July 18, 2017: Verse of the day

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1 In anticipation of God’s kingship, the nations must joyfully acclaim Yahweh as the Great King by clapping their hands (cf. 2 Ki 11:12; for nature, cf. Isa 55:12). The heavenly beings already sing praises to him (cf. 29:1; Isa 6:3). The kingdom of God will only be established when the “nations” on earth join with the heavenly choirs in celebration of his universal and everlasting kingship. While clapping, the people joyously “shout” a cheer of victory (20:5).[1]

47:1 all peoples. The call to worship is universal.[2]

47:1–4 As the Psalm began, the audience realized that the Gentile nations which survived the recent global Tribulation were being summoned to clap their hands and shout to God with loud songs of joy. In an unprecedented display of emotion, the choir itself clapped rhythmically as if to lead the way. When the singers came to the words “For the Lord Most High is awesome” the people spontaneously rose to their feet. They remembered the recent coronation of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He was publicly acclaimed “a great King over all the earth.” Gratitude welled up as the people remembered how He subdued “the goat nations” under our feet, those nations which had been implacably hostile to Israel during our time of trouble. Ripples of applause swept through the auditorium as the choir sang:

He will choose our inheritance for us,

The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah.[3]


47:1–4 The Lord Is to Be Feared by All. The Lord loves Israel and gave them their heritage; but this is in order that all peoples might come to fear and love him. Thus God’s subduing of the Canaanites is not his final word for the Gentiles. To clap the hands is here an expression of exultation (cf. Nah. 3:19).[4]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 411). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 47:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 623). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 995). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The Federalist: Christianity Doesn’t Endorse Homosexuality, No Matter What Eugene Peterson And Jim Gaffigan Imply

Eugene Peterson, translator of the very popular bible adaption The Message and a favorite writer in evangelical circles, shocked many this week, stating that he’s perfectly comfortable performing a same-sex wedding. He explained, “I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. …I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. …[I]t’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.” Update: the next day his literary agent released a statement saying Peterson did not imply this and holds to a biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one women. I take him at his word. This article has been slightly changed to reflect this new information.

Noted Catholics, comedian Jim Gaffigan and his wife Jeannie (whom Jim humorously describes as a “Shiite Catholic”) proudly took their five young kids to New York City’s recent Gay Pride parade, joyfully waving their rainbow flags. There have been a disturbing number of people who claim the name of Christ who would like us to believe that God and the Bible are totally cool with homosexuality. They are not. These folks are sowing a great deal of confusion among Christians today, which is troubling and must be set straight in clear terms.

Squaring homosexual sexual relations with the Jewish and Christian scriptures requires that one either ignore its clear and historic teaching or perform a clever textual sleight of hand. It’s the only two ways one can arrive there. Here are ten foundational truths that must inform the person who seeks to be true to faithfully orthodox Christian belief. The first sets the stage for the whole discussion.

1. All Humans Are Simultaneously Sinful and Loved

All people, regardless of their story, are deeply and unconditionally loved by God, each created with profound dignity and worth, not one more than another. This is more than mere religious happy talk, it’s the truth, whether one is gay, straight, or otherwise.

But all people are also stricken with a terminal illness: sin. Everyone. No exceptions. And all to the same degree. Our sin demands our repentance and needs forgiveness, and God’s love and grace are where we find both. All of us are dirty and all of us can be made clean. This is basic Christianity and the great equalizer of all people.

2. Jesus Wasn’t Silent on Homosexuality

Some claim Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and therefore is neutral on the topic. First, this demonstrates embarrassingly bad logic. Argument from silence. Second, it’s not true.

The question is not whether Jesus ever said anything about homosexuality. The overarching question is “What was the sexual ethic that Jesus taught?” Ask any of these innovators. For all their effort, they have remarkably never considered this question and thus, don’t have a clear answer.

Jesus was unequivocal in saying that to understand marriage and the sexual union, we must go back to the beginning of Genesis and see how God created humanity and to what end. (See Matthew 19 and Mark 10.) No way to spin that. Jesus holds up the creation story, not as a quaint Sunday school lesson, but as solidly authoritative, reminding us that God created each of us male or female, each for the other. And the sexual union that God created and ordains is for husband and wife to come together in an exclusive physical union, one flesh.

These theological revisionists don’t even really concern themselves with the early Genesis texts.

3. There Is Only One Option

Both Jesus and all of Scripture approve of no other sexual union than that between a husband and wife. This is the uncontested historical teaching of Judaism and Christianity, and it is not something we are free to adjust with the times.

In fact, when Jesus spoke of sexual ethics, he doubled down on tightening the restrictions: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He’s the opposite of elastic on sexuality.

