Category Archives: Verse of the day

December 13, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

thirty days of jesus day 16

Deliverance

For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, (1:13a)

A second cause for thanksgiving is our spiritual liberation. Delivered is from ruomai, which means “to draw to oneself,” or “to rescue.” God drew us out of Satan’s kingdom to Himself. That event was the new birth. We are not gradually, progressively delivered from Satan’s power. When we placed our faith in Christ, we were instantly delivered. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Believers do not need deliverance from the dominion of sin and Satan; they need to act as those who have been delivered (cf. Rom. 6:2, 7, 11).

Those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ have been rescued from the domain of darkness. Exousias (domain) could be translated “power,” “jurisdiction,” or “authority.” Our Lord used the phrase domain of darkness (exousias tou skotous) to refer to the supernatural forces of Satan marshalled against Him at His arrest (Luke 22:53). The triumph of the domain of darkness was short-lived, however. A few hours later, Jesus forever shattered Satan’s power by His death on the cross. You need not fear that power, for “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Through His death, Jesus crushed Satan and delivered us from his dark kingdom.

Transference

and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (1:13b, 14)

Paul continues the litany of blessings that draw out his gratitude by describing our new domain. Methistēmi (transferred) means to remove or change. It is used in Acts 13:22 to speak of God’s removing Saul from being king. It was used in the ancient world to speak of the displacement of a conquered people to another land. The verb speaks here of our total removal from the domain of satanic darkness to the glorious light of the kingdom of Christ.

Kingdom refers to more than the future millennial kingdom, when Jesus will reign on earth for a thousand years. Nor does it speak merely of the general rule of God over His creation. The kingdom is a spiritual reality right now. Paul gives us a definition of it in Romans 14:17: “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The kingdom is the special relationship men in this age have with God through Jesus Christ. A kingdom in its most basic sense is a group of people ruled by a king. Christians have acknowledged Christ as their King and are subjects in His kingdom. They have been transferred … to the kingdom of His beloved Son. The Greek text literally reads, “the Son of His love” (tou huiou tēs agapēs autou). The Father gives the kingdom to the Son He loves, then to everyone who loves the Son (Luke 12:32).

Although Christ does not yet rule on earth, He is no less a king. In response to Pilate’s question, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “It is as you say” (Matt. 27:11). He reigns in eternity, rules now over His church, and one day will return to rule the earth as King of kings.

There is a tremendous responsibility that accompanies being part of Christ’s kingdom. As subjects of that kingdom, we must properly represent the King. Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). Even their persecution was a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so they might be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed they were suffering (2 Thess. 1:5). The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28).

Before we could be fit subjects for Christ’s kingdom we needed redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Apolutrōsis (redemption) is one of the magnificent New Testament words expressing a blessed aspect of the work of Christ on our behalf. Alongside such terms as sacrifice, offering, propitiation, ransom, justification, adoption, and reconciliation, it attempts to describe the riches of our salvation. It means “to deliver by payment of a ransom,” and was used to speak of freeing slaves from bondage. The meaning of apolutrōsis is expressed in our English word emancipation. The Septuagint uses a related word to speak of Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Apolutrōsis is used in several places in the New Testament to speak of Christ’s freeing us from slavery to sin. In Ephesians 1:7, Paul writes, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” To the Corinthians he wrote, “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). In the midst of perhaps the most thorough soteriological passage in the New Testament, Paul writes that we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

Redemption results in the forgiveness of sins. Aphesin (forgiveness) refers to pardon, or remission of penalty. It is a composite of two Greek words, apo, “from,” and hiēmi, “to send.” Because Christ redeemed us, God has sent away our sins; they will never be found again. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19).

So Christ’s death on our behalf paid the price to redeem us. On that basis, God forgave our sins, granted us an inheritance, delivered us from the power of darkness, and made us subjects of Christ’s kingdom. Those wonderful truths should cause us to give thanks to God continually, as did Paul in his prayer. And when we contemplate all He has done for us, how can we do any less than pray to be filled with the knowledge of His will?[1]


13 Not only has God qualified the Colossians to share in the saints’ inheritance, he has also “rescued [them] from the dominion of darkness.” This light/night dichotomy is found elsewhere in Paul (cf. Ro 13:12; Eph 5:8; Php 2:15; 1 Th 5:5) and is not uncommon in the NT, especially in the Johannine literature (cf. Jn 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 11:10; 12:35–36; 1 Jn 1:5–7; 2:8–11; see also 1 Pe 2:9). This contrast, of course, is present at creation (Ge 1:1–5) and is given insightful expression in Isaiah (e.g., 9:2; 60:1–2). Although Colossians contends that Christ is superior to and more powerful than any other and all else (see esp. 1:15–17; 2:10), it nevertheless acknowledges the sinister power of lesser authorities that Christ, and through him Christians, must overcome and conquer (see esp. 1:20–22; 2:13–15; cf. 2 Co 10:3–6; Eph 6:11–12).

God facilitates and effects deliverance for believers through his Son. Paul describes this divine rescue mission as a transference from one “dominion” to another. God has brought Christians out of the orb of darkness “into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (lit.), into the realm and rule of God’s beloved Son. (Basileia, “kingdom,” GK 993, appears one other time in Colossians [4:11] and only fourteen times in all the Pauline letters; the term occurs some 162 times in the Greek NT and with some frequency in the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.) This precise description of Jesus is unparalleled in Paul (cf., however, Eph 1:6) and occurs only occasionally elsewhere in the NT (cf. Mk 1:11; 9:7 [and Synoptic par.]; 2 Pe 1:17). The Father loves his Son and demonstrates his love to humanity through the sending and giving of him (Jn 3:16; Ro 5:8; 1 Jn 4:10). The Colossians (and all Christians) are called to clothe themselves in such love (3:14; cf. 1:4; 2:2; 3:19).[2]


13  This inheritance is established in the realm of light; it is irradiated by the brightness of the Sun of righteousness, shining in his people’s hearts. It is contrasted with the realm to which they formerly belonged, the “dominion of darkness.” There is no need to see here a reflection of Zoroastrian dualism. Nor should we think in terms of Qumran influence, although parallels to this kind of language abound in the Qumran texts.55 The statement of an ethical antithesis in terms of light and darkness (light being the correlate of goodness and truth, darkness of evil and falsehood) is too widespread for us to assume in such a reference as this the influence of any one system of thought in which these terms played a prominent part. It may indeed be that the teaching to which the Colossian Christians were being exposed made play with “light” and “darkness” as it apparently did with “wisdom” and “knowledge”; but there is good biblical precedent for their use, going back to the separation of light and darkness in the creation story of Gen. 1:4. Other Pauline instances are 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thess. 5:5; Eph. 5:8–14.

The phrase “the dominion of darkness,” which is used here, appears in Luke’s account of our Lord’s arrest in Gethsemane, where he says to the men who have come to apprehend him, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the dominion of darkness” (Luke 22:53). These words refer to the sinister forces marshalled against him for a decisive combat in the spiritual realm. The dark power did indeed have its brief hour of opportunity against the Son of Man, but it was only a brief hour, and it ended in the defeat of the dark power. By virtue of his conquest then, Christ vindicated his authority to raid the domain of darkness and rescue those who had hitherto been fast bound under the control of its guardians.58 Those guardians, “the world rulers of this darkness,” as they are called in Eph. 6:10, are probably the principalities and powers to which the Christians of Colossae were tempted to pay some meed of homage. But why should they do any such thing? They had already been rescued from the sphere dominated by those principalities, and translated into the domain of the victorious Son of God. No longer was there any need for them to live in fear of those forces which were believed to control the destinies of men and women: their transference to the realm of light had been accomplished once for all.

In the affirmation that believers have already been brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son we have an example of truly realized eschatology. That which in its fullness lies ahead of them has already become effective in them. “Those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). The fact that God has begun a good work in them is the guarantee that it will be brought to fruition on the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil. 1:6). By an anticipation which is a genuine experience and not a legal fiction they have received here and now a foretaste of the glory that is yet to be revealed. The “inheritance of the saints in light” has not yet been received in its coming fullness, but the divine act by which believers have been fitted for it has already taken place. The divine kingdom has this twofold aspect throughout the NT. It has already broken into the world through the work of Christ (cf. Matt. 12:28 par. Luke 11:20); it will break in on a coming day in the plenitude of glory which invests Christ’s parousia. Those who look forward to an abundant entrance in resurrection into that heavenly order which the present mortal body of flesh and blood cannot inherit are assured at the same time that this order is already theirs. This assurance they derive (as Paul says elsewhere) from the indwelling Spirit or (as it is said in v. 27 below) from the indwelling Christ.

It appears that Paul tends to distinguish those two aspects of the heavenly kingdom by reserving the commoner expression “the kingdom of God” for its future consummation, while designating its present phase by some such term as “the kingdom of Christ.” Thus, in 1 Cor. 15:24 Christ, after reigning until all things are put under his feet, delivers up the kingdom to God the Father; his mediatorial sovereignty is then merged in the eternal dominion of God.[3]


13 As noted in our schematic in the note at verses 10–12 above, Paul keeps unpacking in a series of subordinating clauses their prayer, and in v. 13 he parallels the Father’s work of qualification (v. 12b) with the Father’s work of rescuing and relocating in the kingdom of the Son in a way that evokes the exodus. In fact, one might say the parallel is precisely that: an exodus typology parallels the previous qualifying work. That is, the Father qualifies by rescuing. YHWH is the Redeemer (Isa 63:16; cf. Rom 11:26) and rescues, delivers, or saves someone—in particular, Israel (cf. Exod 6:6; 14:30; Matt 6:13). It may well be that the idea of redemptive rescue itself derives from a standard Jewish petition, with the gravity of meaning always shifting to the peril from which someone is rescued. In Paul’s letters, one is rescued from God’s wrath, or the judgment of God against the wicked (1 Thess 1:10), from wicked and evil people (2 Thess 3:2), the deadly peril of persecution (2 Cor 1:10; 2 Tim 3:11; 4:17–18), unbelievers (Rom 15:31), and death (7:24). But Col 1:13 fashions the peril in cosmic terms—“from the dominion of darkness”—and this cosmic rescue work of God emphasizes what has already happened. When redemption comes up, so does atonement, and the theory of atonement at work in this clause emerges from an exodus-from-exile theology.224 The same verb (ruomai) is found in two classic exodus formulations as translated in the LXX:

Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem [lutroō] you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. (Exod 6:6)

That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. (Exod 14:30)

Hence, the “theory” at work is the classic theory, namely, that God ransoms us by Christ’s entrance into enemy territory to recapture the captives and take them into freedom—transporting them from enemy territory back home. We will include a full discussion of the principalities and powers below at 2:15, so for now all that needs to be said is that the “dominion of darkness” is the deep, cosmic, demonic personal realities capturing structures and society and people in this world systemically to thwart the good plan of God. That plan is to rescue people from darkness in order to relocate the rescued into the realm of the kingdom of the Son.

They have been rescued out of the “dominion of darkness.” The ancient world of both Greco-Roman and Jewish authors, including the New Testament, knows of a moral dualism depicted in terms of light and darkness (1 Thess 5:4; 1 Cor 4:5; 2 Cor 6:14; Rom 2:19; Wis 17:20; 18:4), but the imagery of light vs. darkness can come just as easily from apocalyptic thinking that divides the cosmos into those in the light over against those in the darkness. For instance, 1 Enoch 92:4–5: “The Righteous One … they [or he] shall walk in eternal light. Sin and darkness shall perish forever, and shall no more be seen from that day forevermore.” The imagery of light and darkness reflects boilerplate thinking, so it should not be pinned to any specific group in the first century. God’s rescue operation entails liberation for all believers from the “dominion of darkness,” the qualifying act of God that “transferred us” (CEB) or transported us into “the kingdom of the Son he loves.”230

What does Paul mean by “kingdom”? To begin an answer we ask, When is the kingdom? Paul’s usual emphasis is on the futurity of the kingdom, though at times the kingdom is present.232 In v. 13 “kingdom” is the inaugurated/realized reality of the eschatological plan of God, now at work in the world but that will be completed at the eschaton in the new heavens and the new earth. Some contend that the expression “kingdom of the Son he loves” expresses a basic tension between the now and the not yet of the New Testament, where it will be the fuller kingdom of God. This discussion about the now vs. the future does not go far enough in asking the even more important question. We come to another question, How is the kingdom present? This question is answered by nearly all with certitude: the kingdom becomes present in God’s redemptive act in Christ. Hence, “kingdom” is all but synonymous with “salvation.” But this conclusion leads to a further question: Where is the kingdom today? It is my contention, about to be defended, that the presentness of the kingdom, or the inaugurated reality of the kingdom, must be located in the church. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the Where question has sometimes been answered with “wherever good deeds are done.” Hence, kingdom becomes all but synonymous with ethics and social justice.

But the word “kingdom” in the Hebrew Old Testament through the Septuagint and into Josephus entailed more than the rescuing or redeeming act of God (salvation) and more than the justice of the kingdom (ethics). One can easily argue that the term never directly means either salvation or justice, though both are implicated in what kingdom means in the Jewish world. This term “kingdom” entailed five elements, without which we lose contact with what kingdom meant for Israel, for Jesus, and for the apostles:

  1. a king (here the “Son”),
  2. a rule (which includes governing, saving, rescuing, guiding, and protecting),
  3. a people (hence the term is often synonymous with “nation” and “Israel” or “Judah”),
  4. a land or place, and
  5. a law.

All five elements are present when Paul says they have been rescued from darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the Son. Robin M. Wilson says much the same in the following words: “It has been argued that the primary significance is that of sovereignty, the rule of God in the hearts and lives of men and women, rather than that of a realm or kingdom. This, however, may be to introduce a false contrast: sovereignty implies a territory within which that sovereignty is exercised, a community over which the sovereign rules, people who accept that rule.”

And Dale Allison has recently observed that “in both this age and the age to come, God’s kingship cannot be separated from the people of Israel, who in turn are inextricably bound up with the fate of their land and its capital, Jerusalem.” That is, this kingdom is more than a saving dynamic or the saving rule of God unleashed in the here and now in pursuits of justice, but the concrete reality of the redeemed people in fellowship under the King’s benevolent and protective rule. Witherington asks where Christ has “overruled” and poses two answers: through his death he now rules over the principalities and powers, and in the lives of believers he rules morally.240 I add a third: in the body of Christ, the church both universal and local. We speak here yet again however only of the inauguration of that rule, not the full realization of it.

The kingdom of the Son is the Son God “loves.” Undoubtedly we have echoes here of Ps 2:7 and Isa 42:1, both brought into view christologically in the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:11; Matt 3:17). Son refers to Jesus as King.[4]


1:13 / The second reason for thanksgiving is their deliverance from darkness and their transference to the kingdom of Christ. Darkness, in the nt, is a metaphor for evil, and those in darkness are without God and live under the rule of Satan, the evil one (Matt. 6:13). Paul, as a messenger of the gospel, was himself told: “I am sending you to them to open their [the Gentiles’] eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17–18). Christians are described as those who at one time lived in darkness but in Christ have become people of light (Eph. 5:8; 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 John 1:5–7). In Colossians, Paul reminds his readers that they have been rescued from the dominion of darkness.

The positive side of God’s action is that he brought us (lit., “transferred”) into the kingdom of the Son he loves. The idea expressed by kingdom is that of a “rule” and is used as a counterpart to dominion. In other words, as the realm of darkness had a certain power, the transference is to the rule (power, authority) of the Son God loves (lit., “Beloved Son,” as used at the baptism and transfiguration, Mark 1:11; 9:7, and parallels; cf. also Eph. 1:6). The Colossians have been rescued from the sphere of darkness dominated by evil powers and transferred into the realm of the victorious Son of God.

The phrase kingdom of the Son he loves or the “kingdom of Christ,” is not common in the nt. Perhaps the apostle uses this expression to emphasize the present reality and sphere of their possession in Christ rather than the more common “kingdom of God,” which has a connotation of the future (1 Cor. 6:9; 15:50; Gal. 5:21; 2 Tim. 4:1, 18). Or, Paul simply may be preparing the way for the Christ hymn that follows. At any rate, it serves to remind the readers that they are no longer subject to evil forces; they have been delivered from these powers and are reminded to live victoriously in the power of Christ (3:1–4).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 40–42). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 285–286). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 50–52). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] McKnight, S. (2018). The Letter to the Colossians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (pp. 124–129). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[5] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 25). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

December 13, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

thirty days of jesus day 17

18  Thus far Paul has set forth the doctrine of Christ in terms which he shares with other NT writers—terms which, in fact, may have belonged to a widespread Christian catechesis or confession, even if he stamps them with the imprint of his own experience and mind. But now he goes on to make a contribution to apostolic christology which is distinctively his own. This Christ, he says, “is also the head of the body, the church.”

Those who recognize vv. 15–20 as a pre-Pauline hymn incorporated into the argument of this letter believe, for the most part, that “the church” is a gloss added by the writer of the letter to make plain the sense in which “the body” is to be understood (which may be so), and many think that in the original form of the hymn the body was the kosmos. This letter certainly presents Christ as head of the kosmos in the sense that he is its creator and ruler—head, in particular, “of every principality and power” (Col. 2:10). But when head and body are used as correlative terms, the physiological relation is in the foreground, and it is not established that the kosmos was ever envisaged as the body of Christ in this sense.

The use of the body as a figure for the common life and interdependence of a political or social group was not unknown in antiquity. It finds classical expression in the fable of Menenius Agrippa, who persuaded the seceding plebeians of Rome to return and live among the patricians on the ground that, if the other parts of the body conspired to starve the belly because it did no work, they would soon find themselves suffering in consequence. Again, Stoicism viewed the divine power as the world-soul, informing the material universe as the individual soul informs the body130—a view succinctly summed up in Alexander Pope’s couplet:

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,

Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.

But we should look elsewhere for the source of Paul’s presentation of the church as not merely a body corporate but as the body of Christ—“one in Christ” (Rom. 12:5).

The first place (in chronological order) where Paul speaks of the church in this way is 1 Cor. 12:12–27. This section opens with the words: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all watered with one Spirit.” And it is summed up at the end (in v. 27) by the statement: “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” In these words Paul is concerned to impress on the Corinthian Christians the fact that, as fellow-members of the body of Christ, they have mutual duties and common interests which must not be neglected.

A year or two later, in Rom. 12:4–5, he declares that “as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Paul is here thinking of the variety of services rendered by the diverse members of the church, in accordance with their respective abilities, all together helping to build up the community to which they all belong.

In those earlier letters, where the terminology of the body and its constituent parts is used to express the mutual relations and obligations of church members, Christ is not said to be head of the body: the head is mentioned incidentally as one among many members of the body (1 Cor. 12:21). But in this letter (and also in Ephesians) Christ as head bears a unique relation to the church as his body.

The word “head” is used in a variety of figurative senses. Where it is used in relation to “body,” one naturally thinks of the organic connection of head and body, but even here it is relevant to bear in mind special senses given to “head” in Paul’s writings. Outstanding among these special senses is that found in 1 Cor. 11:3, where Paul teaches that “the head of every man is Christ, woman’s head is man, and Christ’s head is God.” In these three clauses “head” is best understood as “source” or “origin” (the statement that “woman’s head is man” being a reference to the formation of Eve from Adam’s side in Gen. 2:21–22). In our present text, where Christ is said to be “the head of the body, the church,” there is, over and above the obvious organic relationship of body and head, the thought that Christ is the source of the church’s life, and probably also (in accordance with another figurative sense of “head”) the thought that he is the church’s lord.

So far as the organic relationship is concerned, Christ and his people are viewed together as a living entity: Christ is the head, supplying life and exercising control and direction; his people are his body, individually his limbs and organs, under his control, obeying his direction, performing his work. And the life which animates the whole is his risen life, which he shares with his people.

When attention is paid to the way in which Paul develops the concept of the church as the body of Christ, it is improbable that he was indebted for the concept to Stoic thought, and still more improbable that he was influenced by gnostic ideas.137 He would have been acquainted with rabbinical speculation which pictured all humanity as members of Adam, and we know how he points the antithesis between being “in Adam” and being “in Christ.”139 But we need not think that his portrayal of all believers as members of one body, and that the body of Christ, was formed on the analogy of this kind of speculation. Rather, the rabbinical speculation and Paul’s portrayal are both rooted in the older Hebrew way of thinking which has commonly been called “corporate personality.” Men and women, by natural birth, share the life of Adam (whose name means “mankind”) and thus may be described as “in Adam”; heirs of the new creation, by spiritual rebirth, share the risen life of Christ (the “second man”) and so are “in Christ.” It is this existence “in Christ” that is given vivid expression in Paul’s presentation of the church as the body of Christ.141 The germ of this conception in Paul’s mind may indeed be found in the words of Christ which he heard on the Damascus road—words in which the risen Christ identified himself with his followers: “why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14).

The source of the conception, however, is less important than Paul’s intention in using it. He uses it when he wishes to bring out certain aspects of the relation between church members, or between the church and Christ; when he wishes to bring out certain other aspects, he uses other terminology. From other points of view, for example, the church is thought of as the bride of Christ, or as the building of which he is either the foundation or the chief cornerstone,144 and so on. Some theologians, indeed, treat the conception of the church as the body of Christ differently from those other conceptions, admitting that they are metaphorical while insisting that the term “body of Christ” is to be taken “ontologically and realistically.”

But if they were right, one could go on to make assertions about the church’s relation to Christ, on the analogy of the relation which the human body, with its parts and their functions, bears to the head, beyond what Paul has to say. It is better to recognize that Paul speaks of the church as the body of Christ for certain well-defined purposes, and to follow his example in using such language for these same purposes. It can be appreciated that those presentations which bring out the vital relation between Christ and the church are more adequate than others (there is no organic relation between a building and its foundation-stone or coping stone); for this reason the head/body and husband/wife analogies have an especially firm grasp on reality.

Thus, in speaking of the church as the body of Christ, one thinks of it as vitalized by his abiding presence with it and his risen life in it; one thinks of it as energized by his power; one may even (without transgressing legitimate bounds) think of it as the instrument through which he carries on his work on earth. But to think of it as an extension of his incarnation is to exceed the limits which the Pauline exposition of the body permits. There is substance in the argument that his incarnation cannot be dissociated from his atoning sacrifice, and that the sacrifice offered once for all can have no “extension” in the life of the church. Moreover, the view of the church as the extension of his incarnation takes insufficient account of the contrast between his sinlessness and the church’s sinfulness.

The conception of the church as the body of Christ helps us to understand how Paul can not only speak of believers as being “in Christ” but also of Christ as being in them. They are “in Christ” as members of his body, “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27; cf. Rom. 6:3); he is in them because it is his risen life that animates them. Similarly, in the organic analogy of John 15:1–8, the branches are in the vine and the vine at the same time is in the branches.

(3) Second Main Strophe (1:18b–20)

It is the risen Christ who is head of the body which is the church. In resurrection as well as in creation he receives the titles “the beginning” and “the firstborn.”151 His resurrection marked his triumph over all the forces that held men and women in bondage. That first Easter morning saw the dawn of a new hope for humanity.153 Now Christ is “the firstborn among many brethren”; he is “the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”;155 his own resurrection is the harbinger of the great resurrection-harvest of his people. But the coming resurrection is anticipated here and now by those who know him as the resurrection and the life and enjoy eternal life through their participation in him. He who has been “designated Son of God in power … by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4) exercises primacy in the new creation as well as in the old; the divine purpose is thus fulfilled “that he might be preeminent in all things.”158

19  The statement that God decreed the preeminence of Christ over every order of being is now repeated in different terms—terms which may have been calculated to appeal with peculiar force to the Colossian Christians in their present situation. “In him it was decreed that all the fullness should take up residence.” The impersonal “it was decreed” has been adopted as a provisional rendering. But the Greek verb is not impersonal: it means “decreed,” “was well pleased” and implies a subject. Then who or what was well pleased? When the good pleasure or will is God’s, there is precedent for the omission of the explicit name of God: “he was well pleased” would mean “God was well pleased” (cf. KJV: “it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell”). On the other hand, the clause as it stands offers an explicit subject for the verb: “the fullness was well pleased to take up residence in him” (cf. RSV: “in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell”).159 One cannot decide certainly whether “God” or “the fullness” is the more probable subject: P. Benoit, for example, prefers to take “God” as the subject; E. Käsemann declares this construction “not permissible” (on exegetical and theological, not on grammatical, grounds).161 Before it can even be considered which of the two constructions is the more probable, the meaning of “fullness” in this clause must be considered. So far as the letter-writer’s intention is concerned, its meaning is not in doubt: the sense is repeated more fully in Col. 2:9: “it is in him [i.e., in Christ] that all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form.” If then Col. 1:19 is construed to mean that “in him all the fullness of deity was well pleased to take up residence” (that is, presumably, at his exaltation), this is tantamount to saying that God himself (RSV “all the fulness of God”) was pleased to dwell in him. There is then no substantial difference in meaning between the two constructions.

The Greek word translated “fullness” (plērōma) is one that Paul and other NT writers use in a variety of senses. The peculiar force of its use here has been thought to lie in its probable employment in a technical sense by the heretical teachers at Colossae. In the mid-second century the word was used by Gnostics of the Valentinian school to denote the totality of aeons (divine entities or emanations),163 and it is conceivable that it bore some such meaning in incipient forms of gnosticism in the mid-first century. We must constantly remind ourselves that we have no knowledge of the Colossian heresy apart from inferences drawn as cautiously as possible from the argument and wording of this letter, but it would make sense in the present context if the heresy envisaged powers intermediate between the supreme God and the world of humanity, so that any communication between God and the world, in either direction, had to pass through the spheres in which those powers exercised control. Those who thought in this way would be careful to treat those powers with becoming respect. But the whole of this theosophical apparatus is undermined here in one simple, direct affirmation: the totality of divine essence and power is resident in Christ. He is the one, all-sufficient intermediary between God and the world of humanity, and all the attributes of God—his spirit, word, wisdom, and glory—are disclosed in him.

20  It was God’s good pleasure, moreover, to reconcile all things to himself165 through Christ. The fullness of the divine energy is manifested in Christ in the work of reconciliation as well as in that of creation. In the words that follow (vv. 21–22) this reconciling activity is applied particularly to redeemed humanity, but here its universal reference comes first into view. In reconciliation as in creation the work of Christ has a cosmic significance: it is God’s eternal purpose (as it is put in Eph. 1:10) that all things should be summed up in him.

If “all things,” in heaven and on earth, were created through him (v. 16), and yet “all things”—“whether the things on earth or those in heaven”—have to be reconciled to God through him, it follows that all things have been estranged from their Creator. In Rom. 8:19–23 Paul speaks of the creation as involuntarily “subjected to futility” but as destined to “be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Since the liberty of the children of God is procured by the redemptive work of Christ, the release of creation from its bondage to decay is assured by that same redemptive work. That earlier argument is akin to the present one, but here it is not simply subjection to futility but positive hostility that is implied on the part of the created universe. The universe has been involved in conflict with its Creator, and needs to be reconciled to him: the conflict must be replaced by peace. This peace has been made through Christ, by the shedding of his life-blood on the cross.

This note of universal reconciliation has been taken to imply the ultimate reconciliation to God not only of all mankind but of hostile spiritual powers as well—to imply, in fact, that Paul anticipated Origen in the view that fallen angels benefit from the redemption which Christ accomplished. If the present argument is accepted as Paul’s, however, it has to be understood in relation to his general teaching on the subject, and it is very difficult to press his language to yield anything like universal reconciliation in the sense in which the phrase is commonly used nowadays. It is contrary to the analogy of Scripture to apply the idea of reconciliation in the ordinary sense to fallen angels; and as for Paul, he thinks rather of hostile spiritual powers as emptied of all vitality by the work of Christ and the faith of his people.170 And even with regard to the human race, to deduce from such words as these that every last man or woman, irrespective of moral record or attitude to God, will at last enjoy eternal bliss would be (to say no more) putting on them a burden of meaning heavier than they can bear.

The peace effected by the death of Christ may be freely accepted, or it may be imposed willy-nilly. This reconciliation of the universe includes what would otherwise be distinguished as pacification. The principalities and powers whose conquest is described in Col. 2:15 are certainly not depicted as gladly surrendering to divine grace but as being compelled to submit to a power which they are unable to resist. Everything in the universe has been subjected to Christ even as everything was created for him. By his reconciling work “the host of the high ones on high” and sinful human beings on earth have been decisively subdued to the will of God and ultimately they can but subserve his purpose, whether they please or not. It is the Father’s good pleasure that all “in heaven and on earth and under the earth” shall unite to bow the knee at Jesus’ name and to acknowledge him as Lord (Phil. 2:10–11).[1]


2.0. Supreme in Redemption (1:18–20)

As outlined above, 1:18a anticipates what comes in 1:18b–20. The theme turns from creation to redemption or to new creation, but it does so by means of ecclesiology: “And he is the head of the body, the church” (1:18a). From ecclesiology, though, we do not first move to the cross as the means of redemption but to the resurrection (1:18b) and then to incarnation (1:19), to the redemption of reconciliation (1:20a), and this redemption is achieved through the cross (1:20b). As Colin Gunton once explained it, “the church is elected as the particular means by which particular anticipations of the promised reconciliation of all things in Christ are achieved.”

2.1. Anticipation (1:18a)

18a This Son (1:13), in whom we have redemption/forgiveness (1:14), who is the Eikōn and Prōtotokos (1:15), in whom all things are created (1:16) and in whom all things are sustained (1:17)—this Son is also the head of the body, namely, the church (1:18a).

What does it mean in this context to call Jesus the “head” (kephalē)? Paul uses this term eighteen times, some of which are no more than a physical head (e.g., 1 Cor 11:4), while others are metaphoric. The debate, fired up by evangelical complementarians, is whether it means “authority over” or “source of,” but that debate is mostly shaped by a theology of marriage and a fear of feminism rather than by what it means when Christ is the head. There is an order at work in 1 Cor 11 when Christ is seen as the head (11:3), but at work in that text is not just priority but also source, for in v. 8 Paul says “man did not come from women,” and this verse explains the glory of v. 7. Furthermore, for one important recent reading of this text, Paul’s orientation is not so much authority-submission as it is headship-hair-covering for all women and therefore an equalitarian move for women, including those who because of low status (prostitutes, slaves) were not entitled to head coverings. So we ought to draw a frown over the false dichotomy at work in the source-vs.-authority conversation, and even a question mark over our confidence of reading 1 Cor 11:1–16. When it comes to the Prison Letters, the term “head” trades off between the superiority/priority of Christ over all things (Col 1:18; 2:10; Eph 1:22) and the unity that Christ brings through his life-drawing redemption (Eph 4:15; 5:23; Col 2:19). A parallel Jewish text is found at the Testament of Zebulon:

Pay heed to the streams: When they flow in the same channel they carry along stones, wood, and sand, but they are divided into many channels, the earth swallows them and they become unproductive. And you shall be thus if you are divided. Do not be divided into two heads, because everything the Lord has made has a single head. He provides two shoulders, two hands, two feet, but members obey one head (9:1–4).

In other words, the “head” in this context is the one who grants and sustains life, while also creating a new kind of unity among the members.

The Son is therefore the redemptive, unifying Lord of the body, one of Paul’s favorite terms in his ecclesiology.342 While the word sōma/body was used metaphorically in the Roman Empire by a variety of thinkers and authors, most notably Livy and Epictetus, the term in Paul refers to the organic, unifying, and mutually supporting roles of believers with one another as they exercise the fruit and gifts of the Spirit so they can grow into one body in Christ. Unity emerges in our hymn at 1:20 and at 2:19 as well. One sees a similar emphasis on unity in 1 Cor 12–14; Rom 12, and Eph 4:1–16. Because the language of church-as-body is so typically Pauline, many have concluded that Paul transformed a prior pagan cosmic “body” into the church, and such scholarship points to the routine use of this term (Plato, Timaeus), as well as to its presence in part in Philo. In that case, Col 1:18a continues the theme of creation (body meaning cosmos) rather than expanding to redeemption. That proposal, however, founders on speculation about the tradition history of the hymn; as we have it, the hymn defines the body as the church, and that connection leads the reader (or listener) to the theme of redemption. In addition, others find here support for the transformation of the more democratic sense of “body” in the earlier Pauline letters (1 Cor 12; Rom 12) into a hierarchical arrangement (Christ, church as body, world), as well as into a different soteriology in the post-Pauline letters. One should not dispute differences between the 1 Corinthians-Romans correspondence and the Prison Letters, but to the degree that one can “Paulinize” on the basis of Paul in light of the ideas of one’s environment, one can posit that Paul himself (or Paul and Timothy, or Paul and his various co-workers) might work up over a decade an expansion of the idea of “body.” If our dating of Colossians is correct, namely in the Ephesian imprisonment in the early to mid-50s, then there is no discussion here: both the local and universal sense of “body” found their way into Paul’s letters at about the same time. It is as wise to divide in order to conquer as it is to unify to the same end.

The term “body” is defined by an epexegetical genitive: “the body, that is, the church.” Paul’s mission was not simply to increase the church’s numbers through evangelism but to get saved Gentiles at the table with saved Jews to form a new family fellowship called the church (ekklēsia). Perhaps most notable here is that “church” in the Prison Letters shifts in focus from local assemblies to the church universal (so also Eph 1:22–23). Such an expansion, however, is not innovative to the Prison Letters—the same sense is found at 1 Cor 12:27–28. Nor should one think Paul has dropped the local expression as the body: it is a particularization of the universal church gathered.348 In this context one must also think the term ekklēsia will have evoked a political assembly of citizens; as such, the co-opting of the term by Paul for a Christian kind of politics under King Jesus has overtones of a political alternative.

2.2. The Beginning and Firstborn (1:18b)

18b Already described and labeled as Eikōn and Prōtotokos over all creation (1:15–16), the exalted Son is now depicted in redemptive categories. In 1:15–17 there is a primordial or essential primacy, while in 1:18–20 the primacy is the achievement of the resurrection. In the second stanza, then, the Son is not only head over the universal church (1:18a), but three more successive descriptions are succinctly given:

He is (#1) the beginning [archē],

inasmuch as he is (#2) the firstborn [prōtotokos] in the resurrection,

so that (#3) he might have supremacy [prōteuōn]. (NIV)

The relationship of these three descriptions is not precisely clear from the grammar, but a reasonable proposal is that archē is defined by prōtotokos, thus making “beginning” a reference to the resurrection, with prōteuōn/supremacy describing his exalted status as a result of the resurrection. In other words, we are staring at an alternative way of stating what is found already in Phil 2:6–11: the Son’s humiliation unto death but subsequent resurrection and exaltation to the highest name.

The relationship of #1 to #2 shapes how one sees “beginning.” Is it temporal (he is before all things; Matt 19:4, 8; John 15:27; Heb 1:10; 2 Pet 3:4; 1 John 2:24), or is it priority over other archai (he is above all powers; Rom 8:38; 1 Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21; 6:12), or is he the source/founder as the creative initiative behind everything? The temporal sense fits best inasmuch as the next descriptor (#2) clearly focuses on temporal priority, and it also focuses on the life-giving power (thus, founder) of the Son’s redemptive work at work in the second stanza: the Son is the beginning of new-creation life as the first one raised from the dead, resulting in a preeminent status over all the redeemed. Yet, the close parallel to our passage at Ephesians 1:20–23, where archē refers to the powers of this age, leads one to hear also an echo of the “powers” (archai) at work in Col 1:18b: his resurrection and exaltation is thus simultaneously a victory over death and the powers.

Evoking a term in the opening sentence of the Greek translation of the Old Testament in the word “beginning” and therefore now opening up new creation, the Son is the beginning of new creation because he is the “firstborn [prōtotokos] from among the dead” (1:18b). At v. 15 the same word was used for the Son in his creative role, but here the term evokes the Son’s temporally prior and redemption-by-defeat-of-death role. We have here, then, new-creation theology that emerges from the Jewish belief in the general resurrection at the eschaton (1 Cor 15:23; Rom 8:29; Acts 26:23; Rev 1:5). Furthermore, following the crucifixion and prior to Easter, this text implies that Christ resided for a moment “among the dead,” evoking what is now called Holy Saturday, which focuses on the descent into Hades and its harrowing (also Eph 4:8–10; 1 Pet 3:19–20; 4:6). Jesus really died and was not asleep; his death led to his invasion of the realm of the dead in order to liberate his people from their temporary captivity. His liberation of the dead comes to expression in the appearing of the saints after his crucifixion, death, and entry into Hades (Matt 27:51–53). His resurrection is the vanguard of the general resurrection. Resurrection cannot be given too much attention either in the apostolic gospel or in Paul’s theology.

