from which nothing can be concealed, but by which everything is actually inspected, and nothing overlooked or looked slightly upon. Secret sins, services, and sorrows are under His eye.
  2. An eye to distinguish both persons and actions. He is displeased with the evil, and approves of the good, and will judge men according to the sight of His eyes (Psa. 1:6; 11:4.) (Matthew Henry.)

The diffusiveness of the Divine Spirit:—

The Divine Spirit penetrates, pervades, and actuates the whole mass of beings, and is intimately conscious to every motion and operation throughout the whole extent of created nature. In the text God is described as intimately present with moral agents and with human minds.

  1. The omnipresence of God’s being.
  2. By way of similitude, consider the operations of a human soul in and upon a human body. How our spirits actuate our bodies is one of those mysteries which we cannot penetrate. But we are conscious of the power, though we know not how we came by it. The fact is undisputed, that the mind is present at once to each and every part of our little world, animates with its constant influences every particle of our vital clay, keeps watchful guard upon all the avenues and portals of our senses, at the same time presiding in the more secret chambers of sublimer thought and finer speculation. So related, it is incapable of division or diminution, of composition or separation. Imagine the Spirit of God thus acting through every part and portion of the universe, yet with a fulness of power and perfection, neither limited by it, nor passive in any degree or manner from it—imagine Him superintending the whole with the united efficacy of His wisdom, goodness, and power, and you will then have as clear a notion of His presence with the whole system of created nature as you have of that intercourse which your own souls maintain with your bodies. But you must be careful to exclude from this comparison whatever shall imply any passiveness in God, or any limitation of His infinite mind.
  3. The Scriptures have represented God as present in some places more, or rather, than in others, and most eminently above all, in the peculiar habitation of His holiness and glory. Explain this by reference to the former comparison. While the human soul actuates each part and particle of our human body, the head is the manifest laboratory of its finest and noblest operations, where it exerts the purest and brightest and strongest acts of contrivance and invention of thought and understanding. Now, what the soul of man is formed to do by the skill and wisdom of its heavenly Architect, He may choose for Himself to do, upon the reasons of state and providence, which He hath partly revealed to us, and partly concealed within the veil of His hidden counsels. No reason can be given why the same uniform, simple, undivided Essence must equally everywhere exert itself, or why it may not manifest its acts and operations more, and rather, in one place than another.
  4. As place hath in strictness a near relation to bodies, and to the order of their several positions and situations, the idea of local presence is apt to mix itself with that relation when we apply it to spirits. It is better to speak of the Divine presence as a vital energy, a knowing influence, a powerful activity. His presence with all things acquaints Him with all things, and makes all things easy to Him.
  5. Consider the Divine Spirit as present with moral agents and human minds.
  6. A disquisition of the fact. Of this fact there will be little question, if the premisses are agreed to. Surely moral truths, and the eternal differences between good and evil, will plead as strongly for a close regard to them as any degrees of symmetry or beauty, of harmony or proportion in the natural world, shall engage the attention of a curious observer. Much more amiable and entertaining must be the spectacle of moral than of any natural beauty.
  7. The uses we should make of this fact. The sinner may reasonably stand aghast with terror and confusion at the deformity of his own actions. He is breaking in upon the counsels of eternity, and thwarting the purposes of Divine wisdom and holiness in the sight of his awful Governor, and the observation of his all-seeing Judge.
  8. Let the good man consider the comforts he may derive from a sense of God’s constant presence with him. His Maker observes him in all his pressures; in all the difficulties and conflicts of virtue.
  9. Let us all be persuaded to live and to behave in every circumstance of life like a people sensible who is the Spectator, and who is to be the Judge of all their actions. Cicero advised that we should habituate our imaginations to the view of some person eminent for the gravity and sanctity of his manners; should suppose ourselves in his presence, and carry ourselves in all points as we would before him. How much more should a sense of the all-seeing eye control us; the presence of Him who is a lover of righteousness in others, and a sure avenger of all ungodliness and wrong. (N. Marshall, D.D.)

The Divine omniscience:

  1. Consider the omniscience of God, as it is an essential attribute of His nature.
  2. That this knowledge is essentially inherent in the Divine nature is evident from the creation of the world. For as the beautiful variety of beings conspicuous in the universe were made by God, He must necessarily know the things He has made. Infinite power presupposes, or at least implies, infinite knowledge. Suppose some skilful artist to have framed a moving machine, consisting of various parts, and capable of performing many wonderful operations; it will perhaps puzzle divers spectators to explain, or even conceive the contexture of its parts, and the secret springs by which it moves; but will any man say the artist himself who made the machine is ignorant of the several parts of which it is composed, or that he knows not by what artful contrivance it is made to move? Is man, then, acquainted with the operations of his own hands, and can we suppose the Supreme Being to be ignorant of His?
  3. Another argument to prove the omniscience of God may be drawn from the consideration of providence. If God presides over the whole universe, and governs all things both in heaven and earth, is it possible for Him to be ignorant of anything in the system of humanity? If He be the sovereign disposer of human creatures and their affairs, must He not perfectly understand their constitution and conduct?
  4. Another argument to confirm the truth of God’s omniscience may be taken from divers remarkable events that have happened in the world through the miraculous interposition of Providence. Who can reflect upon the various revolutions which happened to the ancient Israelites without feeling manifest traces of the Divine knowledge? For was it possible for the Almighty to have interposed in delivering that oppressed people from the cruel persecutions of Egypt if He had not previously known the condition they were in? Or how could He have framed a scheme of government so suitable to the genius of that untractable people if He had not thoroughly understood their natural tempers and most hidden inclinations?
  5. To confirm this truth, besides the arguments already alleged there is another, which may be drawn from the idea of infinite perfection. For if God be a Being infinitely perfect, He must be infinitely knowing.
  6. Consider this attribute of the Deity, as it is a powerful motive to destroy us from sin, and engage us to the practice of virtue. It is the advice of Seneca to his friend Lucilius, that he should bear in his mind the idea of Socrates, or Cato, or some other excellent man, and imagine him to be a constant observer of his actions. This the philosopher proposes as a useful expedient to keep a man constantly virtuous in the whole conduct of his life. Let, therefore, the Searcher of all hearts, the Almighty, let Him be our Socrates, and our Cato; and if we judge it a matter of disgrace to do unworthy actions before a wife, friend, or philosopher, think what eternal shame we expose ourselves to when we sin before the all-seeing eyes of God. (N. Ball.)

The omnipresent eye of God:

  1. When we are alone this truth should be ever with us to keep us from the temptation of evil thoughts and purposes.
  2. In our families this truth should make us watchful over our tempers, anxious to consult each other’s wishes and feelings.
  3. In society it should make us give great heed to our words, and be temperate in all things; it should make masters remember that they have a Master in heaven; and servants should be incited by it to perform their duties not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.
  4. In sorrow it should lead us, as it did Job, to be patient and resigned, and to put our trust in God.
  5. In sin, when we are so unhappy as to fall into sin, the presence of the Lord should lead us, as it did St. Peter, to repentance.
  6. Lastly, and above all, the recollection of this truth should be with us in church. For if we are assured that “the eyes of the Lord are in every place,” we are also assured that they are specially in this place. (R. Ward, M.A.)

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere:

  1. Scripture instances of God’s beholding the various works of men. He beholds the evil. See cases of Cain and Abel, Achan, &c. He beholds the good. See cases of Noah, Jacob, &c. Each act, each thought, each hope and fear of a man, is open to the sight of his God.
  2. The character of the all-seeing One. The all-seeing God is a person, not a mere abstract name for nature. The Lord is not only a person, but also one who always remembers. The all-seeing God is not indifferent to the acts of men, and their characters are before Him. He who sees the evil and the good is all-powerful to punish and reward. (H. Constable, M.A.)

The eyes of the Lord:

“And we do fearfully live, as it were, out of God’s atmosphere. We do not keep that continual consciousness of His reality which, I conceive, we ought to have, and which should make Him more manifest to our souls than the Shekinah was to the minds of the Israelites.” Thus wrote Dr. Arnold, of Rugby; and I think no one of us can read the words and not feel they say a truth. “Dare to be alone with God,” wrote the true-hearted preacher, F. W. Robertson, to a friend. “Dare to be alone with God.” Why should not the child gladly seek the Father’s presence? The Indians of South America told the missionaries, “You say the God of the Christians knows everything, that nothing is hidden from Him; that He is everywhere and sees all that is done. But we do not desire a God so sharp-sighted; we choose to live with freedom in our woods, without having a perpetual observer over our heads.” And the savages but said forth a feeling in which men civilised naturally share; for from purity conscious impurity slinks. Men may quarrel with the doctrine of depravity as they choose, but this instinctive hiding themselves from the eyes of the Lord is steady proof of the doctrine of a universal moral lapse. Consider, men are always trying to put out the eyes of the Lord. By atheism—letting the bad, foolish heart tell the head there is no God. By semi-pantheism—denying personality to God, calling Him “a stream of tendency.” Simply a vague, impersonal “power not ourselves” by trying to think of God in the ancient epicurean fashion, making Him but a huge and listless carelessness, as Thomas Carlyle so finely stigmatizes the notion, “an absentee God, sitting on the outside of His universe, and seeing it go”; by identifying God with law, hiding the thought and truth of God away in the muffling folds of natural law, and so imagining that they are somehow getting themselves out of God’s real jurisdiction; by a sensual carelessness of God, living as though there were no God, though all the time His being and presence are theoretically confessed. But yet the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. Therefore—

  1. We, in our conscious sinfulness before their gaze, need atonement for our sin.
  2. And the readjustment with God the Holy Spirit works in us by regeneration.
  3. And the sweet consciousness of forgiveness.
  4. And so the making possible the noble bravery of welcoming His vision into our hearts and lives, that we may shun the evil and seize the good; and thus the living the true life only to be lived in “God’s atmosphere.” (Homiletic Review.)[11]

15:3. The eyes of the Lord

The equally striking 2 Chronicles 16:9 brings out God’s saving purpose in this. Our present verse shows the range and persistence of this scrutiny; verse 11 its penetration; verses 8, 9 its sensitivity.[12]

15:3 / The parallelism is progressive and specifying. The point is that nothing escapes the eyes of the Lord. This is both consoling and threatening. Were the sages also aware of how often things escaped their own gaze and judgment?[13]

15:3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Watching the evil and the good.