4. Male and Female Are God’s Image on Earth

This point is the real guts of the matter.

The first chapter of Scripture tells us that humanity is uniquely created male and female to show forth the image of God in the world—to make visible the divine invisible. God does this not just in some generic, androgynous humanity, but through two very similar but distinct types of humans: male and female. They are divine and human universals, not cultural constructs.

When husband and wife—as sex-distinct beings—come together, they become something much larger and mysterious. It’s clearly stated in the Bible here. No other human relationship does this, as loving and sincere as they might be.

5. Sex Is Indeed about Babies

The belief that human sexuality is all about intimacy and pleasure but not necessarily babies is terribly novel and culturally peculiar. Babies and reproduction matter. And sure, while not every male-female sexual union is toward the end of procreation, it has been the overwhelming norm and desire in nearly all marital relationships throughout time.

That some couples are infertile either by age or incapability does not diminish or challenge this reality. Infertility is the vast exception for male-female couples and is deeply mourned by them for a reason. By contrast, all same-sex unions are a human cul-de-sac. This is true from both a Christian and evolutionary worldview. Only the heterosexual union can reach into the future and create the next generation.

6. Children Have a Right to a Mother and Father

Every person ever born can track his origin and most intimate make-up to a particular mother and father. There are no exceptions. This was the first command God gave to the first two humans: to come together and bring forth the coming generations of new divine image-bearers.

Nearly all cultures in all places in the world at all historical times hold as fundamental that every child should, as much as possible, be loved and raised by the mother and father whose DNA they share. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes a mother and father as a basic right of every child.

7. Same-Sex Attraction Is Not a Sin

To be human is to have a disordered sexuality. You do. I do. Everyone does. We all have some manner of sexual drive that compels us to disobey God’s design for sexuality. But while temptation is universal, it’s different from sin. Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). Sexual sin is giving in to the desires contrary to God’s design in either mind or body. Faithful Christian discipleship cannot avoid temptation. But it must avoid acting on that temptation.

Many people are indeed same-sex attracted, but live obediently within a Christian sexual ethic. It can be difficult, as it is for heterosexuals who are required to live in celibacy. Christianity requires that we each subjugate our sexual (and many other) desires to our faith commitment, and countless same-sex attracted believers do so willingly and joyfully. They should be held up as faithful examples and hopeful encouragers to all who experience same-sex attraction.

8. Sexual Intimacy Is Not a Right

Every Christian has limitations placed on his sexuality. For married Christians, it is exclusive to one’s spouse. For single, engaged, and divorced Christians, it is abstinence, no exceptions. Is it unfair for so many to be forced into a life that cannot know the wonder and beauty of physical intimacy just because marriage is not an option for them? Is it fair for a Christian to be stuck in a loveless marriage? Christians have long understood that our sense of fairness is not really the question. Sex is not a right, but a gift—and the giver knows what is best for us.

9. Rewriting God’s Rules Is Never an Option

One of the marks of a Christian is his or her desire to be obedient to Christ’s teaching. Certainly most of us might wish to rewrite the Scriptures in a few places to make life easier. Christianity is indeed a demanding call. But the Scriptures define and change us, not the other way around.

10. People Are More than Their Sexuality

To identify people principally by their sexuality is to reduce people to their sexuality. We should all reject this with great force. A person’s inherent and undeniable value is rooted in his membership in humanity, not his particularity, sexual or otherwise. Full stop.

To advocate for extending rights to someone based on particular and sometimes mutable desires, relationships and behaviors—as important as they might be to the individual—is actually a violation of the principle of universal human rights. It judges them differently because they are different, not because of their common humanity.

Anyone who works so hard to bend and dismiss the clear teaching of Scripture to fit his or her own interests and prejudices is disrespecting God and placing themselves on his throne. This goes for everyone who does such things. It must be called out for what it is with great intensity and clarity, for many critical things are at stake: The integrity of God’s word. The truths Jesus taught us. The well-being and eternal destiny of those doing the twisting. And the evil deception of those being led astray.

This is very serious business and cannot be treated lightly.

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David Jeremiah: ‘Appreciates Sarah Young and Jesus Calling’

So, is it time we “mark and avoid” this popular pastor, teacher and author?  Christians who are of the opinion that Dr. David Jeremiah can be trusted couldn’t be more wrong as you will see in this piece by Amy Spreeman. She writes:

Pastor David Jeremiah recently worked with JesusCalling.com to produce a podcast titled, Keeping Hope In A Darkened World. In addition to promoting his new book, the pastor also promoted Sarah Young, the author of the Jesus Calling books, studies, devotionals, calendars, and coloring book.  The transcript of the interview regarding his admiration for the multi-million dollar Jesus Calling empire is as follows:

Narrator: “As a pastor and a teacher, Dr. Jeremiah advocates daily prayer and scripture reading. He appreciates how Sarah Young has helped many with their prayer lives through the words of Jesus Calling.”