His death-defeating resurrection makes it possible for the Son’s exaltation. As this hymn puts it, “so that [in order that] in everything356 he might have the supremacy” (1:18b). His supremacy (prōteuōn) is both temporal and hierarchical, as is the case in the parallel hymn at Phil 2:6–11, where we read the best commentary on our term prōteuōn: “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” It is possible that prōteuōn is a title, The Preeminent One. Here we come face to face with the gospel itself, which is more than a message of salvation: the gospel is the declaration that Jesus of Nazareth, who lived, who died, and who is risen to the right hand of the Father, is the world’s true Lord and King.359 The gospel announces that Jesus is Prōteuōn!

2.3. The Reason: Redeemer (1:19–20)

The bulk of the second stanza (vv. 19–20) describes and extols the redemptive work of the Creator-Son of the first stanza (vv. 15–17). As the Son creates “all things,” so the Son reconciles “all things.” Reconciliation completes the work of creation. There are two foci for the source of the redemptive reconciliation of the Son: the fullness of God in the Son (1:19) and the cross (20); in other words, incarnation and crucifixion.

19 The first word of this verse in Greek (hoti) can be translated softly as “for” (NIV) or more strongly as “because” (CEB). Each explains the relationship of v. 19 to v. 18: that is, the Son is preeminent because God’s fullness dwells in him. But one might opt instead for a softer relationship and take all of v. 18 as grounded in the Father’s decision to locate all of the fullness in the Son. The sentence is not as clear in the original as the NIV’s translation might suggest: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” The CEB’s translation is a little less expansive: “Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him.” A wooden rendering would be: “Because/For in him was pleased all the fullness to dwell.” Strict grammatical readings insist that it was the fullness that is both pleased and indwells, but the more expansive translations turn the fullness into the fullness of God and make it God the Father being both pleased and choosing to indwell. The evidence that, in a kind of personification of the Father, the fullness (plērōma) was pleased to indwell boils down to just a few important parallels (1 Cor 10:26; Col 1:19; 2:9; Eph 1:23; 3:19; 4:13). We begin with Colossians, where the parallel expression in 2:9 has “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”; here it is clear that the fullness is God’s/the Father’s. The same general idea is found at Eph 3:19 (“fullness of God”) and less clear but probably the same at 1:23 (“the fullness of him” or “the fullness of the one”). Because of the indwelling of God’s fullness in the Son, Eph 4:13 transfers the fullness to the “fullness of Christ.” Our conclusion, therefore, is that it is the Father’s fullness, or “God in his fullness,” that is pleased to become incarnate in the Son. Hence, the NIV’s “the fullness of God” makes explicit what is most likely at work in Paul’s syntax.360 The Father as the subject of “pleased” is found elsewhere in Paul (Gal 1:15; 1 Cor 1:21; 10:5), but its presence in the baptism of Jesus gives it a more concrete depth (Isa 42:1; Mark 1:11 and pars.).

But what might fullness (plērōma) mean? A handful of texts in the Old Testament sketch for us a good option: God’s glory fills the temple and in fact the whole earth, and thus glory is God’s extension of himself to fill other spaces (Ps 72:19; Isa 6:3; Jer 23:24; Ezek 43:5; 44:4). This usage approximates what Ephesians 1:23 says: “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Once again, Dunn finds similar ideas in Jewish wisdom. Thus, “For wisdom is a kindly spirit … because the Spirit of the Lord has filled the world, and that which holds all things together knows what is said” (Wis 1:6–7). It is entirely reasonable to speculate that the halakic mystics at work at Colossae were boasting that they had found “fullness” in their mystical encounters with the angels, leading to the inference that Paul’s locating the plērōma in Christ is a polemical move against the mystics (cf. 2:8–9, 16–23).

The term plērōma expresses Paul’s theology of incarnation with a powerful sense of revision: as Zion echoes temple and was the mountain where God was pleased to dwell (Ps 68:16 [LXX 67:17]; Isa 8:18), so now God dwells in the Son. Hence, we have here a christological revision of temple theology, with echoes of new-creation theology. This divine glory indwells364 the Son. The verb is only used three times by Paul, one in which Christ indwells the believer (Eph 3:17) and two in Colossians, where it refers to divine fullness indwelling the Son (1:19; 2:9). But the idea of God’s covenanted presence is found in a number of places in the Old Testament (Lev 26:12; Ps 68:17), reminding of the routine presence of God among Israel most especially in the tabernacle and temple, with its intensive manifestation in the glory of God filling the holy of holies. Hence, for Paul to speak as he does evokes God’s fullness taking on new form in indwelling the Son, that is, in the incarnation.366 Indeed, the language parallels the incarnational language of John 1:1–18. But in light of the mutual indwelling theme of John 10:38 and 14:10 as a paradigm of how Jesus and the earliest Christians thought of the relationship of the Father and the Son, we ought to think less of essences transferred from Father to Son, the way one might move water from a bottle into a glass, and more of the Father’s fullness indwelling and interpenetrating the Son alongside the Son’s indwelling and interpenetrating the Father (and the Spirit). In other words, it would be more accurate to think more in terms of perichoresis. Hence, Dunn’s summary does not take us far enough: “that the wholeness of God’s interaction with the universe is summed up in Christ” and that the “thought is not yet of incarnation, but it is more than inspiration; rather, it is of an inspiration … so complete … as to be merging into the idea of incarnation.”368 New Testament historical scholarship fears the use of later Christian theological reflection, most especially Nicaea and Chalcedon. That fear at times misses the organic flow from New Testament into Christian orthodoxy. In this case, I believe perichoresis attempts to unfold what is at work by logical implication in the Father’s fullness indwelling the Son.

20 We turn now to one of the great verses of the Bible about redemption by the Son, who earlier in this hymn is described as the Prōtotokos and the Archē. The Son’s redemption reconciles all things, which is a peacemaking work that brings together Jews and Gentiles into one family of God. The redemption here is less an ecotheology or a sociopolitical theology and more a theological and christological ecclesiology. Like the similar vision at Rom 8:19–23, Paul believes all of creation is out of sorts with its Creator, and all of creation is in need of reconciliation.

There is an emphasis in this verse on the Son as the means of reconciliation:

And he reconciled all things to himself through him—

[through him] whether things on earth or in the heavens.

He brought peace through the blood of his cross.

First, through him he reconciles, and second, he makes peace through his blood. Though not noticeable in the NIV or CEB, some manuscripts have another “through him” before “whether things on earth or things in heaven.” With or without this additional “through him,” there is an extraordinary concentration of emphasis here on Christ as the means of reconciliation.

The weight of this last set of lines in the second stanza stands on both “to reconcile” and “by making peace.” The second defines the first, creating a more robust understanding of the Son’s redemptive work. Atonement theories often creep into this text and take over the conversation. However important those theories may be in theological discussions, the fact remains that the means of reconciliation here is the Son’s blood/cross, but to speculate how that blood worked is beyond what this text states. The effect of atonement (reconciliation, peace) and the means of atonement (blood, cross) are the focal images but not the mechanics of atonement. The verb in Col 1:20 (apokatallassō) occurs only in the Prison Letters (Col 1:20, 22; Eph 2:16), but the cognate katallassō and the noun katallagē appear in crucial passages in Pauline soteriology (2 Cor 5:18–20; Rom 5:10, 11; 11:15).

The linguistic game this term and its cognates play is that, first, humans are out of sorts with God (enemies; see Col 1:21)—including the sense of captivity to the cosmic powers, which is the focus in this hymn—in need of reconciliation; second, the means of that reconciliation is King Jesus, who reconciles by means of his salvation-accomplishing events, most notably the cross and resurrection and exaltation to rule. In a number of publications resulting from extensive research, Stanley Porter has concluded that Paul adapted Hellenistic exchange language and stands virtually alone in describing a subject (God) effecting reconciliation by giving up its own anger through the cross of Christ. Paul, he concludes, innovates with his concept of reconciliation and seems to draw the term “reconciliation” into the orbit of the term “propitiation”; for Porter, this term expresses the heart of Paul’s missionary theology.374 I agree that reconciliation expresses the heart of Paul’s soteriology and missionary aims but am unconvinced that propitiatory soteriology forms the heart of Pauline theology and missiology or that such a soteriology is present in this hymn or letter. The heart of Paul’s missional theology is more christological, thus, God-in-Christ or theo-christology in Christoformity, and in our context there is a stronger cosmological victory at work in this term.

We turn now more to the meaning of the terms “reconciliation” and “peacemaking.” To begin with, we observe they are explicitly clarified by vv. 21–22, which read: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

Christian instincts connect this alienation to the fall and original sin (Gen 3), but one ought at least to include the incident of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11), where God sets in motion—because of evil behavior—the division of humans by way of confusing languages. The reconciliation of our passage, then, includes the divided peoples of the Roman Empire, and it must be emphasized that that sort of reconciliation is the focus of Pauline ecclesiology in Colossians (see 3:11) and Ephesians (see 2:11–22). It makes no sense to pretend that God simply makes friends with us apart from the incarnation, cross, and resurrection, the latter two events focusing on death and the undoing of death, and therefore it makes no sense to speak of reconciliation until one admits there is need for such, namely, because humans are at enmity against God and have formed an alliance of enmity against God under the powers of this age, all manifested in “evil behavior” (1:21). And it makes no sense to think the reconciliation here is not also between people groups in this world—spelled out in Col 3:11 (and earlier in Gal 3:28). This much is at least clear in the term itself and in how Paul uses the term. Hence, if Col 1:20 can define reconciliation as making peace through the blood of the cross, 2 Cor 5:19 can do so by defining reconciliation as “not counting people’s sins against them.”

Reconciliation is reexpressed in the second term, “making peace” (eirēnopoieō), a verb used only here in the entire New Testament. The term expresses the sense of adoption into, and behaving like, God’s family. Though these terms are rare in the New Testament, the word “peace” (eirēnē) appears some forty times in the Pauline letters, and the gravity of eirēnē is that it expresses the fullness of God’s redemptive design and will for the churches. Peace and peacemaking are emphatic in the Prison Letters.380 The word “peace” becomes a central term in Christian greetings and, though here dependent on the Jewish greeting “shalom,” begins to take on some fresh colorations because of the reconciling work of the Son. Noticeably in our context, God effects reconciliation by conquering warring parties. That is, the world with its hierarchies and divisions is conquered in Christ so that in the body of Christ one can discover unity among all (Col 3:11).

What is the direction of reconciliation? God acts to reconcile things “to himself.” The simplistic notion that atonement entails divine child abuse of a father against his son, however important it might be to call attention to potential problems in the rhetoric of atonement,384 fails to account for the nuanced language one finds in a text like this. For here the Father originates and carries through redemption by means of the Son’s crucifixion in order to reconcile all things “to himself.” One might say the Father acts out of love and in grace to bring all things back to himself. Paul will write shortly to the Corinthians that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” (2 Cor 5:19), while in Ephesians 2:14–18 the accent falls on the Son reconciling Jews and Gentiles to the Father. Thus, “world” in 2 Corinthians probably means “Jews and Gentiles” and the other sorts of divisions one finds in Col 3:11.

But this redemptive, reconciling work of peace occurs through the crucifixion of Jesus, a crucifixion expressed in two terms: “blood” and “cross.” The term “blood” in the Bible, owing to the deep association of the ancient world, including Israel’s sacrificial system, is connected to death, to a life’s blood spilled on the altar, and to blood as that which satisfies divine requirements for reconciliation.387 Dunn, observing the Christus victor theme of victory over the powers in our text, sees the “blood of the cross” to be the bloody unjust death of Christ, an idea certainly at least at work in Col 2:15.

Our eyes keep being drawn to the object of reconciliation and peacemaking: “all things.” The theme of universal creation and redemption in Christ runs right through this glorious hymn, and once again there is a record of nearly the same conviction on Paul’s part in Rom 8:19–21, where “creation” will be “liberated from its bondage” and “brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (rooted in Isa 11:6–9; 65:17). But our text sees here the cosmic forces in the principalities and powers (Col 1:16, 20), in which case, one ought to think of this act of reconciliation alongside the triumph of Christ over the powers in Col 2:15 (see below). As well, one needs to connect this reconciling work to Phil 2:6–11, where Christ is the conqueror. Reconciliation encompasses the fullness of God’s triumph over evil in judgment, subjugation of the powers, and redemption for the saints. At work for Paul’s letter, however, is not just the cosmic powers but also their manifestation on earth: hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Hence, the reconciliation of all things in this text also includes the bringing into one body in Christ both Jews and Gentiles by faith.390 One needs to add some perspective because so many run from the word “all” straight into full-blooded universalism or the salvation of all humans and all powers and all supernatural beings. The universal scope of redemption needs to be kept in view in Paul’s magnificent vision of both God’s power and relentless grace, but the fact remains in Pauline letters that not all are saved and the enemies of God are defeated (see Col 2:15). Faith, the enduring sort, is required for salvation (Col 1:23; 2:9–13), and those who turn away from God in Christ will experience judgment (2 Thess 1:5–10).

The claims of this hymn are astounding and, apart from sharing Paul’s faith, which means grasping the reality of God in the cross and resurrection of King Jesus, one could conclude the man was imbalanced. What the apostle claims here is that the whole created order finds its only lasting peace in the ignominy of a bloody act of execution at the hands of violent Romans, an act God unzipped and reconfigured by raising his Son from among the dead. But let the note be emphasized: the whole of creation finds reconciliation in the death of this one solitary man, King Jesus, and it was the resurrection that generated that kind of faith. As Dunn frames it so well: “The vision is vast. The claim is mind-blowing.… In some ways still more striking is the implied vision of the church as the focus and means toward this cosmic reconciliation—the community in which that reconciliation has already taken place (or begun to take place) and whose responsibility it is to live out (cf. particularly 3:8–15) as well as to proclaim its secret (cf. 4:2–6).” This summary locates precisely where Paul and Timothy will now land: on a church that leads the world by becoming the gospel of reconciliation in the way it embodies the gospel.396[2]


1:18 / From cosmic sovereignty, Paul turns to discuss Christ’s preeminence in the church by using the head-body imagery. He has convincingly established Christ’s lordship over the world; now he establishes Christ’s lordship in the church.

If the church can be regarded as a Pauline interpolation, then an earlier version of the hymn must have proclaimed Christ as head of the body only. There is much speculation as to the source of the head-body metaphor in Paul’s writings. Some scholars are attracted to the idea of “corporate personality” in which all of humanity is considered to be “in Adam.” The counterpart in the nt is that, since all Christians are “in Christ”—that is, the church—they can be regarded as the body of Christ. Most scholars, however, believe that the idea comes from Hellenistic conceptions of the cosmic body.

In several Greek sources, including the writings of Plato, the Stoics, and the Alexandrian Jew Philo, there are numerous mythological conceptions of the universe as a body that is governed by a “head.” Here, the cosmos is filled by the deity and consequently viewed as the body of the deity over which there is “Wisdom” or “Logos” as its head. The common belief was that, just as a person’s physical body needs direction and guidance from the head, so the body of the cosmos needs a head such as Logos or Wisdom as a unifying principle.

What the Greeks attributed to Wisdom or Logos for headship, the early church attributed to Christ. He, in other words, is the divine Logos (cf. John’s prologue in 1:1–3) who governs the body (sōma) of the cosmos. It is quite possible that a Christian version of this hymn initially celebrated Christ’s headship over the cosmos. The new development in Colossians is that Paul interprets body not as cosmos but as church. In other words, although Christ is head of the whole world, only the church is his body.

The identification of the church as the body of Christ over which Christ is the head in Colossians (1:18, 24) and Ephesians (1:22, 23; 4:15, 16) is not the same as the description of the “body” in Romans and 1 Corinthians. In those two epistles (Rom. 12:1–8; 1 Cor. 12:4–31), Paul uses the concept of the church as the body of Christ and emphasizes the mutual relationships and obligations that exist among its members by virtue of their spiritual gifts. There the “head” is simply mentioned along with the other members of the body (1 Cor. 12:14–26). Only in Colossians and Ephesians is Christ designated as head over the church. The reason for this surely lies in Paul’s intention to proclaim the lordship of Christ over all things. He wants the Colossians to know that the church is the place where Christ exercises his sovereignty over the cosmos.

This Lord is the beginning of the body’s life, vitalizing and energizing it by virtue of his resurrection. Paul utilizes the phrase firstborn for the second time (cf. 1:15) in order to re-emphasize the priority of Christ. The final result of this is Christ’s absolute preeminence (so that in everything he might have the supremacy).

1:19 / Paul goes on to say that God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. There are two significant problems connected with the translation and interpretation of this verse.

The first problem is with the meaning of fullness (plērōma). In 2:9, plērōma is equated with all of God’s nature as it dwells in Christ (“for in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”). On this basis one is justified in giving it the same meaning as in 1:19 rather than seeing it in some Gnostic way in which plērōma is regarded as the totality or fullness of aeons emanating from God and filling the space between heaven and earth. Nevertheless, one aspect of the false teaching in Colossae was that it gave undue prominence to those supernatural powers that filled the universe by regarding them as intermediaries between God and the world. Paul corrects this by affirming that the full nature of God dwells in Christ exclusively.

The second issue centers around the subject of pleased. The Greek literally reads “because in him (Christ) was pleased all the fullness to dwell.” At least three possibilities have been suggested: (a) to make Christ the subject, thus giving the meaning that he (Christ) was pleased that all the fullness of God should dwell in him; (b) to make plērōma the subject, resulting in a translation adopted by the rsv (“for in him all the fulness was pleased to dwell”); and (c) to regard God as the subject. Hence the niv: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him).

The main argument against this third view is the introduction of God as the subject in a hymn that concentrates on Christ (God has not been mentioned since 1:15). But the Greek text does permit it, and the meaning has support elsewhere in Scripture (cf. Christ’s baptism and transfiguration). These technicalities, however, should not detract from the essential truth that Paul wishes to stress, namely, that Christ is the dwelling place (katoikēsai, “to take up residence”) of God. As such, another factor of Christ’s sovereignty is established.

1:20 / A final tribute is given to Christ as the agent of reconciliation. God was pleased that his fullness should dwell in his Son (1:19). Now, God was also pleased through him [the Son] to reconcile to himself all things. Reconciliation implies an existing estrangement or hostility that needed to be corrected (1:12, 22; Eph. 2:16). The all things that are reconciled are clarified by the phrase whether things on earth or things in heaven. In other words, it is not just the church (humanity) that has been reconciled; the reconciliation wrought by Christ extends to the entire cosmic order. By doing this, Paul shows the Colossians that every part of the universe is included in the reconciling work of Christ. His love has no limits!

One needs to be careful not to push this language to the extreme. Some have understood it very broadly and believe that humanity and all spiritual powers—including the evil angels—are at peace with God. But such a teaching needs to be interpreted in the light of everything Paul, and indeed the entire nt, say about such doctrines as reconciliation and salvation. The main point Paul makes is that everything has been brought into harmony through Christ.

The third Pauline interpolation in this hymn includes the phrase by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (cf. Rom. 5:1ff.). This locates reconciliation in a historical act, accomplished by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. Paul will have no part of some cosmic drama that may have been perpetuated by the false teachers.

There is a question regarding himself. The rsv and niv are ambiguous enough that one may take it to mean either God or Christ. The same construction (eis auton) is used in 1:16, where Christ is the object. The gnb is probably correct in interpreting the verse to mean that reconciliation is to God (“God … brought back to himself all things”). Thus reconciliation is through Christ but to God![3]


18. The section showing the Son’s pre-eminence in the sphere of Creation has ended. Here, at verse 18, begins the paragraph describing his equal sovereignty in the realm of Redemption. We read: And he is the head of the body, the church. In the writings of Paul this expression is something new, whether we view it as original with him or as here taken over by him from a familiar hymn or saying. It is nowhere found in the earlier epistles such as Galatians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Corinthians, or Romans. Yet, it would be unwise on this account to say that Paul cannot have been either the author or confirmer of the idea that Christ is, indeed, the head of the body, namely, the church. To be sure, in the earlier letters the apostle wrote not about Christ as the head of the church but about the church as the body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12–31, especially verse 27). His purpose was to show that in that one body there were many members (“foot,” “hand,” “ear,” “eye”); in other words, that in the one organism of the church there were many functions and talents distributed among a large number of believers, and that each “member” should use his gifts to benefit the entire body. He did not then specifically state that the head of this body was Christ. That was not the point at issue in these earlier letters. At Colosse, however, this headship or pre-eminence of Christ was distinctly the truth in need of emphasis, as has already been shown. It is for this reason that this particular aspect of the doctrine is set forth here in Colossians rather than in the earlier epistles.

Nevertheless, it cannot be truthfully maintained that the proposition “Christ is the head of the church” was absolutely foreign to Paul’s thinking previous to the time when he wrote his Prison Epistles. Is not a body supposed to have a head? Besides, had not the apostle written, “The head of every man is Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3)? Now if Christ is the head of every man in the church, is he not also the head of the church?

As head Christ causes his church to live and to grow (Col. 2:19; cf. Eph. 4:15, 16). He is its Organic Head. As head he also exercises authority over the church; in fact, over all things in the interest of the church (Eph. 1:20–23). He is its Ruling Head. It is doubtful whether either of these two ideas is ever completely absent when Christ is called head of the church, though sometimes one connotation and then again the other receives the greater emphasis, as the context indicates. And in such a passage as Eph. 5:23, 24 both ideas (growth and guidance) are brought to the fore.

Now if the Son of God is the Organic and Ruling Head of the church, then the church is in no sense whatever dependent on any creature, angel or otherwise. This is the clear implication over against the teachers of error. Does not the church receive both its growth and guidance from its living Lord? Is it not energized by his power and governed by his Word and Spirit? Hence, is it not true that in Christ it has all it needs, and also that without him it can accomplish nothing? Cf. John 15:5, 7.

“Thou, O Christ, art all I want;

More than all in thee I find.”

(Charles Wesley, in “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”)

And what could be a better illustration of the relation of Christ to his church than the underlying idea of the relation of the human head to the body? Advance in scientific knowledge has confirmed the adequacy of the figure used by the early church and by Paul. In a human individual it is to the head that the body, in large measure, owes its vigorous life and growth (the organic relationship). From the pituitary gland, housed in a small cavity located in the base of the skull, comes the growth hormone (and several other hormones). This hormone is known to be closely related to the health and growth of connective tissue, cartilege, and bone.

Consider also the other functions of the head, those related in large measure to guidance. It is in the head that the organs of special sense are mainly located. The brain receives impulses from the outside world (indirectly) and from inside the body. It organizes and interprets these impulses. It thinks. It reacts, and this both voluntarily and involuntarily. Thus it guides and directs the actions of the individual. In the cerebrum are located, among other things, the areas that control the various parts of the body. The cerebellum has been called “the co-ordinator and harmonizer of muscular action.” The medulla controls such actions as winking, sneezing, coughing, chewing, sucking, swallowing, etc. Here also the cardiac center regulates the rate of heart-beat, while the respiratory center is in charge of the activity of the respiratory organs.

Thus, indeed, when the triune God created the human body with its organic and ruling head, he so constructed that head that it could serve as an excellent symbol of the Organic and Ruling Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ.

With reference to the latter the “hymn” now continues, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from die dead. By his triumphant resurrection, nevermore to die, Christ laid the foundation for that sanctified life, that hope and assurance in which his own rejoice (Col. 3:1–17; 1 Peter 1:3 ff.). This resurrection is also the beginning, principle, or cause of their glorious physical resurrection. Hence, from every aspect the statement is true, “Because I live you too will live” (John 14:19). He is the path-breaker, who holds the key of Death and Hades. He has authority over life and death (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:20; Heb. 2:14, 15; Rev. 1:5). It is he who “on the one hand, utterly defeated death, and on the other hand, brought to light life and incorruptibility through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). All this is true in order that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. It stands to reason that One who is Firstborn, Point of Reference, Agent, Goal, Forerunner, and Sustainer—Governor (verses 15–17) in the sphere of Creation; and Head of the Body, Beginning, and Firstborn from the dead in the realm of Redemption (verse 18), has the right to the title, “the One who has the pre-eminence—the divine sovereignty—in all things, that is, among all creatures.”

19. Note, however, the words, “that he might have.” These words show that this high honor possessed by the Son was a matter of design, the Father’s good pleasure. Hence, the text continues, For in him he [God] was pleased to have all the fulness dwell.

This delight of the Father in the Son was evident even during the old dispensation, yes, even before the world was founded (Ps. 2:7, 8; John 17:5; Eph. 1:9). During the period of Christ’s sojourn on earth it manifested itself again and again (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28). It was indeed God’s good pleasure that in his Son all the fulness should dwell. The powers and attributes of Deity were not to be distributed among a multitude of angels. The divine supremacy or sovereignty, either as a whole or in part, was not to be surrendered to them. On the contrary, in accordance with God’s good pleasure, from all eternity the plenitude of the Godhead, the fulness of God’s essence and glory, which fulness is the source of grace and glory for believers, resides in the Son of his love, in him alone, not in him and the angels. It dwells in him whom we now serve as our exalted Mediator, and it manifests itself both in Creation and Redemption.

Explanatory passages are:

John 1:16, “For out of his fulness we have received grace upon grace.”

Col. 2:3, “in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are stored up.”

Col. 2:9, “For in him all the fulness of the godhead dwells bodily.”

20. Now both in Col. 2:9, 10 and here in 1:19, 20 the fulness which dwells in Christ is mentioned with a practical purpose. It is a source of blessing. Thus here in Col. 1:19, 20 we are told that it was the good pleasure or delight of God the Father that in the Son of his love all the fulness should dwell and through him to reconcile all things to himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens. Not only were all things created “through him,” that is, through the Son of God’s love (verse 16), but all things are also (in a sense to be explained) reconciled “through him” (verse 20). In both cases all things has the same meaning: all creatures without any exception whatever:

“There rustles a Name O so dear ’long the clouds,

That Name heaven and earth in grand harmony shrouds.”

This is the nearly literal translation of the first lines of a Dutch hymn:

“Daar ruist langs de wolken een lieflijke naam,

Die hemel en aarde verenigt te zaam.”

Some have objected to the lines for theological reasons.

Personally, I see no reason for rejecting the idea expressed in this poem. One might as well reject Col. 1:20! It is all a matter of interpretation. Thus, it is true, indeed that heaven and earth are not now united, and are not going to be united, in the sense that all rational beings in the entire universe are now with gladness of heart submitting themselves, or will at some future date joyfully submit themselves, to the rule of God in Christ. This universalistic interpretation of Col. 1:20 is contrary to Scripture (Ps. 1; Dan. 12:2; Matt. 7:13, 14; 25:46; John 5:28, 29; Phil. 3:18–21; 2 Thess. 1:3–10; and a host of other passages). It was Origen who was probably the first Christian universalist. In his youthful work De Principiis he suggested this thought of universal, final restoration for all. In his later writings he seems to imply it here and there, but obscures it somewhat by the suggestion of a constant succession of fall and restoration. He has, however, had many followers, and among them some have expressed themselves far more bluntly. Some time ago a minister told his audience, “In the end everybody is going to be saved. I have hope even for the devil.”

The real meaning of Col. 1:20 is probably as follows: Sin ruined the universe. It destroyed the harmony between one creature and the other, also between all creatures and their God. Through the blood of the cross (cf. Eph. 2:11–18), however, sin, in principle, has been conquered. The demand of the law has been satisfied, its curse born (Rom. 3:25; Gal. 3:13). Harmony, accordingly, has been restored. Peace was made. Through Christ and his cross the universe is brought back or restored to its proper relationship to God in the sense that as a just reward for his obedience Christ was exalted to the Father’s right hand, from which position of authority and power he rules the entire universe in the interest of the church and to the glory of God. This interpretation brings the present passage in harmony with the related ones written during this same imprisonment. Note the expression “the things on the earth or the things in the heavens” (or something very similar) not only here in Col. 1:20 but also in Eph. 1:10 and Phil. 2:10.

There is, of course, a difference in the manner in which various creatures submit to Christ’s rule and are “reconciled to God.” Those who are and remain evil, whether men or angels, submit ruefully, unwillingly. In their case peace, harmony, is imposed, not welcomed. But not only are their evil designs constantly being over-ruled for good, but these evil beings themselves have been, in principle, stripped of their power (Col. 2:15). They are brought into subjection (1 Cor. 15:24–28; cf. Eph. 1:21, 22), and “the God of peace (!) will bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20). The good angels, on the other hand, submit joyfully, eagerly. So do also the redeemed among men. This group includes the members of the Colossian church as far as they are true believers, a thought to which Paul gives expression in the following verses.[4]


[1] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 66–76). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[2] McKnight, S. (2018). The Letter to the Colossians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (pp. 154–167). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[3] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 31–34). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, pp. 76–82). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 13, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

21 With this statement, the apostle seems to be getting closer to the difficult issue being faced in Corinth. As we have seen on several occasions in this letter, pride was indeed a problem among the Corinthians (cf. 1:29; 3:3–4; 4:18–19; 5:1, 6; 11:18–22). The apostle needs to get across that all of the members in Corinth need each other, and no one is dispensable.[1]


21 With this verse Paul returns to the personification of the parts of the body, but now to make a considerably different point. The thought probably flows out of the final statement in v. 20, the repetition of the theme of “one body,” although the emphasis on the need for diversity is certainly not lost. The parts of the body personified include three from vv. 15–16 (eye/hand, feet), but in a new mix that has one of the sensory organs (the eye) speaking to one of the external limbs (the hand), while the ear has been replaced by the “head,” which speaks to the feet. Both the direction and content of what is said imply a view “from above,” where those who consider themselves at the top of the “hierarchy” of persons in the community suggest that they can get along without some others, who do not have their allegedly superior rank. That this is the thrust of the present analogy is made certain by the rest of the paragraph. At the same time, of course, in its own way this new analogy continues the theme of the need for variety. Indeed, in v. 22 the absolute necessity of parts that others would scorn is specifically asserted.

It is common to see in this analogy a reference to those who speak in tongues as considering themselves superior to those in the community who do not. If so, then this is the only hint of such in the entire argument. Nothing in chap. 14 itself suggests as much. That guess, therefore, as common as it is, is probably considerably off the mark in terms of Paul’s own concerns. Since the implication of the analogy as Paul proceeds with it is that some people consider themselves superior to others, not that some gifts are superior, it seems more likely that one is to find the historical situation here addressed in a broader context within the church. But that context is not the problem of chaps. 1–4 since no hierarchy of persons is implied in those divisions and disputations. The most obvious setting, therefore, is that which immediately preceded this one, 11:17–34, where exactly this kind of problem is in view. In that passage the “haves” are abusing the “have-nots” at the Lord’s Table and thereby despising the church itself. This suggestion seems all the more probable in light of (1) Paul’s own use of “body” imagery in 11:29 to call into question their abuse of others in the church, and (2) the inclusion of “whether slave or free” in the affirmation in v. 13 about their common experience of Spirit as what makes them one body. The stench, it should be noted, is not simply in their pride. One can sometimes tolerate that in the “aristocracy.” Rather, it is both in their self-sufficiency and in their demeaning of others to the point of saying, “I have no need of you.”[2]


12:21 / Notice that in this imaginary dialogue, the head is but a part—though prominent—of the body. The head is not identified in any special fashion with Christ himself. Compare the similar images and uses of this metaphor in Rom. 12:3–8; Eph. 1:15–23; 2:15–16; 4:3–4, 11–12, 15–16, 25; 5:23, 29–30; Col. 1:18, 24; 2:9–10, 19; 3:15. The images are distinct in their various locations: 1 Cor. and Rom. understand that the church is the body of Christ, whereas Eph. and Col. present a development of that basic image so that Christ is the head of his body, which is the church. Distinctions exist and developments have occurred, so readers should perceive and take into account the nuances of the metaphors of the body, no matter who wrote the canonical letters attributed to Paul.[3]


21. The eye is not able to say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” Or again, the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

Once more Paul personifies members of the human body. The eye is speaking to the hand and the head addresses the feet. The message is that the eye and the head respectively want to be independent of the other parts of the body. They do not want to admit that their existence is based on the interdependent relations with other physical members. What would the eye achieve without the use of the hand? And what would the head do for lack of mobility? The picture that Paul draws portrays the absurdity of independence. The individual parts of the body all aid each other in the total functioning of the whole.

Notice that Paul uses the singular term eye not to call attention to the physical part of the human anatomy but to a person’s competence to see. The word hand also appears in the singular to express a person’s ability of touching, taking, holding, and giving objects. We always refer to dexerity by using the singular, for instance, sleight of hand. The word head must be understood as the collective part of the body that incorporates all the senses and the working of the mind.

What is Paul trying to say to his readers? This is the lesson: A member in the Corinthian church who had received the gift of healing, for example, should not feel self-sufficient and say to the other members, “I have no need of you.” This air of superiority flies in the face of Paul’s teaching on servanthood (9:19; 2 Cor. 4:5; Gal. 5:13). The person who has the gift of healing needs the supportive ministry of those who have received the rest of the spiritual gifts. In brief, within the church all the members need one another with all their expertise and ability for mutual edification. The revered Augustine aptly said:

God is not greater if you reverence him,

but you are greater if you serve him.[4]


[1] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 368). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 612–613). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (p. 269). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 435–436). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 12, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

thirty days of jesus day 14 propitiation

Perfect Love and the Coming of Christ

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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (4:9–11)

Jesus Christ is the preeminent manifestation of God’s love (John 1:14; cf. Rom. 5:8); He is God’s only begotten (unique) Son (Heb. 1:5), who came to earth in the flesh (Luke 2:7–14; John 1:14, 18; Heb. 5:5). The incarnation was the supreme demonstration of a divine love that was and is sovereign and seeking; it was not that [believers] loved God, but that He loved [them] and sent His Son to be the propitiation for [their] sins. The term propitiation refers to a covering for sin (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17), and is a form of the same word (hilasmos) used in 2:2 (for a more detailed explanation of this important word and its background, see chapter 4 of this volume). Hundreds of years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah foresaw His propitiatory sacrifice:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isa. 53:4–6; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; 1 Peter 3:18)

By this the perfect love of God was manifested in [believers], John wrote, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that [believers] might live through Him. The apostle’s point is that since God, in sovereign mercy, graciously displayed His love in sending Christ, the saints should surely follow His example and love others with sacrificial, Christlike love (Eph. 4:32). The Father not only gave His children a perfect love when He redeemed them (Rom. 5:5), but He also gave them the ultimate model in Christ of how that love functions in selfless sacrifice. The cross of Christ compels believers to such love. Thus John exhorted his readers: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (cf. John 15:13). The apostle really just restated his admonition from 3:16, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” No one who has ever savingly believed in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and thus been granted eternal life, can return permanently to a self-centered lifestyle. Instead such persons will obey Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:1–2; cf. 1 Peter 1:15–16).[1]


10 This verse extends the thought of v. 9 by emphasizing the sacrificial dimension of the incarnation. The first phrase, “this is love,” would normally introduce a test in 1 John, but here it refers to the two statements that follow about the love of God (as the NIV, “This is love:”; cf. Brown, 518). The second of these two statements, both of which are introduced by hoti, is a slogan closely related to v. 9 and to John 3:16, while the first statement is a sarcastic play on the true slogan to highlight God’s love in sending the Son.

John clues the reader that the first slogan is sarcastic by the introduction ouch hoti. John’s followers will recall that he did not teach them, “we loved God,” rather, he taught them, “God loved us.” The contrast between the two slogans is highlighted in the Greek text by a change in tense. In the first statement, the perfect tense of agapaō (“love”), which describes a state of being resulting from a past action, stresses that we did not love God before he sent his Son. Indeed, since the world hates God and wants nothing to do with God (see Introduction), and since even true believers were members of the world before their rebirth (see comment at 3:11–15), there is no way to argue that believers loved God at any point before their conversion. The sending of the Son was, therefore, an act of purely benevolent love, not motivated by anything believers had done, and not God’s requiting of a love they already had for him.