The two lines of this proverb are arranged in a synthetic parallelism, the second line expanding and explaining the first.

The wording ‘eyes of the Lord’ is found also in Proverbs 5:21 and 22:12. Its introduction here is surprising, given the theme of speech that began in verses 1–2 and continues hereafter (vv. 4, 7, etc.). The ‘eyes of the Lord’ speak of the omniscience of God. Perhaps the particular emphasis here is that He ‘sees’ all that one ‘says,’ a strange mixing of metaphors, but, nevertheless, true to the context. We should not, however, limit the knowledge of God to simply what is said in any place. The knowledge here attributed to God is universal. God knows all that we do (v. 3b) and even why we do what we do (Prov. 16:2). Even Sheol and all it contains is open to the Lord’s scrutiny (Prov. 15:11).

The Scriptures repeatedly underscore the completeness of God’s knowledge (Job 31:4; 34:21; Ps. 11:4; Jer. 16:17; 17:10; Zech. 4:10). Such knowledge is at one and the same time a terror to ‘the evil’ and a comfort to ‘the good.’ To the one contemplating an independent course, the Scriptures warn: ‘And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’ (Heb. 4:13). To those who choose God’s path, the Scriptures promise ‘the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His’ (2 Chron. 16:9).[14]

3  This verse is linked with v. 2 by the root ṭb (“adorn,” yṭb, and “good people,” ṭwbym), linking good rhetoric with good ethics and giving the theological basis for the moral order affirmed in the surrounding proverbs. Verset A underscores God’s unrestricted presence in space, and verset B his unrestricted moral assessment of every individual. The anthropomorphism the eyes of the Lord” (see 5:21; p. 40) signifies his presence in a situation and his evaluation of it. The first qualifier are in every (bekol; see n. 8) place (māqôm) could have a more restricted meaning such as “hometown” (Ruth 4:10), “grave,” or “temple,” but here in parallel with “good and evil,” a merism for all humanity, it has its general sense. This qualification refers to the Lord’s incommunicable (nonhumanlike) attribute of being unlimited or infinite with respect to time and space (cf. 1 K. 8:27; Ps. 139:7–10; Isa. 66:1–2; Jer. 23:23–24; Acts 17:28, 48). The second qualifier, watching [vigilantly] (ṣōpôt), connotes “overseeing from a high lookout post.” This communicable divine attribute of being vigilant occurs 18 times, nine times in the Qal and nine times in the Piel. In both stems it means “to watch alertly, to be on the lookout” so that nothing escapes the watcher with the specific nuance in the Qal “to see what is done,” as here (Prov. 31:27). The verb implies that the subject will take appropriate action according to the situation (Gen. 31:49; Job 15:22; Ps. 66:7), namely, whether evil people (rāʿîm; 1:16), who tear down society, or good people (ṭôbîm; see 99), who build it up, are under review. The unseen but not unseeing God probes and penetrates insightfully into every situation and distinguishes between good and evil people to regulate history by rewarding the former and punishing the latter, thus guaranteeing the moral order (see 5:23; cf. 15:11; 16:2; 17:3; 21:2; 24:12; cf. 20:27). The proverb teaches that “no small act of goodness is too trivial, no peccadillo too commonplace, to catch his eye and earn his blessing or his condemnation.”[15]

3 Divine omniscience. The Lord knows everyone completely. The thought is continuous in the two lines of this verse; it uses anthropomorphic language to stress God’s exacting knowledge. But as Plaut, 169, says, this verse is not intended as a statement of theology but an incentive for conduct. Of course, for the righteous divine omniscience is a great comfort (see also 2 Ch 16:9; Ps 11:4; Heb 4:13, which show that God’s purpose in this activity is salvific).[16]

[1] Stabnow, D. K. (2017). Proverbs. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 974). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 896). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 15:3). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1160). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 15:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Pr 15:3). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 760). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 828). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 937). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[10] Finkbeiner, D. (2014). Proverbs. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (p. 924). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[11] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). Proverbs (pp. 394–397). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[12] Kidner, D. (1964). Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 17, p. 106). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[13] Murphy, R. E., & Carm, O. (2012). Proverbs. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (p. 74). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[14] Kitchen, J. A. (2006). Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (pp. 326–327). Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[15] Waltke, B. K. (2004). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15 (pp. 614–615). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[16] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 139). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