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Source:

David Jeremiah: ‘Appreciates Sarah Young and Jesus Calling’

Apologist James White Draws Concerns After Holding, Defending Interfaith ‘Dialogue’ at Church With Muslim Imam

Heather Clark of Christian News Network offers carefully lays out the details of a recent uproar among evangelicals over a debate between Christian apologist James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries and Yasir Qadhi, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute.  The paid event, called “Christians and Muslims: Agreements and Differences,” was held at Grace Bible Church on Jan. 24. On his Facebook page Dr. White stated that he is thankful that Heather Clark “actually quoted from the dialogues, fairly, evenly, and then gave extensive quotes from what I’ve written since then.”

A well-known Reformed apologist, elder and professional debater is drawing concerns after presenting, and continuing to defend, an interfaith dialogue event at a Mississippi church with a Muslim imam, which he says was meant to help Christians and Muslims engage in conversation and to “get along without compromise.”

Some objectors, while noting that they support dialoguing with and evangelizing Muslims, do not believe that it was proper to give an unconverted Muslim any type of platform during a special event hosted at a church, and feel that many of the imam’s statements should not have gone unchallenged.

“I’m totally in favor of having an accurate view of what they believe,” Andy Woods, the senior pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church in Texas and president of Chafer Theological Seminary in New Mexico, told Christian News Network. “Working out our differences and sitting down and making sure we understand each other is one thing, but giving someone a platform at a church is a different matter.”

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Source: Apologist James White Draws Concerns After Holding, Defending Interfaith ‘Dialogue’ at Church With Muslim Imam

Civil Religion–The Chief Rival of Biblical Christianity in America?

Does confusing Christ’s kingdom with civil religion open the door to exchange the truth of Christianity for what amounts to a false religion, “one in which faith in the national interest eclipses the primary allegiance a Christian owes to Jesus Christ and his word.” According to Pastor Kim Riddlebarger, who is co-host of the White Horse Inn:

One of the most subtle and dangerous temptations Christians face during their pilgrim journey is the allure of civil religion.  James Davison Hunter defines civil religion as a “diffuse amalgamation of religious values that is synthesized with the civic creeds of the nation; in which the life and mission of the church is conflated with the life and mission of the country.  American values are in substance, biblical, prophetic values; American identity is, thus, a vaguely Christian identity.” (1)  Civil religion often functions as an alternative public religious framework for many professing Christians, especially those who accept the “Christian America” myth, or who find exclusive Christian truth claims too controversial to play any significant role in the public square.

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Source: Civil Religion–The Chief Rival of Biblical Christianity in America?

Southern Baptist-Owned LifeWay Stores Won’t Pull ‘Message Bible’ After Author’s ‘Gay Marriage’ Retraction

As previously reported here and here, a huge hullabaloo erupted after retired pastor and author Eugene Peterson, best known for “The Message,” commented during an interview that he would be willing to officiate a same-sex ceremony for “Christians of good faith” if he were pastoring today. According to Heather Clark of Christian News,Peterson “acknowledged that he did respond yes (that he would officiate a same-sex ceremony) during the interview, but said he only did so “in the moment” and felt the need to retract his answer upon praying about the matter.”  Clark now reports that if Peterson keeps his true feelings on homosexuality to himself, his books could have a long shelf life:

LifeWay Christian Stores, which is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, says that it will not pull the “Message Bible” or any of Eugene Peterson’s other writings now that the author has retracted his initial statements about same-sex “marriage.”

“Based upon Eugene Peterson’s retraction, we will continue to sell his resources,” Carol Pipes, the director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources, told Christian News Network in a statement.

The company had said last week that if Peterson indeeds supports homosexual “marriage,” as he seemingly indicated in his recent interview with Religion News Service, it would pull his products.

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Source: Southern Baptist-Owned LifeWay Stores Won’t Pull ‘Message Bible’ After Author’s ‘Gay Marriage’ Retraction

Dallas Theological Seminary Not Contemplative? – New Evidence Shows Otherwise

Dallas Theological Seminary Not Contemplative? – New Evidence Shows Otherwise

Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) has always maintained that while they teach Spiritual Formation, they only teach the “good” kind and that they are not a school that promotes contemplative spirituality. Lighthouse Trails has always challenged these suppositions. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when Lighthouse Trails editors had some correspondence with two different DTS […]

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15 Prayers for the Wrongfully Blamed

Have you been wrongfully blamed? Or have you been misunderstood for your intentions? Pray with me:

1. You see me.

God, thank you for seeing me. I know that you are always right, true, and just. You see me, and you see when my heart is loving you through what I say or do.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

2. Your judgments are true.

Thank you that when human judgments are lacking, your judgments are flawlessly true—I long for your standards to reign on this earth, down to every minutia.