The second statement, however, which cites the true version of the slogan, switches to the aorist tense of agapaō, highlighting a specific act of love. The fact that “sent” (apostellō, GK 690) is also aorist suggests that the act of God’s love John has in mind is the incarnation. Even though the world did not love God, God showed his love for the world at the moment when he sent his Son into the world. Indeed, the world did not know what “love” was until Jesus came.[2]


10 In the preceding verse John has described the character of God’s love. Now he goes even further. Here, he says, is love—not just the love of God but love as such. There can be no explanation or definition of true love which does not start from God’s love. We cannot begin to understand love by considering the nature of our love for God. Rather love is to be seen in the prior act of God who loved us and expressed his love by sending11 his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. In this phrase we find the deepest meaning of the term “love”: love means forgiving the sins of the beloved and remembering them no more. This is what God has done for rebellious mankind: he pardons their sins against himself at his own cost. To remove this element from the biblical teaching on the nature of God’s love is to water down the concept of love beyond measure. It is true that some writers have denied that a loving God needs to be propitiated for human sin and have suggested that this makes him less than loving. They have not realized that the depth of God’s love is to be seen precisely in the way in which it bears the wounds inflicted on it by mankind and offers full and free pardon. The point was expressed once and for all by James Denney:

So far from finding any kind of contrast between love and propitiation, the apostle can convey no idea of love to anyone except by pointing to the propitiation—love is what is manifested there; and he can give no account of the propitiation but by saying, “Behold what manner of love.” For him, to say “God is love” is exactly the same as to say, “God has in His Son made atonement for the sin of the world.” If the propitiatory death of Jesus is eliminated from the love of God, it might be unfair to say that the love of God is robbed of all meaning, but it is certainly robbed of its apostolic meaning. It has no longer that meaning which goes deeper than sin, sorrow, and death, and which recreates life in the adoring joy, wonder, and purity of the first Epistle of John.[3]


4:10 / This is love is literally, “in this is love” (en toutō estin hē agapē). That is, “this is the essence of love,” or “love consists in this.” God’s action defines what authentic love is. But first the Elder must say that real love is not defined by our love for God. It is not that we loved God (ēgapēkamen, perfect tense, “we have been loving”). The opponents have claimed to love God, know God, live in God, walk in the light, etc. They have flaunted their “superior spirituality” (they don’t even sin; 1:8, 10) before the remaining Johannine Christians. But proud human love for God, even “Christian love” (note the “we”) is a poor model. The only true standard of love is God’s love; it is that he loved us (ēgapēsen, aorist tense, “decisively, once and for all, loved”), and, as the proof and expression of his love, sent (apesteilen, aorist tense) his Son. This is the definitive expression of love. While the primary reference of we and us in this verse is to those who claim to be Christians, the context supports a broader, secondary application to humankind generally (v. 9, “world”; 2:2; 4:15; John 3:16). On the sending of the Son, see v. 9.

The key word in the last phrase of v. 10 is hilasmon (niv, atoning sacrifice). It was used before in 2:2 with respect to Jesus’ effective provision for our sins. Given the reference to “the blood of Jesus” in 1:7, hilasmos must refer to Jesus’ death on the cross as a sacrifice for sins, analogous to ot atoning sacrifices. Such a sacrifice cleanses the beneficiary from the guilt of sin and effects reconciliation, or a restored right relationship with God, by averting God’s judgment on sin. It is, of course, as 4:9–10 make perfectly clear, God who has taken this action. God loved us and sent his own Son to reconcile us to himself through the Son’s atoning death for our sins. For our sins points to the need for an atoning sacrifice; without it we would be under God’s judgment and outside the sphere of life and salvation. We would not “have passed from death to life” (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14).[4]


10. This is love:

not that we loved God,

but that he loved us

and sent his Son

as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Consider the following points:

  • Proof

God’s love emanates from his being and radiates to and in us who acknowledge him through Jesus Christ. The Son of God is the visible proof of God’s love toward his people. Therefore John writes, “This is how God showed his love among us.” God sent his Son into the world. Note the wording. John mentions not the name Jesus or Christ; instead he uses the word Son to call attention to the intimate Father-Son relationship. God the Father sent his Son into the world. More than that, “he sent his one and only Son” (also see John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18). Jesus is not one Son among many others. The expression one and only “is used to mark out Jesus uniquely above all earthly and heavenly beings.”

God sent his one and only Son into our sinful world to give us life. If God the Father had given the world as a present to his Son, because he is the heir, God would have demonstrated evident proof of his love toward him. And we would have no difficulty understanding God’s act of love. But the text says that God “sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” God gave his Son to die on the cross so that we might have eternal life. He gave his Son to us. This message is too profound: we are unable to fathom the depth of God’s love for us.

  • Priority

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” John describes the matter first negatively and then positively. He expresses negatively that we did not love God. John does not say, “God loves us because we are God’s loving children.” No, the opposite is true, for Paul tells us that we have a sinful mind that is hostile to God (Rom. 8:7).

Positively, John states that love originates with God, not with man (refer to 4:19; 2 Thess. 2:16). God loves the unlovable. As an anonymous poet wrote,

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew

He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;

It was not that I found, O Savior true,

No, I was found, was found of thee.

I find, I walk, I love; but O the whole

Of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee!

For thou wert long beforehand with my soul,

Always, always thou lovedst me.

John concludes by saying that God “sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Earlier in his epistle, John wrote the same words (see the comments on 2:2; also compare Rom. 3:25). God’s only Son covered our sins and set us free from guilt. Note that in this last part of verse 10 the contrast is between God’s Son and our sins. God took the initiative in showing his love to man when he sent his Son.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (pp. 167–168). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 479). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Marshall, I. H. (1978). The Epistles of John (pp. 214–215). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Johnson, T. F. (2011). 1, 2, and 3 John (p. 104). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 332–333). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 12, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Purpose of God’s Testimony

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (5:11)

The purpose of God’s testimony through the water, the blood, and the Spirit is that sinners might receive eternal life. Eternal life involves far more than merely living forever in a chronological sense. The essence of eternal life is the believer’s participation in the blessed everlasting life of Christ (cf. John 1:4) through his or her union with Him (Rom. 5:21; 6:4, 11, 23; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3–4; 2 Tim. 1:1, 10; Jude 21). Jesus defined it in His High Priestly Prayer to the Father: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). It is the life of the age to come (Eph. 2:6–7), which believers will most fully experience in the perfect, unending glory, holiness, and joy of heaven (Rom. 8:19–23, 29; 1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 John 3:2).

The eternal life promised by God in the Old Testament (e.g., 2 Sam. 12:23; Pss. 16:8–10; 133:3; Dan. 12:2) and sought by the Jews of Jesus’ day (Luke 10:25; John 5:39) comes only to those who believe God’s testimony and place their faith in His Son. The gospel is exclusive; there are not many ways to God, but only one. In John 14:6 Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” “And there is salvation in no one else,” Peter added, “for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; cf. John 6:68; 17:2; Rom. 6:23; 1 Tim. 1:16; Jude 21).[1]


11 Verse 11 summarizes the preceding verses by defining the “testimony” of God with a community slogan introduced by hoti (note the NIV’s colon): “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” In John’s mind, “Son” and “life” are synonymous terms, as indicated by the use of didōmi (“has given,” GK 1443). God “gave” life just as he “gave” his Son (Jn 3:16); in fact, John would say that life was given to the world in the form of God’s Son (Jn 1:4; 1 Jn 4:9). Notably, this slogan furnishes the creedal content of God’s witness without defining the means by which God has made this “testimony.” As indicated in the comment on v. 10, John probably has in mind both the work of God through the life of Jesus and the continuing proclamation of Jesus in the church under the Spirit’s influence.[2]


11 The question whether we accept God’s testimony or not is not a merely academic one. On our answer to it depends the question whether or not we participate in eternal life. For what God’s testimony means is that he has given us eternal life; but this life is given only in his Son.43[3]


5:11 / What is the testimony of God, which the writer has spoken of since v. 9? It is “testimony … about his Son” (vv. 9c, 10c). It certainly includes the idea that the Son of God is Jesus (v. 5), the one who came by both water and blood (vv. 6–8), which statements his opponents, the secessionists, deny. But the principal proposition in God’s testimony concerns the connection between his Son and life. This is the testimony presents the content of God’s witness, though, of course, it is not the whole content of what God has said concerning Jesus.

The testimony is contained in two closely linked affirmations: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. In 1 John 1:2 and 5:20 “his Son, Jesus Christ” is called eternal life (zōēn aiōnion). In 2:25, eternal life is what God has promised to those who acknowledge the Son (2:23) and remain faithful. “No murderer has eternal life in him,” but those who love their brothers and sisters “have passed from death to life” (3:14–15; cf. John 5:24). In the Johannine writings eternal life is a present spiritual reality, the qualitatively different life of the realm of God present in human beings who believe in Jesus. John 17:3 describes it as “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” It is a gift from God (also from Jesus, John 10:28; 17:2); in fact, v. 11 speaks of it as given (edōken, aorist) at a definite time in the past, undoubtedly in the “Christ event.” Yet it also continues to be given in the present in response to faith in Jesus. It is given, the Elder says, to us, i.e., to those who have remained in the community of the faithful, not to the secessionists; they have not remained (1 John 2:19, 23–27), and they do not have eternal life (1 John 3:14–15).

The second part of the content of God’s testimony is the connection between the life and the Son: this life is in his Son (cf. John 1:4; 5:26). It is in the Son for two reasons: because the Son is life (1 John 1:2; 5:20; John 11:25; 14:6), as are his words (John 6:63, 68). He also is “the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48), and, as “the light of the world,” he is “the light of life” (John 8:12). Eternal life is also in the Son, because it is through faith in the Son (or by coming to him, John 5:40; or by looking to him, 6:40; or by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, 6:54) that one receives the gift of life (cf. 2:25; John 3:15–16, 36; 6:47; 20:31). God’s free gift of an eternally right relationship with God is inseparable from knowing and trusting Jesus Christ.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (p. 197). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 496–497). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Marshall, I. H. (1978). The Epistles of John (p. 241). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Johnson, T. F. (2011). 1, 2, and 3 John (pp. 129–130). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

December 12, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

11 You have turned my wailing into my dancing.
You have removed my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy
12 so that ⌊I⌋ may sing praises to you
and not be quiet.
O Yahweh, my God,
I will give thanks to you forever.

Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Ps 30:11–12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


30:11 you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Sackcloth was worn as a sign of mourning and deep sorrow. God replaces the suppliant’s mourning clothes with a festal garment.[1]


11. Observe the contrast, God takes away the mourning of his people; and what does he give them instead of it? Quiet and peace? Ay, and a great deal more than that. “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing.” He makes their hearts to dance at the sound of his name. He takes off their sackcloth. That is good. What a delight to be rid of the habiliments of woe! But what then? He clothes us. And how? With some common dress? Nay, but with that royal vestment which is the array of glorified spirits in heaven. “Thou hast girded me with gladness.” This is better than to wear garments of silk or cloth of gold, bedight with embroidery and bespangled with gems. Many a poor man wears this heavenly apparel wrapped around his heart, though fustian and corduroy are his only outward garb; and such a man needs not envy the emperor in all his pomp. Glory be to thee, O God, if, by a sense of full forgiveness and present justification, thou hast enriched my spiritual nature, and filled me with all the fulness of God.[2]


11–12 In the final stanza of the psalm, the poet returns to the present moment and celebrates the reversal that God has accomplished for him. Similar to how the psalm opened, the speech here is praise speech directed to God. The poetic theme of polarities continues, as the psalmist employs three tight phrases to compare the distress of the past with the joy of the present. In the first phrase, the psalmist contrasts mourning (mispēḏ) with dancing. The term mispēḏ goes beyond an internal, reflective state of mourning; it implies external, ritual acts of mourning. The mispēḏ is the dirge sung over the dead. In this context, my mourning either means that mourning that friends and loved ones would do over the psalmist or—more poetically—the psalmist might be likening his previous prayer to a dirge he sang for himself. The basic sense of the root spd is to beat one’s breast, as one might do in grief. Thus, “to mourn” is to give physical expression—a dance, if you will—to grief. The psalmist confesses that God has changed this “mourning dance” into a “dance of praise.” (Note that Eccl. 3:4 pairs these same two words: “A time to mourn, and a time to dance.”) In the second phrase, the psalmist contrasts sackcloth with rejoicing. The psalmist here replaces the concrete image of the sackcloth—clothing that a mourner would wear to symbolize humility, repentance, or sorrow—with the abstract concept of rejoicing. In the third phrase, the psalmist contrasts the silence that would have been his fate had God allowed him to die with the praise that he has been left to sing. It should be stressed that the positive words in all three of these phrases—dancing (māḥôl), rejoicing (śimḥâ), and sing (zāmar)—all are terms borrowed from the vocabulary of praise. The final line of the psalm is itself a word of praise and the psalmist’s promise to praise God for all his days. Thus the psalm ends by sounding again the keynote of praise that is so central to the psalm’s poetry and meaning. In v. 4, the psalmist had bid the community to sing (zāmar) and give thanks (yāḏâ) to God. The psalmist repeats those two key words at the end of the psalm, demonstrating his willingness both to take his own advice and live out his promise to God.

Reflections

  1. The Nature of God

Psalm 30 posits the fundamental thesis that the God of Israel is a God who delivers. For this reason, God is worthy of praise. The psalm springs to life from a background of suffering and distress. But the psalmist desires that we focus not merely on the distress from which she has emerged, but on the living God who brought her out of the depths of mourning into the fresh breath of morning. The psalmist bears witness to the faith that in, with, and under the tangible reality of her deliverance from a stout time of trial there was an even more tangible reality at work—God. Readers who take the testimony of Psalm 30 seriously will have to come to grips not only with the psalmist’s proclamation that this God exists, but also with Psalm 30’s claim about the fundamental nature of this God. If the poet speaks truth, then God’s nature is to be a God who saves, one who intervenes in order to spark a basic reversal in the affairs of God’s people. The psalmist explores reversal marvelously in the many polarities described above. But perhaps the phrase that best captures how the psalmist sees God at work is this: The God of Israel is a God who turns mourning into dancing. That is good news indeed.

  1. A Life of Praise

In addition to being a psalm of praise, Psalm 30 is a psalm about praise. The psalm calls the faithful not just to one isolated act of praise, but to a complete life of praise. The psalm enjoins us to lead a life that celebrates and bears joyful witness to the reversals and Easters that only Israel’s God can fashion. At the individual level, to live such a life of praise is to commit one’s self fully into the care of the God who is praised. As Brueggemann has commented, the idea of thanking/praising God here “means a confessional acknowledgement of who it is that has given new life. Thanks is more than being grateful. It is a confessional statement, in some sense relying upon and committing one’s self to the other. To thank is to make commitment.” At the communal level, to live as a people of praise means that we are always willing to accept those stunning reversals in the lives of sinners and sufferers as gifts from God’s hand. The psalmist had passed through an experience that was at once an experience of personal suffering and public marginalization. To live as a people of praise means that we live ready to welcome into our communities sufferers such as the poet of Psalm 30, sinners such as David, and doubters such as Thomas.

  1. The Alien Work of God

Perhaps the most difficult theological issue raised by Psalm 30 is its testimony not that only the deliverance came from God’s hand, but also that the initial distress was authored by God. Does God work this way? Does God “bring low” in order to “raise up” again? Borrowing language from Isa. 28:21 (in which Isaiah announced God’s judgment of Judah and cried, “strange is his work!… alien is his work!”), Martin Luther referred to this type of divine activity as God’s “alien work.” Luther wrote, “God’s ‘alien’ works are these: to judge, to condemn, and to punish those who are impenitent and do not believe. God is compelled to resort to such ‘alien’ works and to call them His own because of our pride. By manifesting these works He aims to humble us that we might regard Him as our Lord and obey His will.” As Luther emphasized, God’s alien work exists only for the purpose of accomplishing God’s proper work, which is to save, bless, and be gracious: “It is as if he were saying: ‘Although He is the God of life and salvation and this is His proper work, yet, in order to accomplish this, He kills and destroys. These works are alien to Him, but through them He accomplishes His proper work. For He kills our will that His may be established in us. He subdues the flesh and its lusts that the spirit and its desires may come to life.”22

Rolf A. Jacobson[3]


Vers. 11, 12. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing.Easter joy:

Here is described a change, complete, and more or less sudden, from sadness to joy. David has escaped a danger which had brought him very near to death; and now he is thankful and exultant. His words are in keeping with what Christians feel, as they pass from the last days of Holy Week into the first hours of Easter. If Easter is associated predominantly with any one emotion, it is with that of joy. And thus, ever since, the Church of Christ has laboured to make the Easter festival, beyond all others, the feast of Christian joy. All that nature and art could furnish has been summoned to express, so far as outward things may, this overmastering emotion of Christian souls worshipping at the tomb of their Risen Lord. All the deliverances of God’s ancient people, from Egypt, from Assyria, from Babylon, are but rehearsals of the great deliverance of all on the Resurrection morning; and each prophet and psalmist that heralds any of them, sounds in Christian ears some separate note of the Resurrection hymn. And this, the joy which fills the soul of the believing Church on Easter Day, has some sort of echo in the world outside; so that those who sit loosely to our faith and hope, and who worship rarely, if ever, before our altars, yet feel that good spirits are somehow in order on Easter morning. For their sakes, as for our own, let us try to take the emotion to pieces, as we find it in a Christian soul; let us ask why it is so natural for Christians to say, this day, with David, “Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.”

  1. The first reason, then, for this Easter joy is the triumph and satisfaction enjoyed by our Lord Himself. We follow Him in the stages of His sufferings and death. We sympathize reverently with the awful sorrows of our Adorable Lord and Friend; and thus we enter, in some far-off way, into the sense of triumph, unspeakable and sublime, which follows beyond it. It is His triumph; that is the first consideration; His triumph, who was but now so cruelly insulted and tortured. It is all over now; by a single motion of His Majestic Will, He is risen. And we, as we kneel before Him, think, first of all, of Him. It is His joy which inspires ours; it turns our heaviness into joy, and puts off our sorrow and girds us with gladness. Do I say this is the case? Perhaps it were more prudent to say that it ought to be. For in truth the habit of getting out of and forgetting our miserable selves in the absorbing sense of the beauty and magnificence of God, belongs rather to ancient than to modern Christianity. To those old Christians God was all, man nothing, or well-nigh nothing. Theirs was a disinterested interest in God. With us, we are too prone to value God, not so much for His own sake as for ours. Be it yours to show that my misgiving is unwarranted. You know that pure sympathy with an earthly friend’s happiness leaves altogether out of consideration the question whether it contributes anything to your own; and in like manner endeavour to say to-day to your Heavenly Friend: “It is because Thou, Lord Jesus, hast vanquished Thine enemies, hast overcome death, and hast entered into Thy glory, that Thou hast turned my Lenten heaviness into joy, and put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.”
  2. Because of the sense of confidence with which Christ’s Resurrection from the dead invigorates our grasp of Christian truth. The mind loves to rest truth on a secure basis. This is what the old Roman poet meant by saying that the man was really happy who had attained to know the causes of things. The chemist who has at last explained the known effect of a particular drug, by laying bare, upon analysis, an hitherto undiscovered property in it; the historian who has been enabled to show that the conjecture of years rests on the evidence of a trustworthy document; the mathematician on whom has flashed the formula which solves some problem that has long haunted and eluded him; the anatomist who has been able to refer what he had hitherto regarded as an abnormal occurrence to the operation of a recognized law;—these men know what joy is. Now, akin to the joy of students and workers is the satisfaction of a Christian when he steadily dwells on the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian Creed is like a tower which rears towards heaven its windows and pinnacles in successive stages of increasing gracefulness. We lavish our admiration first on this detail of it, and then on that; and, while we thus study and admire, we dwell continuously in its upper stories, till at last perhaps a grave question occurs or is suggested to us. What does it all rest upon? What is the foundation-fact on which this structure has been reared in all its august and fascinating beauty? What fact, if removed, would be fatal to it? And the answer is—our Lord’s Resurrection is one such fact. He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the Resurrection from the dead. Yes; it is here, beside the empty tomb of the Risen Jesus, that Christian faith feels itself on the hard rock of fact; here we break through the tyranny of matter and sense, and rise with Christ into the immaterial world; here we put a term to the enervating alternation of guesses and doubts which prevails elsewhere, and we reach the frontier of the absolutely certain. And we can but answer, Truly, Lord Jesus, by Thy Resurrection Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.

III. And because of the assurance it gives of our own resurrection. Paganism could only guess and speculate as to the immortality of the soul. It is the Gospel which gives certainty; it has unveiled the immortality of man in his completeness, in body and in soul. Thus shall we recognize our friends in heaven, for they shall wear there the features and the expression which they wore on earth. “All men shall rise with their bodies.” Joyfully, therefore, do we think of the blessed dead. (Canon Liddon.)

Girded me with gladness.Elevation of feeling:

For the expression and manifestation of the state in which we are, God has made a rich provision of power. The forehead, the eye, the mouth, the whole face, the hands, the arms, the gait, and especially the voice, are so many instruments and agents ‘of expression; and we are not true to ourselves, we are false to our condition, we are disloyal to God, when we clothe ourselves with a uniform reticence and unexpressiveness of demeanour. The clouds drop their blackness and appear brilliantly coloured and gorgeously gilded when the sun shines on them. The sea casts off its leaden hue and is covered with crisped smiles when the storm is over. The battle-field absorbs the blood which, in the day of war, is spilt on its bosom, and exhibits lovely flowers, or verdant pasture, or golden corn. The earth casts off her winterly attire and puts on her summerly vestments when “the time of the singing of birds has come.” In like manner there is in human life and experience the turning of mourning into dancing; the putting off of sackcloth and the girding with gladness. (S. Martin.)

Praise continuous:

One summer day I watched a lark rise from a field, and I listened with almost rapture to its unequalled song. The bird rose in successive stages, singing while rising and singing while resting, and the last ascent it made caused it to appear like a speck on the blue sky, an almost imperceptible spring of sweet music in the heavens. Nothing appeared wanting to complete the scene but the opening of the heavenly gates to receive this minister of song, that its sacrifice of sweetest sounds might be laid on the altar of God. But while thinking of this consummation the bird began to descend, falling rapidly in successive stages until near the earth, and then flying horizontally until it was lost in its nest. Does not the ascent and descent of this favourite songster represent our praise to God? Our glory is not always silent. We do sometimes sing praise to our God, and we rise into glorious elevations of feeling and of thought. But if we rise high in the morning, we fall low before noon; if we ascend on the Lord’s day, we sink low on other days. A day will come in which there shall be a final putting off of sackcloth, and a final girding with gladness; and in that day silence shall be broken for ever, and our eternal life shall be one eternal psalm and service of praise. (Ibid.).[4]


Deliverance from discipline (30:11–12)

30:11–12. Using terminology from festive occasions (dancing and joy) David rehearsed how God delivered him from his lamentable state (on sackcloth; cf. 35:13 and comments on Gen. 37:34). As a result of this answer to prayer David sang praises to the Lord. Thus he vowed to acknowledge and thank the Lord his God (cf. Ps. 30:2) forever. Every deliverance a believer experiences should likewise prompt a full expression of praise.[5]


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

30:12 One result of David’s healing was that he could now praise the Lord in life rather than lying silent in the grave. And that is exactly what he intended to do—to give thanks to the Lord forever. He says, in effect, “I can never forget what the Lord has done for me, and I’ll never cease to praise Him for it.”

I don’t know what this Psalm does to you, but it makes me feel ashamed. I think of all the times I’ve been sick, and of the urgent, desperate prayers with which I stormed the gates of heaven, and of how the Lord graciously answered. But then I forgot to come before Him with a thank-offering of praise. I took the healing too much for granted. I neglected to express my thanks.

God has given us David’s example not only for us to admire but to follow as well![6]


[1] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 225). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 27-57 (Vol. 2, p. 47). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[3] Jacobson, R. A., & Tanner, B. (2014). Book One of the Psalter: Psalms 1–41. In E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, & R. L. Hubbard Jr. (Eds.), The Book of Psalms (pp. 297–299). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[4] Exell, J. S. (1909). The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms (Vol. 2, pp. 84–85). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.

[5] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 817). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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

December 11, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

thirty days of jesus day 13

Confirmation by the Father

and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (3:17)

All the Trinity participated in Jesus’ baptism. The Son had confirmed His own kingship by saying, “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15), and the Spirit had confirmed His right of messiahship by resting on Him (v. 16). The final aspect of Jesus’ coronation, or commissioning, was the Father’s confirming word. For a sacrifice to be acceptable to God it must be pure, spotless, without blemish (Ex. 12:5; Lev. 1:3; Deut. 17:1; etc.). Of this One who willingly identified Himself with sinners by His baptism and who was marked by the Holy Spirit as the dove of sacrifice, the Father now said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.

No Old Testament sacrifice, no matter how carefully selected, had ever been truly pleasing to God. It was not possible to find an animal that did not have some blemish, some imperfection. Not only that, but the blood of those animals was at best only symbolic, “for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4; cf. 9:12). But the sacrifice Jesus would make on the cross would be “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:19). Thus God could say He was well-pleased with the perfection of Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 17:5; John 12:28, where God repeats this superlative commendation).

Beloved (agapētos) connotes a deep, rich, and profound relationship. It is used here of the Father’s great love for His Son, but it is also used elsewhere of His love for believers (Rom. 1:7) and for what believers’ love toward each other should be (1 Cor. 4:14). Jesus is the Father’s beloved above all those He loves, the beloved apart from whom no other could ever be beloved (cf. Eph. 1:6). Only in His Son could the Father ever be fully well-pleased (eudokeō). God had examined, as it were, His beloved Son, who would offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of those with whom He was willing to identify Himself. No imperfection could be found in Him, and God was delighted.

As believers, we too are a delight to the Father, because we are now in the Son. Because the Father finds no imperfection in His Son, He now by His grace finds no imperfection in those who trust in Him (cf. Rom. 3:26; 5:17, 21; Gal. 2:20; 3:27; Eph. 1:3–6; etc.).

The fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is central to the gospel. In no passage is that made more clear than in Hebrews 1:1–8:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee”? And again, “I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me”? And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.” And 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.”

Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of God, superior to and exalted above everything and everyone else. He is the beginning of all things, Creator; the middle of all things, Sustainer and Purifier; and the end of all things, Heir (see also Rom. 11:36; Col. 1:16).

The Son is the manifestation of God, the radiance of God’s personal glory, the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4). In Him all deity dwells (Col. 1:15–19; 2:9). Because of His deity, He is superior to the angels who worship Him. (For a fuller explanation of Jesus’ sonship, see the author’s Hebrews [Chicago: Moody Press, 1983], pp. 27–29.)

Even God’s title as Father is a reference to His essential relationship to Jesus Christ. God is presented in the New Testament more as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:27; John 5:17–18; 10:29–33; 14:6–11; 17:1–5; Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3, 17; Phil. 2:9–11; 1 Pet. 1:3; 2 John 3) than as the Father of believers (Matt. 6:9).

When Jesus called God “Father,” He was not emphasizing primarily submission or generation but sameness of essence—that is, deity. John 5:23 sums it up by demanding “that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” No one can worship God unless he worships Him as the God who is one with King Jesus—“the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[1]


17 Some see in the “voice from heaven” the batqôl (lit., “daughter of a voice”), the category used by rabbinic and other writers to refer to divine communication echoing the Spirit of God after the Spirit and the prophets through whom he spoke had been withdrawn. The point, however, is stronger than that. This voice is God’s (“from heaven”) and testifies that God himself has broken silence and is again revealing himself to human beings—a clear sign of the dawning of the messianic age (cf. 17:5; Jn 12:28). What heaven says in Mark and Luke is “You are my Son”; here it is “This is my Son.” The change not only shows Matthew’s concern only for the ipsissima vox (not generally the ipsissima verba; see Notes) but also assumes someone besides Jesus heard heaven’s witness. There may have been a crowd; if so, that does not interest Matthew. But John needed to hear the Voice confirm his decision (v. 15).

Despite arguments to the contrary (e.g., Hooker, Jesus and the Servant, 70ff.), the utterance reflects Isaiah 42:1: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit upon him”; and this has been modified by Psalm 2:7: “You are my Son” (cf. Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 29–32; esp. Moo, Old Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives, 112ff.). The results are extraordinarily important.

  1. These words from heaven link Jesus with the Suffering Servant at the very beginning of his ministry and confirm our interpretation of v. 15.
  2. God here refers to Jesus as “my Son”; implicitly the title “Son of God” is introduced and picked up immediately in the next chapter (4:3, 6). Psalm 2 is Davidic. Though it was not regarded in the first century as messianic, the link with David recalls other “son” passages where David or his heir is seen as God’s son (e.g., 2 Sa 7:13–14; Ps 89:26–29).
  3. Jesus has already been set forth as the true Israel to which actual Israel was pointing and as such God’s Son (see comments at 2:15); now the heavenly witness confirms the link.
  4. At the same time, the virginal conception suggests a more than titular or functional sonship: in this context there is the hint of an ontological sonship, made most explicit in the gospel of John.
  5. These things are linked in the one utterance. At the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, his Father presented him, in a veiled way, as at once Davidic Messiah, very Son of God, representative of the people, and Suffering Servant. Matthew has already introduced all these themes and will develop them further. Indeed, he definitely cites Isaiah 42:1–4 in Matthew 12:18–21, which ends with the assertion (already made clear) that the nations will trust in this Servant.

“Son of God” has particularly rich associations. Therefore it is hard to nail down its precise force at every occurrence. As it is wrong to see ontological sonship in every use, so is it wrong to exclude it prematurely. (For more adequate discussion, see, in addition to the standard dictionaries, Blair, Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, 60ff.; Cullman, Christology, 270–305; Kingsbury, Structure, 40–83 [though he exaggerates the importance of the theme in Matthew: cf. Hill, “Son and Servant,” 2–16]; Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 159–72; Moule, Origin of Christology, 22ff.)

The Spirit’s descent in v. 16 needs to be understood in the light of v. 17. The Spirit is poured out on the servant in Isaiah 42:1, to which v. 17 alludes. This outpouring does not change Jesus’ status (he was the Son before this) or assign him new rights. Rather it identifies him as the promised Servant and Son and marks the beginning of his public ministry and direct confrontation with Satan (4:1), the dawning of the messianic age (12:28).[2]


17 The “voice from heaven” in this verse, together with its repetition in 17:5, offers to Matthew’s readers (and, to judge by the third person form in which Matthew alone records it, also to the bystanders at the Jordan) the most unmediated access to God’s own view of Jesus. Following Jesus’ acceptance of John’s baptism as the will of God for him, it declares both God’s pleasure in that obedience and also, more fundamentally, his own unique relationship with God.

The words of the declaration are usually understood to be derived from one or more of Isa 42:1; Ps 2:7 and Gen 22:2. Isa 42:1 introduces a new figure in the prophecy with the words “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one, in whom my soul takes pleasure,” and goes on to say that God has put his Spirit upon him, which links closely with what we have seen in v. 16. The wording of v. 17 does not echo the LXX version of Isa 42:1, but when Matthew later gives a full quotation of that passage (12:18) he will use a Greek version which is closer to this verse; the final clause “with whom I am delighted” closely reflects the Hebrew rāṣtâ napšî of Isa 42:1. But Isa 42:1 does not provide the key term “son.” This is usually explained as an echo of Ps. 2:7 in which God addresses his anointed king, “You are my son; today I have begotten you,” but while the second person version in Mark and Luke readily suggests such an echo, in Matthew’s version it is only the words “my son” which are in common. In Gen 22:2, however, we have “your son, your only son, whom you love,” and the LXX version uses agapētos for the “only” son, thus offering a suggestive source for the wording of most of the divine declaration here. A combined allusion to Isa 42:1 and Gen 22:2 might thus account quite adequately for the OT background to the wording in its Matthean form.

But these words of God are not presented as an OT quotation, and it is questionable how far we are justified in seeking specific textual sources for every word. The link with the descent of the Spirit certainly makes an echo of Isa 42:1 strongly plausible, so that Matthew’s readers would learn to see Jesus in the role of the “servant of Yahweh” who would die for the sins of the people (see above on v. 15). Matthew will return to Isa 42:1–4 when he quotes it in full in 12:17–21 to show how Jesus puts into practice the non-violent style of the servant’s work. It is also possible, though less likely, that some readers who knew the Genesis story well might have noticed the echo of the phrase “beloved son, whom you love” and reflected that God was now going to give up his own son to death just as he had once asked Abraham to do. But neither of those allusions is the main point of v. 17. God is not quoting the OT, nor setting a puzzle for scripturally erudite hearers to unravel. He is declaring in richly allusive words that this man who has just been baptized by John is his own Son in whom he delights. From this point on Matthew’s readers have no excuse for failing to understand the significance of Jesus’ ministry, however long it may take the actors in the story to reach the same christological conclusion (14:33; 16:16; 26:63–64). It will be this crucial revelation of who Jesus is which will immediately form the basis of the initial testing which Jesus is called to undergo in 4:1–11: “If you are the Son of God …” (4:3, 6). And there, as in the account of the baptism, Jesus’ sonship will be revealed in his obedience to his Father’s will.[3]


3:17 This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. These divine words of commendation at Jesus’ baptism evoke at least one Old Testament text. Scholars have argued for three possibilities: Genesis 22 (in which Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s beloved son [v. 2]), Psalm 2:7 (“You are my son”), and/or Isaiah 42:1 (“Here is my servant/child”). The most likely candidates are Genesis 22 and Isaiah 42. The latter is especially likely as an intentional Matthean intertext because of a number of alignments that Matthew makes between the words of commendation and the Isaiah passage, which he quotes at length in 12:18–21. There Matthew conforms two verbs (“love” and “well pleased”) to the verbs in 3:17 (also 17:5). If Isaiah 42 is the primary backdrop for God’s words at 3:17, this is significant for at least two reasons. First, this connection highlights Jesus’ role as the Isaianic servant figure (from Isa. 42–53) at the very beginning of his public ministry in Matthew (see the “Jesus as Isaiah’s Servant Figure” in the unit on 12:15–21). Second, Isaiah as backdrop also highlights Jesus as Spirit anointed and his ministry as Spirit empowered, since the second half of Isaiah 42:1 indicates that God’s Spirit has been given to the servant (Matt. 12:18b).[4]


17. And lo, a voice from heaven saying, This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

The three are always one; for example, the Son dies for “those whom” (literally, according to the better text, for “that which”) the Father has given him (John 10:29); and these are the very ones whom the Spirit brings to glory (John 14:16, 17; 16:14; Rom. 8:26–30). So also here: the three are one. The heavens must be opened, so that Jesus himself may hear the voice, as is the representation in Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22 (“Thou art my Son, the Beloved”), but also so that the Baptist may hear it (hence, “This is.…”), making him a better witness of the things which he saw and heard (cf. John 1:33, 34). As has already been indicated, in connection with the Son’s voluntary reaffirmation of his wholehearted commitment to the task of carrying a burden so infinitely heavy, this voice of delighted approval was altogether in place.

Whose voice was it? The Speaker is not named. Neither is this necessary, for the very phraseology (“my Son, the Beloved”) identifies the Speaker as being, of course, the Father. Moreover, not only in his official Messianic capacity but also as Son by eternal generation, the One who fully shares the divine essence together with the Father and the Spirit, is he the Father’s Beloved (John 1:14; 3:16; 10:17; 17:23). No higher love is possible than the love which the Father cherishes toward his Son. According to the verbal adjective (agapetos: beloved) here used, this love is deep-seated, thorough-going, as great as is the heart of God itself. It is also as intelligent and purposeful as is the mind of God. It is tender, vast, infinite!

Not only that, but this love is also eternal; that is, it is timeless, raised far above all temporal boundaries. Though some disagree, the rendering “in whom I am well pleased” must be considered correct. In the quiet recess of eternity the Son was the object of the Father’s inexhaustible delight (cf. Prov. 8:30). The former’s re-affirmation, by means of baptism, of his purpose to shed his blood for a world lost in sin did nothing to diminish that love. That is what the Father is telling his Son. That is what he is also telling John … and all of us.