March 18 Morning Verse of The Day

12:3 The blessing and curse here have played out repeatedly in history. The nations or groups (plural: “those”) who have blessed Abram or his descendants have been blessed by God. The individuals (singular: “him”) who have cursed Abram or Israel have been “cursed,” coming eventually to a bad end. This, however, is not a blank check for the actions of unbelieving Israel, as if the nation could do no wrong or deserves no criticism or has no accountability for its actions. It is a general ongoing promise. Acts 3:25 and Gl 3:8 indicate that all the families of the earth are blessed in the availability of salvation through Jesus Christ, and Gl 6:16 refers to the church as “the Israel of God” through which, by implication, that blessing is extended.[1]

12:3 bless those … him … I will curse. The extent of God’s merciful and gracious intention is indicated in the Hebrew by a switch from the plural object of blessing to the singular object of cursing. Many are to receive God’s blessing through the Seed of Abraham (18:18; Gal. 3:8; Rev. 7:9, 10).

those who bless. Those who acknowledge Abraham and his offspring as God’s agent of blessing.

him who dishonors you I will curse. The Hebrew words here translated “dishonors” and “curse” differ: the second means “to disdain”; the first often has the sense of “to weaken” (3:14). God will be an effective adversary of those who curse Abraham and his seed.

in you. In Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16), and in the spiritual Israel of all ages united with Him (Gal. 3:29; Phil. 3:3 note), rather than in unbelieving ethnic Israel (John 8:39; Rom. 9:6–8).

shall be blessed. Some have argued that the Hebrew verb should be translated reflexively: “shall bless themselves” (i.e., will desire the blessing of Abraham). While grammatically possible, this proposed reading hardly does justice to the context of this divine promise, and the passive translation here (“be blessed”) presents no real linguistic difficulties. In addition, the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) rendered it as passive. We are fully justified in viewing this promise as a reference to God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

Abraham’s Journey of Faith. Abraham’s 1,500-mile journey was fueled by faith. “And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, … For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:8–10).[2]

12:3 I will bless those who bless you God’s promise to bless and support Abram’s line shows a shift in His relationship with humanity. He now focuses on a chosen people.[3]

12:3 Although Abram is called to be a blessing to others, much rests on how they treat him. Those who are positive toward Abram will experience God’s favor; the one who despises Abram will know God’s displeasure. The text speaks of those who bless (plural) but of him who dishonors (singular), emphasizing that many more will be blessed than cursed. Indeed, such will be the influence of Abram that all the families of the earth shall be blessed in him. This promise is later reaffirmed to Isaac and Jacob (see 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). in you. This may simply indicate “by means of you,” but it is more likely that this expression is designating Abram as the covenantal representative for a people. To be “in” some person, then, is to be a member of that people for whom that person is the representative (cf. 2 Sam. 19:43; 20:1). This seems to be the way Paul takes it in Gal. 3:8–9, where “in you” becomes “along with Abraham”; it would also explain the origin of the NT expression “in Christ.”

12:3 The inclusion of all the families of the earth anticipates the spread of the gospel and salvation in Christ to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:18–20; Acts 1:8; Gal. 3:8).

The City of Ur

The ancient city of Ur lies 186 miles (300 km) southeast of modern Baghdad on a bend of the original course of the Euphrates River. Major excavations took place at the site in 1922–1934 under the direction of Sir Leonard Woolley. Ur became an important city in Mesopotamia near the end of the third millennium b.c. The governor of Ur, a man named Ur-Nammu (c. 2113–2095 b.c.), brought the city to great prominence. He took the titles “King of Ur, King of Sumer and Akkad.” Thus was founded the Third Dynasty of Ur (2113–2006 b.c.). This period was one of great peace and prosperity, the high point of the city’s existence. This diagram of the city represents the Third Dynasty of Ur, and it includes a central palace and a temple complex. The latter has as its center the Ziggurat of Ur-Nammu that is dedicated to the moon god Nanna. Ur was the birthplace of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (Gen. 11:27–32), and the plan represents the city that he would have been familiar with.[4]

12:3 the one who curses you I will curse. Those who “curse” Abram and his descendants are those who treat him lightly, despise him, or treat him with contempt. God’s curse for such lack of respect and disdain was to involve the most harsh of divine judgments. The opposite was to be true for those who bless him and his people. in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. Paul identified these words as “the gospel beforehand to Abraham” (Gal 3:8).[5]

3. And I will bless them that bless thee. Here the extraordinary kindness of God manifests itself, in that he familiarly makes a covenant with Abram, as men are wont to do with their companions and equals. For this is the accustomed form of covenants between kings and others, that they mutually promise to have the same enemies and the same friends. This certainly is an inestimable pledge of special love, that God should so greatly condescend for our sake. For although he here addresses one man only, he elsewhere declares the same affection towards his faithful people. We may therefore infer this general doctrine, that God so embraces us with his favour, that he will bless our friends, and take vengeance on our enemies. We are, moreover, warned by this passage, that however desirous the sons of God may be of peace, they will never want enemies. Certainly, of all persons who ever conducted themselves so peaceably among men as to deserve the esteem of all, Abram might be reckoned among the chief, yet even he was not without enemies; because he had the devil for his adversary, who holds the wicked in his hand, whom he incessantly impels to molest the good. There is, then, no reason why the ingratitude of the world should dishearten us, even though many hate us without cause, and, when provoked by no injury, study to do us harm; but let us be content with this single consolation, that God engages on our side in the war. Besides, God exhorts his people to cultivate fidelity and humanity with all good men, and, further, to abstain from all injury. For this is no common inducement to excite us to assist the faithful, that if we discharge any duty towards them, God will repay it; nor ought it less to alarm us, that he denounces war against us, if we hurt any one belonging to him.