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)

3. You sought me.

Father, I know that you sought me while a sinner and have worked through me even while I still have sin in my heart—what grace through Christ! Help this truth spur me toward wanting to give grace to others.

As a prisoner in the Lord, then, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, withpatience, bearing with one another in love… (Ephesians 4:1-2)

4. Make me content.

God, who can know your mind? Please don’t let me expect that you want to use me as a teacher in someone else’s life, as if I know the plans you have ordained for another’s growth and benefit. I am content to play whatever part in others’ lives you want me to play.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

5. Motivate me rightly.

Father, I beg that you would keep my heart from self-centeredness; I pray that your Word, truth, reputation, love, and gospel would motivate me. May my foremost concern be you.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according tothe measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)

6. Help me trust your good work.

God, you have done good work in me; don’t let me believe that you have not truly been present in my life—my mind, will, and heart—for righteousness. Don’t let me ever discount you.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

7. I confess my deceitful heart.

Father, I confess that my own heart evades me. I acknowledge and sorrowfully confess that to ever objectively state my complete innocence, holiness, purity, or righteousness in any given moment of life would be impossible for me to do.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1 1:10)

8. Thank you for Jesus, the spotless Lamb.

All the more, I worship you, God, that Christ was spotless.

…but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:19)

9. Humble me when you use me.

God, if I have been faithful in how I have acted or spoken before you, let it be in care for others. If I have ultimately taught and helped another through speaking or acting in truth, let me be glad never to receive the credit for being the teacher. 

We are glad whenever we are weak, but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. (2 Corinthians 13:9)

10. Fill me with your love, always.

Father, help me remember that even if I had all possible faithfulness in knowledge of the truth, I would always need, included in this, driving love for my brothers and sisters in order to possibly please you.

…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

11. Fill me with praise for what you’re doing in others.

God, please help me to be as full of praise to you for the full forgiveness you give to my brothers and sisters as I am for my own salvation.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3)

12. Fill me with sorrow over other people’s sin.

Father, help me to have compassionate sorrow for the sin of others, praying as a true partner against it alongside them, regardless of how I have felt or been affected.

Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Corinthians 11:29)

13. Give me joy in you alone.

Lord, please don’t let me be fooled into thinking there are perfect circumstances “out there” for me to find. Instead, remind me that abiding joy is found in fellowship with you and in knowing that I have done your will.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11)

14. Help me find security and freedom in you alone.

God, I trust you to keep me secure and free—for you are my strength and shield.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7)

15. Thank you for covering my sin.

God, I thank you for not counting my sins against me, but for paying for every single one. You have made me overflow with gladness and praise.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1)

I praise you, Father, for your unfailing grace and truth for my soul through Christ.

[Photo Credit: Lightstock]

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The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 7 – The Tender Heart

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

18 But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord thus shall you say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Regarding the words which you have heard, 19 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the Lord. 20 “Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.”’” So they brought back word to the king. 2 Kings 22:18-20 (NASB)

Without a doubt, my favorite King in the Bible is Josiah. His…

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The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 6 – The Selfless Heart

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20 And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”
23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and…

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The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 5 – The Contrite Heart

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there…

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July 17, 2017: Verse of the day

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A Worthy Walk

so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects (1:10a)

Walk is used in the Bible to refer to one’s pattern of daily conduct. A mind controlled by knowledge, wisdom, and understanding produces a life worthy of the Lord. Although it seems impossible that anyone could walk worthy of the Lord, that is the teaching of Scripture. Paul desired the Thessalonians to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). He exhorted the Ephesians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). He told the Philippians to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).

God has not left us to our own resources for walking the worthy walk. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now  live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ dwell-s in us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Paul prayed for the Ephesians “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:16–17). Trying to walk worthy in our own strength is doomed to failure. Martin Luther stated that truth clearly in his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”:

Did we in our own strength confide

Our striving would be losing,

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is He.

Lord Sabaoth His name,

From age to age the same.

And He must win the battle.