How filled with comfort this paragraph, comfort not only for the Son and for John, but for every child of God, for it indicates that not only the Son loves his followers enough to suffer the pangs of hell in their stead, but that also the Spirit fully co-operates by strengthening him for this very task, and that the Father, instead of frowning upon the One who undertakes it, is so very pleased with him that he must needs rend asunder the very heavens, that his voice of delightful approval may be heard on earth! All three are equally interested in our salvation, and the three are One.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 80–82). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] 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. 137–138). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 122–124). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[4] Brown, J. K. (2015). Matthew. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (pp. 31–32). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 215–216). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 11, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

orthodoxy 1

26  Watch (palēs; see n. 15) probably advances “look” in v. 25 even as the track (maʿgal; see 1:15) makes explicit the assumption that eyes looked at the straight path (i.e., the course and conduct laid out by the father (see 1:15). The son must take care that every step conforms with that way; one false step could prove fatal. Your foot (raglekā) calls attention to every step taken in the road of life. In this lecture, which demands unswerving adherence to the father’s teachings, And let … be steadfast (yikkōnû; see 3:19) means that the son must be firm in his commitment to them. The psalmist wishes: “Oh, that my ways were steadfast (yikkōnû derākāy) in obeying (lišmōr) your decrees” (119:5; cf. Pss. 51:10[12]; 57:7[8]; 108:1; 112:7). All your ways (wekol-derākeykā; see 1:15; 2:8; cf. “her tracks” in 5:6) is an incomplete metaphor for the many facets of the son’s behavior. The translation, “take only ways that are firm” (NIV), violates the Hebrew idiom.[1]


Ver. 26. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.Pondering the path:

Mystery surrounds me. I find myself a resident of the illimitable realm of the unknown. The commonest objects touching me on every side start unanswerable questions. But amidst these enveloping mysteries, like a rock in the central ocean, emerges this certainty—“I am.” That means, I know I am. I am dowered with self-consciousness. There is a chasm wide and awful between myself and everything which is not myself; the “me” is other than the “not-me”; I am a separate, solitary soul. Amid all the mystery surrounding me, there emerges this other certainty—“I ought.” That means, I have the power of referring what I am to the judgment of the moral sense. There is, and must be, an irreversible distinction between what I ought and what I ought not. There is both a standard and an ability of discrimination. There is a law of right and wrong of which the moral sense takes cognisance. Amid the mystery there arises another certainty—“I can.” That means, I dwell in the sphere of moral freedom; the helm of my being is in the hand of an unenslaved volition; I possess a self-determining and sovereign will. I am not a thrall, a thing; I am a power. There emerges this other certainty—“I will.” That means, I exercise my power in this direction or in that. I will to do the thing I ought not, or the thing I ought. Man is a moral being, capable of choice, and actually choosing. You should ponder the path of your feet—

  1. Because your feet are pressing toward an end by which your whole previous path in life is to find final test. Thomas Carlyle says, “It is the conclusion that crowns the work; much more the irreversible conclusion wherein all is concluded; thus is there no life so mean but a death will make it memorable.” As you are going now what will that final test of the end declare?
  2. Because this moment you are choosing your path. You should ask yourself whether it be the right one.

III. Because the longer you walk in the wrong path the harder it will be to get out of it into the right. The awful law of habit; the binding power of bad companionships, &c. (Homiletic Magazine.)

Spiritual anatomy: the feet:

  1. Their natural course.
  2. Found in the way of evil.
  3. Which has diverse paths.
  4. These paths fatal in their termination.
  5. Transition of the feet to the way of righteousness.
  6. Consideration.
  7. Arrestment.
  8. Abandonment of evil way.
  9. Prayer.
  10. Decision.

III. The feet consecrated to Divine service.

  1. They stand on a rock.
  2. Enjoy liberty.
  3. Established by the Lord.
  4. Guided in the way to life eternal. (J. Burns, D.D.)

Life a path:

  1. Unique, difficult, momentous.
  2. This path, this journey, will be travelled but once—there is never a retracing of our steps.
  3. A false guide, a false step, may prove eternally fatal.
  4. The path is intricate, and nothing short of the utmost care, and constant watchfulness, and thorough discipline of heart and life can carry one safely through it. (Homiletic Monthly.)

Feet and eyes joined:

The wise man joins the feet unto the eyes, intimating that our actions should be weighed, as well as our thoughts, words, and looks.

  1. We must beforehand order all well that we go about.
  2. Lest we show our folly to all men by our indiscreet actions.
  3. Lest we run ourselves into danger.
  4. Because our actions are dangerous as well as our thoughts, looks, and words; and these were all to be ordered. Bring all your actions to the touchstone before you do them. Weigh them in a just balance.
  5. The meanest members of the body must be well-ordered. The foot is lowest, yet must not be left at liberty to go where it will.
  6. Because the meanest members are of necessary use.
  7. Because they, being disordered, bring much hurt.

III. Endeavour to act surely in what you do. Show your wisdom by your sure and just acting according to God’s Word, and it will stand. (Francis Taylor, B.D.)

Self-examination explained and recommended:

It is our wisdom to look into our own hearts, to inquire seriously and impartially into the state of religion in our minds; that we may form a true judgment of our real character in the sight of God, and may be better able to regulate our future conduct.

  1. Explain the precept of the text: “Ponder the path of thy feet.” This includes—
  2. A serious inquiry into our past conduct, i.e., of the general tenor of our conduct; whether it has been agreeable to our character as men and as Christians, agreeable to the dictates of right reason, and the precepts of the gospel.
  3. A diligent examination of the motives of our conduct, and the principal ends we have pursued in life; whether they are those which religion points out, or those which are recommended by the example of the world around us. Let us particularly attend to the state of our mind. Our chief motive is to be the “glory of God.” This motive is of all others the most extensive, and where it has its due place in the mind, will prove the most effectual means of regulating the conduct.
  4. Considering attentively what our ruling passion is, and what influence it has had in determining our conduct. Every man has something peculiar in the make or constitution of his mind, which inclines him more strongly to some pursuits than to others, and which consequently lays him more open to temptation from that quarter than from any other.
  5. A diligent inquiry into the present temper and state of our minds; the settled purpose and resolution of the mind, the prevailing bent of the will and affections. In what light does sin appear to us? What are our sentiments of the law of God? How do we stand affected towards the great objects of faith?
  6. The examination recommended in the text must be accompanied with a sincere resolution and a correspondent endeavour by Divine assistance to reform the errors of our past life, and to make continual advances in virtue and goodness.
  7. The advantages that will attend the practice of it. Steadiness and uniformity of conduct is the result of habitual consideration and reflection.
  8. This will be a probable means of securing us from all fatal errors and miscarriages, or of restoring us to the path of duty, if we have wandered from it.
  9. The habit of reflection will confirm and strengthen the mind, and enable us to make continual advances in holiness.

III. Some directions that may assist us in the performance of what has been recommended.

  1. Set yourself as in the presence of God.
  2. Implore the Divine direction and assistance.
  3. Be upon your guard against the deceitfulness of your own hearts, while you are conversing with them.
  4. Fear not to know the worst of your case.
  5. Pursue the inquiry till you have brought it to some conclusion, and faithfully observe and comply with the admonitions which conscience may give you.
  6. Frequently renew the exercise of self-examination according to the directions laid down. Improvement—
  7. See the great end we should propose to ourselves by this self-inquiry.
  8. The great importance of self-examination to the Christian life. (R. Clark.)

Salutary counsel:

  1. Ponder that portion of our path which we have already trodden.
  2. Has it been the way of evil?
  3. Have we visited Calvary?
  4. Has it been a path of usefulness?
  5. Ponder the portion of the path which we are now treading.
  6. Is it lawful ground?
  7. Are we following the footprints of Jesus? These are found, and found only, in heavenly paths.
  8. Is there a light shining upon the road? “The way of the wicked is as darkness,” because it is their own evil, dismal, unhappy, and dangerous way; but the path of the justified is that of increasing holiness and joy.

III. Ponder that portion of our path which we have yet to tread.

  1. It is beset with snares and dangers.
  2. It passes through the valley and shadow of death. There is now no other way to immortality.
  3. It leads either to heaven or to hell. (The Congregational Pulpit.)

Christian casuistry:

  1. We ought to ponder our steps in regard to the principle from which they proceed. An action good in itself may become criminal if it proceed from a bad principle. The little attention we pay to this maxim is one principal cause of the false judgments we make of ourselves. Would you always take right steps? Never take one without first examining the motive which engages you to take it.
  2. We ought to ponder our steps in regard to the circumstances which accompany them. An action, good or innocent in itself, may become criminal in certain circumstances. This maxim is a clue to many cases of conscience in which we choose to blind ourselves. We obstinately consider our actions in a certain abstracted light, and do not attend to circumstances which change the nature of the action.

III. We ought to examine the manners that accompany our ways. Actions, good in themselves, become criminal when they are not performed with proper dispositions.

  1. An action, good in itself, may become criminal by being extended beyond its proper limits. “Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise.”
  2. In regard to the mysteries of religion.
  3. In regard to charity.
  4. In regard to closet devotion; in regard to distrusting yourselves and fearing the judgments of God.
  5. An action, good when it is performed by a man arrived at a certain degree of holiness, becomes criminal when it is done by him who hath only an inferior degree. If we wish our ways to be established, let us weigh them with the different judgments which we ourselves form concerning them. Set the judgment which we shall one day form of them against that which we now form. In order to obey the precept of the wise man, we should collect our thoughts every morning, and never begin a day without a cool examination of the whole business of it. (James Saurin.)[2]

4:26 — Ponder the path of your feet .…

Sometimes we fall into sin, not because we plan to, but because we aren’t looking where we are going. God calls us to stay spiritually alert at all times, and that includes taking regular inventory of our life’s direction.[3]


4:26 May the path of your foot be balanced The Hebrew word used here indicates clearing a way (Isa 26:7). Here, the father encourages his son to intentionally remain on the path of wisdom and righteousness (Prov 4:11).[4]


[1] Waltke, B. K. (2004). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15 (pp. 300–301). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[2] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). Proverbs (pp. 147–149). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[3] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Pr 4:26). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 4:26). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 11, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

Ver. 10. The God of my mercy shall prevent me.A singular title and a special favour:

Our trials and troubles, while they test and develop us, do also by Divine grace strengthen and improve us, and ever have we great cause to bless God for them when grace sanctifies them to our highest good. Had not David been a man of many afflictions he would never have penned such a verse as our text, a confident utterance of unstaggering faith, full of meaning, rich with consolation, the very cream of assured hope in God.

  1. David’s looking to his God. “The God of mercy,” saith he. Note that this psalm was composed by him upon the occasion of his being shut up in the house of Michal, Saul’s daughter, and surrounded by his adversaries. The messengers of the bloodthirsty king watched the house all night long, to kill him, and when they had not effected their purpose, Saul demanded that he should be brought, on his bed, into his presence, that he might slay him. It was not easy for a man, when his enemies were watching the house, to escape out of their hands. David, however, does not appear to have been at all disturbed, but with perfect confidence in God he expected that a way of escape would be made for him.
  2. David looked to God on this occasion because he had before this habitually waited upon Him. His faith had realized the existence of God, and his soul had felt the power of that realized truth. This is a thing unknown to the unconverted, and unfelt to any high degree by large numbers of those who profess to know the Lord.
  3. David was driven more closely to his God by the peculiar trouble with which he was environed. It is a blessed thing when the waves of affliction wash us upon the rock of confidence in God alone, when darkness below gives us an eye to the light above. The psalmist says in the verse preceding the text, “Because of his strength”—that is, the strength of the foe—“will I wait upon Thee, for God is my defence.” Because the enemy is too strong for me, therefore will I turn to my God, and invoke His omnipotence as my defence. To come to the end of yourself is to get to the beginning of your God. Blessed is that extremity which is God’s opportunity.
  4. As soon as David had looked alone to his God his trials grew small. In his own esteem they grew to be nothing, for he says, “Thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them, Thou shalt have all the heathen in derision”; and methinks something of the laughter of God penetrated David’s spirit; and in that house wherein he was enclosed as a prisoner he smiled in his heart at the disappointment which awaited his foes. Faith laughs at that which fear weeps over; it leaps over mountains at whose feet mere mortal strength lies down to die.
  5. David’s appropriation of the Divine mercy. “The God of my mercy.” Notice that the pith of the title lies in the appropriating word “my.” Luther used to say that the very soul of divinity lay in the possessive pronouns; another divine said that all the stir there ever has been in the world has been caused by meum and tuum, mine and thine. “It is mine,” says one man; “It is mine,” cries another man, and then comes a conflict. “It is mine,” says one king; “Nay,” says another, “it is not thine,” and then fierce war begins. Nothing influences a man so much as that which he calls his own. “The God of my mercy.”
  6. David appropriated to himself a portion of Divine mercy as being peculiarly his; and we shall never advance in the divine life unless we do the same, for the mercy which is in common to all men, of what avail is it to any man? But the mercy which any one man by faith grasps for himself, this is the mercy which will bless him and which he will prize above all things.
  7. I think he meant, too, that there was a portion of mercy which he had already received, which was, therefore, altogether his own. The “God of my mercy”—he meant the God of the mercy he had already experienced. Well may it bring the tears into your eyes to think of it. The mercy which nursed you in your infancy; the mercy which watched over you in your youth and kept you when you were apt to stray; the mercy which restrained you from many a deadly sin, etc.
  8. And, remember, that all the mercy you have had is little compared with the mercy you have yet to receive. As the rich father thinks, “This will I give to my eldest son, and that to the second, and that to the third,” and so he puts by a portion for each of his children; so has God mapped out and allotted for each one of us some choice and special mercy fitted for our peculiar case, which no one can receive but ourselves, but which we must and shall obtain.
  9. But I think David made a larger grasp than this, for when he said, “The God of my mercy,” he felt as if all the mercy in the heart of God belonged to him. If any one saint should have all the wants of all the saints in the world put upon him, and if his necessities should be so great that nothing would supply them but the whole of the infinite mercy which fills the heart of God, that child of God should have all the mercy which the Lord Himself can dispense.

III. David confining in God. “The God of my mercy shall prevent me,” or anticipate me by His mercy. Now, it so happens that the Hebrew word may be read in all three tenses, and some have said it should be understood, “The God of my mercy has prevented me”; others, “does prevent me”; and a third party, like our translators, read it, “shall prevent me.” Whichever tense you choose is true, and the whole three put together may be viewed as the full meaning of the passage.

  1. “The Lord has prevented me.” This is one of the grand doctrines of the Gospel, the doctrine of eternal love, spontaneous, self-generated, having no cause but itself. God loved us before we loved Him—he prevented us with love. Before His people were born God had elected and redeemed them, and prepared the Gospel, by which in due time they are called. He is before us in all good things. O Lord, Thou hast the first hand with Thy people; they seek Thee early, but Thou art up before them, Thou hast distanced them in the race of affection; Alpha art Thou, indeed!
  2. The Lord hast prevented us, but the meaning of the passage is that He does still prevent us. Is He not daily doing so? Before you can feel the pinch of want the mercy is given. God goes before you day by day, and His paths drop fatness. Even in the common acceptation of the word “prevent” God has often so gone before us that He has prevented us from the commission of many sins, into which otherwise we should have fallen to our sorrow and damage. Again, how often has He prevented our prayers! Before we have asked, we have had; while we were yet calling, we have received. The desire of the righteous is granted oftentimes as soon as it takes shape, and before it is expressed.
  3. It will always be so. God will prevent us. A good captain, when he is marching an army through a country, takes care to make provision for every emergency. It is time for the soldier, to camp, and they need tents. Bring up the baggage wagons, here are the tents which you ask for! The men must have their rations. Here they are! Serve them out! The meat needs cooking. See, there are the portable kitchens and the fuel! The army comes to a river by and by, how will they pass it? Why, the engineers are ready, and pontoons are very soon thrown across. It is wonderful how the well-skilled commander foresees every possible emergency, and has everything ready just at the nick of time. Much more is it so with our God. So let us close with these three practical reflections. If He prevents us with mercy, let us not hesitate to come to Him. Loiter not, O soul, if thou wouldst have the mercy of God. Is God so quick? Wilt thou be slow? Does He go first, and wilt thou not follow?
  4. Is God so quick in mercy? Let us who are His be very quick in service. Say in your heart, “My God, since Thou dost prevent me, I cannot hope to keep pace with Thy mercy, but at any rate I will not lag further behind Thee than I must. When I have done all I can for Thee, how little it is, but that little shall be done.” George Herbert once described the good man as resolved “to build a spital, or mend common ways,” and in his day these were acts of charity which piety delighted in; other good deeds are more fitting for these days. Houses for worship are wanted in many a populous district, and orphan children need to be fed. He who can buy no sweet cane with money, can bring time and zeal and effort, and these are precious. What, then, will you do?
  5. And now finally, believer, cast yourself into your Lord’s arms. Have done with fretting; have done with anxiety and doubt. Mount like the lark to your God, and sing as you mount. (C. H. Spurgeon.)[1]

59:10 Someone has given us this unforgettable paraphrase of verse 10a: “My God, with His lovingkindness, shall come to meet me at every corner.” What a comfort for storm-tossed souls of every age! Linked with this assurance is the knowledge that God will preserve us to see this defeat of our enemies.[2]


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


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

look in triumph. For now, the enemy gloats over the psalmist, but the psalmist expects a reversal.[4]


59:10 The psalmist was saying that God will let him “look” (raʾah) on his foes, but the force of the Hebrew verb here is stronger: to “look down” (HCSB), “look in triumph” (RSV) or “gloat.” God will let him see victory and enjoy it. But since the victory is God’s, the praise also must be His. Therefore, the boasting must be in Him and not in oneself (vv. 16–17).[5]


59:10 Look down on is literally “look on,” but the context makes it clear that he will look on them as a victor looks on a vanquished foe.[6]


10. The God of my mercy will prevent me. In the Hebrew, there is the affix of the third person, but we have the point which denotes the first. The Septuagint has adopted the third person, and Augustine too ingeniously, though with a good design, has repeatedly quoted the passage against the Pelagians, in proof that the grace of God is antecedent to all human merit. In the same manner, he has again and again cited the preceding verse, to refute the arrogancy of those who boast of the power of free-will. “I will put in trust my strength with thee,” he says; “that is, men must subject themselves with all modesty and humility to God, as having no strength but that with which he supplies them.” Now, it may be said with great plausibility, that the man puts his strength in trust with God, who declares that he has no strength but what comes from him, and who depends entirely upon his help. The sentiment inculcated is also, without all doubt, a pious and instructive one; but we must be ever on our guard against wresting Scripture from its natural meaning. The Hebrew word קדם, kidem, means no more than to come forward seasonably; and David simply intimates that the divine assistance would be promptly and opportunely extended. The scope of the words is, that God will interpose at the very moment when it is required, however much he may retard or defer his assistance. Were it not that we are hurried on by the excessive eagerness of our own wishes, we would sufficiently recognise the promptness with which God hastens to our help, but our own precipitance makes us imagine that he is dilatory. To confirm his faith, he calls him the God of his mercy, having often proved him to be merciful; and the experience of the past afforded him good hopes of what he might expect in the future. The idea of some, that David uses the word in an active sense, and praises his own mercy, is poor and unnatural. Its passive use is quite common.[7]


[1] Exell, J. S. (1909). The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms (Vol. 3, pp. 126–128). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.

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

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

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

[5] 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. 841). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[6] Warstler, K. R. (2017). Psalms. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 869). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[7] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 2, pp. 388–389). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

December 10, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

11 John’s allegorization of Genesis 4 brings the extreme statements of 1 John 3:11–16 into focus. The section opens with a restatement of the love command (Jn 13:34), which they have “heard from the beginning” in the sense that it originates with Jesus.[1]


11 The passage is closely linked with the preceding discussion by the linking phrase at the end of verse 10 which is now clarified with a “because” clause. “This is the message” is a repetition of the opening phrase at the beginning of the main body of the Epistle.2 The statement that “God is light” is now balanced by the imperative “Love one another.” This is no new message. The readers have heard it “from the beginning,” i.e. of their Christian experience.4 John is appealing to the traditional nature of the message to emphasize its importance and its truth to his readers who may have been tempted to ignore it in view of the bad example presented by John’s opponents. This is the first use in the Epistle of the words “to love one another” (3:23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 Jn. 5), but the phrase means exactly the same as “to love one’s brother” (2:10; 3:10, 14; 4:20f.). John has already made it clear that only those who love their brothers live in the light of God’s presence and revelation (2:10), and he now develops this basic thought. Although he speaks of “one another,” it is primarily love of one’s Christian brothers which he has in mind; this is where Christian love must start. The command to do this goes back to the teaching of Jesus himself (Jn. 13:34f.; 15:12), and hence belongs to the foundation of Christian teaching.[2]


3:11 / The word message (angelia) occurs only twice in the NT: here and in 1:5. It may signal a major division within 1 John after which love and faith are primary issues and before which light and truth were the principal concerns. Both sections have in mind the false teachers who have broken away from the fellowship and whose teaching actively threatens the Elder’s loyalists.

In 1:1 “the Word of life” was “from the beginning, which we have heard.” In 1:5 “God is light” was “the message we have heard.” In 2:7 the new yet old command (love; cf. John 13:34–35) was “the message (logos) you have heard,” “since the beginning”; 2:24 also referred to “what you have heard from the beginning,” the tradition of Jesus as the Christ (2:22). Here the message you heard from the beginning is the command that we should love one another; it is closest in thought to 2:7 and especially to 2 John 5–6, where the nearly identical expression occurs. All of these passages are, in the Elder’s mind, parts of the sacred tradition of the community, passed down to the present Johannine Christians from Jesus through the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:24). They have had this teaching from the beginning of their existence as a Christian fellowship.

All of the references to positive human love in the Gospel and letters of John are to love for God or Jesus (John 14:15, 21, 23–24; 1 John 4:10, 20–21; 5:2–3), or among disciples (13:34–35; 15:12, 17), or for members of the community (1 John 2:10; 3:10–11, 14, 18, 23; 4:7, 11–12, 19–20; 5:1–2; 2 John 5). There is no command to love one’s neighbor outside the community, or to love one’s enemies. Given the conflicts which plagued Johannine Christians from the start, externally with Judaism (reflected in the Gospel of John) and internally with the secessionists (Johannine epistles), ethical reflection was cast inward, and the overriding concern was ever community survival. If the “world hates you” (John 15:18–19; 1 John 3:13), persecutes you (15:20), puts you out of the synagogue, and kills you (16:2; cf. John 9:34), it is all the more important that the believers form a close bond of love and support among themselves.[3]


11. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.

  • Love

Throughout his epistle John repeats the main themes of his teaching to ensure that his readers remember his instruction. Here he reminds them of the command he gave in the preceding chapter (2:7), that they love one another. He introduces this precept with the words “This is the message you heard from the beginning.” When they first heard the gospel proclaimed, they became acquainted with the message to love one another. This command, then, is fundamental to the Christian religion (compare John 13:34; 15:12; 1 John 3:23). It can never be regarded as an afterthought in the teaching of God’s revelation.

  • Hate

In contrast with love, hate destroys and kills. John mentions Cain without any details or qualifications, except that he belonged to the devil and that he murdered his brother. Note that John mentions Cain by name, not Abel. John concentrates on Cain, because he is the representative of those who are not born of God, but belong to the evil one (compare v. 10a; John 8:44). “It is not that Cain by murdering his brother became the child of the devil; but, being a child of the devil, his actions were evil and culminated in the murder of his brother.”

  • Murder

Translators avoid a literal translation when they provide the reader with the word murdered: “Cain murdered his brother.” But the Greek actually says, “Cain … cut his brother’s throat” (JB, italics added). Admittedly, the Genesis account (4:8) is very brief at this point. Also, the writer of Hebrews mentions Abel’s death indirectly (11:4). The first act of slaughtering a human being, however, is inseparably connected with the name Cain.

  • Evil and righteous

“And why did he murder him?” Instead of saying that because of hatred Cain killed Abel, John contrasts the deeds of Cain with those of his brother. Cain’s actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. These two adjectives provide the contrast. The Greek word evil is the same word John uses to describe Satan (2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18, 19). In short, John intimates that Cain’s deeds originated with Satan. The word righteous, however, is a term that refers to Jesus Christ (1:9; 2:1, 29; 3:7). In other words, Cain belonged to Satan and Abel belonged to God.[4]


[1] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 462). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Marshall, I. H. (1978). The Epistles of John (pp. 188–189). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Johnson, T. F. (2011). 1, 2, and 3 John (pp. 79–80). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 306–307). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 10, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

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.

Redemption

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.[1]


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.

  • 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.[2]


[1] Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (pp. 450–456). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Hamilton, V. P. (1990). The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17 (pp. 373–376). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

December 10, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

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

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

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


37 Pilate’s words can be taken in more ways than one. They might be a statement, “Then (since you speak of a kingdom) you are a king.” Or they might be spoken in irony, “So then, it is a king that you are!” More probably they are a question, but if so they will not be a simple request for information. Rather they will signify, “So you are a king?” with a note of irony, an irony underlined by the use of the emphatic pronoun you. Irony or not, the words affirm Jesus’ kingship, one of John’s great themes. Jesus’ reply is not easy to translate. His “you say” does not negate Pilate’s words, but it is not enthusiastic. “I didn’t say that, but if you put it that way I can scarcely say ‘No’ ” is about the force of it: “It is your word, not mine.”88 The kingship that the Jews completely rejected and Pilate affirmed ironically is a fact. John will not let us miss it, though it is a very different kind of kingship from that of which Jesus’ enemies spoke. Then Jesus proceeds to the kind of statement he prefers. His “I” stands in sharp contrast with “you”; he distances himself from Pilate. There is a purpose in his life, and this purpose concerns “the truth” (for this term see Additional Note D, pp. 259–62). He came to bear witness to the truth, to point people to the real truth. This is not the abstract concept of truth over against falsehood, but the religious truth that we have seen throughout this Gospel, a truth closely related to Jesus’ person (14:6) as well as to his mission. And the witness that he bears to this truth elicits a response from “everyone on the side of truth.” Such will indeed hear Jesus and accept what he says.

Jesus goes on to speak of himself as having been born and as having come into the world, a most unusual statement. Both affirmations can be paralleled elsewhere, but the combination is unusual, and in this situation, unexpected. The governor might not have understood all the meaning that Jesus put into the expression but at least it would impress him with the fact that Jesus was an unusual person and, further, that he was speaking of an unusual entry into this world. It is difficult to see how the implication that Jesus is claiming preexistence is to be avoided. He is saying that he had a purpose in coming into the world in the first place.[2]


37 The subtlety of the contrary-to-fact condition is wasted on Pilate, who seems to have heard only the phrase, “My kingship,” implying that Jesus is a king of some sort. Pilate, therefore, “said to him, ‘So, you are a king!’ ” (v. 37a). Jesus replies, “You say47 that I am a king. I was born for this, and for this I came into the world, that I might testify to the truth. Everyone who is from the truth hears my voice” (v. 37b).

With this, the “Johannine” expansion of the simple “You say so” in all three synoptic Gospels (Mt 27:11//Mk 15:2//Lk 23:3) is complete. Jesus does not deny his kingship, for it is evident in this Gospel no less than in the others (1:49, 12:13), but he prefers to speak of something else—his calling to “testify to the truth,” just as John had done before him (5:33). “For this,” he tells Pilate, “I was born, and for this I have come into the world.” The solemn repetition of “for this” makes this the simplest and most emphatic statement of Jesus’ mission to be found anywhere in the Gospel.51 Throughout his public ministry, he has spoken “the truth which I heard from God” (see 8:40, 45). Even those who mistakenly wanted to “come and seize him to make him king” (6:15) did so because they believed he was “truly the Prophet who is coming into the world” (6:14). His role as king cannot be separated from his role as the revealer of God, for his authority to “testify to the truth” rests on his kingship, the royal authority the Father has given him over “all flesh” (17:2) to make known “the truth”—that is, “the only true God,” and himself as God’s messenger (17:3).

His final words to Pilate here add a cautionary note, “Everyone who is from the truth hears my voice.” The implication is that those who are not “from the truth,” that is, do not belong to the truth or stand on the side of truth, do not hear Jesus’ voice. In effect he is asking Pilate, “Do you belong to the truth? Are you hearing my voice?” Earlier, after telling “the Jews who had believed him” at the Tent festival, “If you dwell on my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (8:31–32), he found that this did not happen, and he had to say to them in the end, “Whoever is from God hears the words of God. This is why you do not hear, because you are not from God” (8:47). Again at the Rededication he told them: “But as for you, you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep [literally, “you are not from my sheep”]. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (10:26–27). That was his verdict on the Jewish authorities: they were not “from God” in that they did not belong to God; they were not “from” his sheep in that they were not numbered among his sheep; by implication, they were not “from the truth,” for they refused to believe the One who told them the truth (8:45–46) and repeatedly tried to kill him.[3]


37. Then Pilate said to him, So you are a king? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. For this purpose was I born, and for this purpose have I come into the world, in order that I might testify to the truth. Whoever is of the truth listens to my voice.

And now thirdly, what, then, is this kingship? Pilate wants to know. Although the charge against Jesus, representing him as a seditionist, had not arisen in the heart of Pilate, nevertheless he cannot understand how a man can talk about his kingship, if he be not an earthly king. Pilate, therefore, wishes to know whether this prisoner is really a king.

Jesus answers by saying, “You say that I am a king.” Cf. also Matt. 27:11; 26:64; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3. In the present connection it is very clear that with this answer Jesus is not trying to remain non-committal. The reply cannot mean, “That is what you are saying, but I have never said that.” The immediately following context leaves room for only one interpretation, namely, that Jesus in replying, “You say that I am a king,” definitely meant that Pilate was correct in inferring that the prisoner possessed and claimed royal authority! Note what follows: “For this purpose was I born,” etc. Hence, the meaning is “I am, indeed, a king; I was born for this very purpose.”

The words, “You say it (namely, that I am a king),” should not sound strange to people who so often use the very similar expression, “You said it!” This, of course, means, “Yes, indeed; it is even as you have just now affirmed.”

Jesus, however, was not a person who, as a result of certain circumstances—say, the death of a predecessor, or the successful revolution of a people against its rulers—had become a king. No, he was a born king; in fact, he was born for the very purpose of being a king! “Born” not only, as any other person might be born, but “come into the world” from another realm, namely, from heaven. From the ivory palaces of heaven he had descended into this sin-cursed world in order there to take upon himself his mediatorial task, his saving ministry. See on 1:9.

He came, moreover, in order to give competent testimony concerning that which he had himself heard from the Father respecting man’s salvation. For testimony and to testify see on 1:7, 8. For the idea that Jesus came to testify to the things which he had seen and heard while in the Father’s presence see 3:11, 32; 8:28, 38; 12:49; 14:10; cf. also 17:8.

He had come, therefore, to testify to the truth with respect to man’s salvation unto the glory of God. See on 14:6. He had come to destroy the realm of the lie (see on 8:44). Very significantly Jesus adds, “Whoever is of the truth listens to my voice.” This was, of course, an implied invitation that Pilate, too, might listen! Now, every one, whether Jew or Gentile does not matter at all—see also on 1:29; 3:16, 17; 4:42; 6:33, 51; 8:12; 9:5; 10:16; 11:52; 12:32—who owes his spiritual origin to him who is the truth, is eager to listen to this voice of the truth. For the verb to listen (not merely to hear) see on 10:3.[4]


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

[2] Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (pp. 680–682). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Michaels, J. R. (2010). The Gospel of John (pp. 924–925). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, pp. 409–410). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 9, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

9 Paul first reaffirms that he and Apollos are both “fellow workers” of God. Then he switches his imagery from that of agriculture to that of architecture when he calls the Corinthians “God’s field” and then “God’s building.” Such dual images have their root in the OT’s description of the task to which God called his servant and prophet Jeremiah: “to uproot” and to “tear down,” and later “to build” and “to plant” (Jer 1:10; cf. 24:6; Sir 49:7).

With this perspective, Paul undercuts once and for all the statements that were making the rounds in Corinth, cited both in 1:12 and 3:4: “I follow Paul,” and, “I follow Apollos.” Literally these slogans translate, “I am of Paul,” and, “I am of Apollos,” meaning something like, “I belong to Paul,” or, “I belong to Apollos.” As far as the apostle is concerned, believers do not belong to any particular individual, no matter how influential that person may be in someone’s life. We belong to God! We are his field; we are his building. This is a strong warning to any of us who are pastors to make sure that the people under our care do not develop such an attachment to us that we feel as though they belong to us. (Attachment to a human leader, in fact, is one of the chief characteristics of a cult.) If anything, the reverse is true: Paul and Apollos and any other human leaders belong to the people as servants (see 3:21–23 and comments).[1]


9 With an explanatory “for,” Paul picks up the main points of the analogy (that Paul and Apollos are workers together in a common cause and belong to God, and that the Corinthians, therefore, do not belong to either Paul or Apollos because they, too, belong to God) and drives his present concerns home with terse, but pointed, epigrams: “We belong to God as God’s fellow workers; you in turn are God’s field.” At the same time Paul shifts images, “You are God’s building,”362 and thus sets in motion a new phase of the argument, which will be spelled out in the analogy that follows (vv. 10–15 and 16–17).

In speaking of himself and Apollos as “co-workers,” Paul uses another of his favorite terms to describe those who labor with him in ministry. Usually it refers to someone who has worked as Paul’s companion; here he extends the term to refer to another who in a more distant way joins him in the ministry of the gospel. In the Greek text the emphasis is altogether on God: “God’s servants we are, being co-workers; God’s field, God’s building, you are.” To be sure, some have occasionally suggested that by “co-worker” Paul here intended, as the KJV had it, “we are laborers together with God.” But everything in the context speaks against such a view: The emphatic position of the genitive (“God’s”) suggests possession,366 as do the following, equally emphatic, genitives, which are unambiguously possessive; the argument of the whole paragraph emphasizes the workers’ unity as co-laborers under God, an argument that would be undercut considerably if he were now emphasizing that they worked with God in Corinth (a view that is altogether modern and quite out of sync with Paul’s own concerns). It should finally be noted that these new “slogans” serve as the climax of the whole paragraph, in which the emphasis is decidedly on God’s ownership, not on Paul’s and Apollos’s working with God, as it were, in Corinth.

Thus the whole paragraph is tersely summarized with these emphatic words. Everything is God’s—the church, its ministry, Paul, Apollos—everything. Therefore, it is absolutely not permissible to say “I belong to Paul,” since the only legitimate “slogan” is “we all belong to God.”

Because the imagery of ministry presented here is so common in Paul, and because it so clearly reflects the teaching of Jesus as well, one may be certain that Paul would intend these words to go beyond their particular historical circumstances to apply to the church at all times in all settings. Whatever form ministry finally takes, and on that we have been divided for centuries, there can be no mistake as to its nature—servanthood, of the kind exhibited by the Lord himself and his apostle. There simply is no other paradigm.

Paul’s points need regularly to be underscored, for both clergy and laity alike. The church belongs to its Lord, and to him alone; and its ministers must function in Christ’s church in the posture of servants. Paul’s intent here of course is to correct a misguided perception of ministry on the part of a church that was making too much of its ministers. Our need to hear it probably reflects the same realities, although most would think of themselves as above the Corinthian attitude.

All too often those “in charge,” be they clergy, boards, vestry, sessions, or what have you, tend to think of the church as “theirs.” They pay lip-service to its being “Christ’s church, after all,” then proceed to operate on the basis of very pagan, secular structures, and regularly speak of “my” or “our” church. Nor does the church belong to the people, especially those who have “attended all their lives,” or who have “supported it with great sums of money,” as though that gave them special privileges. The church belongs to Christ, and all other things—structures, attitudes, decisions, nature of ministry, everything—should flow out of that singular realization. Moreover, those “in charge” must be ever mindful of who is really in charge. To be a servant does not mean the abdication of leadership, nor, on the other hand, does it mean to become everyone’s “errand boy or girl.” It has to do with attitude, perspective, not with one’s place on the organizational chart. And as Paul will make clear a bit later (4:8–17), it must be “like priest, like people.” Servant leadership is required precisely because servanthood is the basic stance of all truly Christian behavior, modeled as it was by the “Servant King” himself.[2]


3:9 / Paul’s interest in explaining his concerns is evident as once again he begins with the word For. The niv translation of this verse is unfortunate, however. That we [Paul, Apollos, the Corinthians?] are God’s fellow workers may be the farthest idea from Paul’s mind. Literally this verse says, “For God’s we are, fellow workers; God’s field, God’s building you are.” There is a shift in or mixture of metaphors, but Paul’s thinking is clear. He recognizes that he and Apollos are fellow workers, and he recognizes that as fellow workers they both belong to God. They do not labor with God; they are God’s servants, and they labor with each other. Paul’s syntax emphasizes God and God’s priority in the tasks and the doing of ministry. The church is God’s field, God’s building, so that to claim allegiance to or status from one or another of God’s servants is nonsense. With the alteration of images—from field to building—Paul sets up the lines that follow.[3]


3:9 we are co-workers in God’s service. Paul’s use of the genitive construction, literally “co-workers of God,” could give the impression that Paul intended to suggest that he and Apollos were co-workers with God. However, it is far more likely that he considered them co-workers with one another, both serving God. “Co-workers of God” is a possessive genitive highlighting their relationship to God as his servants. They are employed not by any Corinthian patron but by God. They are working “God’s field” in Corinth, and the Corinthian church is “God’s building.” The string of possessive genitives is designed to underscore, once again, that none other than God can demand their allegiance and loyalty. The Corinthian believers are not many buildings but one. Although they meet in the homes of different patrons and have listened to different teachers, they are one community, one house belonging to God.[4]


9. For we are fellow workers for God; you are God’s field, God’s building.

  • “For we are fellow workers for God.” Does the term fellow workers denote the relationship between Paul and Apollos or the relationship between these two workers and God? The first interpretation would be translated “fellow workers for God” and the second “fellow workers with God.”