In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. Should any one choose to understand this passage in a restricted sense, as if, by a proverbial mode of speech, they who shall bless their children or their friends, shall be called after the name of Abram, let him enjoy his opinion; for the Hebrew phrase will bear the interpretation, that Abram shall be called a signal example of happiness. But I extend the meaning further; because I suppose the same thing to be promised in this place, which God afterwards repeats more clearly, (22:18.) And the authority of Paul brings me to this point; who says, that the promise to the seed of Abraham, that is, to Christ, was given four hundred and thirty years before the law, (Gal. 3:17.) But the computation of years requires us to understand, that the blessing was promised him in Christ, when he was coming into the land of Canaan. Therefore God (in my judgment) pronounces that all nations should be blessed in his servant Abram, because Christ was included in his loins. In this manner, he not only intimates that Abram would be an example, but a cause of blessing; so that there should be an understood antithesis between Adam and Christ. For whereas, from the time of the first man’s alienation from God, we are all born accursed, here a new remedy is offered unto us. Nor is there any thing contrary to this in the assertion, that we must by no means seek a blessing in Abram himself, inasmuch as the expression is used in reference to Christ. Here the Jews petulantly object, and heap together many testimonies of Scripture, from which it appears, that to bless or curse in any one, is nothing else than to wish good or evil to another, according to him as a pattern. But their cavil may be set aside without difficulty. I acknowledge, that what they say is often, but not always true. For when it is said, that the tribe of Levi shall bless in the name of God, in Deut. 10:8; Isa. 65:16, and in similar passages, it is sufficiently evident, that God is declared to be the fountain of all good, in order that Israel may not seek any portion of good elsewhere. Seeing, therefore, that the language is ambiguous, let them grant the necessity of choosing this, or the other sense, as may be most suitable to the subject and the occasion. Now Paul assumes it as an axiom which is received among all the pious, and which ought to be taken for granted, that the whole human race is obnoxious to a curse, and therefore that the holy people are blessed only through the grace of the Mediator. Whence he concludes, that the covenant of salvation which God made with Abram, is neither stable nor firm except in Christ. I therefore thus interpret the present place; that God promises to his servant Abram that blessing which shall afterwards flow down to all people. But because this subject will be more amply explained elsewhere, I now only briefly touch upon it.[6]

3. Reader! pause over this precious verse; and when you have duly meditated upon it, ask your own heart, whether it is not fully verified? Acts 4:12. 2 Cor. 1:20.—Note, when God eminently blesses any one, it is that he may be a blessing unto others.[7]

3 Furthermore, God states that his relationship to others will be determined by the relationship of these others to Abram. Abram can expect to encounter both those who will bless him and those who will curse him. One need not go beyond ch. 12 to see an immediate fulfillment of this promise. Pharaoh cursed Abram by taking the patriarch’s wife, albeit in ignorance about her married status. As a result diseases and plagues fell on Pharaoh and his household.

The grand finale in this catalogue of blessings and promises is: (so that) by you all the earth’s clans shall be blessed. Again, the syntax of this passage helps isolate this climactic phrase. This unit began with an imperative, continued with a number of first singular imperfects (punctuated with an imperative that has imperfective force), and now climaxes with a perfect (niḇreḵû). V. 2 had already said that Abram would be a blessing. But to whom? For whom? Now we have our answer: all the earth’s clans (or peoples, families), like those mentioned in Gen. 10. Here is Yahweh’s programmatic statement. Sinister nations and peoples of the earth, such as we read about in chs. 3–11, are to be blessed through Abram.

Scholars have debated a great deal whether the verb here should be translated shall be blessed or “shall bless themselves.” Is the verb passive or reflexive? The stem used here is the Niphal, which is primarily reflexive but often passive. The problem is compounded by comparing 12:3 with 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; and 28:14, all of which deal with the nations being blessed or blessing themselves in Abram (and in his seed). Three of these passages use the Niphal (12:3; 18:18; 28:14); the remaining two (22:18; 26:4) use the Hithpael, the thrust of which is reflexive or reciprocal. Because the Hithpael does not connote a passive sense (except in rare instances), and because the Niphal may express both the passive and the reflexive, most modern versions of the Bible opt for “shall bless themselves.”

This is not a point of esoteric grammar. Speiser is right when he says of these two translations: “the distinction may be slight on the surface, yet it is of great consequence theologically.” If the verb in question has passive force, then 12:3 clearly articulates the final goal in a divine plan for universal salvation, and Abram is the divinely chosen instrument in the implementation of that plan.