The New Testament describes several features of the worthy walk. We are to walk in humility (Eph. 4:1–3); in purity (Rom. 13:13, KJV); in contentedness (1 Cor. 7:17); by faith (2 Cor. 5:7); in good works (Eph. 2:10); different from the world (Eph. 4:17–32); in love (Eph. 5:2); in light (Eph. 5:8); in wisdom (Eph. 5:15); and in truth (3 John 3–4). Such a walk will please Him in all respects.

A Fruitful Life

bearing fruit in every good work (1:10b)

Fruitfulness also results from knowledge. Fruit is the byproduct of righteousness. It is the mark of every redeemed individual. Jesus said in John 15:8, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (cf. vv. 2, 5–6). Paul told the Romans, “You also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God” (Rom. 7:4).

The Bible defines fruit in various ways. Here Paul speaks of bearing fruit in every good work. Converts are referred to as fruit. Paul spoke of the household of Stephanas as the “first fruits of Achaia” (1 Cor. 16:15). He also desired some fruit among the Romans (Rom. 1:13). Hebrews 13:15 defines praise as fruit: “Through Him then, let us  continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Giving money can also be fruit (Rom. 15:26–28). Godly living is fruit, as indicated when the writer of Hebrews tells us that God’s discipline produces in us “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). Finally, the holy attitudes mentioned in Galatians 5:22–23 are referred to as “the fruit of the Spirit.”

What produces fruit in believers’ lives? First, union with Christ. Jesus said in John 15:4–5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Second, wisdom is a necessary prerequisite for bearing fruit. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Lack of fruit is directly related to lack of spiritual wisdom. Finally, diligent effort on the Christian’s part is required, as Peter writes:

Applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:5–8)

Growth

increasing in the knowledge of God; (1:10c)

A third result of knowledge is spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is progressing in the knowledge of God. Tē epignōsei (in the knowledge) is an instrumental dative case. It indicates the means by which our increasing, or growth, takes place. The knowledge of God revealed in His Word is crucial to spiritual growth. Peter wrote, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). As always, the Holy Spirit infuses our own efforts with God’s enabling grace (2 Pet. 3:18), without which we could not grow.

The marks of spiritual growth include: first, a deeper love for God’s Word. “Oh how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).

Second, spiritual growth is reflected in a more perfect obedience.

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. (1 John 2:3–5)

Third, spiritual growth will result in an enlarged faith. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged” (2 Thess. 1:3; cf. 2 Cor. 10:15).

A fourth mark of spiritual growth is a greater love: “This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and discernment” (Phil. 1:9).[1]


10a To what end does Paul pray that the Colossians might be filled with the knowledge of the divine will? The apostle prays that these Christians in the Lycus River valley might walk (i.e., live) in a manner “worthy of the Lord.” In his letters Paul frequently employs the metaphor “to walk” (peripateō, GK 4344) when addressing matters of Christian conduct. (This figure of speech appears on three other occasions in Colossians [2:6; 3:7; 4:5].) The apostle was convinced that spiritual knowledge and moral excellence were mutually supportive. Theology and ethics, halakah and haggadah, were meant to go hand in hand. Paul prays that God will enable the Colossians to lead lives worthy of and pleasing to the Lord, i.e., to Jesus. It was Paul’s ambition to please the Lord (2 Co 5:9), and he had the same spiritual aspirations for the Colossians.

10b A life that pleases the Lord will be fruitful, marked by every kind of good work. Even as the gospel is fruitful (v. 6), those who have embraced the good news should bear spiritual fruit (cf. Gal 5:22–23). Popular Protestant perceptions notwithstanding, Paul was a proponent of good works (cf. 2 Co 9:8; Gal 6:10; Eph 2:10; 2 Th 2:17). He did not think that humanity could merit God’s mercy; however, he advocated and exemplified working and striving for Christ’s sake (1:29; cf. Php 2:12).

A worthy walk is not only characterized by fruit-bearing for God; it is also typified by knowledge of God. Here Paul reiterates the importance of knowing God (cf. v. 9). The word rendered “growing” in the NIV (NASB, “increasing”) is a present passive participle in Greek (auxanomenos, GK 889), suggesting that it is God who enables people to grow in the knowledge of himself. According to Paul, God’s knowledge of us makes it possible for us to know God (1 Co 8:3; 13:12; Gal 4:9).[2]


1:10. Being controlled by God’s will is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end. The goal is to live a life worthy of the Lord and … please him in every way. The request of verse 9 was made so that the Colossians would live lives which please God. The word worthy refers to conduct that is expected and appropriate for God’s children.

If pleasing God is the goal, how do we achieve it? Paul spells that out very clearly in verses 10–12. By bearing fruit, growing in knowledge, being strengthened for adversity, and giving thanks for salvation, we please God.