In favor of the first interpretation is the conjunction for that links the preceding verse (v. 8) to the first part of this verse. Paul is saying that Apollos and he are not working for themselves but work for God. They are workers in the service of God, and “are God’s paid servants, rather than his colleagues.”19 From another perspective, the expression fellow worker is linked in other passages to nouns that convey the objective idea. For instance, Paul writes, “but we are fellow workers for your joy” (2 Cor. 1:24) and “Titus is my partner and a fellow worker for you” (2 Cor. 8:23; and see 1 Thess. 3:2).

The second interpretation is, “We also work together with God.” This translation is acceptable as long as the concept of equal partnership is ruled out. God and man are never equals in the proclamation of the gospel, for man is merely an instrument in God’s hand and works not next to him but for him (Acts 9:15).

Many translators present the genitive case in the possessive form (we are God’s fellow workers) and leave unanswered the question of interpretation. Gordon D. Fee observes that the emphatic position of the form God’s, which occurs three times in this verse, suggests the possessive idea. He concludes that “the argument of the whole paragraph emphasizes their unity in fellow labor under God.” Nonetheless, the threefold repetition of the word God in verse 9 does not exclude the possibility that the first use is the objective (“for God”). This possibility is buttressed by two factors: the shift from the first person plural we to the second person plural you makes it probable; the preceding verses (vv. 7 and 8) make it plausible because God is the agent.

  • “You are God’s field, God’s building.” Paul switches from the ministers to the people, from the we to the you. In the Greek, he places the pronoun you at the end of the sentence for emphasis. Also, he continues to use the imagery of a field. Is this field to be considered active in the sense that it produces a crop? Or is it considered passive as, for instance, when it is being cultivated? The second interpretation seems to fit the context better than the first. That is, by preaching the gospel Paul and Apollos cultivated the Corinthians, whom Paul calls God’s field. The Corinthians have to understand that ministers labor in the church not for themselves but for the Lord. “From this it follows that the Corinthians were wrong in yielding themselves to men, when, by right, they belong to God alone.”23

From agricultural imagery, Paul turns to an architectural metaphor. “[You are] God’s building.” Just as a field is being cultivated, so a building is in the process of being erected. The builders do their work for the Lord (see Eph. 2:19–22; 1 Peter 2:5).[5]


3:9. To support his claims, Paul stated that he and Apollos were God’s fellow workers. The preceding context suggests that Paul meant that he and Apollos were fellow workers for God. They formed a team, working together in God’s service. Each one needed the other in order to fulfill the goal, and the goal was of divine design. The Corinthian church, therefore, was God’s field, not theirs. God was the church’s ultimate leader, and its allegiance belonged to him alone.

Paul closed this verse by calling the Corinthians God’s building, speaking of the church as God’s possession under God’s leadership. Both metaphors illustrated the fact that God was building a unified church—one building, one field—not a fragmented, divided church. By quarreling and dividing, the Corinthians struggled to destroy what God was building.[6]


[1] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 284). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Fee, G. D. (2014). The First Epistle to the Corinthians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Revised Edition, pp. 143–145). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[3] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (pp. 70–71). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Vang, P. (2014). 1 Corinthians. (M. L. Strauss, Ed.) (p. 42). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 107–108). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 48–49). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

December 9, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

thirty days of Jesus day 12

The Love of God

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

There are many passages in the Bible that have been chosen by some great person or other as a favorite text. John Wesley often said that his favorite verse was Zechariah 3:2: “Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” David Livingstone preferred the last words of Matthew 28:20: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” John Newton said that his favorite verse was Romans 5:20: “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Luther had Romans 1:17 as his life text: “The righteous will live by faith.” Each of these verses has spoken to some man in his own particular condition and has become for him the greatest text in the Bible. But the verse we come to now is everyone’s text.

There is hardly a place in the world to which the gospel of Jesus Christ has gone that this verse has not become almost instantly known. It is the first verse that translators put into another language. Millions of people have been taught to recite it. It is inscribed on books and buildings. It is reflected in songs. John 3:16! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This great verse with its emphasis upon God’s love and the gift of his love in Jesus Christ is stupendous.

In the early 1960s, the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth was in this country for a series of lectures, speaking in Chicago and in Princeton, New Jersey. There were discussion periods occasionally, connected with these addresses, and at one of the discussion periods an American asked a typically American question: “Dr. Barth, what is the greatest thought that has ever passed through your mind?” Barth paused for quite a long time as he obviously thought about his answer. Then he raised his head and said with grace and childlike simplicity:

Jesus loves me! This I know,

For the Bible tells me so.

This is a truth that Christians in all ages have acknowledged, and the more that they have discovered the person of Jesus Christ in the Bible, the more they have realized it.

I want to look at God’s love in this study, our first study of John 3:16, and I want to begin by reviewing some of the verses that speak about it.

A Great Love

The first verses are Ephesians 2:4–5. These are verses in which the apostle Paul speaks of God’s love, saying, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” These verses tell us that God’s love is great.

In preparation for this study I began to think about the term “great” in ways that I had never done before, and I came to the conclusion that we have lessened the force of what God means by the way we use the word. During the week before I wrote this chapter, I had attended a “Current Events Week” at a Christian school. While there I said that some of the points made by the speakers were “great.” After the meetings were over I told the president of the school that I felt that the points made would have a “great” effect on the students in the weeks and months ahead. Later in the week I attended a Young Life banquet in Philadelphia, and I said in that context that the evening was “great,” that the speakers were “great,” that the program of Young Life was “great.” I used the term honestly. Yet none of these things even begins to measure up to what the Bible means when it says that the love of God is great. God is the master of the understatement. Consequently, when he tells us that his love is great, he is telling us that it is so great that it goes beyond our own ideas of greatness or our own understanding.

John 3:16 was the verse through which D. L. Moody learned to appreciate the greatness of God’s love. Moody had been to Britain in the early days of his ministry and there had met a young English preacher named Henry Moorhouse. One day Moorhouse said to Moody, “I am thinking of going to America.”

“Well,” said Moody, “if you should ever get to Chicago, come down to my church and I will give you a chance to preach.”

Moody did not mean to be hypocritical when he said this, of course. He was merely being polite. Nevertheless, he was saying to himself that he hoped Moorhouse would not come, for Moody had not heard him preach and had no idea of what he would say should he come to Chicago. Sometime later, after Moody had returned home, the evangelist received a telegram that said, “Have just arrived in New York. Will be in Chicago on Sunday. Moorhouse.” Moody was perplexed about what he should do, and to complicate matters he was just about to leave for a series of meetings elsewhere. “Oh, my,” he thought, “here I am about to be gone on Sunday, Moorhouse is coming, and I have promised to let him preach.” Finally he said to his wife and to the leaders of the church, “I think that I should let him preach once. So let him preach once; then if the people enjoy him, put him on again.”

Moody was gone for a week. When he returned he said to his wife, “How did the young preacher do?”

“Oh, he is a better preacher than you are,” his wife said. “He is telling sinners that God loves them.”

“That is not right,” said Moody. “God does not love sinners.”

“Well,” she said, “you go and hear him.”

“What?” said Moody. “Do you mean to tell me that he is still preaching?”

“Yes, he has been preaching all week, and he has only had one verse for a text. It is John 3:16.”

Moody went to the meeting. Moorhouse got up and began by saying, “I have been hunting for a text all week, and I have not been able to find a better text than John 3:16. So I think we will just talk about it once more.” He did. Afterward Moody said it was on that night that he first clearly understood the greatness of God’s love.

Infinite Love

The Bible not only says that the love of God is great; it also says that it is infinite. This is what Paul means when he writes in the third chapter of Ephesians that his prayer for Christians is that they “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18–19). How can we comprehend the infinite love of God? We can know it, but only in part. We have been touched by his love and bathed in part of it; yet the fullness of such love lies forever beyond us as the vastness of the universe lies beyond the finite, probing eye of man. God’s love is boundless and unfathomable.

One of our seldom sung hymns puts this aspect of God’s love in memorable language. It was written by Frederick M. Lehman; but the final stanza was added to the song afterward, when it was found written on the wall of a room of an asylum by a man who, before he died, had obviously come to know the immeasurable extent of God’s love.

The love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen can ever tell,

It goes beyond the highest star

And reaches to the lowest hell.

The guilty pair, bowed down with care,

God gave His Son to win:

His erring child He reconciled,

And pardoned from his sin.

Could we with ink the ocean fill

And were the skies of parchment made;

Were every stalk on earth a quill

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry,

Nor could the scroll contain the whole

Though stretched from sky to sky.

Chorus

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall for evermore endure—

The saints’ and angels’ song.

This is our song, if we have come to know in part that great and immeasurable love of God toward us through Christ Jesus.

A Love That Gives

Third, God not only tells us that his love is great and is infinite, he also tells us that his love is a giving love. This is the heart of John 3:16. How much does God love you? God loves you so much “that he gave his one and only Son.”

We are going to be considering the gift of God in the next study, but we do not want to miss even here the great lesson there is in that statement. Once in the early days of my ministry, when I was still working in Washington, D.C., I became interested in the subject of God’s love and discovered as I studied the Bible that there is hardly a verse in the New Testament, in speaking of God’s love, that does not also speak in the immediate context (and sometimes within a space of a few words) of the cross. How do we know that God loves us? Because we are able to love one another a little bit? Because the world is beautiful? Because we value love? Not at all! We know that God loves us because he has given us his only-begotten, his unique, Son. It is in the face of the selfless, self-sacrificing Jesus Christ that we learn of God’s character.

God loves you! Do you know that? God loves you! He has demonstrated that love for you in Jesus Christ!

Unchangeable Love

Finally, God not only tells us that his love is great, infinite, and giving; he also tells us that his love is unchangeable. This is perhaps the most wonderful aspect of all. The heart of the matter is that God loves in such a way that nothing you or I have done or will ever do will alter it.

This is a point made by one of the greatest stories in the Bible, the story of Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer. Hosea was a preacher. One day the Lord came to him and said, “Hosea, I want you to marry a woman who is going to prove unfaithful to you. You are going to love her, but she is going to turn from your love. Nevertheless, the more faithless she becomes, the more faithful and loving you will be. I want you to do this because I want to give Israel an illustration of how I love them. Your marriage will be a pageant. You will play God. The woman will play the part of Israel. For I love Israel with an unchangeable love, and she runs from me and takes other gods for lovers.”

Hosea did as God had told him to do. So the Book of Hosea tells us, “When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.’ So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son” (Hosea 1:2–3).

At this point of the story God intervened, for he had said that he was going to order each stage of the relationship between Hosea and Gomer. God intervened to give a name to this son. “Call his name Jezreel,” God said. Jezreel means “scattered,” for God was going to scatter the people of Israel all over the face of the earth. After a time Gomer conceived again and bore a daughter. “Call her Lo-Ruhamah,” God said. Lo-Ruhamah means “not pitied.” God was saying that the time would come when he would “no longer show love to the house of Israel” (v. 6). Finally, another son was born and Hosea was told to call him Lo-Ammi. Lo-Ammi means “not my people.” “For,” said God, “you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

If the story stopped at this point the ending would be exceedingly dismal, and the pageant would be illustrating the opposite of the unchangeable love of God. But it does not stop here, and God intervenes again to tell how the story will end. “I am going to change the names of those children one day,” God promised. “I am going to change Jezreel to Jezreel.” It is the same word but with a second meaning, a change from “scattered” to “planted,” because in the ancient world the same gesture by which a man would throw something away was that by which he would plant grain. God was promising to plant the people once again in their own land, as he has done in our own generation. “Moreover,” said God, “I am going to change Lo-Ruhamah to Ruhamah and Lo-Ammi to Ammi because the time is coming when I will again have pity upon those who will have again become my children.” The Bible says, “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God’ ” (v. 10).

The time came in the marriage when the events that God had foretold happened. Gomer looked around and caught the eye of a stranger. Before long she had left with him, and Hosea was alone.

The life of a woman like that goes downhill. For if she had left Hosea for the company of a man who could give her a Cadillac and a fur coat this year, it is equally certain that the year following, when the first lover had grown tired of her, she would be found with a man who could only give her a fur-lined collar and an Oldsmobile. The year after that she would be in fake fur and a Volkswagen, and the year after that she would be pulling something out of the garbage heap. So it was with Hosea’s wife. The time came when she was living with a man who did not have the means to take care of her, and she was hungry.

“Now,” said God to Hosea, “I want you to go and see that she gets the things she needs, because I take care of the people of Israel even when they are running away from me.” Hosea went and bought the groceries. He gave them to the man who was living with his wife, but he said that Gomer did not even know he had bought them. The story tells us, “Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ … She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold” (Hosea. 2:5, 8).

Does God love like that? Yes, he does! Have you ever run away from God? Of course, you have! What happened? God paid your bills! If you have been running away from God, do you realize that it is God who gives you the strength to run? Here is a girl who says, “I don’t care if God is calling me into Christian work. I’m going to turn away and marry this young man.” God says, “Who gave you the good looks that made the young man interested?” Another person says, “I want to be famous.” So he goes to New York and writes a book that later becomes a movie. He makes lots of money. But God says, “Who gave you the talent to write the book in the first place? Did not I, the Lord?” You cannot run away from God’s love successfully. You can run, but God pursues you. He steps before you and says, “My child, I am the One who has been providing for you all this time. Won’t you stop running and allow me to take you to myself?”

The final act of the drama was approaching. The time came when Gomer sank so low that she was sold as a slave in the city of Jerusalem, and God told Hosea to go and buy her. Slaves were always sold naked. Thus, when a beautiful girl was on sale, the men bid freely and the bidding always went high. Here was Gomer. Her clothes were taken off. The bidding began. One man bid three pieces of silver. Another said five … ten … twelve … thirteen. The low bidders had dropped out when Hosea said, “Fifteen pieces of silver.” A voice from the back of the crowd said, “Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel of barley.” “Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley,” said Hosea. The auctioneer looked around for a higher bid. Seeing none he declared, “This slave is sold to Hosea for fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley.” So Hosea took his wife (whom he now owned), put her clothes on her, and led her away into the anonymity of the crowd.

You say, “Is that a true picture of God’s love?” Yes, it is! That is how God loves you. Listen to what the Bible says about it: “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you’ ” (Hosea 3:1–3).

Oh, the greatness of the unchangeable love of almighty God! God loves you and me like that! We are the slave sold under the bondage of sin. We are the one placed upon the world’s auction block. The bidding of the world goes higher and higher. “What am I bid for this person’s soul?” At this point Jesus Christ, the faithful bridegroom, enters the slave market of sin and bids the price of his blood. “Sold to Jesus Christ for the price of his blood,” says Almighty God. So he bought you. He clothed you in his righteousness. And he led you away with himself, saying, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”

God’s Love, Our Pattern

You say “What does that have to do with me?” It has everything to do with you. Are you one who has never known that love, never realized that Jesus Christ loved you like that, that he still loves you? To be touched with such love is to throw yourself at his feet in adoration and marvel that you could ever have violated such a great and unalterable compassion. The Bible tells us that God “commends” such great love toward us (Rom. 5:8). Won’t you allow the hardness of your heart to melt before God’s love and allow Jesus Christ to be your great Savior and bridegroom?

Perhaps you are one who has already done that. You have believed in Christ, but the reality of that love has become distant for you and you have never fully realized that the love of Christ is to become the pattern of your love. He is to be your model. You need to ask whether your love has been great, whether it has the character of that love which is infinite, whether it is a giving love, whether it is unchangeable. Ask it now. Does your love change when the person whom you love does not respond quickly? Or does it hold firm? Do you continue to love when your wife, husband, child, or friend does not seem to see things the way you do and contradicts you? Do you love as Christ loves? You are called to show forth that love; for as others see it they will be drawn to the Lord Jesus.

God’s Greatest Gift

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It is commonplace in our day to say that God loves men. But many who say this fail to recognize that we know this is so only because of Jesus Christ. How do we know that God loves us? Not because of creation certainly, for the evidence of creation is ambiguous. There are tidal waves and hurricanes as well as gorgeous sunsets. Not because we tend to value love, for not all of us do. Not because love is “wonderful” or “grand” or because it “makes the world go round.” We know that God loves us because he has given his Son to be crucified for us and thereby to bring us back into fellowship with himself. Thus, if the love of God is one of God’s greatest attributes (as we saw in our last study), the gift of Christ is most certainly his greatest gift. For it is through Christ that we come to know God’s love and love God.

Sometime ago I came across a little card upon which someone had printed John 3:16. The verse was arranged almost word by word down one side of the card, and on the other side of the card across from the words of the verse was a list of descriptive phrases, one for each part. The person looking at the card would read: “God (the greatest Lover) so loved (the greatest degree) the world (the greatest company), that he gave (the greatest act) his only begotten Son (the greatest gift), that whosoever (the greatest opportunity) believeth (the greatest simplicity) in him (the greatest attraction) should not perish (the greatest promise), but (the greatest difference) have (the greatest certainty) everlasting life (the greatest possession).” And then over it all, revealing a spiritual perception that was most accurate, there was the title “Christ—the Greatest Gift.”

Have you ever come to appreciate God’s greatest gift to you, the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ? We are going to look at some of the reasons why he is a great gift and why you should believe on him.

God So Loved

The first reason why Jesus Christ is the greatest of God’s gifts is that Jesus is the best God had to give. God so loved the world that he gave the very best.

This truth is seen in several ways in John 3:16. First, it is obvious from the word “only-begotten,” which is used of Jesus. To our way of thinking, this word (it is one word in Greek) refers mainly to physical generation, but it means more than that in the original language. A great deal of theological controversy in the church was once caused by those who took it as simply physical generation; they argued that since the Bible says Jesus was the “only-begotten” Son, there must have been a time before he came into being. In other words, he did not exist from eternity but rather was the first being God created. This was foolish, of course, because the Bible does not teach this and the word does not have this meaning primarily. Primarily the word means “unique.” Jesus is the unique Son of God; there is no one like him, no one who is his equal. Therefore, because Jesus Christ is the very image of God and because there is no one like him, when God gave Jesus, he gave the best gift in the universe.

God also gave the best in another sense. For Jesus Christ is not at all a creature made in the image of God, as man is; he is God incarnate. Consequently, when God gave Jesus he gave himself. To give oneself is the greatest gift anyone can give. Sometime ago I read a story of a minister who was talking to a married couple who were having marital difficulties. There was much hardness and bitterness, coupled with a lack of understanding. At one point the husband spoke up in obvious exasperation. “I’ve given you everything,” he said to the wife. “I’ve given you a new home. I’ve given you a new fur coat. I’ve given you a new car. I’ve given you …” The list went on. But when he had ended the wife said quietly. “That much is true, John. You have given me everything … but yourself.”

We hear that story and we recognize the truth of the principle: the greatest gift that anyone can give is himself. Then we look at Jesus, who is God incarnate, and we recognize that God gave the very best—himself—for us.

An Eternal Plan

The second reason why Jesus Christ is God’s greatest gift is that Jesus was a gift planned from before the foundation of the world. God had always intended to give Jesus. This is why so many of the verses in the Bible speak of God having put Jesus to death. Isaiah 53:10 speaks of the crucifixion eight centuries before it took place, saying, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” Peter knew this truth. On the day of Pentecost he spoke of Jesus who “was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). For the same reason the Book of Revelation speaks of Jesus as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

We must not think that the entrance of sin into the world through Adam and Eve was an event that somehow caught God by surprise or that it caused God to begin to ponder what he should do to correct it. God knew all from the beginning. Consequently, before he even set the universe in motion, before he created us, he had determined to send Jesus Christ to die for the salvation of our race.

Perhaps the greatest declaration of this principle lies in a poignant story from the life of Abraham, the story of the call of God to Abraham to offer up his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. It is told in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis. I believe that Jesus was referring to this event when he told the Jews of his day, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56), and that through it Abraham learned that God was to give Jesus Christ to be our Savior.

To see the story in its proper perspective we must begin with the fact that Abraham was an old man by our standards when God came to him to ask him to offer up Isaac. He had been eighty-six years old when his first son, Ishmael, had been born to Hagar, Sarah’s slave girl. He was one hundred years old when Sarah at last gave birth to Isaac. Now Isaac had become a young man, perhaps fifteen years of age or more, and Abraham was more than one hundred fifteen. Moreover, Abraham had loved his son from birth, as any father would, and he now loved him deeply with a love that had grown stronger over the years in which he had seen him grow to young manhood. He loved him doubly, not only because he was the son of his old age, the result of a miracle, but also because he was the son of promise.

At this point God came to Abraham again—as he had many times before—and said to him, “Abraham.”

“Yes, Lord.”

“I am going to ask you to do something.”

“Yes, Lord.”

“I want you to take Isaac, the son of promise, the one through whom you are going to have a great posterity and through whom I am going to send the Messiah—I want you to take this Isaac to a mountain that I will show you and there offer him for a burnt offering. I want you to kill him.”

I do not know the extent of the trial this must have been to Abraham’s faith or how much of the night he wrestled with this great problem. But whatever the struggle was, and however deep, it was all over by the following morning, for the Abraham that emerged in the morning was an Abraham committed to obedience. The story says, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about” (Gen. 22:3).

There are many lessons in this story, of course, but there is one in particular that we should see before we go on. On one level at least, the test of Abraham was a test of his devotion to God. Was God going to be everything to Abraham? Or was something else, even God’s gift, going to share and cloud that vision? It was Abraham’s triumph that he did not put the gifts before the Giver.

Isaac can stand for many things that have become quite precious to you. The Chinese evangelist Watchman Nee once wrote, “He represents many gifts of God’s grace. Before God gives them, our hands are empty. Afterwards they are full. Sometimes God reaches out his hands to take ours in fellowship. Then we need an empty hand to put into his. But when we have received his gifts and are nursing them to ourselves, our hands are full, and when God puts out his hand we have no empty hand for him.” When that happens we need to let go of the gift and take hold of God himself. Nee adds, “Isaac can be done without, but God is eternal.”

God Will Provide

Yes, the testing of Abraham was certainly a test of his devotion to God, but it was something else also. It was a spiritual test or, as we could also say, a test of his spiritual perception.

Think of the things Abraham had learned in the years before Isaac’s birth. He had been tempted to think that God would not keep his promises and that a household servant would be his legal heir. God had taught him that the blessing would not come through the household servant. Abraham had once wanted to substitute Ishmael, the son of Hagar, for Isaac—before Isaac was born. But God had told him that the blessing would not come through the son of the Egyptian slave girl. God had shown Abraham through a miracle that the blessing was to come through Isaac, and now God had asked Abraham to kill him.

We must imagine the reasoning that passed through the mind of Abraham in the dark hours of that desert evening. He must have said something like this: “I know that Isaac is the son of God’s promise, and God has shown me time and again that he will not send the blessing through another. Yet, this same God tells me to sacrifice him, to put him to death. How can this be? If I put him to death, as God has demanded, how can God fulfill his promise? How can God do it?” The puzzle was real. But then, as Abraham wrestled with this supreme test of God’s logic, it must have come to him that the God who performed a miracle in bringing about Isaac’s birth was also capable of working a miracle to bring him back from the dead. This was the solution he discovered during the long desert night. Thus, as Abraham started for the mountain in the morning he must have been saying mentally to Isaac, “Come on, boy, we are going to see a miracle. God has asked me to sacrifice you on Mount Moriah. But if God is going to be faithful to his promise, he is going to have to raise you up again from the dead. We are going to see a resurrection.”

Someone may think that I have merely made up this part of the story, but this is the way it happened. The proof of it occurs in at least two parts of the Bible. The first is in the story itself. Abraham had come to the foot of the mountain with the boy, and he was ready to go on without the young men who were with him. As he takes the kindling and he and Isaac prepare to climb the mountain, Abraham says to the others: “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5). Think of that: we will come back to you. Who would come? Abraham and Isaac! What does that mean? It means that although Abraham believed that he was going to offer the sacrifice, he also believed that God was going to perform a resurrection and that he would be able to come back down the mountain with his boy.

The second proof is Hebrews 11:17–19, which is the full New Testament commentary on the incident. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” That means that Abraham looked for a resurrection.

Thus far the story has already been great in itself, but the point I wish to make is the point that is found in the sequel. Abraham did go up the mountain, as God had commanded him, and there bound Isaac to the altar. He raised his hand ready to plunge a knife into his son. He would have killed him. But just as the knife was ready to fall, God intervened. God provided a substitute, a ram caught in the bushes. And he said (in effect), “Abraham, you don’t need to sacrifice your son. I never intended that you should go through with it. I only wanted to test your willingness to obey me and to show you in this way what I will do one day for your salvation and for the salvation of all who will believe in my Son, the Messiah.” This, I believe, was the moment in which Abraham saw the day of Jesus Christ and, seeing it, was made glad.

God revealed his ways to Abraham. The Bible says, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). So the time came when the events God had planned from before creation and had revealed to Abraham two thousand years beforehand took place. Abraham was only called upon to offer his son. But when the time came for God to offer his Son, the hand that was poised above Christ fell. God put his Son to death, and God’s greatest gift had been given.

The Need of Man

The third reason why Jesus Christ is the greatest of God’s gifts to fallen man is that he is perfectly suited to the needs of fallen man. Nothing else is! What are the needs of man? What are your needs?

Your first need is for a sure word from God, for knowledge of God. Jesus is the answer to that need, for it is Jesus alone who brings us the knowledge of who God is, what he is like, and what he desires for mankind. This is why Jesus is called the Word so many times in John’s writings. Do you want to know what God is like? If so, do not spend your time reading the books of men. Do not think that you will find out by meditating. Look to Jesus Christ. Where will you find him? You will find him in the pages of the Bible. There you will find the strength, mercy, wisdom, and compassion that are the essence of God’s character.

Your second great need is for a Savior. We do not merely have a need for sure knowledge. We have knowledge of many things, but we are unable to live up to our knowledge. We are sinners. Consequently, we not only need a sure word from God, we need a Savior. Jesus is the Savior. He died to save you from sin and from yourself. Do you know him as Savior?

Finally, we have those needs that are part and parcel of living a finite sinful life. What are those needs? One way of looking at them is the way popularized by the American psychiatrist Erich Fromm. Fromm suggests that man is confronted with three existential dilemmas. The first is the dilemma of life versus death. We want to live, but we all die. Jesus is the answer to that problem, for he gives eternal life to all who believe on him. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25, 26). The second of Fromm’s dilemmas is the dilemma of the individual and the group. Jesus is the answer to that problem too, for he has come to break down all walls and to make of his followers one new man which is his mystical body (Eph. 2:14–16). The last of Fromm’s dilemmas is that arising from the conflict between our aspirations and our actual achievements. We all fall short of what we would like to be and believe ourselves intended to be. Jesus is the answer to that problem also, for he promises to make us all that God created us to be in the first place. We are to be conformed to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29). One of our hymns looks forward to that day when our salvation shall be complete, and declares:

Then we shall be where we would be,

Then we shall be what we should be;

Things that are not now, nor could be,

Soon shall be our own.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest gift that God has ever offered or could ever offer to the human race. Are you indifferent? Or do you respond to the offer, joining the millions of others who have believed in Christ with all their heart and mind and who now say, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15)?[1]


The Greatest Verse in the Bible

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Because so many Americans watch sports events, Christians often attempt to present some kind of gospel witness in stadiums and arenas. Perhaps you have seen the signs, held up in the crowd or posted on a wall. Most commonly, the signs have this short message: JN 3:16. The idea is obviously that people either know or will find out that JN is shorthand for the Gospel of John, and that 3:16 means chapter 3, verse 16. The hope is that great things will happen if people will merely pick up a Bible and read this one verse: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Some people argue that Genesis 1:1 is the most important verse in the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Others say the Ten Commandments are most important. Significant as it is to learn that our world has a Creator and to know what is right and wrong, however, these truths can be known without the Bible. Nature itself reveals its Maker, and all mankind has an inward conviction about morality. But John 3:16 presents a message that cannot be known apart from the Bible. How does God feel about us, and what has he done, if anything, to help us? There is no greater question and no more glorious answer than that given in John 3:16. Bruce Milne says that it “is a masterly and moving summary of the gospel, cast in terms of the love of God.” Martin Luther called this verse “the Bible in miniature,” because it contains the heart of God’s entire message. This is why John 3:16 is the greatest verse in the Bible.

God’s Amazing Love

Another way to see the greatness of John 3:16 is to point out that it presents the Bible’s greatest theme: God’s love for us through Jesus Christ. Naturally, John is not the only biblical writer to extol God’s love, and we can profit from looking at how others describe it.

Paul says that God’s love is great: “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4–5). We tend to overuse the word great. We say that we had a “great time” if we enjoyed ourselves at all. If God blesses us a bit in ministry, we say that we had a “great success.” Overused like this, the word great loses some of its force. But when the Bible says that God’s love is great, it means it! We see that God’s love for the world is great in the amazing care he exercised in creating it; nature reveals the marks of the most loving craftsmanship. The Greek word that Paul uses for great (pollein) is used to describe an overflowing harvest or intense emotions. God’s love truly deserves to be called great.

Paul elsewhere describes God’s love as unfathomable. In the third chapter of Ephesians, he prays that believers “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18–19). What we are to comprehend about the dimensions of God’s love is that they are beyond measure. It is possible to exhaust the love of a spouse, friends, or even parents. But it is not possible to exhaust the love of God. Frederick M. Lehman wrote:

The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell.

God’s love is joined to all his other attributes. A great mistake that many make is to pit one of God’s attributes against another. Many of us, for instance, prefer God’s love to God’s holiness. But we must never think that we must or even can choose between the two. God’s holiness is a loving holiness, and God’s love is a holy love. Our generation has spoiled much of the idea of love—particularly romantic love—by joining it with sin. But God does not and cannot do that. His love is joined to holy purposes, and his love for us will have the ultimate result of bringing us to a gloriously holy condition. When I am counseling couples before their marriage, I often hear one of them (usually the bride) say, “I never want to change him!” I always pause, lean forward, look her in the eye, and say, “You will! You will!” God’s love never says, “I don’t want to change you.” Because God’s love is holy, he intends to change us by loving means, so that we will become the holy people that we were always meant to be.

God is almighty, and therefore his is an almighty love. This means that he is able to do all that his love desires for us. J. I. Packer writes that God’s love “has at its heart an almighty purpose to bless which cannot be thwarted.” Who, then, can separate us from this love? Paul asks (Rom. 8:35). “I am sure,” he answers, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38–39).

Moreover, as God is unchangeable, so also his love is unchangeable. John Owen writes, “Though we change every day, yet his love does not change. If anything in us or on our part could stop God loving us, then he would long ago have turned away from us. It is because his love is fixed and unchangeable that the Father shows us infinite patience and forbearance. If his love was not unchangeable, we would perish.”

God is eternal, and so is his love. Paul teaches, “He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). God’s love for us originated in eternity past, and its end flows to eternity future. God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you” (Isa. 54:10). Moreover, as God is sovereign, so is his love. Ephesians 1:4–6 explains, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” James Montgomery Boice writes, “God’s love is a sovereign love.… His love is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. And if that is so, it is the same as saying that the cause of God’s love lies only in himself.… In Scripture no cause for God’s love other than his electing will is ever given.” This was God’s explanation to Israel for the love he showed the people in the exodus: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you” (Deut. 7:7–8).

Finally, we should note that God’s love is infinite. There is no greater proof of this idea than John’s statement that God loved the world. There is an infinite distance between God and this wicked world, but God’s love is infinitely great to span that distance. God tells us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9). But he still loves us! Our world has rebelled against God, flouting his authority and mocking his ways. Most people reject God’s rule over their lives. Paul notes, “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21). That is an accurate description of our world today. The distance between us and God is infinite in every way, yet God has loved the world.

When John speaks of “the world,” he is being intentionally provocative. Old Testament Jews believed that God loved them, but rejected the idea that God loved anyone else. Leon Morris explains, “It is a distinctively Christian idea that God’s love is wide enough to embrace all people. His love is not confined to any national group or spiritual elite.” The same is true today. John does not say that God loves religious people or that God loves Christians, but that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). This is why the message of Jesus Christ is good news for everyone. Romans 5:8 tells us, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God’s Giving Love

This brings us to the particular point that John 3:16 stresses: God’s love is a giving love. The Greek language has four words for love. The first is storge, which is family love. Whatever they think of each other, family members are to be loyal. The second is eros, which is romantic or sexual love. The third kind of love is philos, which is the love of friendship or attraction. The word philosophy means “a love of wisdom.” This is a receiving love; it is based on what we get and how good something or someone makes us feel. But the New Testament stresses a fourth kind of love, using the Greek word agape. This is a giving love. It is not based on what we receive but on what we give. Agape love has its classic definition in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.”

The greatness of God’s love for the world is most clearly seen in the gift that he gave: “his only Son.” John says not merely that God loved the world, but that “God so loved the world.” The word so indicates both the manner in which God loved the world—by giving his Son—and the intensity of God’s love for the world. How do we measure God’s love for us? By calculating the infinite value of his precious Son, Jesus Christ.

John refers to Jesus as God’s “only Son.” We are undoubtedly intended to reflect on this truth in light of our love for our own children. Even though we are corrupted by sin, it is natural for us to love our children with great intensity. Mothers exhaust themselves rocking babies to sleep. Fathers spend long hours fixing bikes and playing games that they would have no interest in were it not for their children. Parents weary themselves with extra jobs to clothe and feed and educate their children. To neglect our children, as many do today, is so obviously wrong that it is universally condemned. Nature knows no greater love than that of a parent for his or her child, and Christ is God the Father’s only child. God many times spoke of his love for his Son, and Jesus often basked in the love of his Father. So in giving his only Son, God was truly giving his very heart. John Flavel asks, “Who would part with a son for the sake of his dearest friends? But God gave him to, and delivered him for enemies: O love unspeakable!” God could not possibly love this world more or better than in giving his beloved only Son.

In saying that God gave his only Son, John 3:16 corrects a terribly common mistake in thinking about God the Father. Because Jesus died to satisfy God’s justice, some think God’s love is caused by Christ’s sacrifice and is even reluctant or halfhearted. But John 3:16 teaches exactly the opposite. “The gift of Christ … is the result of God’s love to the world, and not the cause. To say that God loves us because Christ died for us, is wretched theology indeed. But to say that Christ came into the world in consequence of the love of God, is scriptural truth.” God loved this evil world not after but before the Savior came to turn our hearts back to heaven; God’s love is the reason that we can be forgiven and born again to inherit eternal life.

When John says that God “gave” his only Son, exactly what does that mean? According to the Bible, the Father sent the eternal and glorious Son into this world to take our mortal nature, with all the weakness and suffering that involved (see Heb. 2:17). Jesus states thirty-nine times in John’s Gospel that the Father “sent” him into the world with a mission of salvation to perform. God sent him to reveal his truth, to proclaim the good news of salvation, and especially to do the work needed for the salvation of those who believe. J. C. Ryle declares:

Christ is God the Father’s gift to a lost and sinful world. He was given generally to be the Saviour, the Redeemer, the Friend of sinners,—to make an atonement sufficient for all,—and to provide a redemption large enough for all. To effect this, the Father freely gave Him up to be despised, rejected, mocked, crucified, and counted guilty and accursed for our sakes.

This means that when we read that God “gave his only Son,” we should think of the cross where Jesus suffered and died, that we might be forgiven of our sins. So great is his love that if our redemption from sin required the torturous death of his only Son—even the outpouring of his own wrath on his most beloved child—God was willing to give him for this purpose. Jeremiah Burroughs marvels:

Behold the infinite love of God to mankind and the love of Jesus Christ that, rather than God see the children of men to perish eternally, He would send His Son to take our nature upon Him and thus suffer such dreadful things. Herein God shows His love.… It pleased the Father to break His Son and to pour out His blood. Here is the love of God and of Jesus Christ. Oh, what a powerful, mighty, drawing, efficacious meditation this should be to us!”

During the darkest times of World War I, a war that claimed the lives of a shocking number of English sons, a man took his little boy out for a walk at night. The boy noticed that some of the houses had stars in the windows. “That comes from this terrible war, laddie,” the father explained. “It shows that these people have given a son.” They had walked a bit farther when the young boy stopped, and pointed up to the sky where a bright evening star had appeared. He said, “Daddy, God must have given a Son, too.” Leon Morris remarks, “That is it. In the terrible war against evil, God gave his Son. That is the way evil was defeated. God paid the price.”