  1. Albrektson has written at length in support of the reflexive interpretation. This is not surprising, for one of the basic theses of his book is that Heilsgeschichte was not a distinctive element in Hebrew historiography. He failed to see, after examining several Hebrew words for “plan,” that the OT consistently developed the concept of a divine plan for history. Accordingly, he interpreted the three Niphals of bāraḵ in the light of the two Hithpaels of bāraḵ, and suggested that Gen. 12:3 pointed only to a statement of the blessing on Abram.

Some have sought further support for the reflexive interpretation in Ps. 72:17b. Referring to the king, the verse says, “all nations will bless themselves [or be blessed—Hithpael] through him, and they will call him blessed [Piel of ʾāšar].” For example, M. Weinfeld translates these words: “all nations will bless themselves through him, and all the nations will deem him happy,” and concludes that the parallelism of the Hithpael of bāraḵ with the Piel of ʾāšar demonstrates that bāraḵ here is reflexive and not passive.

But Ps. 72:17b may be support for a passive interpretation of bāraḵ in Gen. 12:3. If bāraḵ in Ps. 72:17 has reflexive meaning, why do both LXX and Vulg. translate it with passive verb forms? Dahood’s translation reflects this passive force: “Let his progeny be blessed through him, by him all nations made happy.” One passive verb form is balanced by another.

We also would call into question the axiom that the Hithpael does not carry passive force. A case can be made for a number of scriptural passages where the Hithpael is best rendered as a passive. If that is the case, perhaps we need to read the Hithpaels of bāraḵ in Genesis in the light of the Niphals of bāraḵ, rather than vice versa.

Finally, we may ask what is the meaning of “bless oneself”? How is that done? One may bless God, or bless another, but how does one bless oneself? The Hithpael in these passages does not make sense when translated reflexively. It must be stretched to mean something like “pray to be blessed.” In view of all these factors, it is best to retain the passive force of 12:3, and to see in this last of seven phrases, with its emphatic perfect, the culmination of this initial promise of God to the patriarch.

Genesis supplies several illustrations of the fulfillment of this promise. Thus, Laban of Aram-Naharaim can say to Jacob that “Yahweh has blessed me because of you” (30:27). Of the Egyptian Potiphar we read that “Yahweh blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (39:5). Not only was the household of Jacob saved from starvation by the presence of Joseph in Egypt, but so was the country of Egypt itself. In that sense they were blessed. Instead of famine there was plenty for all to eat, even in the lean years.[8]

The Second Messianic Prophecy

Genesis 12:3

“I will bless those who bless you,

and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

will be blessed through you.”

In the midst of the seven “I wills” of God for Abram, there is a promise of blessing that goes so far beyond these material promises that it deserves to be considered by itself. It is a second prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ. Following Adam and Eve’s fall, the first messianic prophecy occurred in the midst of God’s judgment on Adam, Eve, and the serpent. In it God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). In this second prophecy, God speaks of the work of the Deliverer not so much as a conquering of Satan and a defeat of his works as a spiritual blessing to come on all peoples of the earth. It is a potent but brief statement: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3).

How did Abram react to this promise? We are not told of any specific reaction to this part of God’s total revelation to him, but we can imagine that Abram’s reaction was similar to David’s when David was told that God would build him a house and that a descendant of his would sit on his throne forever. David marveled and said, “Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?” (2 Sam. 7:19). David knew that what the Lord was promising was not possible for mere human beings and must therefore involve the coming of the Messiah. Abram also must have perceived God’s promise of blessing to the nations to be in this category.

God had said, “I have given you many material blessings, including a land of your own, descendants that will increase to be a great nation, fame for you, and the promise of future blessing and prosperity. But this is not enough. In addition to these physical blessings, I am going to distinguish you with a spiritual blessing that will overflow from you to all the families of the earth.” Abram, who was no dunce in spiritual things, must have reasoned, “If all the families of the earth are to be blessed through me, then this blessing must not depend on me as an individual, since I will not live to see those human families. Besides, I need blessing myself and cannot be the source of my own blessing. This promise must refer to one who will be born from my posterity. He will be greater than I am, since he will be a source of blessing himself. He must be God and not a mere human being, though he will have to take a human body and nature so that he will truly be my seed.”

Because of this reasoning, Luther felt that the promise of God in Genesis 12:3 foretold not only the redemption of the race but even the incarnation of Jesus. He said that it should be written “in golden letters and should be extolled in the languages of all people,” for “who else … has dispensed this blessing among all nations except the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ?”

The Gospel in Advance

From time to time in our study of the Old Testament we come to a text so important in the entire scheme of redemption that it is picked up and explained, sometimes at length, in the New Testament. This is the case with Genesis 12:3. This verse and the ideas it suggests are picked up by Paul in Galatians in his lengthy treatment of justification by grace through faith; Galatians, therefore, becomes an authoritative commentary on it, and from what Paul says we see that Luther was right and that our reasoning about Abram’s perception of the promise is in the right direction. Indeed, the verse contains even more than I have suggested.