First, believers please God when they are bearing fruit in every good work. Good works are not a means to achieve salvation, but a natural result of it. Good works in the life of the believer please God because good works are God’s plan for the believer (Eph. 2:8–10).

Second, God is pleased when believers are growing in the knowledge of God. The more we know of God’s character, his ways, and his expectations, the more we are able to bring our lives into conformity with what pleases him.[3]


1:10 There is a very important connection between verse 10 and verse 9. Why did the Apostle Paul want the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will? Was it so they might become mighty preachers or sensational teachers? Was it so they might attract large followings to themselves, as the Gnostics sought to do? No, the true purpose of spiritual wisdom and understanding is to enable Christians to walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him. Here we have a very important lesson on the subject of guidance. God does not reveal His will to us in order to satisfy our curiosity. Neither is it intended to cater to our ambition or pride. Rather the Lord shows us His will for our lives in order that we might please Him in all that we do.

Being fruitful in every good work. Here is a helpful reminder that although a person is not saved by good works, he most certainly is saved for good works. Sometimes in emphasizing the utter worthlessness of good works in the salvation of souls, we may create the impression that Christians do not believe in good works. Nothing could be further from the truth! We learn in Ephesians 2:10 that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Again, Paul wrote to Titus: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:8).

Not only did Paul want them to bear fruit in every good work, but also to increase in the knowledge of God. How is this done? First of all, it is done through the diligent study of God’s word. Then it is also found in obeying His teachings and serving Him faithfully. (The latter seems to be the prominent thought here.) As we do these things, we enter into a deeper knowledge of the Lord. “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord (Hos. 6:3, KJV).

Notice the repetition of words dealing with knowledge in chapter 1 and realize that there is a definite advance in thought with each use. In verse 6, they “knew the grace of God.” In verse 9, they had “the knowledge of His will.” In verse 10, they were “increasing in the knowledge of God.” Perhaps we could say that the first refers to salvation, the second to study of the Scriptures, and the third to service and Christian living. Sound doctrine should lead to right conduct, which expresses itself in obedient service.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 29–32). 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. 284–285). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 281). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1991). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

July 16, 2017: Verse of the day

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Then Jesus uttered some very solemn words: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” emphasizing man’s helplessness and utter inability to respond to Him apart from God’s sovereign call. Unbelievers are unable to come to Jesus on their own initiative (cf. the discussion of verse 37 above). If God did not irresistibly draw sinners to Christ, no one would ever come to Him.

To explain how lost sinners supposedly have the power to accept or reject the gospel of their own free will, some theologians introduce the concept of prevenient grace. Millard J. Erickson explains,

As generally understood, prevenient grace is grace that is given by God to all men indiscriminately. It is seen in God’s sending the sunshine and the rain upon all. It is also the basis of all the goodness found in men everywhere. Beyond that, it is universally given to counteract the effect of sin.… Since God has given this grace to all, everyone is capable of accepting the offer of salvation; consequently, there is no need for any special application of God’s grace to particular individuals. (Christian Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985], 3:920)

But the Bible indicates that fallen man is unable, of his own volition, to come to Jesus Christ. Unregenerate people are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13), slaves to unrighteousness (John 8:34; Rom. 6:6, 17, 20), alienated from God (Col. 1:21), and hostile to Him (Rom. 5:10; 8:7). They are spiritually blind (2 Cor. 4:4) captives (2 Tim. 2:26) trapped in Satan’s kingdom (Col. 1:13), powerless to change their sinful natures (Jer. 13:23; Rom. 5:6), unable to please God (Rom. 8:8), and incapable of understanding spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. John 14:17). Although the human will is involved in coming to Christ (since no one is saved apart from believing the gospel—Mark 1:15; Acts 15:7; Rom. 1:16; 10:9–15; Eph. 1:13), sinners cannot come to Him of their own free will. (Moreover, a comparison of verse 44 with verse 37 shows that God’s drawing cannot apply to all unregenerate people, as proponents of prevenient grace argue, because verse 37 limits it to the redeemed whom God has given to Christ.) God irresistibly, efficaciously draws to Christ only those whom He chose for salvation in eternity past (Eph. 1:4–5, 11).

Once again, Jesus repeated the wonderful promise that all whom the Father chooses will be drawn, will come, will be received, and He will raise them on the last day (vv. 39–40, 54). Everyone who comes to Christ will be kept by Him; there is no possibility that even one elect person given to Him by the Father will be lost (see the discussion of v. 39 above).[1]


What did Jesus answer? It is important to notice that Jesus did not answer by defending himself on the personal level, as we might like to do. He could have done it, of course. But instead of this he returned to his teaching and restated it, giving two proofs. This was a challenge to his hearers to investigate his teaching for themselves. Finally, after having restated his teaching and given his proofs, Jesus stated the doctrine again for the final time. The verses that contain this read as follows: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes in me has everlasting life” (vv. 44–47).