God’s gift therefore was not only infinite in value, but also perfectly suited to our greatest need. Here again is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” We might prefer that God would do something other than send his only Son to be our Savior. But God’s love addresses our true and greatest need. Whenever the New Testament speaks of God’s love, it almost invariably does so in terms of the atoning work of Christ on the cross. John 3:16 is a typical example. In the previous two verses Jesus told Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (3:14–15). That was an allusion to his death on the cross. This, then, is how the world knows God’s love and receives God’s love: not because we are able to love one another a bit; not because there is beauty in the world; but because God sent Jesus to die for our sins. John writes in his first epistle, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world.… He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9–10).

Receiving God’s Love

The Puritan John Flavel concluded his study of John 3:16 with three keen observations. First, he says, this verse shows us “the exceeding preciousness of souls, and at what a high rate God values them, that he will give his Son, his only Son out of his bosom, as a ransom for them.” Surely this argues—God’s having given his only Son for the saving of souls—that we ought to labor with all our might to bring people to salvation. John 3:16 says that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is through our witness that they can believe. It is because we take an interest in their souls, because we speak earnestly to them about Jesus, and because we invite them to join us at church and hear God’s Word that souls are saved today. This must apply most urgently to our own children. It is dismaying to see how little interest so many parents take in the souls of their children. Since we love them, and since their souls are so precious to God, we should be especially determined to set them a godly example, to pray with and for them, to teach them God’s Word, and to involve them in the worship and life of the church.

Second, Flavel notes, since God has given us his Son, we may be confident of receiving every other help and mercy we need to endure this life and arrive safely into heaven. Knowing this should give us peace in every storm and confidence in the face of life’s trials. Knowing how much God has already given us—his very best in the person of his own Son—we should trust his love and come to him with a holy boldness in prayer. Paul reasoned, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). God will not withhold anything we need, having already given his Son, Jesus, so we should not shrink back from asking for and confidently awaiting anything we truly need.

Third, Flavel observes, “If the greatest love hath been manifested in giving Christ to the world, then it follows that the greatest evil and wickedness is manifested in despising, slighting, and rejecting Christ.” There can be no greater condemnation of our hearts than for us to disregard this amazing love of God in giving his only Son to suffer in our place. What does God ask and expect of us? God demands what love always desires: to be received. Jesus said in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 3:16’s message is that God calls us to believe on Jesus Christ—to receive his love-gift through personal faith in Jesus. If we believe, he promises us “eternal life.” But if we are so hardened of heart to refuse this matchless gift from God, John warns, the result is that we will “perish.” Having spurned God’s love on the cross, we must receive the just penalty for all our sins and especially for the chief sin of rejecting God’s only Son. As the writer of Hebrews warns us, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

There is one last application for those who believe in Christ and who are thus born again into eternal life. If God loved us by giving us his Son, we ought to love him with all that we have in return.

Shortly after the end of the American Civil War, a man in farm clothes was seen kneeling at a gravestone in the soldier’s cemetery in Nashville. An observer came up and asked, “Is that the grave of your son?” The farmer replied, “No, I have seven children, all of them young, and a wife on my poor farm in Illinois. I was drafted and, despite the great hardship it would cause, I was required to join the Army. But on the morning I was to depart this man, my neighbor’s older son, came over and offered to take my place in the war.” The observer solemnly asked, “What is that you are writing on his grave?” The farmer replied, “I am writing, ‘He died for me.’ ”

With that same devotion, we should love God for his love in giving Jesus Christ to die for us. Like the farmer in the story, we should make an effort to serve the Lord and give a testimony to his love for us. We should further express our devotion by loving others with the same kind of love that God has shown to us. We are to show a love that the world does not know—a love not based on getting, not one that seeks mainly for ourselves, but a love that says, “God has given to me, so I want to love him by giving to others.” This giving love should beautify our marriages, should enliven our friendships, and should glorify God in the church. This was John’s own application in his first epistle, having spoken first of God’s love for us in the giving of his Son: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). If we live out God’s amazing, giving love, that will be our strongest testimony to a loveless world, so that others will learn of God’s amazing love from us, and that by believing in him they, too, will have eternal life.[2]


16 The heart of the gospel is not a philosophical observation about the character of God as love but a declaration of that redemptive love in action. “For God so loved … that he gave.” The Greek verb is agapaō (GK 26). It is common to discuss three Greek words for love: eros, philia (GK 5802), and agapē (GK 27). The first is used of passionate desire (not found in the NT) and the second of a fondness expressed in close relationships. The third word (agapē) was rather weak and colorless in secular Greek, but in the NT it is infused with fresh significance and becomes the one term able to denote the highest form of love. Bible scholar A. M. Hunter highlights the significance of agapē by noting that while eros is all take and philia is give-and-take, agapē is all give.

Love must of necessity give. It has no choice if it is to remain true to its essential character. A love that centers on self is not love at all but a fraudulent caricature of real love. It is instructive to note that only here in the fourth gospel is a result clause placed in the indicative rather than the subjunctive. Brown, 134, notes that this construction stresses the reality of the result: “that he actually gave the only Son.” The Greek monogenēs (GK 3666) means “of sole descent,” i.e., without brothers or sisters; hence the KJV’s “only-begotten” (from the Latin unigenitus). It is also used in the more general sense of “unique,” “the only one of its kind.” Jesus is the sole Son of God the Father. John refers to believers as “children of God” (tekna, GK 5451; 1:12; 11:52), but Jesus is the only Son (huios, GK 5626).

The object of God’s love is “the world” (kosmos, GK 3180). The giving of his Son was for the salvation of the entire human race. H. Sasse concludes that the cosmos epitomizes unredeemed creation, the universe of which Jesus is the light (Jn 8:12) and to which he comes (cf. TDNT 3:893–94). Any attempt to restrict the word kosmos (GK 3180) to the elect ignores the clear use of the term throughout the NT. God gave his Son for the deliverance of all humanity (cf. 2 Co 5:19). This giving extends beyond the incarnation. God gave his Son in the sense of giving unto death as an offering for sin. The universal scope of God’s love would have appeared novel and quite unlikely to the Jewish reader of the first century. After all, was not Israel the recipient of God’s special favor (cf. Ro 3:1–2; 9:3–5)? True; but in Christ all boundaries had been broken down (Eph 2:11–22). God’s love extends to every member of the human race. He died for all (cf. Ro 5:8; 1 Jn 2:2).

God’s role in redemption was the giving of his Son; the role of human beings is to believe. To believe in Christ is to accept and love him (Jn 1:12; 8:42). The Greek expression pisteuō eis (“to believe into”) carries the sense of placing one’s trust into or completely on someone. Paul’s teaching of believers as being “in Christ” is a theological reflection on the same expression. Those who believe in Christ escape destruction and are given “eternal life.” Barrett, 216, writes that “destruction is the inevitable fate of all things and persons separated from God and concentrated upon themselves.” The love of God has made it possible for people to turn from their self-destructive paths and receive from God the gift of everlasting life. This gospel comes as “good news” to all who, recognizing their plight, receive the priceless gift of God, even Jesus Christ, his Son.[3]


16 God loved “the world” (see Additional Note B, pp. 111–13). The Jew was ready enough to think of God as loving Israel, but no passage appears to be cited in which any Jewish writer maintains that God loved the world. It is a distinctively Christian idea that God’s love is wide enough to embrace all people. His love is not confined to any national group or spiritual elite. It is a love that proceeds from the fact that he is love (1 John 4:8, 16). It is his nature to love. He loves people because he is the kind of God he is. John tells us that his love is shown in the gift of his Son. Of this gift Odeberg finely says, “the Son is God’s gift to the world, and, moreover, it is the gift. There are no Divine gifts apart from or outside the one-born (sic) Son.” It should be noticed that God’s love is for “the world”; in recent times some scholars have argued that John sees God’s love as only for believers, but here it is plain that God loves “the world.” In typical Johannine fashion “gave” is used in two senses. God gave the Son by sending him into the world, but God also gave the Son on the cross. Notice that the cross is not said to show us the love of the Son (as in Gal. 2:20), but that of the Father. The atonement proceeds from the loving heart of God. It is not something wrung from him. The Greek construction puts some emphasis on the actuality of the gift: it is not “God loved enough to give,” but “God loved so that he gave.”78 His love is not a vague, sentimental feeling, but a love that costs. God gave what was most dear to him. For “one and only” see on 1:14, and for “believes” on 1:12 (also Additional Note E, pp. 296–98). The death of the Son is viewed first of all in its revelatory aspect; it shows us the love of the Father. Then its purpose is brought out, both negatively and positively. Those who believe on him do not “perish.” Neither here nor anywhere else in the New Testament is the awful reality behind this word “perish” brought out. But everywhere there is the recognition that a dreadful reality awaits the finally impenitent. Believers are rescued from this only by the death of the Son. Because of this they have “eternal life” (see on v. 15). John sets perishing and life starkly over against one another. He knows no other final state.[4]


16 Here the same question arises as in verse 13. Is Jesus still speaking, or does the Gospel writer now intervene to reflect on what has just been said? This time there is no title “Son of man” to assure us that Jesus is still the speaker, and the conjunction “for” (gar) is one of the characteristic ways of introducing authorial comments or narrative asides in this Gospel. Some English versions, therefore, place quotation marks after verse 15, signaling that Jesus’ speech has ended and that what follows are the Gospel writer’s words. The majority, however (including the most recent versions), extend Jesus’ speech to the end of verse 21, and the wisest course is to follow their example. While few interpreters would seriously argue that Jesus actually uttered the words found in verses 16–21 to Nicodemus and his companions at the first Passover in Jerusalem, Jesus has been introduced as “the Word,” the only Revealer of God. It is fair to assume that once he is so introduced all authoritative revelation in the Gospel comes from him, whether through his own lips or the pen of the Gospel writer. Without a clear notice in the text that his speech is over, the reader should keep on listening as to the voice of “the One who came down from heaven, the Son of man,” for only he can speak of “heavenly things” (vv. 12–13). As we have seen, it is still too early in the Gospel for Jesus to use the pronoun “I” in delivering these oracles of God, as if he is God himself, so the text resorts to first-person plurals (as in v. 11) or to the third person (as here). The conjunction “for” does introduce an explanatory comment, but the comment is Jesus’ own. Jesus builds on the language and thought of verses 14 and 15 to explain precisely why “the Son of man must be lifted up” (v. 14). He confirms that the necessity is divine, grounded in “God,” and God’s love for the world. Having looked at the cross from the human side, by a strange analogy with a snake fastened to a pole, he now places it within the eternal purposes of God. The grammar of the verse reflects this, as Jesus echoes the correlative construction of verse 14 (“And just asso”) with a corresponding one (“God so loved … so that he gave”).

This is the first mention of love in the Gospel of John, and it is rather untypical in that the object of God’s love is “the world” (ton kosmon). Nowhere else in John’s Gospel (or anywhere else in the New Testament!) is God explicitly said to “love” the world, yet it cannot come as a surprise to any reader who remembers that “the world came into being through him” (that is, through the Word, 1:10), and consequently that the world was “his own” (1:11). Jesus has already been identified as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29), and will be identified as “the Savior of the world” (4:42). God’s love for the world, though seldom explicit, is a given. At the same time, God has a unique and specific love for “the One and Only Son.” We have already learned that a “One and Only” shares in a father’s glory (1:14), and that Jesus as God’s “One and Only” is himself God, “right beside the Father” (1:18). Now it becomes explicit that “the One and Only” is God’s “Son” (see 1:34, 49), and that both terms are interchangeable with “Son of man” (vv. 13, 14).

The striking, even shocking, thing about God’s love for the world in relation to God’s love for his “One and Only Son” is that the former takes priority! The verb “to love” (agapan) in this Gospel implies not so much a feeling as a conscious choice. Often it implies a preference for one person or thing or way of life over another.108 The shock of the pronouncement is that here God puts the well-being of “the world” above that of “the One and Only Son.” The notion that God “gave” or “gave up” his only Son points unmistakably to Jesus’ death, confirming the interpretation of “lifted up” (v. 14) as crucifixion. We might have expected “God sent the One and Only Son” (as in 1 Jn 4:9), because “sent” is the operative verb for the mission of Jesus throughout the rest of the Gospel, beginning in the very next verse. But it is important that this first reference to Jesus’ mission specify its purpose as a redemptive mission. The “giving” includes all that the “sending” does and more, for in sending his “One and Only” into the world, God gave him up to death on a cross.111 The analogy that comes to mind is Abraham, and his willingness to offer up his “one and only” son Isaac as a sacrifice in obedience to God (Gen 22:1–14). This analogy, unlike that with Moses and the bronze snake, is never made explicit, but hints elsewhere in the Gospel suggest that what God asked of Abraham was something God himself would do in the course of time. Like the Moses analogy, it has its limits because God is not acting out of obedience to anyone but out of love for the world he has made. But while God’s love is universal, it guarantees eternal life not for the whole world indiscriminately but for “everyone who believes.” The last clause of verse 16 sounds like a refrain, echoing verse 15 with only two small changes: first, it is a matter not simply of “believing” but of “believing in” Jesus; second, to “have eternal life” is further explained by its natural opposite, to “not be lost” (mē apolētai; compare 6:39–40; 10:28; 12:25). This is the first hint of dualism in the discourse. Just as “eternal life” is more than simply the prolongation of physical life, so “being lost” is more than just physical death. It is, as the next verse will show, eternal condemnation and separation from God. There are no “lost sheep” in the Gospel of John (contrast Mt 10:6; 15:24; Lk 15:6), for Jesus’ “sheep” will never be lost and those who are “lost” are not his sheep (see 10:26–28).[5]


THE LOVE OF GOD

John 3:16

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’

All great men and women have had their favourite texts, but this has been called ‘everybody’s text’. Herein for every one of us is the very essence of the gospel. This text tells us certain great things.

(1) It tells us that the initiative in all salvation lies with God. Sometimes Christianity is presented in such a way that it sounds as if God had to be pacified, as if he had to be persuaded to forgive. Sometimes the picture is drawn of a stern, angry, unforgiving God and a gentle, loving, forgiving Jesus. Sometimes the Christian message is presented in such a way that it sounds as if Jesus did something which changed the attitude of God to men and women from condemnation to forgiveness. But this text tells us that it was with God that it all started. It was God who sent his Son, and he sent him because he loved the world he had created. At the back of everything is the love of God.

(2) It tells us that the mainspring of God’s being is love. It is easy to think of God as looking at human beings in their heedlessness and their disobedience and their rebellion and saying: ‘I’ll break them: I’ll discipline them and punish them and scourge them until they come back.’ It is easy to think of God as seeking human allegiance in order to satisfy his own desire for power and for what we might call a completely subject universe. The tremendous thing about this text is that it shows us God acting not for his own sake but for ours; not to satisfy his desire for power, not to bring a universe to heel, but to satisfy his love. God is not like an absolute monarch who treats each individual as a subject to be reduced to abject obedience. God is the Father who cannot be happy until his wandering children have come home. God does not smash people into submission; he yearns over them and woos them into love.

(3) It tells us of the width of the love of God. It was the world that God so loved. It was not a nation; it was not the good people; it was not only the people who loved him; it was the world. The unlovable and the unlovely, the lonely who have no one else to love them, those who love God and those who never think of him, those who rest in the love of God and those who spurn it—all are included in this vast inclusive love of God. As St Augustine had it: ‘God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.’[6]


16. For God so loved the world that he gave his Son, the only-begotten, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God’s infinite love made manifest in an infinitely glorious manner, this is the theme of the golden text which has endeared itself to the hearts of all God’s children. The verse sheds light on the following aspects of this love: 1. its character (so loved), 2. its Author (God), 3. its object (the world), 4. its Gift (his Son, the only-begotten), and 5. its purpose (that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life).

The conjunction for establishes a causal relation between this and the preceding verse. We might paraphrase as follows: the fact that it is only in connection with Christ that everlasting life is ever obtained (see verse 15) is clear from this, that it has pleased God to grant this supreme gift only to those who repose their trust in him (verse 16).

  1. Its character

The word so by reason of what follows must be interpreted as indicating: in such an infinite degree and in such a transcendently glorious manner. Great emphasis is placed on this thought.

So loved. The tense used in the original (the aorist ἠγάπμσεν) shows that God’s love in action, reaching back to eternity and coming to fruition in Bethlehem and at Calvary, is viewed as one, great, central fact. That love was rich and true, full of understanding, tenderness, and majesty.

  1. Its Author

So loved God (with the article in the original: ὁ θεός, just as in 1:1 where, as has been shown, the Father is indicated). In order to gain some conception of the Deity it will never do to subtract from the popular concept every possible attribute until literally nothing is left. God is ever full of life and full of love. Take all human virtues; then raise them to the nth degree, and realize that no matter how grand and glorious a total picture is formed in the mind, even that is a mere shadow of the love-life which exists eternally in the heart of him whose very name is Love. And that love of God ever precedes our love (1 John 4:9, 10, 19; cf. Rom. 5:8–10), and makes the latter possible.

  1. Its object

Now the object of this love is the world. (See on 1:10 and note  where the various meanings have been summarized.) Just what is meant by this term here in 3:16? We answer:

  1. The words, “that whoever believes” clearly indicate that the reference is not to birds and trees but to mankind. Cf. also 4:42; 8:12; 1 John 4:14.
  2. However, here mankind is not viewed as the realm of evil, breaking out into open hostility to God and Christ (meaning 6, in note ), for God does not love evil.
  3. The term world, as here used, must mean mankind which, though sin-laden, exposed to the judgment, and in need of salvation (see verse 16b and verse 17), is still the object of his care. God’s image is still, to a degree, reflected in the children of men. Mankind is like a mirror. Originally this mirror was very beautiful, a work of art. But, through no fault of the Maker, it has become horribly blurred. Its creator, however, still recognizes his own work.
  4. By reason of the context and other passages in which a similar thought is expressed (see note , meaning 5), it is probable that also here in 3:16 the term indicates fallen mankind in its international aspect: men from every tribe and nation; not only Jews but also Gentiles. This is in harmony with the thought expressed repeatedly in the Fourth Gospel (including this very chapter) to the effect that physical ancestry has nothing to do with entrance into the kingdom of heaven: 1:12, 13; 8:6; 8:31–39.
  5. Its gift

“… that he gave his Son, the only-begotten.” Literally the original reads, “that his Son, the only-begotten, he gave.” All the emphasis is on the astounding greatness of the gift; hence, in this clause the object precedes the verb. The verb he gave must be taken in the sense of he gave unto death as an offering for sin (cf. 15:13; 1 John 3:16; especially 1 John 4:10; Rom. 8:32: John’s gave is Paul’s spared not). On the meaning of the only begotten, see on 1:14. Note that the article which precedes the word Son is repeated before only begotten. Thus both substantive and adjective receive emphasis. We hear, as it were, the echo of Gen. 22:2, “Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac.…” The gift of the Son is the climax of God’s love (cf. Matt. 21:33–39).

  1. Its purpose

… in order that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God does not leave mankind to itself. He so loved the world that his Son, the only begotten, he gave, with this purpose: that those who receive him with abiding trust and confidence may have everlasting life. Though the Gospel is proclaimed to men of every tribe and nation, not every one who hears it believes in the Son. But whoever believes—whether he be a Jew or a Gentile—has everlasting life.

The words “… should not perish” do not merely mean: should not lose physical existence; nor do they signify: should not be annihilated. As the context (verse 17) indicates, the perishing of which this verse speaks indicates divine condemnation, complete and everlasting, so that one is banished from the presence of the God of love and dwells forever in the presence of a God of wrath, a condition which, in principle, begins here and now but does not reach its full and terrible culmination for both soul and body until the day of the great consummation. Note that perishing is the antonym of having everlasting life.

“… but have everlasting life.” (On the meaning of life see on 1:4.) The life which pertains to the future age, to the realm of glory, becomes the possession of the believer here and now; that is, in principle. This life is salvation, and manifests itself in fellowship with God in Christ (17:3); in partaking of the love of God (5:42), of his peace (16:33), and of his joy (17:13). The adjective everlasting (αἰώνιος) occurs 17 times in the Fourth Gospel, 6 times in I John, always with the noun life. It indicates, as has been pointed out, a life that is different in quality from the life which characterizes the present age. However, the noun with its adjective (ζωή αἰώνιος) as used here in 3:16 has also a quantitative connotation: it is actually everlasting, never-ending life.

In order to receive this everlasting life one must believe in God’s only begotten Son. It is important, however, to take note of the fact that Jesus mentions the necessity of regeneration before he speaks about faith (cf. 3:3, 5 with 3:12, 14–16). The work of God within the soul ever precedes the work of God in which the soul cooperates (see especially 6:44). And because faith is, accordingly, the gift of God (not only with Paul, Eph. 2:8, but also in the Fourth Gospel), its fruit, everlasting life, is also God’s gift (10:28). God gave his Son; he gives us the faith to embrace the Son; he gives us everlasting life as a reward for the exercise of this faith. To him be the glory forever and ever![7]


[1] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 226–239). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Phillips, R. D. (2014). John. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (1st ed., Vol. 1, pp. 167–176). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 400). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (pp. 202–204). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] Michaels, J. R. (2010). The Gospel of John (pp. 200–203). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[6] Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of John (Rev. and updated., Vol. 1, pp. 160–161). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

[7] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 1, pp. 139–142). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 9, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

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

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

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


1  The story now takes a dramatic turn. Indeed, a pivotal point is reached with the first clause of v. 1: God remembered Noah. The text does not say that God remembered Noah’s righteousness and obedience. Had it gone that way, then 8:1 would have scored the point that Noah was spared principally because of his character, a character that merited deliverance. Nor does the text state that God recalled his earlier words to Noah about a forthcoming covenant (6:18). That would reduce the activity of God to simply a psychological flashback. By trimming the description of the divine remembrance as much as possible, the point is made that when all appears helpless God intervenes to prevent tragedy. For God to remember someone means that God extends mercy to someone by saving that person from death (8:1; 19:29) or from barrenness (30:22).

In this one clause, then, the subject and the verb are more crucial than the object. The significant thing is that God remembered. The closest immediate parallel to this clause is Gen. 19:29, “he (God) remembered Abraham.” No less than seventy-three times in the OT is “remember” (zāḵar) used with God as the subject. Most often (18 times) it is followed by the preposition le, “to,” demonstrating that God’s remembrance is interpreted more as “an action directed toward someone, rather than as a psychological experience of the subject.” Here we have the finite form of the verb followed by the sign of the accusative, ʾeṯ (see also 19:29; 30:22).

God’s remembrance of Noah spurs him into sending a wind over the earth that starts the process of the drying out of the land. One need only recall that Heb. rûaḥ translates as both “spirit” and “wind” in order to decipher here a blatant connection with 1:2. At creation, or just prior to creation, the divine rûaḥ hovers majestically, restraining the waters. Here the divine rûaḥ brings about the evaporation of the waters of judgment.[2]


8:1 — Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.

God always “remembers” His people, not merely to recall their existence or names, but to act in grace toward them … even if they must wait for Him to act.[3]


8:1 But God remembered Noah. God’s covenant with Noah brought provision and protection in the midst of severe judgment. The remnant was preserved and God initiated steps toward reestablishing the created order on earth. the waters subsided. God used the wind to dry the ground; evaporation returned water to the atmosphere.[4]


8:1 God remembered Noah. This marks the turning point in the flood story. When the Bible says that God “remembers” someone or his covenant with someone, it indicates that he is about to take action for that person’s welfare (cf. 9:15; 19:29; 30:22; Ex. 2:24; 32:13; Ps. 25:6–7; 74:2). All life on the land having been destroyed, God now proceeds to renew everything, echoing what he did in Genesis 1. God made a wind blow over the earth. The Hebrew word for wind, ruakh, is also sometimes translated “Spirit” (e.g., 1:2; 6:3). While the context normally enables the reader to distinguish ruakh meaning “wind” from ruakh meaning “Spirit,” the present verse intentionally echoes 1:2.[5]


8:1 God remembered The Hebrew verb used here, zakhar, is often translated “remember,” but in reference to God, it conveys “thought about” or “turned attention to” (compare 19:29; 30:22). God’s purpose for the flood is accomplished, so He turns His attention back to Noah and the ark.[6]


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

wind. The Hebrew word here is the same one for “Spirit” in 1:2, recalling the original creation account and introducing God’s first re-creative act renewing the earth out of the waters (8:1–12:9 note). Successive re-creative acts mirroring the original creation follow: the gathering of the waters (vv. 2–5; cf. 1:6–9), the placing of birds in the heavens (vv. 6–12; cf. 1:20–23), the establishment of dry ground (v. 13; cf. 1:9–12), the emergence of animals and humans upon the earth to multiply (vv. 16–19; cf. 1:24–27), and the divine blessing (9:1–3; cf. 1:28–30).[7]


8:1 The expression that “God remembered” does not imply that He had forgotten. It is a figure of speech meaning that God acted on the basis of His promise to save Noah (cp. 19:29; Ps 105:42).[8]


8:1 Remembered does not suggest that God had ever forgotten about Noah; when used of God, “remember” suggests the initiation of a miraculous, saving act of God. Other instances of God “remembering” as the first step in providing divine help for his people include his intervention in the lives of Lot (19:29), Rachel (30:22), and the Israelites in Egypt (Ex 2:24). Using language that reflects God’s initial act of creating the universe (Gn 1:2), God caused (Hb) ruach—“Spirit” or wind—to pass over the waters of the earth. Immediately the water began to subside.[9]


1. And God remembered Noah—The divine purpose in this awful dispensation had been accomplished, and the world had undergone those changes necessary to fit it for becoming the residence of man under a new economy of Providence.

and every living thing … in the ark—a beautiful illustration of Mt 10:29.

and God made a wind to pass over the earth—Though the divine will could have dried up the liquid mass in an instant, the agency of a wind was employed (Ps 104:4)—probably a hot wind, which, by rapid evaporation, would again absorb one portion of the waters into the atmosphere; and by which, the other would be gradually drained off by outlets beneath.[10]


Ver. 1.—And God. Elohim, i. e. God in his most universal relation to his creatures. The supposition of two different accounts or histories being intermingled in the narrative of the Flood (Bleek, Eichhorn, Hupfeld, Kalisch, Alford, Colenso) is not required for a sufficient explanation of the varying use of the Divine names. Remembered. From a root signifying to prick, pierce, or print, e. g., upon the memory; hence to remember. “Not that there is oblivion or forgetfulness with God, but then God is said to remember when he showeth by the effects that he hath taken care of man” (Willet). He remembers man’s sins when he punishes them (Ps. 25:7; cf. 1 Kings 17:20), and his people’s needs when he supplies them (cf. Neh. 5:19). The expression is an anthropopathism designed to indicate the Divine compassion as well as grace. Calvin thinks the remembrance of which Moses speaks “ought to be referred not only to the external aspect of things (i. e. the coming deliverance), but also to the inward feeling of the holy man,” who, through grace, was privileged to enjoy “some sensible experience of the Divine presence” while immured in the ark. Noah,—cf. the Divine remembrance of Abraham and Lot (ch. 19:29), the request of the Hebrew psalmist (Ps. 132:1)—and every living thing,—chayyah, or wild beast (vide ch. 1:25; 7:14)—and all the cattle that was with him in the ark. A touching indication of the tenderness of God towards his creatures (cf. Deut. 25:4; Ps. 36:6; 145:9, 15, 16; Jonah 4:11). As a proof that God remembered the lonely inmates of the ark, he at once takes steps to accomplish their deliverance, which steps are next enumerated. And God made a windruach. Not the Holy Ghost, as in ch. 1:2 (Theodoret, Ambrose, LXX.—πνεῦμα), nor the heat of the sun (Rupertus); but a current of air (ἄνεμος), which “would promote evaporation and aid the retreat of the waters” (Murphy):—the ordinary method of driving away rain and drying the ground (vide Prov. 25:23); the special instrumentality employed to divide the waters of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:21)—to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged, or began to grow calm, after a period of commotion (cf. Esther 2:1; 7:10)—the first stage in the returning of the waters. Καὶ ἐκόπασε τὸ ὕδωρ, and the water grew tried (LXX.). Cf. ἐκόπασεν ὁ ἄνεμος, Matt. 14:32; Mark 4:39; 6:51.[11]


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

[2] Hamilton, V. P. (1990). The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17 (pp. 299–300). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ge 8:1). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

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

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

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

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (pp. 21–22). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[8] 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. 18). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[9] Bergen, R. D. (2017). Genesis. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 19). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[10] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 22). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[11] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Genesis (p. 124). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

December 8, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

4. Behold, for strife and contention ye fast. This verse ought to be connected with the end of the preceding verse; for, having in the former clause introduced hypocrites as complaining of the violence and harshness of the prophets, he assigns, in the latter clause, the reason why the Lord loathes their fasts and their other performances. It is because they do not proceed from pure affection of heart. What the inclination of their heart is, he shews from its fruits; for he sends them back to the duties of the second table, from which it is easily seen what we are. Purity of heart is manifested by our living innocently, and abstaining from all deceit and injustice. These are the marks of pure affection, in the absence of which the Lord rejects, and even abhors, all external worship. Wherever, on the other hand, cheating, and plunder, and extortion prevail, it is very certain that there is no fear of God.

Thus he reproaches hypocrites with making their fasts to give greater encouragement to sin, and with giving a looser rein to their lusts. We have experience of this every day. Not only do many people fast in order to atone for their cheating and robberies, and to plunder more freely, but even that, during the time of the fast, they may have greater leisure for examining their accounts, perusing documents, and calculating usury, and contriving methods by which they may lay hold on the property of their debtors. On that account they frequently throw this labour on Lent and on the stated times of fasts; and, in like manner, other notable hypocrites hear many Masses every day, that they may more freely, and with less interruption, and under the pretence of religion, contrive their cheating and treachery.

Fast not, as ye do this day. At length he rejects their fasts, however highly they may value them; because in this manner the wrath of God is still more provoked. Immediately afterwards he rejects also their prayers.

That ye may make your voice to be heard on high. Hence it is evident, (as we have explained fully in our exposition of Isa. 1:11,) that God approves of no duties which are not accompanied by sincere uprightness of heart. Certainly no sacrifice is more excellent than calling upon God; and yet we see how all prayers are stained and polluted by impurity of heart. Besides, in consequence of fasting being usually joined to prayer, the Prophet takes this for granted; for it is an appendage to prayer. He therefore forbids such men to offer up solemn prayer accompanied by fasting; because they will gain nothing, except that the Lord will punish them more severely. And hence we infer (as has been already said) that the Lord pays no regard to external works, if they be not preceded by sincere fear of God.

Such fasting as was customary among the Jews is not here blamed in itself, as if it were a superstitious ceremony, but abuse of fasting, and false confidence. This ought to be carefully observed; for we would need to deal very differently with the Papists, if we blamed their fasts. They contain nothing but superstition, being tied to this or that day, or to fixed seasons, as if during the rest of the time they were at liberty to gormandize; while they think that the flesh is unclean, and yet allow every kind of indulgence to it; provided only that they do not once gormandize on a fast-day, they think that they have discharged their duty admirably well. Since therefore there is nothing in them that can be approved, we may absolutely condemn them.

But the dispute on this occasion was different. That fasting which the Jews observed was laudable in itself, because God had appointed it; but a false opinion respecting it was censurable. Among the Papists, on the other hand, we must condemn both the false opinion and the institution itself; because it is wicked. The Papists have this in common with the Jews, that they think that they serve God by it, and that it is a meritorious work. Yet fasting is not the worship of God, and is not in itself commanded by him, in the same manner as those works which he enjoins in the Law; but it is an external exercise, which is auxiliary to prayer, or is useful for subduing the flesh, or testifying our humiliation, when, as guilty persons, we implore that the wrath of God may be turned away in adversity. But the reader will find the use and design of fasting more fully discussed in our Institutes. (Book iv. chap. xii. 15–21.)[1]


4. ye shall not fast—rather, “ye do not fast at this time, so as to make your voice to be heard on high,” that is, in heaven; your aim in fasting is strife, not to gain the ear of God [Maurer] (1 Ki 21:9, 12, 13). In English Version the sense is, If you wish acceptance with God, ye must not fast as ye now do, to make your voice heard high in strife.[2]


Ver. 4.—Ye fast for strife and debate. Delitzsch explains, “When fasting, they are doubly irritable and ill tempered; and this leads to quarrelling and strife, even to striking with angry fists.” This is quite a possible explanation. Or there may have been two parties, one for, the other against, fasting; and those who practised fasting may have done it, as some preached Christ, “of envy and strife” (Phil. 1:15)—to provoke the opposite side. Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high; i.e. “ye must not fast as ye do at present, if ye would have your voices heard in heaven.” God will not hear the prayer of which such a fast is the accompaniment.[3]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 4, pp. 228–230). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 496). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 2, p. 373). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

December 8, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Return of the Conqueror

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. (19:11–13)

As it did in 4:1, heaven opened before John’s wondering eyes. But unlike 4:1, heaven opens this time not to let John in, but to let Jesus out. The time has come at last for the full, glorious revelation of the sovereign Lord. This is the time to which all of Revelation (as well as all of redemptive history) has been pointing, the time of which Jesus Himself spoke in Matthew 24:27–31:

“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

As the dramatic scene unfolds, John stands transfixed, his attention riveted on the majestic, regal, mighty Rider. Jesus, the One who ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9–11) where He has been seated at the Father’s right hand (Acts 5:31; 7:55–56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22), is about to receive the kingdom that the Father promised Him. In an earlier vision, John saw Jesus receive the title deed to the earth:

I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. (5:1–7)

The Lamb of that vision has become the conquering King.

No longer is Jesus portrayed as He was in His humiliation, “humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). Instead, He rides the traditional white horse ridden by victorious Roman generals in their triumphal processions through the streets of Rome. White also symbolizes the spotless, unblemished, absolutely holy character of the Rider. The horse, like the crowns (v. 12), the sharp sword (v. 15), the rod of iron (v. 15), and the wine press (v. 15) is symbolic; Christ’s coming is reality. The symbolic language represents various aspects of that reality—Christ’s victory over His enemies, His sovereign rule, and His judgment of sinners.

Continuing his description of the astonishing scene before him, John notes that He who sat on the white horse is called Faithful and True. There is no more appropriate name for the Lord Jesus Christ, who earlier in Revelation was called “the faithful and true Witness” (3:14). He is faithful to His promises (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20) and what He speaks is always true (John 8:45–46; Titus 1:2). Though some would like to pick and choose which teachings of Jesus they wish to accept, He is just as faithful to His promises of wrath and judgment as He is to His promises of grace and salvation. The description of Jesus as Faithful and True is in marked contrast with the unfaithfulness and lies of Satan (12:9), Antichrist’s evil empire (18:23), and wicked people (2 Tim. 3:13). The very fact that He is coming again as He promised confirms that Jesus is Faithful and True.

Because Jesus is faithful to His word and righteous character, it follows that in righteousness He judges. His holy nature demands a holy, righteous reaction to sin. And because He always does what He says, He must judge the wicked (Matt. 16:27; 25:31–46; John 5:22, 27; cf. Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 2 Thess. 1:7–9; 2 Tim. 4:1). Jesus came the first time as Savior; He will return as Judge. When He came the first time, wicked people, including Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas judged Him; when He returns, He will judge all wicked people (Acts 17:31). And He will not only be their judge, but also their executioner (vv. 15, 21). Angels may gather the wicked for judgment (Matt. 13:41), but the Lord Jesus will pass sentence on them.

No longer the Suffering Servant of His incarnation, the Lord Jesus Christ is seen in this vision as the warrior King who wages war against His foes. He is the executioner of all ungodly, unbelieving sinners. The only other reference in Scripture to Jesus waging war is in 2:16, when He warned the worldly church at Pergamum, “Repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” This is not out of keeping with God’s character, however. After their deliverance from the Egyptian forces at the Red Sea, Israel sang, “The Lord is a warrior” (Ex. 15:3; cf. Pss. 24:8; 45:3–5). John Phillips writes:

The Lord is a man of war! It is an amazing title for the Son of God. Says Alexander White, comenting on Bunyan’s Holy War,

Holy Scripture is full of wars and rumours of wars; the wars of the Lord; the wars of Joshua and the Judges; the wars of David, with his and many other magnificient battle-songs; till the best known name of the God of Israel in the Old Testament is the Lord of Hosts; and then in the New Testament we have Jesus Christ described as the Captain of our salvation.… And then the whole Bible is crowned with a book all sounding with battle-cries.… till it ends with that city of peace where they hang the trumpet in the hall and study war no more.