Paul’s first reference to Genesis 12:3 comes in a section in which he is contrasting the gospel of justification by faith with the contrary “gospel” of certain false teachers. They taught that one could not be saved merely by what God has done, that is, by believing it. It was necessary to have works too. Particularly, they said, it was necessary to be circumcised (thus becoming a member of the Jewish nation) and to keep the law. Paul replied that it was not necessary to become a physical member of the Jewish nation and that, while good works would necessarily flow from a life that had been transformed by God, works themselves did not enter into justification. It is all by grace. In proving this, his chief example is Abram.

“Consider Abraham,” he says. “ ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:6–9).

This discussion centers around Genesis 15:6 (which says that Abram believed God and that it was credited to him as righteousness) and 12:3 (which says that the blessing of God for Abram was for the nations too). Moreover, Paul calls this the gospel. Genesis 12:3 and 15:6 were early announcements of it. Here two thoughts are prominent. First, it is a gospel of salvation through faith, the chief point that Paul is making in these chapters. Second, it is for all nations, that is, for Gentiles (who come as Gentiles and remain Gentiles) as well as for Jews. This is surely good news (the meaning of “gospel”) and must have been so for Abram just as it is for people today.


After introducing the experience of Abram, Paul goes on to say that God’s promise to Abram involved the redemption of many people. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:13–14).

This is very important, though Abram might not have understood much of it during these early stages of God’s dealing with him. It is important for this reason: The blessing promised is not some general blessing that might pertain to physical needs or even spiritual needs yet undefined; it is a specific blessing that deals with the problem we all face as creatures of a holy God. We have rebelled against God, and this has brought us under his curse—called by Paul “the curse of the law.” We are under judgment. We are not in a right relationship to God. Moreover, sin has tightened its tentacles around us, so that we are unable to escape from its grasp, even if we want to. What we need is a Redeemer, one who can deliver us from the wrath of God and free us from sin’s bondage. This is the content of the blessing given to Abram. It is what Jesus accomplished.

What is redemption? The concept of redemption is drawn from the world of commerce. It signifies the setting free—by the payment of a price—of something that has been held in bondage. We know the idea in connection with pawn shops. An object is left in a pawn shop in exchange for a certain amount of money. Later it can be redeemed or reclaimed by repayment of the money plus interest. In ancient times redemption referred primarily to release from slavery, but the same idea was involved. The slave was set free by someone’s paying the price of his redemption. Therefore, when Jesus is said to have become our Redeemer, this means that he delivered us from the bondage of our sin at the cost of his life—because he loved us.

To many contemporary biblical scholars the idea of costly redemption is controversial. They would argue, “If God saves us on the basis of a cost or price, whatever that may be, our salvation is not free, and therefore it is not of grace. Since we all know that we are saved by grace, this understanding of redemption must be wrong. To be biblical we must think of redemption, not as achieved by payment of a price, but simply as deliverance.”

We can find passages in Scripture that seem to support this. For example, when the Emmaus disciples were making their way home after the Resurrection and Jesus appeared to them, they used the word redeemed in expressing their disappointment. Jesus had begun to interrogate them. He said, “You look sad. Why is that?”

They answered, “Because of the things that happened in Jerusalem over this weekend.”

“What things?” He asked.

They replied, “Don’t you know what happened? There was a great prophet. His name was Jesus. He came from Nazareth. He did mighty acts among the people. He was a great teacher. In these last days he was taken by the rulers of the people, tried, condemned, and crucified. He’s dead. And you know, we had hoped that it was he who should have redeemed Israel” (cf. Luke 24:17–21, italics mine). Jesus was redeeming Israel. But they were not thinking in terms of spiritual redemption. They were thinking of a political deliverance only. What they meant was, “We had hoped that this was the Messiah who would drive out the Romans.”

If I were playing the part of the Devil’s advocate, I could take that use of the word and say, “You see, in New Testament times the word redemption no longer had the meaning that is sometimes given to it by conservative theologians. It means ‘deliverance’ only.” But if I said that, I would be wrong. One thing wrong with that idea is that the Emmaus disciples quite obviously misunderstood what Christ had come to do. We know this because Jesus then began to unfold for them out of the pages of the Word of God the things that concerned himself. He showed that it was necessary that he should “suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins [would] be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46–47). That from the mouth of our Lord is the true interpretation of redemption.

This incident, however, is not the only evidence for insisting that the concept of price is involved in the biblical view of redemption. First, the matter of cost is an Old Testament idea. For example, there are the words gaʾal (“redeem”) and goʾel (usually translated “kinsman-redeemer”). What was a kinsman-redeemer? Jewish law contained the principle that property should remain within a family, if possible. To be deprived of property was to be deprived of one’s share in the land, one’s inheritance. It was disastrous. So provision was made in the law of Israel whereby one who had lost his property could receive it again through the obligation placed on a kinsman. This meant that if one fell into debt and his land was sold to pay off the debt, it would be the duty of the closest kinsman to buy the land back at some time and thus restore it to the family. The person who performed this service was called the kinsman-redeemer; the process was called redemption. Boaz did this in the case of the property that had belonged to the husband of Ruth. In this case a closer kinsman had declined to fulfill the obligation. Boaz, by prior arrangement with the closer kinsman, undertook the role of the kinsman-redeemer himself.