We need to take these statements one at a time. First, Jesus repeats what he had said earlier, but here he does so in even sharper language. Before, he had said, “You have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me” (vv. 36–37). This implies that no one can come, apart from a special act of God on his behalf, but it does not say this negatively. Now Christ does. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

This verse is so straightforward in its language that it has always been a battleground between those who are willing to accept the doctrine of election here taught by Christ and those who resist it on rational or humanistic grounds. It was discussed by Augustine and Pelagius, by Calvin and Arminius, by Luther and Erasmus.

The latter case is particularly interesting. Erasmus had been led to attack Martin Luther’s teaching on the total spiritual depravity of man in a volume centering on the nature of the human will and on whether it can function in turning a man or a woman to God. Erasmus said it could. Moreover, he answered the obvious objection based on the argument of Christ in this verse—the objection that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him—by saying that God draws people in the same way that an owner of a donkey might get it to move by holding a handful of carrots before its nose. The man draws, but obviously the will of the donkey is involved. According to this theory, God originates salvation but man nevertheless cooperates in it.

This may make good sense to the natural human way of thinking. But it is not what Scripture teaches, and Luther said so quite openly. What better drawing could there be, Luther argued, than the drawing of the Lord Jesus Christ himself? He was present among the people. He taught them personally. Still they did not come. In fact, they killed him. Luther concluded, “The ungodly does not ‘come’ even when he hears the word, unless the Father draws and teaches him inwardly; which he does by shedding abroad his Spirit. When that happens, there follows a ‘drawing’ other than that which is outward; Christ is then displayed by the enlightening of the Spirit, and by it man is rapt to Christ with the sweetest rapture, he being passive while God speaks, teaches and draws, rather than seeking or running himself.”

This was a good answer, of course. But we can go even further than this on the basis of Christ’s statement. Luther’s key word in answering Erasmus was “passive.” He said that man was passive spiritually, inert, as inert as a dead man might be, if we may use that image. In John 6:44, however, there is in addition to this truth the thought that man also actually resists the work of God within. That is, he is not only passive; he also is perverse and obstinate.

We see this truth in the word that is chosen to speak of the Father’s work in “drawing” a man or a woman to Christ. This word always implies resistance to the power that draws. William Barclay gives a number of examples of this in his devotional studies on John’s Gospel. He shows that it is the word for drawing a heavily laden net to the shore, a net filled with a great number of fish (John 21:6, 11). It is the word that is used of Paul and Silas being dragged before the civil authorities in Philippi (Acts 16:19). It is used for drawing a sword from the belt or from its scabbard (John 18:10). Always there is the idea of resistance. So here also there is the idea that men and women resist God.

Curiously, however, Barclay adds that “God can and does draw men, but man’s resistance can defeat the pull of God.” The curious thing about this statement, though, is that not one of his examples shows the resistance to be successful. The fish do get to shore. Paul and Silas are dragged before the magistrates. The sword is withdrawn. Indeed, we can go even further than this. As Leon Morris notes in his commentary, “There is not one example in the New Testament of the use of this verb where the resistance is successful. Always the drawing power is triumphant, as here.” People resist. In this their depravity is seen. But the power of God always overcomes the resistance in those whom he has determined before the foundation of the world to give to Jesus.

Is this discouraging? Not at all. Actually, the fact that God does draw men and women to Christ in spite of themselves is our ho[2]


43–44 Jesus doesn’t bother to answer the issues they raise. To allow them to set the tone and control the discussion would lead nowhere. So Jesus tells them to “stop grumbling.” Their premises are wrong and their conjectures are leading them in the wrong direction. The people who “come to Jesus” are those who are drawn by the Father (v. 44). The Greek word for “draw” (helkyō, GK 1816) when used literally means “to draw” or “to tug” (TDNT 2:503; in Ac 16:19 Paul and Silas are “dragged” before the authorities). When taken figuratively (as here in Jn 6:44) it means “to compel.” Barclay, 1:220, notes that “it almost always implies some kind of resistance.” Morris, 371 n. 110, adds, “God brings men to Himself although by nature they prefer sin.” Most commentators hold that John is speaking here of a drawing that goes far beyond moral influence; it is a drawing akin to divine election. No one is able to come to the Father unless the Father draws him or her. In connection with the restoration of Israel, God through the prophet Jeremiah says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jer 31:3). Interestingly, in John 12:32 Jesus says that when he is lifted up, he “will draw all men” to himself. The apparent contradiction is eased when we understand that in ch. 12 Jesus speaks of “all men without distinction” rather than “all men without exception” (Carson, 293). In his sacrificial death, Jesus will draw to himself people of every cultural, social, and ethnic background (12:32), but unless a specific person is drawn, that person cannot come to Christ (6:44). The drawing here is not the persuasive power of God’s concern for all, but the irresistible attraction of his grace for the elect. The CEV translates, “No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me makes them want to come.” And those who do come will be raised to life “at the last day”—another indication that “realized eschatology” is only part of the whole story. The Father initiates the work of grace in the human heart, and the Son brings it to completion.[3]


6:43–45. Even though there was no formal question, John tells us that Jesus answered. Verse 44 is the opposite of the first part of verse 37. All will come, but no one can come unless he or she is drawn, and the automatic result is resurrection. But what is the significance of the citation of Isaiah 54:13 in the middle of verse 45? This is important if we are to maintain balance in this passage. The original Old Testament text describes the new Jerusalem in which “all your sons will be taught by the Lord” (Isa. 54:13).

The context here seems to require the learning of the gospel and a spiritual awareness that creates a desire for truth. Borchert warns, “Salvation is never achieved apart from the drawing power of God, and it is never consummated apart from the willingness of humans to hear and learn from God. To choose one or the other will ultimately end in unbalanced, unbiblical theology … Rather than resolving the tension, the best resolution is learning to live with the tension and accepting those whose theological commitments differ from ours” (Borchert, pp. 268–69).[4]


43, 44. In view of the testimonies that had been given (see on 5:30–47) there was no excuse for this scornful attitude on the part of the Jews. If everything was not immediately clear, they could have asked questions in a polite and humble manner. The questions which they actually asked were wrong both in content and in spirit. Hence, Jesus does not enter into them. He realizes that this would have been useless. In a passage (verse 43, taken in its entirety) which again places side by side human responsibility and divine predestination, Jesus answered and said to them, Stop murmuring among yourselves. Here human responsibility is stressed. Then, taking up again one of his own main points (see 6:37), Jesus continues, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day. Here the emphasis is on the divine decree of predestination carried out in history. When Jesus refers to the divine drawing activity, he employs a term which clearly indicates that more than moral influence is indicated. The Father does not merely beckon or advise, he draws! The same verb (ἕλκω, ἑλκύω) occurs also in 12:32, where the drawing activity is ascribed to the Son; and further, in 18:10; 21:6, 11; Acts 16:19; 21:30; and Jas. 2:6. The drawing of which these passages speak indicates a very powerful—we may even say, an irresistible—activity. To be sure, man resists, but his resistance is ineffective. It is in that sense that we speak of God’s grace as being irresistible. The net full of big fishes is actually drawn or dragged ashore (21:6, 11). Paul and Silas are dragged into the forum (Acts 16:19). Paul is dragged out of the temple (Acts 21:30). The rich drag the poor before the judgment-seats (Jas. 2:6). Returning now to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus will draw all men to himself (12:32) and Simon drew his sword, striking the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear (18:10). To be sure, there is a difference between the drawing of a net or a sword, on the one hand, and of a sinner, on the other. With the latter God deals as with a responsible being. He powerfully influences the mind, will, heart, the entire personality. These, too, begin to function in their own right, so that Christ is accepted by a living faith. But both at the beginning and throughout the entire process of being saved, the power is ever from above; it is very real, strong, and effective; and it is wielded by God himself!

The question may be asked: Why is it that in the teaching of Jesus (12:32) this drawing activity is ascribed to the Father (6:44) and to the Son (12:32) but not to the Holy Spirit? We answer: a. As long as the Holy Spirit has not been poured out, we cannot expect detailed teaching with reference to him; b. nevertheless, in the night of the betrayal Jesus did refer to the drawing power of the Holy Spirit, though the words used are different (14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 14; see esp. the thirteenth verse of that chapter); and c. the work of regeneration which is specifically ascribed to the Spirit (3:3, 5) is certainly included in this process of drawing a sinner from death to life!—In connection with the work of the triune God in drawing sinners to himself see also Jer. 31:3; Rom. 8:14; and Col. 1:13.

The one drawn, actually gets there: he whom the Father draws is raised to life by the Son. Moreover, the powerful operation affects both soul and body. Jesus says, “And I will raise him up at the last day.” The last day is again the judgment day. On Jesus as the One sent by the Father see 3:34; cf. 1:6.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 252–253). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 513–514). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 447). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 126). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 1, pp. 238–239). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.