The Lord is a man of war! In righteousness He judges and makes war. The judging has been going on throughout the breaking of the seals, the blowing of the trumpets, and the pouring out of the bowls. Now He makes war. He, who for long centuries has endured patiently the scoffings, the insults, the bad manners of men; who for ages has contemplated Calvary and all that it displayed of human hatred and contempt; and who, through the millennia has made peace through the blood of that cross, now makes war over that blood. (Exploring Revelation, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody, 1987; reprint, Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1991], 232)

Jesus’ adversaries this time will be the hardened sinners who have defied His judgments and scorned the gospel message during the Tribulation. Despite all the devastating judgments they will have experienced, and the powerful gospel preaching they will have heard, they will stubbornly refuse to repent (9:20–21; 16:9, 11). Since neither judgment nor preaching moves them to repent, Jesus will return to destroy them and send them to hell.

Unlike other conquerors the world has seen, covetousness, ambition, pride, or power will not motivate this Conqueror. He will come in utter righteousness, in perfect holiness, and in strict accord with every holy interest. Heaven cannot be at peace with sin, for God’s “eyes are too pure to approve evil, and [He] can not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13). There is a limit to God’s patience. Justice cannot always tolerate injustice; truth cannot forever tolerate lies; rebellion cannot be permitted to go on forever. Incorrigible, incurable, hardened sinners will face destruction; mercy abused and grace rejected will ultimately bring judgment.

Describing the personal appearance of the majestic, awe-inspiring Rider, John writes that His eyes are a flame of fire (see the discussion of 1:14 in Revelation 1–11, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1999], 46). Nothing escapes the notice of His penetrating, piercing vision. He can see into the deepest recesses of the human heart, because “all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Those eyes had reflected tenderness and joy as He gathered little children to Himself. They had reflected compassion when He observed distressed and dispirited people, wandering aimlessly through life like sheep without a shepherd. And they had reflected forgiveness when He restored Peter, who had been crushed by guilt over his shocking denial of his Master. The eyes that wept over the fate of unrepentant Jerusalem and over the sorrow, suffering, and death in this sin-cursed world, John sees flashing with the fire of judgment.

On His head John noted that Christ wore many diadems, a transliteration of the Greek word diadēma, which refers to a ruler’s crown (cf. 12:3; 13:1). In this case, they are worn by Jesus to signify His royal rank and regal authority. Many indicates His collecting of all the rulers’ crowns, signifying that He alone is the sovereign ruler of the earth. Collecting the crown of a vanquished king was customary in the ancient world. After defeating the Ammonites, David “took the crown of their king from his head … and it was placed on David’s head” (2 Sam. 12:30). Christ alone will be sovereign, since He alone is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (v. 16), and “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (11:15). The many crowns Christ will wear are indeed a fair exchange for a crown of thorns (cf. Phil. 2:8–11).

Further, John notes that Jesus had a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. All speculation as to the meaning of that name is obviously pointless, since the text plainly states that no one knows it except Jesus Himself. Even the inspired apostle John could not comprehend it. Maybe it will be made known after His return.

Describing the final element of Christ’s appearance, John writes that He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. The blood is not representative of that which He shed on the cross; this is a picture of judgment, not redemption. The blood is the blood of His slaughtered enemies. The imagery of this passage is similar to that of Isaiah 63:1–6:

Who is this who comes from Edom,

With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah,

This One who is majestic in His apparel,

Marching in the greatness of His strength?

“It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

Why is Your apparel red,

And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?

“I have trodden the wine trough alone,

And from the peoples there was no man with Me.

I also trod them in My anger

And trampled them in My wrath;

And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments,

And I stained all My raiment.

For the day of vengeance was in My heart,

And My year of redemption has come.

I looked, and there was no one to help,

And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold;

So My own arm brought salvation to Me,

And My wrath upheld Me.

I trod down the peoples in My anger

And made them drunk in My wrath,

And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

The question arises as to why His garments are blood spattered before the battle has begun. But this is not His first battle; it is His last battle. He has fought for His people throughout redemptive history, and His war clothes bear the stains of many previous slaughters. At that day, they will be stained as never before when He “treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (v. 15).

That the Rider’s name is called The Word of God identifies Him unmistakably as the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14; 1 John 1:1). The second Person of the Trinity, the incarnate Son of God is called The Word of God because He is the revelation of God. He is the full expression of the mind, will, and purpose of God, “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3).[1]


12 The reference to the blazing eyes definitely connects this vision with that of ch. 1 (cf. 1:14; 2:18). On his head are not just seven crowns (12:3), or ten (13:1), but many crowns of royalty (diadēmata, GK 1343). Perhaps they signify that the royal power to rule the world has now passed to Christ by virtue of the victory of his followers (11:15). All the diadems of their newly won empire meet on his brow (cf. Caird).

So great is Christ’s power that his name is known only by himself. Knowledge of the name is in antiquity associated with the power of the god. When a name becomes known, then the power is shared with those to whom the disclosure is made (cf. comments at 2:17). But since two names of Christ are revealed in this vision—“the Word of God” (v. 13) and “king of kings and lord of lords” (v. 16)—we may conclude that the exclusive power of Christ over all creation is now to be shared with his faithful followers (3:21; 5:10; 22:5). On the other hand, the secret name may be one that will not be revealed till Christ’s return.[2]


12 The first thing that John records about the Rider of the white horse is that his eyes are a flame of fire. Nothing can be hidden from the penetrating gaze of the Messiah. Upon his head are many crowns. Here is an obvious contrast to the seven crowns of the dragon (12:3) and the ten crowns of the beast out of the sea (13:1). Many crowns indicate unlimited sovereignty. Since he is King of kings, all authority is his. The entire description is obviously symbolic and should not be visualized in any concrete way. The Rider also bears a name that only he knows. Some find here a reference to the sacred tetragrammaton, YHWH, a name too holy to pronounce so that the vowels of another name for God (Adonai) are read with the consonants of the holy name, with the resulting combination usually represented (in English) as Yahweh. Others hold the name to be “the name that is above every name” (“the Lord,” Phil 2:9–11) given to Christ in fulfillment of his messianic ministry. One writer suggests that it may be the name inscribed upon the Rider’s thigh in v. 16, which was not legible at first because of the radiance of the vision. The most common interpretation is that it is a secret name whose meaning is veiled from all created beings. It expresses the mystery of his person. There will always remain a mystery about Christ that finite minds will never fully grasp. There exists an ancient idea that to know the name of a god or demon is to possess certain powers over him. This could account for the refusal of the divine visitors in Gen 32:29 and Judg 13:18 to identify themselves (cf. 1 Enoch 69:14; Asc. Isa. 9:5). It is highly questionable, however, that the returning Messiah would share such a reluctance.[3]


THE UNKNOWABLE NAME

Revelation 19:12

His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many royal crowns, and he has a name written which no one knows except himself.

We begin the description of the conquering Christ.

His eyes are a flame of fire. We have already met this description in 1:14 and 2:18. It stands for the consuming power of the victorious Christ. On his head, he has many crowns. The word used here for crown is diadēma, which is the royal crown, as opposed to stephanos, which is the crown of victory. To be crowned with more than one crown may seem strange, but in the time of John it was quite natural. It was not uncommon for a monarch to wear more than one crown in order to show that he was the king of more than one country. For instance, when Ptolemy entered Antioch, he wore two crowns or diadems—one to show that he was lord of Asia and one to show that he was lord of Egypt (1 Maccabees 11:13). On the head of the victor Christ, there are many crowns to show that he is lord of all the kingdoms of the earth.

He has a name known to no one but himself. This is a passage whose meaning is obscure. What is this name? Many suggestions have been made.

(1) It has been suggested that the name is kurios, Lord. In Philippians 2:9–11, we read of the name above every name which God has given to Jesus Christ because of his complete obedience; and there the name is almost certainly Lord.

(2) It is suggested that the name is IHWH. That was the Jewish name for God. In Hebrew writing, there were no vowels; the I was a Y rather than an I in pronunciation; the vowels had to be supplied by the reader. No one really knows what the vowels in IHWH were. The name was in fact so holy that it was never pronounced. In the past, it was pronounced JEHOVAH; but the vowels in Jehovah are really those of the Hebrew word Adonai, which means Lord, the name by which the Jews called God in order to avoid pronouncing the sacred name. Scholars now think that the name should be IAHWEH. The letters IHWH are called the sacred tetragrammaton, the sacred four letters. It may be that the secret name is the real name of God, which no one knows.

(3) It may be that the name is one which can be revealed only at the final union of Christ and the Church. In the Ascension of Isaiah (9:5), there is a saying: ‘You cannot bear his name until you shall have ascended out of the body.’ There was a Jewish belief that no one could know the name of God before entering into the life of heaven.

(4) It may be that there is here a lingering relic of the old idea that to know the name of a divine being was to have a certain power over that being. In two Old Testament stories, the wrestling of Jacob at Peniel (Genesis 32:29) and the appearance of the angelic messenger to Gideon (Judges 13:18), the divine visitor refuses to tell his name.

(5) It may be that we shall never know the symbolism of the unknown name; but H. B. Swete has the very fine idea that in the essence of the being of Christ there must always remain something beyond human understanding. ‘Notwithstanding the dogmatic helps which the Church offers, the mind fails to grasp the inmost significance of the Person of Christ, which eludes all efforts to bring it within the terms of human knowledge. Only the Son of God can understand the mystery of his own being.’[4]


12. And his eyes are as a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written that no one knows except he himself.

This verse describes three aspects of Christ: his eyes, his head, and his name. The first two are visible and known, but the third, although written, only he himself knows. The description of Jesus’ eyes as flames of fire resembles a clause in Daniel 10:6, “his eyes like flaming torches.” And John’s portrayal of Jesus on Patmos has similar wording, “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (1:14; 2:18). These flames of fire convey Christ’s holy anger toward his enemies and his wrath against sin that is piled up to heaven (18:5).

The second aspect is that Christ wears many crowns, which the Greek text conveys as diadems (see 12:3; 13:1, where this word is applied to Satan and the beast as they imitate Christ). Diadems in John’s day were individual ribbons tied around someone’s head. Here the many diadems represent Christ’s supremacy in countless areas. The picture is purely symbolic of his complete sovereignty in the universe and does not lend itself to literalism. We assume that these diadems on Christ’s head displayed names to indicate the areas of his sovereignty (compare Isa. 62:2–3).

The third aspect is the name that no one knows except Christ. This sentence has caused at least one commentator who examined the parallel lines in verses 12 and 13 to assert that the sentence. “He has a name written that no one knows except he himself” is a gloss. By deleting this line, he says that the parallelism of verses 12 and 13 is restored. But is there really a contradiction in these two verses, where verse 12c states an inability to know the name of Christ and verse 13b divulges this name as “the Word of God”? To be sure, the names for Christ are numerous in the New Testament; the Apocalypse calls him the Lamb. Faithful and True, Lord of lords and King of kings, Root, offspring of David, Morning Star, and others. In verse 13 the written name of the rider on the white horse is “the Word of God.” A name refers to the very being of a person; for instance, an overcomer is given a white stone on which “is written a new name which no one knows except the one who receives it” (2:17). When on the island of Patmos John hears a divine voice and describes the speaker as “a son of man” (1:13), he declines to identify Jesus by name. In fact, he is unable to utter the name of this divine person. This corresponds with the mysterious wording in an early Christian hymn, “God … gave him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). We know that the appellation Jesus is his earthly name and Christ his official designation, but he still has another name that remains hidden from us. This mysterious name will be revealed to his people when his redemptive work has been brought to completion. Certainly at the wedding banquet of the Lamb (v. 9) when his bride enjoys perfect blessedness, the Lord will reveal the mystery of his name.

There is still another explanation, namely, that God shares his name with Christ, whereby the divinity of Christ is expressed. At three other places in the Apocalypse, John identifies Christ with God by ascribing divinity to Jesus when he mentions him together with God with reference to God’s kingdom and throne. There is one kingdom, not two; and one throne, not two (11:15; 20:6; 22:3).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 214–218). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 758). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (p. 353). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Barclay, W. (2004). Revelation of John (Vol. 2, pp. 201–203). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 520–521). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

December 8, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

25 And I will make them a covenant of peace, and I will put an end to wild animals from the land, and they will dwell in the desert ⌊safely⌋, and they will sleep in the forest. 26 And I will make them and the area all around my hill a blessing, and I will let the rain go down ⌊at its appointed time⌋; they will be rains of blessing.

Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Eze 34:25–26). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


34:25–26. The Lord will make a covenant of peace with the Jewish people under the kingship of Messiah. The peace will be more than an absence of war or temporary armistice. The word shalom means whole or complete. Therefore, it refers to the nation coming into a whole or right relationship with the Lord and the realization of all the blessings of the new covenant (cf. Jr 31:31–34). The elimination of harmful beasts will be fulfilled in the messianic kingdom (cf. Is 11:6–9). God will make the places around My hill (Mount Zion, Pss 2:6; 48:1, 2) a blessing to surrounding nations (cf. Zch 8:13). The peace that Israel has always longed for, which the Lord has promised in the Messianic Age (Is 11:1–9), will be experienced when the land is blessed with showers in their season … showers of blessing, just as He promised to provide rain as a reward for obedience (cf. Dt 11:14; 28:12).[1]


Vers. 25, 26. I will make with them a covenant of peace.God’s covenant with His people, and their assured safety in the wilderness:

  1. The King’s charter. Observe, the text does not say, “We will make a covenant with one another,” God and man; it says, “I will make them a covenant”; originating in the electing love of God.
  2. The exercise of the royal prerogative—“I will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land.” Satan cares not how many churches or chapels are built, provided the things of the King’s charter are never talked of. But, says Jehovah, “I will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land.” Hell’s powers are vanquished. Who is He that said, “He spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly”? Who is He that is said to have “destroyed death, and him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and thereby delivered them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”? Who is He of whom it was predicted, that He should “bruise the serpent’s head”? Even the second Person in the glorious Trinity, who in this covenant of peace became Himself the peace of the Church.

III. The position, which this King’s dominion occupies in His world in “the wilderness.” What is “the wilderness”? A place haunted by every description of evil beast; a place uncultivated, trackless, and dangerous. If you can picture to yourselves, for a moment, what that wilderness was to the tribes of Israel literally, you may draw the inference, and a very fair one, that just such the world through which we pass is to a believer spiritually. It is a wilderness; but God has a Church in it, and that is the mercy. Of Christ it is said, that He was “with His Church in the wilderness.” He had, then, His Church in the wilderness, His spiritual family; and so He has now,—a Church, a little flock, an encamped land, a chosen family, brought out of Egypt by miracles of grace, and travelling towards Canaan, the constant object of His love. Such is the portion of the Church—in the wilderness.

  1. The precious promise of tranquillity. Though the Church may occupy a position so frightful, so fearful, so alarming as that I have described, the text says, “they shall dwell safely.” What protection! And they shall “sleep too”; that is, they shall rest. Mark these two things.
  2. In these woods, solemn as they are,—and really they are more affecting than any language can describe,—they are encompassed with Deity—with all the attributes of Deity—encompassed with angelic guardians—encompassed, as we read in the Psalms, by the Angel of the Lord. Jesus encircles His Church with His own perfections and attributes. He guarantees her security in the wilderness; and this accounts for her dwelling safely.
  3. Mark one thing more; they were “to see the salvation of God.” If you get a fair sight of it you will “stand still.” Faith’s telescope will not bear much shaking about; and if you have a fair view of the salvation of God you will “stand still.” He works best when we do nothing; He displays His glory most when we most feel our need of it. He shines abroad, and even “rides upon heaven for help” when we cannot crawl on earth to ask for it. (J. Irons.)

Peace possible under all circumstances:

If you have Christ in your heart, then life is possible, peace is possible, joy is possible, under all circumstances and in all places. Everything which the soul can desire it possesses. You will be like men that live in a beleaguered castle, and in the courtyard a sparkling spring, fed from some source high up in the mountains, and finding its way in there by underground channels which no besiegers can ever touch. (A. Maclaren.)

I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing.God’s gracious engagements with His Church:

  1. The description given of God’s Church. “My hill.”
  2. The term denotes—

(1) Elevation. World is sunk, fallen, degraded. The Church is raised out of it, exalted, &c.

(2) Firmness and stability. Not an erection upon sand, endangered by every storm, &c., but upon the towering hill that has withstood the blasts of centuries.

(3) Visibility. It is a hill to be visible to all in every direction, its top pointing towards the skies.

(4) Healthfulness and purity. The mountain air pure, balmy, bracing the system, &c. Here souls are matured for the healthy regions of the celestial paradise.

  1. But this is described as God’s hill.

(1) The Lord founded it.

(2) The place of His Divine residence.

(3) The scene of His glories (Psa. 28:4).

(4) The object of His especied love.

  1. The promises made to it. “I will cause the shower to come down,” &c.
  2. The promise is general. Protection, provision, comfort, and prosperity, all included.
  3. The promise includes abundance. “Showers of blessings.” Bounty of God infinite (2 Kings 4:1; Mal. 3:10).
  4. The blessings are to be seasonable. “Shower in his season.” Not before necessary, not when it is too late; but at the crisis of need, &c. (Psa. 107).
  5. The blessings are to promote a happy influence on all around. The Church is to spread the savour of grace through the whole earth. Application—
  6. Do we dwell in the Lord’s holy hill? (See Psalm 15)
  7. Congratulate the children of Zion. Let them be joyful, &c.
  8. Invite sinners all around to come and join themselves to the people of the Lord, &c. (J. Burns, D.D.)

The hill of Zion:

  1. An interesting place. The most interesting in the whole universe, and connected with the most pleasing, delightful, affecting associations. Consider wherein the Church resembles Mount Zion.
  2. In point of elevation and grandeur. Believers are raised up together with Christ, and made to sit together with Him in heavenly places. They follow out sublime designs far above this world; and they are animated by lofty aspirations.
  3. A mountain is an object of visibility and attraction. So is the Church; it stands not in a valley, but on a hill, visible, and calculated to excite attention. It is also an object of attraction. It occupies a conspicuous place, and millions have been attracted by it and drawn. It points upward to the skies.
  4. A mountain is a place of strength and stability. So is the Church. It is not founded upon the sand. Century after century has passed away; empires have arisen and fallen in close succession; but this Hill of Zion remains in all its strength and glory.
  5. An encouraging promise.
  6. Its nature. “A blessing.” In this everything is included. It is not nominal, but real, solid, and substantial. The blessing God gives is suitable, sweet, sufficient, free, and lasting. It includes protection from evil, enjoyment of good, peace, prosperity.
  7. Its abundance. “Showers of blessings.” This is like the Great Master. Ask as a sinner, He gives like God;—not a scanty portion, not drops, but showers (Deut. 32:2; Psa. 72:6; Mal. 3:10; Rom. 10:12). Think of the infinitude of God, and of the infinity of His love—and think of His power!—He is able to do exceedingly abundantly.
  8. Its seasonableness. “And I will cause the shower to come down in his season.” We do not know the time when deliverance will come;—often out in our judgment of things, and imagine that all things are against us. Providence is like a piece of machinery, the wheels of which are to our view perplexing, and which we cannot understand.
  9. Its extent. “I will make them,” &c. Oh! to be made a blessing! What an honour!—to be a blessing to the Church, to the cause of God, and to the generation in which we live. (E. Temple.)

The Church of Christ:

  1. Christ’s Church is to be a blessing. The object of God, in choosing a people before all worlds, was not only to save that people, but through them to confer essential benefits upon the whole human race. The Gospel was sent that it might first bless those that embrace it, and then expand, so as to make them a blessing to the whole human race.
  2. Here is divinity. It is God the everlasting Jehovah speaking: He says, “I will make them a blessing.”

(1) God makes His people a blessing by helping them. What can we do without God’s help? We want God’s aid in every position; and once give us that assistance, and there is no telling with how little labour we may become a blessing.

(2) But there is constraint here. “I will make them a blessing.” I will give them to be a blessing; I will constrain them to be a blessing.

  1. The personality of the blessing. “I will make them a blessing.” “I will make each member of the Church a blessing.” God never makes useless things; He has no superfluous workmanship. I care not what you are; you have somewhat to do. And oh! may God show you what it is, and then make you do it, by the wondrous compulsion of His providence and His grace.
  2. The development of Gospel blessing. “I will make them a blessing”; but it does not end there. “And the places round about My hill.” Religion is an expansive thing. When it begins in the heart, at first it is like a tiny grain of mustard seed, but it gradually increases, and becomes a great tree, so that the birds of the air lodge in the branches thereof. A man cannot be religious to himself. What are the places round about our hill? I think they are, first, our agencies; secondly, our neighbourhood; thirdly, the churches adjacent to us.
  3. God’s people are not only to be a blessing, but they are to be blessed.
  4. Is it not sovereign, Divine mercy, for who can say “I will give them showers” except God?
  5. It is needed grace. What would the ground do without showers? You may break the clods, you may sow your seeds, but what can you do without the rain! Ah! you may prepare your barn, and sharpen your sickles; but your sickles will be rusted before you have any wheat, unless there are showers. They are needed. So is the Divine blessing.
  6. It is plenteous grace. It does not say, “I will send them drops,” but “showers.” “It seldom rains, but it pours.” So it is with grace. If God gives a blessing, He usually gives it in such a measure that there is not room enough to receive it.
  7. It is seasonable grace. “I will give them the shower in its season.” There is nothing like seasonable grace. There are fruits, you know, that are best in their season, and they are not good at any other time; and there are graces that are good in their season, but we do not always require them. A person vexes and irritates me; I want grace just at that time to be patient. I have not got it, and I get angry; ten minutes after I am ever so patient; but I have not had grace in its season.
  8. Here is a varied blessing. “I will give thee showers of blessing.” The word is in the plural. All kinds of blessings God will send. The rain is all of one kind when it comes; but grace is not all of one kind, or it does not produce the same effect. God sends showers of blessings. If He gives comforting grace, He will also give converting grace; if He makes the trumpet blow for the bankrupt sinner, He will also make it sound a shout of joy for the sinner that is pardoned and forgiven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

There shall be showers of blessing.Showers of blessing:

The word “blessing” belongs strictly to the vocabulary of religion. In prayer there is no petition which a Christian man so naturally offers for himself as that God should bless him, and when he is thinking affectionately of others, he naturally asks God to bless them. Even as he takes his daily bread, he invokes on it a blessing. What does it mean? Take the simplest case of all—that to which I have just alluded. Why, when we are about to partake of food, do we ask a blessing on it? It is an acknowledgment that, in addition to the natural property of food to sustain the bodily strength, there is needed a certain superintendence and favour of heaven to maintain the health of the body, and that Divine wisdom and strength are necessary to make a good use of health when we have it. In the same way when, in the morning, we ask God to bless the work of our hands during the day, as in Scripture He often promises to do to those who ask Him, it is an acknowledgment that, along with our skilful planning, and our conscientious performance, there is necessary a something else which we cannot define but which we refer to God, to give us good success. Men of the world call it good luck, but men of God and the Word of God call it God’s blessing. Even in temporal things there is a large element of unspeakable value for which there is no true and reverent name except the blessing of God. But it is in the spiritual domain that this word has its true scope. If in religion there is any reality at all, then it is the grandest of realities. It is not only an essence which can sweeten and enhance all the elements of life, but it is in itself so valuable that he who possesses it is rich though he be stripped of all the other possessions which are the accepted badges of happiness. It is the pearl of great price, which a man may well sell all he has to buy. It is the blessing of God, and we have only in silent and lowly awe to take it when it comes.

  1. The copiousness of God’s blessing. “There shall be showers of blessing.” If the blessing of God is so essential to human welfare, it may be asked why so few are possessors of a thing so precious? It is not because it is difficult to get at. If the will and love of God could have free course there would be showers of blessing. The obstacle which hinders is in ourselves. Have you never, when enjoying any of the simple pleasures of nature, reflected with surprise on how little they are taken advantage of? There is not in nature a sublimer sight than the rising of the sun. There is no other which can suffuse the mind with deeper peace. Yet multitudes live and die without ever seeing this great sight once; and the average man does not see it a score of times in a lifetime. The blessing of God is like this. It is so near, and yet it is so far on account of our negligence. What a peace, for example, is bred, and what a cool, firm grasp on life is given by the practice of spending a short time with God in prayer, and in the study of His Word, before beginning the work of the day. Yet how few cultivate this source of blessing. We are not straitened in God: we are straitened in our own hearts.
  2. Its timeliness. “I will cause the shower to come down in his season.” This refers to the well-known fact that in Palestine rain fell only at certain seasons of the year. It was of the utmost consequence that at these seasons it should not fail. If it did not come, the drought meant loss or even ruin to the husbandman; but if it came copiously, it caused the fields to rejoice with abundant crops and made glad the heart of the husbandman. No doubt our text refers, in the first place, to this temporal blessing, but it has also a wider scope; blessing of every kind may be said to come in its season. God is not, indeed, bound to times and seasons, and sometimes His blessings come when they are least expected, resembling, in this respect, the sudden showers of rain to which we are accustomed in our own variable climate. But, as a rule, the blessing comes in the time of need, when the hearts of men are sighing and crying for it. Are you expecting a blessing to-day? Is your heart longing for it? Then this is a promise for you: “I will cause the shower to come down in his season.” You may be very near a great blessing which would change your spiritual existence from an invalid, backsliding condition into a life of joy, of power, and unfaltering progress. I once asked a friend why a mutual friend of ours, though a man of many accomplishments, did not succeed in the pulpit. “Well,” said he, giving a slight crack of finger and thumb, “he just wants that.” Yes, that was exactly it. It is this something extra, this little more, that makes everything exceptional and excellent. And many of us are just needing this to make us holy, happy, creditable Christians. Why should you not be baptized with power?

III. The diffusiveness of God’s blessing. “I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing.” The happiness of some people is rather to be pitied than envied, because they are made happy by such questionable things. But blessedness is derived from a pure as well as an inexhaustible source. Yet this is not the best result of the blessing of God—that those on whom it falls are themselves blessed. It is a far nobler thing which is promised in our text, “I will make them a blessing”—they shall be the means of making others blessed. From of old this has been the noble prerogative of the people of God. In Christianity this element has come to the very front. What is it to be a Christian? Is it to be blessed? is it to be filled with the peace, the joy, the life, the power of God? No, it is to be so filled with these that the vessel runs over, and all that are round about get the benefit. This is a text to try our Christianity by. Has the sound of the Gospel not only reached us, but sounded out from us, as a testimony which has arrested and awakened others? It is a severe test. But some can stand it. There are Christian souls which move through the world surrounded with a halo of blessing. There are Christian homes which radiate happiness. There are Christian congregations which you cannot enter without feeling that the power of God is there, and streams of blessing flow out from them over the city, the country, and the world. (J. Stalker, D.D.)

Showers of blessing:

  1. This communication is needed by the world.
  2. Contemplate the vast portion of the world, which is still destitute of the presence and the power of true religion.
  3. Contemplate the tardiness with which true religion is now advancing among men.
  4. This communication is promised by God.
  5. The promise of God defines the nature of this communication. It consists in the influences of the Holy Spirit, made to affect the hearts and the consciences of men by the truth, which the Gospel embodies and displays.
  6. The promise of God has also defined its extent. There are to be “showers”—impartations commensurate with the existing need, and designed absolutely and entirely to extinguish and terminate that need.
  7. The purpose of God has also defined its results. “There shall be showers of blessing.”

III. This communication, which is needed by the world, and which is promised by God, must be sought by the Church.

  1. The Church must seek for this communication by the removal of worldly conformity.
  2. The Church must seek for this communication by the cultivation of union and fraternal love.
  3. The Church must seek this communication by the employment of vigorous and zealous exertions, in the practical distribution of the truth, which has been affirmed to be the instrument, through which the Spirit of God is to descend in blessing upon the world.
  4. The Church must seek for this communication by the offering of fervent and importunate prayer. (J. Parsons, M.A.)

Showers of blessing:

This blessed promise may be claimed by—

  1. The believer.
  2. In the joy of the morning. “Songs in the night,” but blessings for the morning. A blessing is added strength.
  3. In the heat of the noonday. As a reminder of Providence, and a remembrancer of the God who promised that the “sun shall not smite thee by day,” these cooling showers shall come.
  4. In the weary evening. Do doubts assail, do fears annoy? Do sorrows gather, do tempests rise? There shall be showers of blessing, and “dewy eve” will be a time of surcease from grief and labour, turmoil and care, and He will give “His beloved sleep.”
  5. In the desolate night. After all friends have gone, after even friendly twilight has withdrawn herself, in that “dark and lonely hour,” they shall fall upon him to season his meditations or perchance to lull to repose his wearied and inflamed orbs.
  6. Ever, there shall be showers of blessing for the believer.
  7. The backslider.
  8. In the hour of thoughtfulness. When he considers his relations to God, and how strained they are.
  9. In the hour of remembrance. The blessed “Remembrancer,” the good Spirit of Truth, will bring forsaken joys, discarded delights, and vanished experiences to his memory.
  10. In the hour of penitence. Is it not recorded that “God resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble”? and humility is twin sister to penitence.
  11. In the hour of return. When the prodigal son returned, the tears which bedewed the cheeks of reconciled father and repentant son were indeed showers of blessing.

III. The sinner. Blessed showers will come when—

  1. He feels his need.
  2. Loathes himself.
  3. Cries to God.
  4. Trusts in the Saviour. (J. B. Esenwein.)

Showers of blessing:

  1. All temporal and spiritual blessings, like showers, descend from above.
  2. “Showers” are abundant. The great Creator does not give the rain stingily, but opens the windows of heaven, and pours down His blessings upon the dry and thirsty land. So spiritual blessings come upon the thirsty and longing hearts of men.
  3. “Showers” are repeated and continued; for season after season descend the early and the latter rain, and by repeated showers the earth brings forth and buds, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater. So in the history of the Church, and of every individual believing soul, there has been given grace for grace, that there might be progress from strength to strength in the journey Zionward.
  4. “Showers” are gratuitous; they come down freely from the clouds, without money and without price. We could not purchase them, for the silver and the gold belong to God, as well as the cattle upon a thousand hills. So all spiritual blessings are free; indeed, they are priceless, as well as peerless.
  5. “Showers” are suitable; as they fall upon the earth they make it soft, and drop fatness into the soil, and become the occasion of beauty and bountifulness. So the blessings that crown our lives are suitable to our needs and adapted to minister to our well-being and joy. Especially is this true of spiritual blessings.
  6. “Showers” are gentle. How softly, as a rule, they fall, feeding the roots of the mightiest trees, and yet not wounding the leaves or blossoms of the tiniest flowers. How gently our temporal blessings come to us, how softly the light streams over the earth to gladden our eyes, and how gently the tide of health flows into our system, to make us strong and fit for our ever-recurring toils of life. And the blessings that refresh our spirits and revive our faith, they fall gently upon us while we pray and praise, and nestle upon our hearts while we engage in Christian work and worship.
  7. Temporal and spiritual blessings, like showers, require the co-operation of man; or the design with which they descend from above will be frustrated. We must co-operate with Providence in the temporal blessings sent us, or they will not answer the end designed. The human and the Divine must work hand in hand. This is equally true of the Church and of individual souls. God sends down “showers of blessing,” but there must be preparation for them and co-operation with them; then the wilderness and solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. Showers come when the land is thirsty, and when the vapours from the earth have ascended and formed themselves into thick clouds; and “showers of blessing” will come upon us when our hearts are thirsty, and cry out for the living God; when our prayer-like clouds of incense have ascended to Heaven for the downcoming of the Holy Ghost. (F. W. Brown.)

Showers of blessing:

  1. Here is sovereign mercy—“I will give them the shower in its season.”
  2. Is it not sovereign, Divine mercy?—for who can say, “I will give them showers,” except God? There is only one voice which can speak to the clouds, and bid them beget the rain. “Who sendeth down the rain upon the earth? Do not I, the Lord?” So, grace is the gift of God, and is not to be created by man.
  3. It is also needed grace. What would the ground do without showers? You may break the clods, you may sow your seeds, but what can you do without the rain? As absolutely needful is the Divine blessing. In vain you labour, until God the plenteous shower bestows, and sends salvation down.
  4. Then it is plenteous grace. “There shall be showers.” It does not say, “I will send them drops,” but “showers.” So it is with grace. If God gives a blessing, He usually gives it in such a measure that there is not room enough to receive it. Plenteous grace! Ah! we want plenteous grace to keep us humble, to make us prayerful, to make us holy; plenteous grace to make us zealous, to preserve us through this life, and at last to land us in heaven. We cannot do without saturating showers of grace.
  5. Again, it is seasonable grace. “I will cause the shower to come down in his season.” What is thy season this morning? Is it the season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it a season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
  6. And here is a varied blessing. “I will give thee showers of blessing.” The word is in the plural. All kinds of blessings God will send. All God’s blessings go together, like links in a golden chain. If He gives converting grace, He will also give comforting grace. He will send “showers of blessing.” Look up to-day, O parched plant, and open thy leaves and flowers for a heavenly watering! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Showers of blessing sent from God:

  1. The blessings bestowed on the peculiar people of God are blessings of unspeakable value.
  2. Their origin, and the glory and the grace of their author (James 1:17; Eph. 1:3).
  3. The price paid for their purchase (1 Pet. 1:18, 19; 2 Cor. 8:9).
  4. Our indispensable need of them (Rev. 3:17).
  5. The peculiar and transcendent happiness which the possession of them ensures (Rev. 3:18; Psa 4:7; Phil. 4:7; 1 Cor. 2:9).
  6. The precious blessings bestowed on the people of God are incalculably numerous.
  7. Can you calculate the number of showers that fall to refresh, to fructify, and to bless the earth, in the course of the revolving seasons? nay, I will ask further, can you calculate the number of drops of which each shower is composed? Then may you calculate the number of blessings bestowed on the people of God.
  8. Can you tell how numerous, or, rather, innumerable, the wants of God’s people are?

III. The blessings peculiar to God’s people are all most opportunely bestowed. “I will cause the shower to come down in his season.” To the young, to the middle-aged, and to the old, they come just as their various and peculiar circumstances render necessary. To the poor, to the afflicted, to the tempted, and to the dying, how seasonable are the supplies of all those blessings especially requisite for them! The promise in each individual case is fully and happily realised (Deut. 33:25).

  1. The blessings bestowed on God’s people are all the result of Divine agency.
  2. Who but the blessed God could have devised that wondrous plan of grace, by which the blessings of the everlasting covenant are secured to His people? (Rom. 3:24–26; Rom. 11:33)
  3. Who but a Divine person could have paid the price by which these blessings have been purchased? (Rom. 8:3; Rom. 8:34; John 1:1, compared with verse 14.)
  4. The actual application of these blessings, too, is all of God (Phil. 2:13). Who gives the new heart? (Ezek. 36:26.) Who gives pardon? (Isa. 43:25) Who sanctifies them? (Exod. 31:13; 1 Thess. 5:23.) Who completes the work of their redemption? (Phil. 1:6; Rev. 3:21.) Application—
  5. It is no presumption to expect great and manifold blessings from the great and manifold grace of God (Rev. 3:21).
  6. What a happy people must the people of God be! (Deut. 33:29.)
  7. To God alone we should ascribe the glory and praise of all our blessings (Psa. 115:1).
  8. We should be encouraged, from the receipt of common mercies, to expect special blessings from God.
  9. The wickedest of men may yet be blessed of God (Isa. 55:1–3). (A. Thomson, D.D.)

Conditions necessary for showers:

An Irish gentleman remarked in my hearing that he had always noticed that when it rained there were clouds about, and so all the air was in right order for the descent of rain. We have noticed the same, and it so happens that the clouds and general constitution of the atmosphere have much to do with the value of moisture for the herbs. It is no good watering them in the sun, the circumstances do not benefit them. So with revivals. Certain things done under certain circumstances become abundantly useful, but if you have not similar circumstances, you may use the same machinery, but mischief instead of good will follow. Begin yourself with the Master, and then go outward to His service, but plans of action must be secondary. (C. H. Spurgeon.)[2]


34:26 My hill. A reference to Jerusalem and Zion in particular, where the Jews will come to worship the Lord. showers of blessing. Cf. the “times of refreshing” in Ac 3:19, 20, when the curses of Dt 28:15–68 are lifted.[3]


34:26 a blessing. Agricultural prosperity is a common theme in Old Testament portrayals of the blessed future of God’s people (vv. 25–29); see note 28:26.[4]


34:26 In Israel autumn rains signaled the beginning of the rainy season, and spring rains the end (Jr 5:24). Blessing is a term that occurs frequently in the creation account, and this depends on the work of the Creator. God usually blesses his people by ensuring that natural processes work optimally rather than by circumventing them via miracles.[5]


26. them and the places round about my hill—The Jews, and Zion, God’s hill (Ps 2:6), are to be sources of blessing, not merely to themselves, but to the surrounding heathen (Is 19:24; 60:3; Mic 5:7; Zec 8:13). The literal fulfilment is, however, the primary one, though the spiritual also is designed. In correspondence with the settled reign of righteousness internally, all is to be prosperity externally, fertilizing showers (according to the promise of the ancient covenant, Le 26:4; Ps 68:9; Mal 3:10), and productive trees and lands (Ez 34:27). Thus shall they realize the image of Ez 34:14; namely, a flock richly pastured by God Himself.[6]


Ver. 26.—Round about my hill. Ezekiel’s thoughts, like those of Micah 4:1 and Isa. 2:2, cluster round the hill of Zion, the mountain of Jehovah, as the centre of the restored Israel. In that land, as the prophet saw it here, and still more in the closing vision of his book (ch. 47:12), there were, outwardly as well as spiritually, to be showers of blessing (the phrase is peculiar to Ezekiel), and the land should yield its fruits.[7]


[1] Dyer, C. H., & Rydelnik, E. (2014). Ezekiel. In M. A. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (Eds.), The moody bible commentary (p. 1254). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Exell, J. S. (1906). The Biblical Illustrator: Ezekiel (pp. 379–384). London: Francis Griffiths.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Eze 34:26). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1189). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[5] Rooker, M. F. (2017). Ezekiel. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1297). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[6] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 608). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[7] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ezekiel (Vol. 2, p. 207). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

December 7, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

thirty days of jesus day 9

The Silent Years of Childhood

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. (2:40)

Scripture passes over Jesus’ childhood in silence, in contrast to the fanciful legends recorded in the apocryphal inventions of a fantasy childhood. The latter range from having Jesus perform magician’s tricks (e.g., turning clay birds into live ones) or malicious acts completely inconsistent with His character as revealed in the Bible (e.g., killing another child who bumped into Him, then striking the child’s parents blind for complaining to Joseph and Mary).

The statement that the Child continued to grow demonstrates that Jesus was fully human. He developed as all children develop, though unaffected by sin. The phrase become strong should be taken grammatically with the following phrase, increasing in wisdom. To be sure, Jesus possessed a unique physical strength because of His sinlessness. But Luke’s primary emphasis is on Jesus’ spiritual development, as He matured in wisdom until, as the Greek text literally reads, He was “filled with wisdom,” the profound wisdom of the mind of God. Jesus did not possess all of that knowledge as an infant, toddler, or young child. But by the time He was twelve, the fullness of divine wisdom had come to fruition in His mind. A feature of Christ’s incarnation was that He relinquished control of His use of His divine prerogatives to the Holy Spirit, who mediated between His deity and His humanity. By the time He reached twelve, the Spirit had disclosed the understanding of His identity and mission.

Hebrews 5:8 reveals that much of His increase in wisdom came as Jesus “learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” At every stage of His development, Jesus faced the full, unabated onslaught of temptation, so that He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Not only was Jesus filled with the wisdom of God, but also the grace of God was upon Him. John describes Him as “full of grace” (1:14). The grace in view here is not, of course, the saving, redeeming grace that God grants to undeserving sinners, since Jesus was sinless. Instead, it was the favor of God granted to His “beloved Son, in [whom He is] well-pleased” (Luke 3:22). He was both the recipient of grace as favor deserved and the giver of grace as favor undeserved.

By the time Jesus turned twelve, He had a complete grasp of His true identity. He fully understood the wisdom of God and its application to the mission for which God had sent Him into the world. William Hendriksen writes, “The development of this child was therefore perfect, and this along every line: physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual; for from beginning to end progress was unimpaired and unimpeded by sin, whether inherited or acquired. Between the child Jesus and his Father … there was perfect harmony, limitless love” (The Gospel of Luke, New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], 180).[1]


40 Luke is fond of summary statements that allow both for the passage of time in the story with minimal representation and commentary, and for brief valuative comments on his part. His chief concern is Jesus as an adult, but as with contemporary Jewish and Greco-Roman literature, he relates that the child already possessed the qualities that will make him extraordinary in later life. Of special interest is Jesus’ wisdom and a certification of God’s valuative point of view vis-à-vis the child. Both qualities will come to the fore in the following story, which may be understood as an illustration of these features.

This brief report has precedent in Israel’s Scriptures—for example, Gen 21:8, 20; Judg 13:24; 1 Sam 2:21, 26. Echoing these earlier, sacred texts, Luke’s statement draws on their capacity to communicate the progression of the story under God’s care and within his purpose. Luke’s summary also echoes the similar report concerning John in 1:80 and anticipates the summaries of the growth of the Christian movement in Acts. The effect is the same, to tell of the advancement of God’s aim toward its consummation.[2]


Ver. 40. And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit.

Our Lord’s early years upon earth:—Notice a few things which are remarkable in our Lord’s Childhood, and which are too often wanting in that of others. 1. His obedience to His earthly parents. 2. A childhood of privacy and seclusion. He was kept in the background, not paraded by His parents as an instance of precocious excellence or intellect. He drank in the pure breezes of heaven, and was in secret. 3. A genuine thirst for improvement (ver. 46, &c.). How unlike that raging appetite for mere amusement which begins in our days so early, and has turned the very literature of the young into a jest and plaything. What we seek is something to make us laugh, something which may present to us the ludicrous side of everything, and turn away from us the real and the sobering. What Christ sought at the age of twelve years was knowledge, and He sought that knowledge in the courts of His Father’s house. 4. A spirit of docility. He sought knowledge even from men little qualified, indeed, to impart it, but who yet occupied the position to which it belonged to teach. 5. Christ’s childhood was stamped with a sense of duty, and elevated by a lofty aim. A sense of His relation to God, of the meaning and responsibility of life, of a work to be done on God’s earth in which He was Himself to be a fellow-worker with His Father—these motives had already dawned upon Him at that young age, and gave an unwonted seriousness to a childhood in all else so natural. 6. Notice the testimony which Christ’s childhood bears to God’s patience in working out His purposes; to what we may call the gradual character of God’s works. “In due time” is written upon all of them. 7. Our Lord’s early life was the consecration, for all time, of what are regarded, by way of distinction, as the more secular and the humbler callings. (S.P.C.K. Sermons.)

The holy Child Jesus:—Christ might have been made full-grown at once. Adam was, and our Lord is called “the last Adam,” “the second man”; that is to say, Adam was a type or figure of Christ. One might have expected, therefore, that our Lord would be what Adam had been, a man sent into the world full-grown. Infancy, childhood, boyhood, are very humbling conditions. Why did Christ submit to them? 1. Our Lord’s condescension is infinite, and therefore, in coming into the world, He desired to stoop as low as possible, in order to set us the more striking example of lowliness of mind. Therefore He preferred, for His entrance into the world, the condition of an unconscious babe, and of a child dependent upon its parents, to that of a full-grown and independent man. 2. Our Lord, out of His infinite compassion for us, earnestly desired to sympathize with men in all their trials, and in every condition in which they can be placed, in order that He might bless and comfort them by His sympathy. So He came in by the usual gate—infancy. 3. One can quite see this, that for a grown-up person never to have known childhood, a home, or a mother’s care, would cut them off from all the most beautiful and tender associations of our nature. It makes a man tender, as no other thought can, to look back on his childhood and early home, on the strong interest which his parents used to take in him, and on the sacrifices which they were at all times ready to make for him. Now our Lord was to be infinitely tender, in order that He might attract the miserable and suffering to Himself; and He was to exhibit all the beauties and graces of which human nature is capable; and therefore it was that He willed to have a home of childhood, and to be dependent upon a mother’s care, and to lisp His earliest prayers at a mother’s knee, which is the way in which all of us first learn to pray. These experiences contributed to make His human soul tender. Concluding lessons: 1. Take to Him all your little troubles and trials in prayer, and assure yourselves that He is most ready to hear and help you. Why did He become a child, but to assure children of His sympathy with them? 2. Take Him for your example. Observe His love of God’s house, His teachableness, His desire for instruction, His submission to His parents (while all the while He was their God), His growth in wisdom and in favour with God and man; and try to copy Him in these points. 3. Trust with all your heart in the goodness which He as a child exhibited, and which was perfect goodness, such as yours can never be. Only for the sake of that goodness of His will God forgive your faults. (Dean Goulburn.)

The growth of children:—“The Child grew.” Of course the Child grew. Every child grows. There is not a child in the world who is not older to-day than he was yesterday, and who, if he lives, will not be older to-morrow than he is to-day. And whatever needs to be done for a child while he is young as now ought to be done to-day. He will have outgrown the possibility—if not the need—of such doing for him when to-morrow is here. Childhood is quickly lost. It is not to be regained. Unless it is improved as it passes, it is unimproved for ever. A child grows by night and by day, whether he is cared for or neglected. Oh, how soon the child has outgrown the possibilities of training in the nursery, of a mother’s training, of a father’s training, of a teacher’s training! And when he has outgrown all these, who but God can reach him? If you would do your work for your child, you must do it now—or never. Have that in mind with your every breath; for with every breath your child is growing away from his plastic and impressible childhood. (H. C. Trumbull.)

No abasement in growth:—There is no abasement in the fact that Jesus grew as any other boy grows. The apple of June is perfect as a June apple, though it has not come to its maturity. The acorn is perfect as an acorn, just as the oak is perfect as an oak. Jesus was a perfect Boy, as He was a perfect Man. If Jesus was content to grow slowly, should not we? The mushroom may spring up in a night; it is many a year before the sturdy oak attains its full growth. (Sunday School Times.)

The source of Christ’s growth:—When one sees a river flowing deep and strong through a parched country, as the Ganges in India, he becomes desirous of knowing something about its source. He follows it up, and finds that it comes from the cold hills of the north, issuing it may be, in full flood from beneath a glacier. So the source of Jesus’ growth in spirit and wisdom is here told—“The grace of God was upon Him.” (Ibid.)

Youthful piety of Christ:—There are three parts of our nature mentioned in the Bible—the body, the soul, the spirit. “The body” is what the animals have in common with us; it is the part of us in which we feel hunger, thirst, and weariness—the part which is fed by food and rested by sleep. “The soul” means the feelings and affections; it is the part of us which feels pity for distress, fear of danger, anger at an insult, and so forth. “The spirit” is that higher part of our nature, which makes us reasonable beings; it is by the action of our spirit that we think of God, set Him before us, pray to Him, fear Him, worship Him. It is, then, a great thing to say of any child, and it could only be said of a good and holy child, that he “waxes strong in spirit.” It means not that he becomes taller, nimbler, cleverer, but that his conscience becomes more and more formed as he grows up, his will more steady in doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, his prayers to God more earnest, his sense of God’s presence more keen, his dread of sin stronger. Alas! it is the very opposite with children in general. Their conscience, which was once tender, becomes hardened as they get to know more; they soon shake off any dread of sin and the fear of God; their will weakly yields to temptation, until it becomes easy and natural to yield. And it is added, “He was filled with wisdom.” The words imply that wisdom kept on flowing, like a running stream, into His human soul; there were, in His case, none of those thoughts of levity and folly, by which childhood is commonly marked. “And the grace of God” (meaning both the favour of God, and the precious influence of His Holy Spirit) “was upon Him.” When the sun shines out upon the dewdrops that cover the tender grass of spring in the early morning, how beautiful is each spangled bead of dew, glistening with all the colours of the rainbow! Such was the childhood of the Holy Child! The dews of God’s Spirit rested upon Him without measure. And the sunshine of God’s favour beamed out upon Him, as “the Child of children,” in whom—and in whom alone of all children that had ever been born—God the Father was well pleased. How early can a child love God, yearn towards God, hope in God, trust in God? I cannot say. Probably much earlier than we suppose. Do not the youngest infants stretch their tiny arms, and smile graciously when their mother comes into the room? They are not too young to show that they love and trust their parents; I do not know why it should be impossible for them to love and trust their heavenly Father, especially if He should give His grace to them “without measure,” as was the case with our Lord. Perhaps you say, “It is impossible for a child in arms to understand or know anything about God.” How can any one be sure of that? It was foretold of John the Baptist, that he should be “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb”; and if this was the case with him, how much more must it have been the case with the Lord Jesus? Have you one single feeling of affection and trust towards your heavenly Father, as He had? Do you even wish to have some such feeling? The wish is something, nay, it is much; let it lead you to pray for the feeling, and in due time the feeling will come. If your earthly parents would deny you nothing that is good for you, which they had it in their power to give, “how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Dean Goulburn.)

Growth under ordinary events:—These words, applied by St. Luke first to John the Baptist and then to our Lord, simply express an everyday occurrence—what we habitually take for granted as the natural course of things. This very fact—that they are so simple, so natural, so completely on the level of our common life—gives them the rich meaning that they possess for us. For they teach us that the Divine method of life is quite different from what we should expect; that each man may find in and about him, in his endowments and in his environments, just what he requires for the accomplishment of his work. We need not go from our proper place in order to discipline ourselves for God’s service; we need not strive after gifts which He has not entrusted to us, or forms of action which are foreign to our position, in order to do our part as members of His Church. It is enough that we grow and wax strong under the action of those forces by which He moves us within and without, if we desire to fulfil, according to the measure of our powers, the charge which He has prepared for us. Thus it was that John the Baptist, the stern, bold preacher, grew up in the desert according to the angel’s message—a lonely boy, a lonely youth, until the days of his showing unto Israel, communing only with the severest forms of nature and with the most awful thoughts of God. Thus it was that Jesus lived in the calm seclusion of a bright upland valley, in the Jewish fellowship of a holy home, subject to His parents and in favour with God and man, until His hour came. In that silent discipline of thirty years, there was no anxious anticipation of the future, no wistful lingering on the past; the past, used to the utmost, was the foundation of the future. (Canon Westcott.)

God’s mode of training men:—We are always inclined to look for some joy or sorrow, as that which shall stir the energies of our souls; for some sharp sickness or bereavement, as that which shall make us trust more faithfully in God; for some blessing or deliverance, as that which shall bring us to love Him with tender devotion. But when these exceptional events happen, they do but reveal to us what we have already become; then, at length, when our eyes are opened, we see ourselves; then we know what we are; then we realize the value of little things, the abiding results of routine; then we marvel, it may be, to know assuredly that we despised Christ when He came to us in strange disguises; or it may be that we welcomed Him in the least of His little ones, or in the most insignificant of His workings. Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake and sleep, we grow and wax strong, or we grow and wax weak; at last some crisis shows us what we have become. (Ibid.)

Great results from secret processes:—The facts of the material world help us to feel the reality of this still and secret process which is the universal law of life. The ground on which we stand, the solid rocks which lie beneath it, are nothing but the accumulated results of the action of forces which we observe in action still. A few drops of rain gather on the hillside, and find an outlet down its slope; grain by grain a channel is fashioned, fresh rills add their waters to the flowing stream, and at last the runlet which a stone might have diverted from its course has grown into a river which no human force can stem. The sapling is planted on an open ridge, straight and vigorous; season after season the winds blow through its branches; it bends and bends and rises again, but with ever-lessening power; and when years have gone by, and the sapling has become a tree, its strange distorted shape bears witness to the final power of the force which at each moment it seemed able to overcome. And so it is with all of us. From small beginnings flow the currents of our lives, from constant and unnoticed impulses we take our bias; the stream is ever gathering strength; the bend is ever being confirmed or corrected. At any time of this life, our character is represented by the sum of our past lives. There is not one act, not one purpose, which does not leave its trace, though we may be unable to distinguish and measure its value. There is not one drop which does not add something to the flowing river, not one branch which does not in some way shape the rising tree. The appointed duty, heartily or carelessly gone through, makes us weaker for the next effort. The unkind word spoken, or the kind word not spoken, makes us less tender when our love is next needed; the evil thing done, or the evil thought cherished, makes a vantage-ground for the tempter when he next assails us. The prayer neglected, or said with the lips only, makes it harder for us to seek God when we next desire to find Him. The Communion superstitiously slighted, or superstitiously frequented, makes it more and more difficult for us to see life transfigured by the brightness of a Divine presence. In this way it is that we grow and wax weak, happy only if some day of reckoning startles us by the sense of our loss, and if we are constrained to offer to God in the humblest spirit what remains. And, on the other hand, every faithful answer to the least claim upon our service, every manful contest for the right, every painful struggle with self-indulgence, every sore temptation met in the name and strength of Christ, every striving towards God in prayer and praise, is fruitful for the future—fruitful in self-sacrifice, in courage, in endurance, in the joy of Divine fellowship. (Ibid.)

Childhood disparaged by the ancients:—In those brief sketches of Christ which are called the Gospels, eighteen years of experience are wholly wanting. The best explanation of the omission is, that in that epoch, and in almost all past periods, child life was not a matter of importance. It did not enter largely into literature, nor into the category of the great things of the world. In some nations the death-day rather than the birthday was celebrated, because the latter period was associated with fame or learning or some other form of merit, while the birthday enjoyed no association of worth—it was only the period of all shapes of weakness. In the most of the ancient philosophies the reasonable soul did not come to the body until it was about twenty years old. According to one of the old Rabbis a man was free at twelve, might marry at eighteen or twenty, should acquire property until he was thirty, then intellectual strength should come, and at forty the profoundest wisdom should appear. Amid just what opinions of this nature the youth of Jesus was spent is not known, but at least this is true that He lived in an era when early life seemed to possess but small worth, and no scholar or biographer encumbered with such details his record or oration or poem. Not only do we know little about the early life of Jesus, but the early years of Cæsar, and Virgil, and Cicero, and Tacitus lie equally withdrawn from the public gaze. Old biographies make their first chapter out of the actual beginnings of the public service. (David Swing.)

An address to children on the Child Jesus:—The Child Jesus grew. He did not stand still. Although it was God Himself who was revealed to us in the life of Jesus Christ, yet this did not prevent Him from being made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted. And so in all things He is an example for us to imitate. Each one, whether old or young, must remember that progress, improvement, going on, advance, change into something better and better, wiser and wiser, year by year, is the only way of becoming like Christ, and therefore like God. The world moves, and you and all of us must move with it. God calls us all ever to something higher and higher, and that higher stage we must reach by steadily advancing towards it. There are three things especially which the text puts before us as those in which our Lord’s earthly education, in which the advance and improvement of His earthly character, added to His youthful and childlike powers. 1. Strength of character. Christ waxed strong in spirit. What we all want is a stout heart to resist temptation, a strong hardy conscience which fixes itself on matters of real importance and will not trifle or waste its powers on things of no concern. We must earnestly seek this strength. It comes to those who strive after it. 2. Wisdom. To gain this—to have your mind opened, to take in all that your teachers can pour into it—you are sent to school. You need not be old before your time, but you must even now be making the best use of your time. These are the golden days which never come back to you, which if once lost can never be entirely made up. Seek, therefore, for wisdom, pray for it, determine to have it, and God who gives to those who ask for it, will give it to you. Try to gain it, as our Lord gained it when He was a child, by hearing and by asking questions, i.e., (a) by being teachable, humble, modest, and fixing your attention on what you have to learn; (b) by trying to know the meaning of what you learn, by cross-questioning yourselves, by inquiring right and left to fill up the blanks in your mind. 3. The grace or favour of God, or, as it says in ver. 52, the favour of God and man. Our Lord possessed God’s favour always, but even in Him it increased more and more. It increased as He grew older, as He saw more and more of the work which was given Him to do; He felt more and more that God was His Father, and that men were His brothers, and that grace and loving-kindness was the best and dearest gift from God to man, and from man to man, and from man to God. He was subject to His parents. He did what they told Him; and so He became dear to them. He was kind, and gentle, and courteous to those about Him, so that they always liked to see Him when He came in and out amongst them. So may it be with you. Look upon God as your dear Father in heaven, who loves you, and who wishes nothing but your happiness. Look upon your schoolfellows and companions as brothers, to whom you must show whatever kindness and forbearance you can. Just as this beautiful building in which we are assembled is made up of a number of small stones beautifully carved, every one of which helps to make up the grace and beauty of the whole, so is all the state of the world made up of the graces and goodnesses not only of full-grown men and women, but of little children who will be, if they live, full-grown one day. (Dean Stanley.)

The Child Jesus, a pattern for children:—1. The Child Jesus was a diligent scholar. He did not “hate” to go to school. He did not neglect His tasks, or slur them over anyhow, or think, as perhaps some of you think, that getting out of school was the best part of the whole business. We might be quite sure that He diligently attended to the wise Rabbis who asked and answered questions, who uttered so many wise and witty proverbs, and told so many pretty stories, if only because He Himself was, in after years, so wise in asking and answering questions, and spoke so many proverbs and parables which the world will never let die. But we can do more and better than merely infer what a good scholar He was. We can see Him while He was yet a lad, going to school of His own accord, and staying in it when He might have been climbing the hills or running through the fields with His friends (vers. 41–46). 2. This good scholar was also a good son. The Hebrew boys of our Lord’s time were very well bred. They were taught good manners as well as good morals. They were enjoined, both by their parents and their masters, to salute every one they met in the street, to say to him “Peace be with thee.” To break this rule of courtesy, they were told, was as wrong as to steal. And the Boy Jesus was well brought up, and was full of courtesy, kindness, goodwill; for not only did He grow in favour with men in general, but He had a large circle of kinsfolk and friends who loved Him and were glad to have Him with them (ver. 44). We know, too, that He had never grieved His parents before, in His eagerness to learn. He let them go on their way home without Him. For when they had found Him in the Temple, they were so astonished that He should have given them the pain of seeking Him sorrowfully, that they cannot blame Him as for a fault, but can only ask Him why He had treated them thus. He must indeed have been a good son to whom His mother could speak as Mary spoke to Jesus. 3. He was also a good child of God. Always “about His Father’s business”—feeling that He must be about it, wherever He went, whatever He did. The one great thing He had to do, the one thing which above all others He tried to do, was to serve God His Father; not simply to become wise, and still less to please Himself, but to please God by growing wise in the knowledge and obedience of His commandments. (S. Cox, D.D.)

Superstitious reverence of Christ’s person guarded against:—After informing us that Jesus was filled with wisdom, the evangelist adds, that the grace of God was upon Him. Now as the grace of God is not said to have been in but upon Him, it seems intended to express something not internal, but obvious to the senses. Hence it has been supposed that here the grace of God denotes a Divine gracefulness. In confirmation of this opinion it has been said, that in several passages there are allusions to something highly graceful, dignified, and impressive in His manner. Thus, the officers of the chief priest declared that never man spake like this man; and even the inhabitants of Nazareth were delighted at first with the words full of grace which He uttered. It is particularly to be remarked, however, that neither in the four Gospels, nor in any of the other books of the New Testament, has any description been given of the personal appearance of our Saviour. There is not, indeed, to be found the slightest allusion to the subject. Yet, of the founder of every other religion, whether true or false, some description, however concise, has been preserved. Thus, we are told that Moses, when a child, was extremely beautiful. The followers of Mahomet have described their pretended prophet in a minute manner; and the persons of most of the eminent sages of antiquity have been delineated by their disciples. But of the external appearance of Jesus no record is left. Why this singular omission? Were not the apostles of Jesus attached to their Master? Yes: their attachment was stronger and more disinterested than the world ever witnessed, for they suffered everything and sacrificed everything for His sake. But the omissions of inspired writers are never to be ascribed to oversight, but to the design of an over-ruling Providence. Nothing, therefore, was to be inserted in the Sacred Records concerning Jesus which might lead to a superstitious veneration of His person, and thus draw away the attention of His followers from His sublime doctrines and precepts, and the perfection of His character. (James Thomson, D.D.)

The development of Christ through the influences of outward nature:—The Ebionites thought the natural humanity of our Saviour’s early life unworthy of a Divine person, and denied His essential divinity. To them, Christ was, till His baptism, a common man. It was at His baptism that He received from God, as an external gift, the consciousness of His Divine mission and special powers for it. We, however, do not hold the necessary unworthiness of human nature as a habitation of the Divine. We hold, with the old writer, that man is “the image of God.” Hence instead of looking upon Christ’s youth and childhood and His common life as derogatory to His glory, we see in them the glorification of all human thought and action in every stage of life. The whole of humanity is penetrated by the Divine. This is the foundation-stone of the gospel of Christ. On it rest all the great doctrines of Christianity, on it reposes all the noble practise of Christian men, and we call it the Incarnation. But this re-uniting of the divinity and humanity took place in time, and under the limitations which are now imposed upon humanity. The Divine Word was self-limited on its entrance our into nature, in some such sense as our spirit and thought are limited by union with body. Consequently, we should argue that there was a gradual development of the person of Christ; and this conclusion, which we come to à priori, is supported by the narrative in the Gospels. We are told that Jesus “increased in wisdom,” that He “waxed strong in spirit,” that He “learned obedience,” that He was “made perfect through suffering.” This is our subject—the development of Christ. And, first, we are met with a difficulty. The idea of development seems to imply imperfections passing into perfection—seems to exclude the idea of original perfection. But there are two conceivable ideas of development; one, development through antagonism, through error, from stage to stage of less and less deficiency. This is our development; but it is such because evil has gained a lodgment in our nature, and we can only attain perfection through contest with it. But there is another kind of development conceivable, the development of a perfect nature limited by time. The plant is perfect as the green shoot above the earth—it is all it can be then; it is more perfect as the creature adorned with leaves and branches, and it is all it can be then; it reaches its full perfection when the blossom breaks into flower. Such was the development of Christ. He was the perfect child, the perfect boy, the perfect youth, the perfect flower of manhood. A second illustration may make the matter clearer. The work of an inferior artist arrives at a certain amount of perfection through a series of failures, which teach him where he is wrong. Such is our development. The work of a man of genius is very different. He has seen, before he touches pencil, the finished picture. His first sketch contains the germ of all. His work is perfect in its several stages. Such was Christ’s development—an orderly, faultless, unbroken development, in which humanity, freed from its unnatural companion, evil, went forward according to its real nature. It was the restoration of humanity to its original integrity, to itself, as it existed in the idea of God. Think, then, of His development through the influence of outward nature. From the summit of the hill in whose bosom Nazareth lay, there sweeps one of the widest and most varied landscapes to be seen in Palestine. It is impossible to over-estimate the influence which this changing scene of beauty had upon the mind of the Saviour as a child. The Hebrew feeling for nature was deep and extended. By care, then, alone, the Child Jesus was prepared to feel the most delicate shades of change in the aspect of outward nature. But as He was not only Hebrew but the type of pure humanity, we may, without attributing to Him anything unnatural to childhood, impute to Him the nobler feelings which are stirred in the Western and Northern races by the modes of natural beauty. (Stopford A. Brooke, MA.)

The early development of Jesus:—I. “The Child grew.” Two pregnant facts. He was a child, and a child that grew in heart, in intellect, in size, in grace, in favour with God. Not a man in child’s years. No hotbed precocity marked the holiest of infancies. The Son of Man grew up in the quiet valley of existence—in shadow, not in sunshine, not forced. II. This growth took place in three particulars—1. In spiritual strength. I instance one single evidence of strength in the early years of Jesus: I find it in that calm, long waiting of thirty years before He began His work. 2. In wisdom. Distinguish wisdom from (1) information, (2) talent. Love is required for wisdom—the love which opens the heart and makes it generous. Speaking humanly, the steps by which the wisdom of Jesus was acquired were two—(a) The habit of inquiry. (b) The collision of mind with mind. Both these we find in this anecdote: His parents found Him with the doctors in the Temple, both hearing and asking them questions. 3. In grace. And this in three points—(1) The exchange of an earthly for a heavenly home. “My Father’s business,” “My Father’s house.” (2) Of an earthly for a heavenly parent. (3) The reconciliation of domestic duties (ver. 51). (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

Apocryphal stories of the Infancy:—The Holy Spirit of God must have touched Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with the spirit of “selection,” which saved them from such miracle-mongering. For Christ—the Christ that I adore—rises above these pitiful tales. (George Dawson.)

A bishop’s dream of our Lord’s childhood:—There was once—as Luther tells us—a pious, godly bishop who had often earnestly prayed that God would show him what Jesus was like in His youth. Now once the bishop had a dream, and in his dream he saw a poor carpenter working at his trade, and beside him a little boy gathering up chips. Then came in a maiden clothed in green, who called them both to come to the meal, and set bread and milk before them. All this the bishop seemed to see in his dream, standing behind the door that he might not be seen. Then the little boy began and said, “Why does that man stand there? Will he not come in also, and eat with us?” And this so frightened the bishop that he woke. But he need not have been frightened, for does not Jesus say, “If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me.” And whether the dream be true or not, we know that Jesus in His childhood and youth looked and acted like other children, “in fashion like a man,” “yet without sin.” (Archdeacon Farrar.)

St. Edmund’s vision of the Child Jesus:—There was once a boy whose name was Edmund Rich, and who is called St. Edmund of Canterbury; and his brother tells us that once, when, at the age of twelve, he had gone into the fields from the boisterous play of his companions, he thought that the Child Jesus appeared unto him, and said, “Hail, beloved one!” And he, wondering at the beautiful child, said, “Who art Thou, for certainly thou art unknown to me?” And the Child Jesus said, “How comes it that I am unknown to thee, seeing that I sit by thy side at school, and wherever thou art, there do I go with thee? Look on My forehead, and see what is there written.” And Edmund looked, and saw the name “Jesus.” “This is my name,” said the child; “write it on thy heart and it shall protect thee from evil.” Then He disappeared, on whom the angels desire to look, leaving the little boy Edmund with passing sweetness in his heart. (Ibid.)

Jerome’s love for the Child Jesus:—There lived, fifteen hundred years ago, a saint whose name was Jerome, and he loved so much the thought of the Child Christ, that he left Rome, and went and lived for thirty long years in a cave at Bethlehem, close by the cavern-stable in which Christ was born. And when men wished to invite him by earthly honours to work elsewhere, he said, “Take me not away from the cradle where my Lord was laid. Nowhere can I be happier than there. There do I often talk with the Child Jesus, and say to Him, ‘Ah, Lord! how can I repay Thee?’ And the Child answers, ‘I need nothing. Only sing thou “Glory to God, and peace on earth.” ’ And when I say, ‘Nay! but I must yield Thee something’; the Holy Child replies, ‘Thy silver and thy gold I need not. Give them to the poor. Give Me only thy sins to be forgiven.’ And then do I begin to weep and say, ‘Oh, Thou blessed Child Jesus, take what is mine, and give me what is Thine!’ ” Now in this way, by the eye of faith, you may all see the Child Jesus, and unseen, yet ever near, you may feel His presence, and He may sit by your side at school, and be with you all day to keep you from harm, and to drive away bad thoughts and naughty tempers, and send His angels to watch over you when you sleep. (Ibid.)

Jesus the Friend of children:—Once there was carried into a great hospital a poor little ragged miserable boy, who had been run over in the streets and dreadfully hurt. And all night he kept crying and groaning in his great pain? and at last a good youth, who lay in the bed next to him, said, “My poor little fellow, won’t you pray to Jesus to ease your pain? “But the little wretched sufferer had never heard anything at all about Jesus, and asked who Jesus was. And the youth gently told him that Jesus was Lord of all, and that He had come down to die for us. And the boy answered, “Oh, I can’t pray to Him, He’s so great and grand, and He would never hear a poor street-boy like me; and I don’t know how to speak to Him.” “Then,” said the youth, “won’t you just lift your hand to Him out of bed, and when He passes by He will see it, and will know that you want Him to be kind to you, and to ease your pain?” And the poor, crushed, suffering boy lifted out of the bed his little brown hand, and soon afterwards he ceased to groan; and when they came to him in the morning the hand and the poor thin arm were still uplifted, but they were stiff and cold; for Jesus had indeed seen it, and heard that mute prayer of the agony of that strayed lamb of His fold, and He had grasped the little, soiled, trembling hand of the sufferer, and had taken him away to that better, happier home, where He will love also to make room for you and me, if we seek Him with all our hearts, and try to do His will. (Ibid.)

Religion in childhood:—“I can never,” said the late Rev. George Burder, “forget my birthday, June 5, 1762. It was on a Sabbath; and after tea, and before family worship, my father was accustomed to catechize me, and examine what I remembered of the sermons of the day. That evening he talked to me very affectionately, and reminded me that it was high time I began to seek the Lord, and to become truly religious. He particularly insisted upon the necessity of an interest in Christ Jesus, and showed me that, as a sinner, I must perish without it, and recommended me to begin that night to pray for it. After family worship, when my father and mother used to retire to their closets for private devotion, I also went to my chamber, the same room in which I was born, and then, I trust, sincerely and earnestly, and, as far as I can recollect, for the first time poured out my soul to God, beseeching Him to give me an interest in Christ, and desiring, above all things, to be found in Him. I am now an old man, but reflecting on that evening, I have often been ready to conclude, that surely I was then, though a little child, brought to believe in Christ.” Christ our example in youth. In what respects, then, is the youth of Christ an example to us? 1. First, it is an example to us of personal piety, and that from our earliest years. “The grace of God was upon Him,” is the evangelist’s expression in our text; whilst, a few verses lower down, we have him saying, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” 2. Again, in the youth of Christ we have an example of diligence in the use of means for our mental progress and improvement. “He was filled with wisdom,” says our text. And after His visit to the Temple, it is said again, “He increased in wisdom.” The youth of Christ, then, we consider, may fairly be cited as furnishing us with an example of the dignity, and value, and importance of intellectual culture. 3. We note next that Christ in His youth was an example of reverent submission to parental authority. “And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.” 4. Further, Christ in His youth is an example to us of the duty of a heartfelt and entire consecration of ourselves to the Divine service. “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” was the question of the Holy One to His parents, when they found Him in the Temple. 5. Once more, Christ in His youth is an example to us of patient and contented acquiescence in our providential lot,—however adverse, however obscure, however disappointing to the expectations which our friends may have formed for us, or which we, in our foolish pride, may be tempted to form for ourselves. (D. Moore, M.A.)[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2009). Luke 1–5 (pp. 190–191). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Green, J. B. (1997). The Gospel of Luke (p. 154). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: St. Luke (Vol. I, pp. 259–267). London: James Nisbet & Co.

December 7, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

thirty days of Jesus day 10

46–47 The questions Jesus put to the teachers were probably not merely boyish inquiries but the kind of probing questions used in ancient academies and in similar discussions. He also gave answers (v. 47). Doeve, 105, suggests that Jesus engaged in a midrashic discussion of biblical texts: “Their amazement must relate to his deducing things from Scripture which they had never found before.” The amazement expressed by the Jewish authorities demonstrates the unique status of Jesus.[1]


2:46 in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers. Jesus would not have been the only person listening to teachers in the court of the Gentiles. The teachers may have been officially recognized scribes, though Jesus’s own later practice shows that others could set themselves up as teachers without being formally licensed. The subject of teaching is likely to have been the interpretation of the law and its implications for both theology and ethics.

2:47 amazed at his understanding and his answers. Jesus seems to have attracted attention, partly no doubt because of his age, but also because he knew what he was talking about. Luke’s words do not necessarily suggest supernatural knowledge, but rather an ability to contribute to debate in a way that belied his years. He is not portrayed as offering his own teaching, as he would do some twenty years later, but as asking questions and joining in discussion. Perhaps he was already trying out some of the radical ideas that later would lead to his rejection by the religious establishment.[2]


46, 47. And after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and putting questions to them. All who were listening to him were astonished at his insight and answers.

The beautiful and very spacious “porches” of the temple provided ample opportunity for teaching. See Mark 12:41–44; Luke 19:47; John 10:23; also N.T.C. on Mark, p. 448 f. It was in one of these places that Joseph and Mary now found Jesus. He was sitting “in the midst of” the teachers, listening to them, and at times directing questions to them.

Since these were the days immediately following the great feast, and since Jerusalem was the headquarters of the Jewish religion, we have a right to imagine that several famous Jewish teachers were still to be found in the temple, for teaching was not confined to the duration of the festivities. Here, then, was an opportunity for Jesus which Nazareth did not afford.

It was not at all unusual for students to ask and answer questions. In fact that was a favorite method of teaching among the Jews. The purpose was not to leave these questions unanswered but to arouse interest among the students and to arrive at definite answers. For more about this see the special section Principles and Methods of Education in Israel, N.T.C. on I and II Timothy and Titus, p. 296 f. And cf. S.BK., Vol. II, p. 150.

What was unusual in the present case was the kind of questions this boy, Jesus, asked, and the kind of answers he gave. Both questions and answers revealed such insight that all who were listening to him were astonished. Soon all eyes must have been riveted on him, so that in a very real sense whenever he spoke he became the center of attention: the boy in the midst of the teachers! Nevertheless, exaggeration must be avoided. Jesus was not yet the teacher. That would come later.[3]


[1] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 85). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] France, R. T. (2013). Luke. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (pp. 45–46). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, p. 184). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.