Another Hebrew word related to the idea of redemption is kopher, which means “a ransom price.” Suppose you are a farmer and have a bull that gets loose, wanders down to your neighbor’s farm, and kills one of his workers. Under Hebrew law, that was a crime for which the animal could be killed. If there was negligence, it is conceivable that the owner would have to forfeit his life for the one taken. There would not be much advantage to anyone in that, however. So there was an arrangement whereby if the man who owned the animal could settle on a price with the relatives of the man who had been killed, he could redeem either himself or the animal. The price of redemption was the kopher.

The point is that the idea of redemption by price is firmly fixed in the Old Testament cultural world, and it would be natural for the New Testament writers, most of whom were Jews, to think of redemption in the same way.

Second, we find the idea of a price not only in Old Testament culture but also in New Testament culture. The most important Greek word for redemption is luo (“to loose”). It can mean redemption or deliverance. As time went on and the word group developed (as many basic word groups did), some of the derivatives came to mean “deliverance by the payment of a price.” First came the noun lutron, which means the “ransom price.” It described, for example, the price one paid to set a slave free. From lutron another verb developed—lutroo, which always meant “to deliver by the payment of a price.” From this came the word for “redemption,” lutrosis or apolutrosis. These words usually suggest a cost.

We find the same idea in the secular culture of this period. For example, Adolf Deismann’s Light from the Ancient East and Leon Morris’s Apostolic Preaching of the Cross show that the ancient Greek world had a standard formula for the manumission of slaves. The formula clearly reveals that a price was paid to one of the gods or goddesses so that a slave might be set free: “—pays to the Pithian Apollo the sum of—minae for the slave—on the condition that he [she] shall be set free.” This formula occurs so frequently that it is evident that the idea of delivering a person from slavery by the payment of money was common in the ancient Greek world.

The third reason why we must retain the idea of a price in discussing redemption is that the key New Testament texts all refer to it. For example, Jesus says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28, italics mine). What is he talking about here? Obviously he is saying that he is going to buy us out of our slavery to sin at the cost of his life. Titus 2:14 notes that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (italics mine). What does this verse mean when it says he gave himself for us? It does not mean that he gave himself for us in the sense that he lives for us, though that is also true. It means that he gave his life that we might be redeemed. Finally, the text that is perhaps the clearest of all is 1 Peter 1:18–19. It says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” In this verse the idea of Christ’s life being the cost of our redemption is inescapable.

Fourth, the luo word group (luo, lutron, lutroo, lutrosis) is not the only word group the New Testament uses for the idea of redemption. The words agorazo (which means “to buy in the marketplace”—it is based on the Greek word agora, which means “marketplace”) and exagorazo (which means “to buy out of the marketplace” so that the one purchased might never have to return there again) speak of redemption also. Together these words describe how Jesus entered into the marketplace of sin and at the cost of his own life purchased us to himself so that we might be brought into the glorious liberty that is ours as children of God.

I do not mean to suggest that Abram perceived all this in his day, certainly not at this early stage of God’s dealing with him. But whether he perceived it or not, this was nevertheless the substance of the promise, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” As Paul says, this was an announcement of the gospel according to which the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, would one day come to earth to give his life for the redemption of his people.

Our Blest Redeemer

Paul makes one more point in his interpretation of Genesis 12:3 in Galatians: The one who should come was Christ. “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed,” he writes. “The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16).

This seems repetitive in terms of our earlier discussion, for in discussing redemption we have assumed that Jesus was the one who did this work. Indeed, Paul makes the same assumption. Why then is this additional point made? It is to show that only Christ could have done what was needed. We stand under the curse of the law and of God’s wrath. We are bound by sin. We need a Redeemer. But where is such a Redeemer to be found? Can Abram save us? No, Abram is himself bound by sin and needs deliverance. Can David save us? Can Isaiah? Can Mary? No, none of these can do what is needed, for each is also a sinner and needs a Savior. Mary confessed this. When she met her relative Elizabeth she exclaimed, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46–47). The Redeemer is Jesus, born of the seed of Abram according to the flesh but “declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Abram may not have understood all that Jesus, the Redeemer, would do, but he understood enough to look ahead in faith to this one. Only Jesus could do what was needed.

One of the hymns we sing has phrased it this way:

There was no other good enough

To pay the price of sin;

He only could unlock the gate

Of heaven, and let us in.

O dearly, dearly has he loved,

And we must love him too,

And trust in his redeeming blood,

And try his works to do.

By trusting in Jesus as our personal Redeemer we show ourselves to be true children of Abraham, and we enter into the real spirit of the second messianic prophecy.[9]

[1] Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 23). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 29). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 12:3). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 71). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ge 12:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Calvin, J., & King, J. (2010). Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis (Vol. 1, pp. 347–349). Bellingham, WA: