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Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Timothy 6:6-10

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.


Last week’s post discussed what false teachers do in their pride and arrogance: bringing about quarrels and fomenting discord.

Indeed, the churches in Ephesus and neighbouring towns had dangerous false teachers which had risen in their midst.

They also had people who were focussed on greed rather than contentment.

John MacArthur says:

Paul is correcting issues in the church at Ephesus where Timothy is now laboring. So when he brings up a subject, it is a subject that is being abused in the life of the church.

Paul tells Timothy that there is great gain to be had in godliness with contentment (verse 6).

Matthew Henry’s commentary gives us this interpretation (emphases mine):

if a man have but a little in this world, yet, if he have but enough to carry him through it, he needs desire no more, his godliness with that will be his great gain. For a little which a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked, Ps 37 16. We read it, godliness with contentment; godliness is itself great gain, it is profitable to all things; and, wherever there is true godliness, there will be contentment; but those have arrived at the highest pitch of contentment with their godliness are certainly the easiest happiest people in this world. Godliness with contentment, that is, Christian contentment (content must come from principles of godliness) is great gain; it is all the wealth in the world. He that is godly is sure to be happy in another world; and if withal he do by contentment accommodate himself to his condition in this world he has enough. Here we have, [1.] A Christian’s gain; it is godliness with contentment, this is the true way to gain, yea, it is gain itself. [2.] A Christian’s gain is great: it is not like the little gain of worldlings, who are so fond of a little worldly advantage. [3.] Godliness is ever accompanied with contentment in a great or less degree; all truly godly people have learned with Paul, in whatever state they are, to be therewith content, Phil 4 11. They are content with what God allots for them, well knowing that this is best for them. Let us all then endeavour after godliness with contentment.

MacArthur explains why Paul includes that thought in his letter to Timothy:

Well, Paul had just in verse 5 been talking about false teachers who are motivated by gain. He said they suppose that their kind of godliness, which is a fake godliness, is going to bring them material gain. That’s their motive. And then he transitions and says, “Well, godliness with contentment,” verse 6, “is great gain.” In other words, when I say that the false teacher who supposes that his godliness will bring gain is wrong, I don’t mean that true godliness isn’t great gain because it is. And that’s the transition and so he takes off in verse 6 to talk about it in a general sense and goes right on down to verse 10 to warn us all about the danger of loving money.

The false teachers and their inordinate love for money trigger the subject in a general sense from verses 6 to 10.

MacArthur says that even the great pagan thinkers of the day understood the value of contentment:

What is godliness? That’s that very familiar word used in the pastorals, eusebeia. It means reverence, piety, godliness, all those good things that I like to think of as God-likeness. Where there is true God-likeness with contentment, there is great gain. Now if all you want is money, you’ll never have that, because you’ll never be content. The genuine great gain comes from true godliness which is inseparably linked to contentment. The word autarkeias means self-sufficiency. It was used by the cynics and the stoics to speak of self-mastery, the person who was unflappable, the person who was not moved by circumstance, the person who lived immune to external distraction, oblivious to outside troubles, the person who had that most noble of human virtues, the ability not to control his environment but to properly react to it. That’s that idea of that word. It basically means to be sufficient, to seek nothing more, to be content with what you have. And it is a noble human trait, but Paul takes it further and takes that concept and that word and sanctifies it

The Greek philosopher Epicurus said “The secret of contentment is not to add to a man’s possessions but to take away from his desires.” That’s the issue. He is most rich who desires least. Right? You are rich when you are content. That’s riches. You have enough. Paul says it’s irrelevant to me. I know how to be abounding, that is to have an abundance; I know how to be abased, that is to have less than an abundance; I know how to be full; I know how to be empty; I know how to be rich and poor; and I don’t really care either way, because I am content to be in the will of God.

MacArthur refers to Matthew 6 in his sermon. These are our Lord’s words from the Sermon on the Mount which are relevant:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.[f]

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Paul reminds Timothy that we came into this world with nothing and we cannot take anything out of it (verse 7).

This is the King James Version, which puts it better:

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

The addition of ‘it is certain’ adds more emphasis.

Paul says that, if we have food and clothing, we will — should — be content (verse 8).

Of these two verses, Henry says:

We had our beings, our bodies, our lives (which are more than meat, and which are more than raiment), when we came into the world, though we came naked, and brought nothing with us; may we not then be content while our beings and lives are continued to us, though we have not every thing we would have? We brought nothing with us into this world, and yet God provided for us, care was taken of us, we have been fed all our lives long unto this day; and therefore, when we are reduced to the greatest straits, we cannot be poorer than when we came into this world, and yet then we were provided for; therefore let us trust in God for the remaining part of our pilgrimageA shroud, a coffin, and a grave, are all that the richest man in the world can have from his thousands. Therefore why should we covet much? Why should we not be content with a little, because, how much soever we have, we must leave it behind us? Eccl 5 15, 16.

Both commentators cite Proverbs 30:8, which are sometimes said to be Agur‘s because he compiled the wise sayings of Solomon that comprise Proverbs 30.

Henry says:

Observe, If God give us the necessary supports of life, we ought to be content therewith, though we have not the ornaments and delights of it. If nature should be content with a little, grace should be content with less; though we have not dainty food, though we have not costly raiment, if we have but food and raiment convenient for us we ought to be content. This was Agur’s prayer: Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, Prov 30 8.

MacArthur says:

Proverbs 30 verse 8 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with the food that is my portion.” Give me exactly what You and Your sovereignty desire me to have. I don’t want too much; I don’t want too little. If I have too much I might be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I had too little, I might be in want and steal and profane the name of my God. So God, don’t give me too much and don’t give me too little. Give me what You want me to have with a contented heart. That’s riches. That’s riches. That’s the kind of godliness that makes a person rich because it produces satisfaction. True godliness and true gain is unrelated to how much you have. It is only related to how much you want. And if you are content with what God gives, you’re rich – you’re rich.

He cites a Spanish proverb about exiting this mortal coil:

Not one thing did you bring in and not one thing will you take out. As a friend of mine says, “You have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.” The Spanish proverb of past years was, “There are no pockets in a shroud.” Material possessions are bound by time and space.

He explains why Paul and Jesus say not to be anxious about material things, including money:

It obscures the simplicity of life. Verse 8 he says, “Having food and clothes” – and it’s possible the word for clothes could also embrace the idea of shelter. The word can refer to that. So if we take it in the broadest sense, having nourishment, clothing, shelter, the basic necessities of life – “let us be therewith satisfied.” Same word in the verb form used in verse 6. In other words, we need to be satisfied with the simplicity of life. Boy, life gets so complex. And the more money you have the more complex it gets. Right? And the less you can enjoy it because you sit around worrying all the time about what you’re going to do with all this money. Or you spend all your time racing around like a maniac from one place to another buying stuff you don’t need, stacking it on shelves and hang it in closets, putting it in the garage. It’s absolutely unbelievable how much we have that is useless. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t take us anywhere. It doesn’t provide anything. It’s just something to have. And it really is a barometer on the condition of the heart in so many cases.

Having enough money and possessions isn’t bad in itself, it’s our attitude towards both that is the issue.

MacArthur tells us:

it’s not that Paul’s condemning having possessions, he’s condemning the desire that rises out of discontent.

Nearly 40 years on from the time that MacArthur preached this sermon in 1987, Western society is stuck in the same rut. Add omnipresent mobile phones to the mix, and we are even worse off:

What we’ve done with all of our money is replace people with things, replace conversation with entertainment. And we have lost a tremendous dimension of the simplicity of life, the simple joys.

And somewhere in the back of all of our minds there’s this secret longing to go out in the woods, right, and just pack our little group and stay there. And what we’re saying is there is something wonderful about simplicity, about talking to people in your familypulling the earphones off the head of your teenager saying, “Speak, child, speak.” You know, move your lips in meaningful words. When is the last time you just sat down and thanked God for a simple meal. You can hardly even come up to thanking God for your meal because you’re so over indulged. Right? That’s a real loss, a real loss to lose that sense of thankfulness. So much is lost when we lose the simplicity of life. It’s a wistful thing to think about but I think most of us would long to go back to a simple kind of life, and take away a lot of the junk that’s cluttered up our world.

The substance of Christian experience should be relationships. My time in relationship to God, my time in relationship to people I love and family and friends, but that gets all clouded because the world goes so fast and pulls at me so strongly and demands that I purchase all the goodies that it drags by and somehow life gets so confused. Instead of being able to enjoy life, I’m trying to figure out how I can make my checks stretch to pay the bills for the stuff I can’t stand. But I bought it and so my whole demeanor and attitude is depressed because I’m in debt. You can see the compounding of all these – the loss of simple joys. Is it any wonder Jesus reduced it all to a very simple thing?

In Matthew 6 [Jesus] said, look, this is the way to live, a very simple way to live. “You can’t serve God and money,” He says in verse 24. So make your choice, “And don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat, what you drink or your body, what you’ll wear.” And then He talks about how He takes care of the birds and the lilies and all of this, and He says you’re certainly worth more than all of these things. Your Father knows you have need. And then verse 33, “Seek first” – what? – “the kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” If we could just get to the place where our whole consuming passion and affection is directed toward heaven, toward God, toward the kingdom, toward the work of the Lord and just pour all of our energy and all of our resources into that, that brings back that simple joy. The simplicity of life is to accept what God gives, not be covetous. Seek Him and His glory and not consume oneself with complexities that are not necessary, that just steal joy away.

Dining out too often is another problem as is not being able to enjoy a proper home life:

I have seen people who spend their money to eat. They go out and eat and they eat and they eat out and that becomes their fancy. And they literally cannot after a period of time eat at home. They’re controlled by this overpowering trap to go out and waste money eating, eating, eating, eating. And much of our eating today has little to do with food and a whole lot to do with entertainment and environment. I have seen people who are captive to the most bizarre and strange kind of sins. People who find it almost impossible to stay at home in the evening and have conversation with their family. They’re so compelled all the time to be moving around in the fast pace environment of the world they can’t sit still anymore. They become entrapped in that materialistic pursuit that basically is almost irrational.

Paul tells Timothy that those who desire to be rich — note, he does not say ‘those who are rich’ — fall into temptation, a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction (verse 9).

Again, I prefer the KJV because it has the word ‘perdition’:

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

Henry gives us this analysis:

It is not said, those that are rich, but those that will be rich, that is, that place their happiness in worldly wealth, that covet it inordinately, and are eager and violent in the pursuit of it. Those that are such fall into temptation and a snare, unavoidably; for, when the devil sees which way their lusts carry them, he will soon bait his hook accordingly …

(1.) The apostle supposes that, [1.] Some will be rich; that is, they are resolved upon it, nothing short of a great abundance will satisfy. [2.] Such will not be safe nor innocent, for they will be in danger of ruining themselves for ever; they fall into temptation, and a snare, etc. [3.] Worldly lusts are foolish and hurtful, for they drown men in destruction and perdition. [4.] It is good for us to consider the mischievousness of worldly fleshly lusts. They are foolish, and therefore we should be ashamed of them, hurtful, and therefore we should be afraid of them, especially considering to what degree they are hurtful, for they drown men in destruction and perdition.

MacArthur has more:

verse 9, money love is dangerous not only because of its nature, that is what inherent to it, but because of its effects – what it does to you. And again there are three things that I would draw to your attention. First of all, in verse 9, it leads to sinful entrapment. Verse 9, “But they that will be rich” – they that purpose to be rich. That they decide to be rich – boulomai. They that have a settled rational desire to be rich out of their mind, not out of their emotions, but they have decided they’re going to pursue it. To put it another way, they that are greedy. To put it another way, they that love money. They that approach life that way – “are falling” – present tense – “into temptation” – it’s kind of an over and over situation – “and a snare.” They’re continually in the process of falling into all kinds of sins that trap them – that trap them …

The greedy person is tempted initially to reach out for what he wants. He reaches out, steps into the trap, is caught in the trap of sin. That trap then begins to make a victim out of that person.

We know people like that. I think about the people who are now joining Gamblers Anonymous. They wanted money. And they started to gamble for money and it became so compulsive that it literally controls their life. I just read the article about that quarterback from Ohio State named Art Schlichter who totally destroyed his football career and his life by being unable to control the love of money and the tremendous compulsion to gamble. What happens with the love of money is you love it so much something allures you, you reach for that something, and you’re trapped in some complex situation. You become a victim of it. It’s a trap. And Satan sets the trap and holds you in it as long as he possibly can

And then secondly, not only does it lead to sinful entrapment, but it succumbs to harmful desires. Verse 9 he says, “And they also are falling into many foolish and harmful desires.” You get involved in the love of money and not only will you be trapped, but you’ll be controlled by your passion, controlled by your desire. He calls them foolish – epithumia – foolish evil impulses in the sense that they’re irrational. Here is this person like an animal caught in a trap thrashing all over the place trying to get free, totally irrational, moral sense is blurred, and the burning desire for self-fulfillment and more money, a senseless non-rational illogical animalistic kind of conduct. They become victims of their own lust. And James says in [Chapter] 4, you desire – [Chapter] 4 verse 1 and 2 – you desire to have and you can’t obtain, so you kill. You lust and you want; you can’t get, so you make war. In other words, all the violence that comes when your passions are restrained by circumstances.

So he says first of all the love of money is dangerous for the obvious reason that it takes you into a sinful trap and secondly that once you’re trapped in there you become a victim of illogical irrational animalistic desires which bring you harm. They are harmful – blaberos. It means injurious. You hurt yourself – the opposite of true happiness. Chasing money is not the way to happiness. It’s the way to being trapped in sin and being a victim of your lusts and a victim of your desires and totally a victim of these evil habits that control you. So loving money leads to sin. It leads to entrapment. It leads to control by lust that is irrational and only brings self-inflicted harm.

Then MacArthur comes to destruction and perdition:

And then the final effect, he says in verse 9, “Which drown men in destruction and perdition.” These lusts, these evil impulses ultimately drown men in judgment. The word drown means just that, to submerge, to drag to the bottom like a sunken ship. The picture is not of a partial devastation; it’s of a total devastation. That’s why he chose the word. They just go out of sight; they’re just gone. The word destruction – olethros – is used very often of the body, the destruction of the body, although it can also be used in a general sense of destruction as it is in 1 Thessalonians 5:3. The word perdition is used, I think, most times of the destruction of the soul. It’s used, for example, of the place where the false prophet and the beast are cast in Revelation 17:8. The hell of hells where souls go who do not know God. And what he’s saying is, if we can put those two together and make a little bit of a distinction, we can say that there’s a total devastation of body and soul, total judgment. The combination here has the sense at least of complete eternal irreversible loss. Love of money damns people. It plunges them into an ocean of eternal destruction. It totally destroys their life.

Paul ends this section by saying that the love of money — note, not money itself, but coveting it — is the root of all kinds of evils; it is through that craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (verse 10).

For most of us, the KJV will resonate more:

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Henry gives us another version of Paul’s verse — some people love money so much they will give up their faith for it, in vain:

What sins will not men be drawn to by the love of money? Particularly this was at the bottom of the apostasy of many from the faith of Christ; while they coveted money, they erred from the faith, they quitted their Christianity, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Observe, [1.] What is the root of all evil; the love of money: people may have money, and yet not love it; but, if they love it inordinately, it will push them on to all evil. [2.] Covetous persons will quit the faith, if that be the way to get money: Which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith. Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, 2 Tim 4 10. For the world was dearer to him than Christianity. Observe, Those that err from the faith pierce themselves with many sorrows; those that depart from God do but treasure up sorrows for themselves.

MacArthur gives us an example of such a covetous person, one who ended up committing suicide:

Who does he have in mind? Who are the some who did this? Well, I can think of one, he’s not named but he must have been in the thought of Paul. His name was – what? Judas, who having loved money erred from the faith. In proximity to Jesus Christ, one of His disciples, and yet he chose, over the Son of God, 30 pieces of silver – inconceivable stupidity. You think that was rational? You think it was smart to choose 30 pieces of silver over against the God of the universe?

… Certainly Judas was dissatisfied, grieving, disillusioned with a condemning conscience and an unfulfilled heart when he went out an hanged himself. He pierced himself through, believe me, with many, many griefs, and he will be pierced with them forever and ever in hell. That’s no way to live. So Paul says this is something that’s already been out there for you to see, some have tried to live after the love of money, they have erred from the true faith and they have literally skewered their souls forever.

MacArthur offers the following valuable advice, both materially and spiritually:

Now let me ask you a practical question at this point, see if we can’t make it practical in terms of application. How can you be content with the simplicity of life and stop desiring more things? How do you put an end to this? How do you put the brakes on? We are really moving fast, and we’re being blasted by all this media stuff to buy into everything. How do you stop it? Let me give you some principles that I’ve tried to apply in my own life. One, consciously realize that the Lord is the owner of everything you have. Consciously realize that the Lord is the owner of everything you have. So when you go to buy something ask yourself this, does the Lord need this? Does the Lord want this? Is this going to serve Him better? Is this going to bring Him glory? Is this going to enable His kingdom to advance? He is the conscious owner of everything I possess. So whatever is my desire, is this going to fit with His? Is this going to make my ministry more effective? Is this going to enable me to accomplish what I need to accomplish? Is this going to be able to be used as a way to show love to other people? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. He is consciously the owner of everything I possess. That helps me in the decision process.

Secondly, cultivate a thankful heart. Cultivate a thankful heart. Whatever you have, whatever you don’t have, be thankful. Which is to say I recognize, God, that Your providence has put me exactly where I am with what I have and what I don’t have and I want You to know I’m really grateful. I’m really grateful. Thirdly, discern your needs from your wants. Discern your needs from your wants and be honest about that. If you just start asking yourself that. That will be a tremendous controlling factor on your next trip to the mall. What do you need? Tremendous, tremendously simple question that could put a tremendous amount of money into the kingdom of the Lord.

Another one, don’t buy what you don’t need and can’t use to make you more effective in serving Him, and that’s kind of what we said originally. Don’t buy what you don’t need and can’t use to make you more effective in serving Him. So you ask yourself, how will this enhance my ability to serve God? Another question that you want to ask yourself, am I spending less than I make? Please spend less than you make. You would be staggered to find out what a high percentage of people in America regularly spend more than they make and are in debt that they’ll never get out of in their life time. They’re total prisoners. They have no ability to be at all in charge of their resources. Spend less than you make; save what’s left. Save what’s left for some purpose which God may put upon your heart.

Consciously transfer the ownership of everything you have to Him; cultivate a thankful heart; discern your needs from your wants; don’t buy what you don’t need and can’t use to make you more effective in serving Him; spend less than you make; save what’s left and give sacrificially to the Lord. Give sacrificially to the Lord. That should be your highest joy. You should be coming in here so anxious for the offering that you can hardly stand it, just so that you have the privilege of giving to God. Laying up treasure in heaven for the work of the kingdom.

And things like this, practical little things like this, if you can get them working in your mind are going to prevent your life from becoming a complex struggle over money. The joy of life is not what you have. Listen, the joy of life is your relationships; it’s who you know and who you love. Just compare when you lose someone you love, you would have gladly traded everything or maybe – anything or everything, I should say, for the person you lost because people are so much more valuable. I think Jesus, when He speaks of the true riches, has in mind people. If you can’t handle money, why would He give you the true riches, He says. So the nature of money love makes it dangerous because it ignores the true gain, it focuses on the temporal, and it obscures the simplicity of life, the simple joys of being content with whatever you have and building your life around relationships and honoring God rather than the complexity of attaining riches.

In the verses that follow, Paul reminds Timothy of his sacred calling, the ministry.

Next time — 1 Timothy 6:11-12


Trinity Sunday is June 4, 2023.

Readings for Year A and additional resources for this important feast day can be found here.

The icon on the left was painted by St Andrei Rublev. It is a rare Eastern Orthodox depiction of the Holy Trinity, using three angels to symbolise the Triune God. St Andrei used ‘The Hospitality of Abraham’ as his theme.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Matthew 28:16-20

28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Today’s reading is the Great Commission, recorded most fully in Matthew’s Gospel. These are the closing verses to his book. Some translations end it with the word ‘Amen’. Matthew’s objective was to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, and many Jewish people, having read it, have become Christians as a result.

A number of Christians believe that there should be no missionaries, because missionaries ‘force’ people to adopt Christianity and give up their own cultural norms. Objecting Christians believe that is wrong. Ironically, Africa is where the Church is strongest today: something for the objectors to ponder.

Today’s verses show that bringing fallen men and women to believe in Him is what Christ expects of all of us, no matter where we live.

John MacArthur elaborates on the Christian’s — and the Church’s — purpose:

Beloved, we have no different mission in the world than the incarnate Jesus Christ had: to fulfill the heart of God in winning the lost. That is our mission. To glorify God by bringing salvation to lost men and women.

… if fellowship was our purpose, God would have taken us to heaven. Teaching? If our purpose is that we may know doctrine and know knowledge, the best thing God could do is take us immediately to heaven, where we would know as we are known instantaneously, and all teaching ceases, because everybody knows everything they need to know. No. If the purpose of the church was teaching, we’d be gone. Well, what about praise? If God wanted perfect praise out of His church, He’d take them to heaven, too, because that’s where perfect praise occurs …

The point is this – and I want you to get it: there is only one reason we are here, and one reason alone, and that is that we may seek and save those who are lost. It is as the Father sent the Son that the Son sends us. If the Father wanted fellowship with the Son, He would have kept Him in heaven. If the Father wanted perfect knowledge with the Son, He would have kept Him in heaven. If the Father wanted the perfect praise that was His, He would have kept Him in heaven. He wouldn’t need to send Him to earth.

But if the Father wanted to redeem fallen men, He had to send Him to this earth. That’s the only reason we’re here. There is no other reason. Now, I hope that simplifies it for you. That’s it. So, when you evaluate your Christian commitment, and you evaluate how you’re using your life, ask yourself one question: am I involved in winning lost men and women to Jesus Christ? Is that where my time, and energy, and effort, and talent, and money is going, to do that? That’s the only reason you’re here.

So, unless you’re committed to the fact that we are here for the responsibility of winning a lost world to Jesus Christ, then you better reexamine why you are existing. Fellowship, teaching, praise, are not the mission of the church; they’re part of the preparation and the training for the mission. I mean, a great athlete does a lot of things in training, but the training is not to be confused with the competing and the winning. It is not to be confused with running the race. All the exercise and preparation you go through in your education is not to be confused with succeeding in your profession.

Furthermore, our heart must be in the right place, focussed on Christ — all the time:

The whole heart set on Christ; the whole affection set on Christ; the whole mind set on Christ. All the goals are set on Christ. He is all in all. He fills our thought and our intention, and we spend our days and our nights thinking not how can we make it better for ourselves, but how can we exalt His blessed name. Not how can we be more comfortable as Christians, but how can we win the lost no matter how discomforting it is to us. So, where’s your focus? Are you available? Are you a worshiper?

And by that I don’t mean stained glass windows and organ music and show up on Sunday. What I mean is that you focus your whole intent and purpose in life on Christ. I mean, it’s basic. It means being controlled by the Holy Spirit, who is the only one who can cause you to call Jesus Lord, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says. My life is controlled by the Spirit; all my assets, all my possessions, all my time, all my energy, all my talent, all my gifts. It not only means I’m controlled by the Spirit, but it means I’m centered on the Word, because the Word is where Christ is seen.

The Christ-centered life, the worshiping life, is a life that is yielded to the Spirit of God, and it is centered on the Word of God, and consequently, it is cleansed from sin. “Search me, O God, and know me: try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,” says Psalm 139:23 and 24.

In this regard, MacArthur gives an example of how a pastor of his acquaintance answers requests for counselling. This was back in 1985, so feel free to substitute ‘credit card statement’ for ‘chequebook’ below:

Sam Erickson suggested to me that maybe the Lord hasn’t given us more money is because we’re such poor stewards of what He’s given us already.

I mean, where – where are we really setting the priorities? Sam was sharing with me that he has a technique that he always uses when people want counseling. He says people will call him and say, “Well, I have a spiritual problem, I have a burden; I want to talk to you” – he’s an elder in his church, chairman of the elders. And he says, “I always tell them the same thing. ‘I’ll be happy to talk with you. Bring your checkbook.’” And people will say, “My checkbook?” “Yes, your checkbook. I want to go over your checkbook with you first, before we talk about anything else.”

Well, the standard answer is, “Why do you want to do that?” And his answer is, “I want to see where your heart is, because Jesus said, ‘Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is.’” I don’t think he does a lot of counseling. Where’s your heart? You want to know where your heart is? Look at your checkbook, look around your house. People think that they need to store up all their money for the future, they need to lay it all away, you know, build up all their assets, make all their investments, hoard all they possibly can, with the goal in mind of security in the future.

That is Satan’s lie to this generation of Christians. Now, I’m not saying you should be foolish. What I am saying is, there’s a world to be won for Christ, and who cares how comfortable it is for us? Misplaced priorities. Now, after you’re done checking through your checkbook, check through your calendar, and find out where you’re spending your time, and what occupies your mind. Well, we’re great at fellowship; fellowship stimulates us. We’re great at teaching; teaching sort of entertains us, and assists us in growth. And we’re great at praise that gives expression.

But we’re sure not so good at sacrificial living, or sacrificial giving to reach the lost. And, friends, I’m trying to say what Jesus said, and what the Scripture indicates, is that that’s the only reason we’re here; every other purpose could be better accomplished in heaven. Now, we’ve got to come to grips with this. The sad part is most Christians are content with the trivia of this life, to amass the junk of this life, to pad their own case, fill up their lives with all the accessories they can possibly enjoy, while the world is going to hell and we’re not there to reach them

Now, what is necessary for effective evangelism? If we’re going to make disciples of all nations, if we’re going to reach the world, what is necessary? First, what I’ve given you in this introduction must be understood. But now, I want you to look at five explicit or implicit elements

These are in the text of Matthew 28:16 to 20, and they are those things which are essential to effective fulfillment of the purpose for which the church exists: availability, worship, submission, obedience, and power

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them (verse 16).

MacArthur continues on his theme:

availability. This is implied in verse 16, in a very, very wonderful way. By the way, someone once said, “The greatest ability is availability.” I like that. It doesn’t matter how talented you are if you’re not available. The greatest ability is availability, and we see that here.

There’s going to be a great commissioning on this day, and there are going to be people sent out into all the world with the promise of the presence and the power of the living Christ. But if you weren’t there, you weren’t going to be a part of that. The ones who were available were the ones who received the privilege.

Matthew Henry’s commentary discusses the journey from Jerusalem, where the Apostles and our Lord’s female disciples had been, to Galilee. It was a lengthy journey to make:

This evangelist passes over several other appearances of Christ, recorded by Luke and John, and hastens to this, which was of all other the most solemn, as being promised and appointed again and again before his death, and after his resurrection. Observe,

I. How the disciples attended his appearance, according to the appointment (v. 16); They went into Galilee, a long journey to go for one sight of Christ, but it was worth while. They had seen him several times at Jerusalem, and yet they went into Galilee, to see him there.

1. Because he appointed them to do so. Though it seemed a needless thing to go into Galilee, to see him whom they might see at Jerusalem, especially when they must so soon come back again to Jerusalem, before his ascension, yet they had learned to obey Christ’s commands and not object against them. Note, Those who would maintain communion with Christ, must attend him there where he has appointed. Those who have met him in one ordinance, must attend him in another; those who have seen him at Jerusalem, must go to Galilee.

2. Because that was to be a public and general meeting. They had seen him themselves, and conversed with him in private, but that should not excuse their attendance in a solemn assembly, where many were to be gathered together to see him. Note, Our communion with God in secret must not supersede our attendance on public worship, as we have opportunity; for God loves the gates of Zion, and so must we. The place was a mountain in Galilee, probably the same mountain on which he was transfigured. There they met, for privacy, and perhaps to signify the exalted state into which he was entered, and his advances toward the upper world.

MacArthur runs through the timeline between the Last Supper and this journey to Galilee:

Back in chapter 26, verse 32, He said, “When I’m raised from the dead, I’ll go before you into Galilee.” After He was raised from the dead – notice verse 7 of chapter 28 – the angel said to the women, “He goes before you into Galilee: there you will see Him.” When Jesus appeared to those same women, later on in verse 10, Jesus said to them, “Go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.”

In other words, before and after the resurrection, Jesus said He would meet with His disciples in Galilee. He was calling together a great conclave there, for the purpose of commissioning them to reach the world. They were told, then, before His death and after His resurrection, that they were to be there. And no doubt, the word spread beyond the disciples to all the others who believed in Jesus Christ, and they were all gathered, as we shall see, on that mountain on that appointed day.

Now, we have no specific knowledge as to how Jesus communicated to them the time and the place, what day and what mountain. We don’t know. It just says here that they went away into Galilee, into the mountain, the Greek text says, the specific mountain, which Jesus had Himself appointed; the verb form indicating there that it was by His own discretion and His own will that He appointed a certain mountain to meet them. We don’t know how that message was conveyed to them, but it was.

Now, when did this happen? Obviously, it was after His resurrection. Obviously, the day of His resurrection, He met the women, He went on the road to Emmaus, saw a couple of other disciples, saw the disciples that night in the upper room, saw them eight days later again in the upper room, so it would be at least after that eighth day. Then, after that eighth day when the disciples had seen Him, they would need a certain amount of time to journey north into Galilee, maybe a week. When they come into Galilee, in John 21, we see them fishing, and it seems that they’d actually gone back to their old profession.

They were in a boat that may well have been Peter’s own boat, as if he were taking up his old trade, not really knowing what to expect in the future from the Lord, even though he had been told to go to Galilee and wait for the Lord to come. So, the disciples had time to go back, to sort of reestablish their fishing enterprise. They were down there in the boat. You remember Jesus came. They couldn’t catch anything. Jesus showed them that He had control over the fish. Called them to the shore, asked Peter if he loved Him three times, then commissioned them to serve and feed His sheep.

So, the Lord has had all of these several meetings: the first eight days in Jerusalem, maybe a week to go north – that would put it, maybe, at 15 days. Maybe three or four days to sort of settle into the fishing – maybe it’s 20 days later, by the time this happens. Now, we know, in Acts 1:3, it says that Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs over a period of 40 days, so it’s somewhere between 20 days, maybe, and 40 days that this occurs. It wouldn’t be at the end of the 40, because the last appearance was at the Mount of Olives, where He ascended, and the Mount of Olives is outside Jerusalem.

They would have had to have another few days to get back there. So maybe somewhere between 20 and 35 days after His resurrection, but still with time to return to Galilee and to see Him ascend, Jesus then calls together this group of people for this very special commissioning. Now, you say, “What group of people is this, specifically?” I believe it is the group of people indicated in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 6 and 7, where it says 500-plus brethren saw Him at one time.

Here is the gathering in Galilee with the 500 plus; that has been the consistent view of biblical teachers throughout the years, and I see that as being very accurate. Now, it only tells us in verse 16 that the eleven disciples were there, because, of course, they were central to the issue. They used to be called the twelve, but with the defection, apostasy, and death of Judas, who went to his own place, as Acts 1:25 says, they were now reduced to eleven, and they become known as the eleven.

But this sighting of Jesus here was not limited to them, because in chapter 28, verse 7, the angel said to the women, “He goes before you into Galilee: there shall you see Him. Lo, I have told you.” So, it was for the eleven, it was for the women, and presumably, it was for all the other believers and disciples in Galilee, who were to be commissioned for this responsibility of reaching the world. The 500 at one time who saw Him, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:6 and 7.

There’s no reason for Jesus to go all the way to Galilee to have a meeting with just the eleven disciples. He had met them twice in Jerusalem. If He wanted another meeting with them, He could have done it. The command here given, to go and make disciples of all nations, doesn’t know any hierarchy. That’s a command given to everybody, whether you’re an apostle or not. It fits all of those who love and follow Jesus Christ. And certainly, our Lord would have wanted to give this commission to the largest group possible.

And the largest group possible would be the 500 gathered in Galilee, because there were so many more believers in Galilee than in Jerusalem. You say, “How do you know that?” Because in Acts chapter 1, verse 15, when the believers in Jerusalem met to wait for the Holy Spirit, there were only 120 of them in the upper room. The number of disciples in Jerusalem was much smaller; the hostility was much greater, and the dominance of Christ’s ministry had occurred in Galilee, where the hearts were more open.

He came, in Matthew 4, as a light to the Gentiles, to the Galilean area known as Galilee of the Gentiles. He came to that region first of all to present His message, and so, the bulk of believers were there. Also, Galilee would be a fitting place, not only because of the number of believers, but because of the seclusion of it, away from the hostility of Jerusalem. And because there could be so easily found a place where they could have privacy, on the many hillsides around the sea. So, it provided the largest group of disciples, the greatest seclusion, the greatest safety.

And the right setting – because it was a place where many nations lived surrounding it – the right setting to tell people to go to reach all those nations with the gospel. And so, the eleven are there, and I believe the women were there, and I believe all the rest of the disciples of Jesus who believed in Him in the Galilee region were there, also. And they were in the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. We don’t know what mountain it was. It may have been the Mount of Transfiguration, it may have been that the mount of glory became the mount of resurrection, and the mount of commissioning.

It may have been the mount where He taught the Sermon on the Mount. It may have been the mountain where He fed the crowd, or the mountain that He went to so often to pray. Could have been any mountain. We really don’t know. But it becomes a sacred mountain because of what happens here, as over 500 of them, with all their weaknesses, and confusion, and doubts, and misgivings, and fears, and questions, and bewilderments, are gathered together. They’re not the greatest people in the world, they’re not the most capable, or the most brilliant; they’re not the most experienced; but they are there, and that is to be commended.

They are available. And that’s what I love about this verse. That means ready for service. Everything at this point focuses on the fact that they were there. Jesus said, “Be there,” and they were there. They’re reminiscent of the availability of Isaiah, who after the vision of God, in chapter 6, verses 1 to 7, says, “Here am I, Lord; send me. I may not be the best – I’m a man with a dirty mouth – but I don’t see anybody else volunteering I think Your choices are limited. Here am I, send me.”

When the assembled saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted (verse 17).

Henry explains the doubt on the part of some:

Now was the time that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, 1 Cor 15 6. Some think that they saw him, at first, at some distance, above in the air, ephthe epanoHe was seen above, of five hundred brethren (so they read it); which gave occasion to some to doubt, till he came nearer (v. 18), and then they were satisfied.

MacArthur has more on the worship and the doubt:

There’s a second principle that I just want to mention – it doesn’t need to be elucidated at great length – and that is the attitude of worship that we see in verse 17. The first prerequisite or element in fulfilling this commission to make disciples is to be available; the second is to worship. And this is a question of focus; it’s a question of focus. It says in verse 17 – and this is absolutely marvelous, the way this verse appears – “And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him: but some doubted.”

I love that. I think that’s so honest. “And when they saw Him” – He appeared, all of a sudden, in the supernatural way in which He could transfer Himself from one place to another. He appeared, and in an instant, everyone saw Him in that supernatural appearance, and it created an instantly overwhelming effect, and they worshiped Him – proskuneō, to prostrate oneself in adoring worship. The risen Christ commanded their worship. They weren’t worshiping Him as some human dignitary, they weren’t worshiping Him as some earthly king.

They were worshiping Him as God, for it had been affirmed that He was indeed God, the Son of God. Even in His death, did not the centurion say, “Truly, this was the Son of God?” Did not Thomas say, “My Lord and My God,” as recorded in the twentieth chapter of John? This is more than homage to an earthly king. This is honor for God Himself in human flesh. They fall in adoring worship. They had worshiped once earlier; it’s referred to one other time that the disciples actually worshiped Him.

Remember that the people in Galilee had not seen Jesus in His post-resurrection glorified body. Combine that with the distance that some were from Him when He appeared, and you would have doubt:

He is risen from the dead. Not only is He a miracle worker, but He is the One who has conquered death, and they have seen Him, and touched Him. Chapter 28, verse 9, the women held His feet, and the disciples touched His body, and He was with them. He went out of the grave, right through the stone, He came in the room, right through the wall.

And yet He was able to be touched, and they knew they were dealing with a divine, glorious, supernatural person. And so, when He appeared, they worshiped Him. And then, I love this note: “But some doubted.” You say, “Matthew, you shouldn’t put that in there. We’re trying to make a case for the validity of the resurrection; why would you do that?” And that, again, is a reminder to us of the transparent honesty of the biblical writer, who is not trying to contrive a believable story by reporting it in a selective way.

He’s not collecting evidence that’s only going to make his case. The integrity of this is a great proof of the truthfulness of it. If men were trying to falsify and contrive a message about a resurrection, they wouldn’t throw in the very climactic point but some doubted unless it was true. And it was true, so it’s included; and that’s the integrity of Scripture. And we ask ourselves, first of all, “What kind of doubt was this?” Well, some suggest that the doubters were the eleven, because it says, “some doubted,” and the some must go back to verse 16, the eleven disciples who were there.

Well, it possibly could be that some doubted. It doesn’t say that some doubted that Jesus was alive, or that they doubted that He was raised from the dead. The indication is when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted that it was Him. It wasn’t so much necessarily a question of the resurrection issue, but the doubt was that this was really Him. That could have happened among the disciples. Some of them may not have been able to clearly see His face.

Some of them, because He was appearing now in resurrection glory, and maybe revealing Himself in a way different than they had seen Him in the upper room, were really unable to be certain, and some of them were a little bit more hesitant to affirm this until they had surer evidence. But on the other hand, if the women were there, and including – included a group of, say, 489 plus the eleven, it could have been any of them. And keep this in mind – apart from the women and the disciples, none of those other people had ever seen Him after His resurrection.

So, this is the first time for them. So, we’re not surprised that now they’re going to have an experience they’ve never had. There’s a group that’s so large, 500 people, that not everybody’s going to be in the front of the group. Christ appears to them. They’re not sure that it’s Him. Maybe some of the disciples are not quite sure yet.

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (verse 18).

The first important word in addressing the doubt is ‘came’ or, in other translations, ‘came nearer’. Everyone could see Him.

MacArthur says:

You say, “Well, how could they not be sure if He was there in their presence?” The answer comes in a very wonderful way at the beginning of verse 18, and it says, “And Jesus” – aorist active participle – “came nearer,” or approaching.

Which indicates to us the probable cause for their doubt, that Jesus in His appearance appeared at a distance. And it wasn’t until He came near them and began to speak that those who doubted would have their doubt erased. So, the doubts possibly could have come from those who were disciples, but as yet could not be sure that this was Jesus, because He was afar off. Or it could have come from those who had never ever seen Him in resurrection glory, and it wasn’t for them either until He was near that they could identify Him as the one they knew to be Jesus Christ.

But it’s so lovely, and so beautiful, that the writer includes this, because it’s so natural, and it’s so true, and it’s so uncontrived, and it’s such a convincing indicator of the validity of the scene itself. So, at first they doubted, but as He came near, all doubt was dispelled. Doubting the Son of God and worshiping the Son of God is mentioned in the same breath on one other incident that I mentioned earlier, in Matthew 14, when Jesus walked on the water, and seen at a distance, they doubted. When He came near, they believed, and they worshiped.

Henry points out our Lord’s understanding of their doubt:

Though there were those that doubted, yet, he did not therefore reject them; for he will not break the bruised reed. He did not stand at a distance, but came near, and gave them such convincing proofs of his resurrection, as turned the wavering scale, and made their faith to triumph over their doubts. He came, and spoke familiarly to them, as one friend speaks to another, that they might be fully satisfied in the commission he was about to give them.

Looking at our Lord’s statement about His authority over everything in heaven and on earth, MacArthur brings in the third element of evangelism:

It is not only an available heart, it is a worshiping heart. And then thirdly – and this is where we come to our lesson today – the third element of fulfilling the great commission we see in the passage is submission; submission. In verse 18, our Lord, when He does come near, speaks, and says, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” And He makes a statement, frankly, that staggers my thoughts, and it reaches far beyond my ability to conceive or articulate. He is making a claim to consummate sovereign authority.

He has all authority. Now the word authority is the word exousia. It basically is a word that means privilege or right or power or authority. Essentially, you could define it as the freedom to do whatever you wish. It is freedom without limitation. Jesus Christ, with all authority, is free to do what He wants, when He wants, where He wants, with what He wants, to whomever He wants. It is absolute freedom of choice and action. That’s the essence of sovereign authority.

It is useful to think of this authority when we are asked to do something for our own church. Do we say ‘no’ for whatever reason and risk our Lord asking at His Second Coming why we refused? Or do we accept that lay ministry — whatever it is, even cleaning the church or the church kitchen — without reservation? That’s something to think about.

Henry elaborates on the source and power of Christ’s authority:

… here he tells us, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; a very great word, and which none but he could say. Hereby he asserts his universal dominion as Mediator, which is the great foundation of the Christian religion. He has all power. Observe, (1.) Whence he hath this power. He did not assume it, or usurp it, but it was given him, he was legally entitled to it, and invested in it, by a grant from him who is the Fountain of all being, and consequently of all power. God set him King (Ps 2 6), inaugurated and enthroned him, Luke 1 32. As God, equal with the Father, all power was originally and essentially his; but as Mediator, as God-man, all power was given him; partly in recompence of his work (because he humbled himself, therefore God thus exalted him), and partly in pursuance of his design; he had this power given him over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to as many as were given him (John 17 2), for the more effectual carrying on and completing our salvation. This power he was now more signally invested in, upon his resurrection, Acts 13 3. He had power before, power to forgive sins (ch. 9 6); but now all power is given him. He is now going to receive for himself a kingdom (Luke 19 12), to sit down at the right hand, Ps 110 1. Having purchased it, nothing remains but to take possession; it is his own for ever. (2.) Where he has this power; in heaven and earth, comprehending the universe. Christ is the sole universal Monarch, he is Lord of all, Acts 10 36. He has all power in heaven. He has power of dominion over the angels, they are all his humble servants, Eph 1 20, 21. He has power of intercession with his Father, in the virtue of his satisfaction and atonement; he intercedes, not as a suppliant, but as a demandant; Father, I will. He has all power on earth too; having prevailed with God, by the sacrifice of atonement, he prevails with men, and deals with them as one having authority, by the ministry of reconciliation. He is indeed, in all causes and over all persons, supreme Moderator and Governor. By him kings reign. All souls are his, and to him every heart and knee must bow, and every tongue confess him to be the Lord. This our Lord Jesus tells them, not only to satisfy them of the authority he had to commission them, and to bring them out in the execution of their commission, but to take off the offence of the cross; they had no reason to be ashamed of Christ crucified, when they saw him thus glorified.

Then Jesus announced His Great Commission: to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (verse 19).

The next time someone says there should be no missionaries, remind them of that verse. Christ calls all believers to be missionaries, in whatever way we can. We might not be the ones doing the baptising, but we can lead people to that great sacrament, which brings us into communion with the Holy Trinity, the Triune Godhead we honour this particular Sunday.

Henry explains the manner in which Christ gave that command:

Go ye therefore. This commission is given, (1.) To the apostles primarily, the chief ministers of state in Christ’s kingdom, the architects that laid the foundation of the church. Now those that had followed Christ in the regeneration, were set on thrones (Luke 22 30); Go ye. It is not only a word of command, like that, Son, go work, but a word of encouragement, Go, and fear not, have I not sent you? Go, and make a business of this work. They must not take state, and issue out summons to the nations to attend upon them; but they must go, and bring the gospel to their doors, Go ye. They had doted on Christ’s bodily presence, and hung upon that, and built all their joys and hopes upon that; but now Christ discharges them from further attendance on his person, and sends them abroad about other work. As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, to excite them to fly (Deut 32 11), so Christ stirs up his disciples, to disperse themselves over all the world. (2.) It is given to their successors, the ministers of the gospel, whose business it is to transmit the gospel from age to age, to the end of the world in time, as it was theirs to transmit it from nation to nation, to the end of the world in place, and no less necessary.

MacArthur explains how we should receive the Great Commission:

His terms are He is Savior and Lord, and He calls for submission. His word and His commands are absolute. And that’s why in verse 19 it says, “Therefore.” Therefore – what do you mean, therefore? “Since I’m in charge, you are to do this. Make disciples of all nations.” Why? “Because I am in charge, and I say to do that.” There’s got to be a submissive spirit. And when you look for someone that you want to invest your life into, when I look for someone that I want to invest my life in, that I feel has spiritual potential, I look for someone with a submissive spirit.

Someone who is – to put it in another term – teachable. He is the sovereign Lord. This isn’t negotiable. The great commission, the mission of the church, then, is predicated on three attitudes: the attitude of availability, the attitude of worship, and the attitude of submission. Now, listen to me. Those three attitudes indicate a God-centered preoccupation of the heart. They indicate a Godward focus, that my heart is set toward God, that there is a willing, devoted heart. I love in the Old Testament, when it talks about a willing heart.

Exodus 25, Exodus 35, Judges 5, Judges 8, Nehemiah 11, Esther – or Ezra 1, Ezra 3 verse 5, other places. It talks about “the people had a willing heart, the people had a willing heart.” That’s the kind of heart you see here, a willing heart, available; a worshiping heart, a submissive heart, to do what He says. And that’s – that’s the antithesis of being caught up in the inane trivia of our modern world; of spending our lives, and our time, and our talent, and our energy, and our money, and our resources, on ourselves.

So, you look at your own life, and if you’re not desirous of fulfilling the great commission, it isn’t that you need a zap from God, and it isn’t that you need some direct place to go, it is that you need to look to the attitude of your heart, and ask, are you available? Am I really available? Am I really worshiping? Do I have a single focus in my life? Am I submissive, so that when I find a command of God, I eagerly obey it? Now, those are three foundational attitudes. He has all authority, and if He has all authority, that means He has authority that extends to everything …

And here, in verse 19, is where we have the command, “make disciples of all nations,” and it calls for obedience. How are you doing that? How are you doing that? How are you making disciples of the people around you? The people around the world? How are you doing it? Or are you doing it? It may seem to you unnatural or impossible, as it must have to them, but it was commanded.

He tells you how to do it, right here in verse 19, with three participles. The main verb is “making disciples of all nations.” The three participles are going, baptizing, teaching. That’s how you do it. Going, baptizing, teaching; that’s how you make a disciple. It isn’t just that they should believe, it is that they should believe and be taught.

It isn’t just that they are taught, it also encompasses their act of faith, which is symbolized in baptism. And neither of those can take place until you go to those people. The commission of the church is not to wait until the world shows up. The commission of the church is to go to the world, to go to them. Now let’s talk about that first participle, going, poreuthentes. Actually, in the Greek, it could be translated better having gone; having gone. It isn’t a command, go ye; that’s not a command in the Greek.

In the Authorized, they put it in the imperative mode, but in the Greek, it’s an assumption, having gone. I mean, it’s basic that if you’re going to make disciples of all nations, you’ve got to have gone; having gone is assumed.

MacArthur discusses baptism:

The first essential element of making disciples, then, is to go

The second element, the second participle that modifies the main verb, is baptizing – “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptizō, a familiar term, means to immerse in water, to dip in water, and our Lord is saying, “When you go, you are to be baptizing.” Now, what import does this have? Why does He stress this? Because baptism was the outward sign of an inward act of faith in Christ. Baptism was synonymous with salvation, though baptism in no way saved.

It was the outward visible symbol of what had been done in the heart. And it was an overt act of obedience, by which a person could demonstrate the reality of the miracle of salvation. There’s no way that you can see someone being saved. I have never seen a salvation, have you? I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t be able to see it; it’s a supernatural spiritual transaction. I have never seen a salvation. All I have ever seen is the fruit of one, true? All I have ever seen is the result of one. And if I don’t see the result, then I have to question whether there was a salvation.

And in the early church, it was essential that salvation be demonstrated by the fruit of obedience, and that initial fruit of obedience was baptism, by which an individual testified to their union in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, so beautifully symbolized in immersion. Now, the baptism of John the Baptist was different; it was a baptism of repentance, of a people repenting of their sin, to purify themselves inwardly, and show it. They were – show it by their outward baptism, to ready themselves for Messiah.

Jesus also baptized. John, of course, his baptism described in Matthew 3, Jesus’ baptism described in John 4:1 and 2. Jesus baptized, and it was also an outward symbol of a desire for a purified heart. But here is a new kind of baptism. For the first time, since Jesus died and rose again by now, people can be baptized as a demonstration of their identity with Christ in His death and resurrection

Baptism, then, was commanded as we see here, and that’s why it was done. Jesus said, “Baptize them.” Now, when you get into the book of Acts, and people are converted, and you see them being baptized, you know why. Because they were obedient to a command. Those who put their faith in Christ were to be baptized, but the command here is for those who preach the gospel to baptize, which means that in giving the gospel, beloved, we are to tell people that it is not just something you believe, and that’s it.

It is something you believe, and publicly confess in this act of baptism. And when you find someone who is reluctant to do that, you may have reason to question the genuineness of their faith, for Jesus said, “Him that confesses Me before men, him will I confess before My Father who is in heaven.” This is public confession. No one is saved by baptism itself. Water can’t save you. Any religious rite or act is impotent to save you. But this is an act of obedience. This is a symbol. And that is why the Scripture so repeatedly emphasizes baptism.

When you come to Christ, confess Him as Lord and Savior, believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and demonstrate that in an act of obedient baptism, you are a disciple

MacArthur then discusses the baptismal formula that Christ gave versus others in the New Testament and says that even the others are valid:

Now, would you notice that He says baptism is in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?

First of all, I need to say that that is not necessarily a formula for baptism; that’s a common way, and we often use that in our baptisms, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” And it’s a beautiful way to do that. There are, however, several occasions in the book of Acts where people are baptized in the name of the Lord, baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, there is no baptism in the book of Acts in which this formula is ever used. It only appears here.

Every baptism specifically where any formula is given, or any statement is made as to who the baptism is in or into, is the Lord, the Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ. Now, we conclude from that, then, really, that there’s no binding formula. People want to make a big case out of that, but there’s really no binding formula. To baptize someone in the name of Jesus Christ is simply to baptize them, sort of demonstrating and portraying and picturing their union with Jesus Christ, and that’s wonderful; and that says plenty.

Here, we just have the fullest statement possible. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, shows not only their union with Christ, but their unity with the whole Godhead. It’s a fuller, and richer, and more comprehensive statement. But, in no way should we construe that it is some kind of absolutely necessary formula, since there are other statements made in the book of Acts. The wonderful thing we do want to note, though, in the book of Acts, is that they were obedient to this, and everywhere the gospel was preached and everywhere people believed, people were being baptized.

Acts 2:41, Acts 8:38, Acts 9:18, the tenth chapter of Acts with Cornelius, verse 48, the sixteenth chapter of Acts, verse 33, the Philippian jailer and his family. You come into Acts 18:8, Acts 19:5, the followers of John the Baptist, over in Acts 22, I think around verse 10, baptisms, baptisms, baptisms, baptisms, always going on, always going on. And so, we’re not looking at some kind of ceremonial rite, in which conversion takes place by water, and there’s some special formula you have to say.

It’s just that our Lord has given us the richest possible statement of the comprehensive union that occurs when a saint comes to faith in Jesus Christ. We are one with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; marvelous thought. That’s a great statement, also, because Christ puts Himself on a level with the other two members of the trinity, and those people who want to say that Jesus never claimed to be God have got some problems in that verse. He puts Himself on a level with the other two members of the trinity.

It’s a great verse, also, to prove the trinity. All three persons are there. And would you please notice this: it doesn’t say, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit,” nor does it say, “In the names of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” It is one name with three persons, the mystery of the trinity. The name means all that a person is and does, all that is bound up in that name. The name means all that God is as a trinity, all that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are.

We are baptized in. And the word eis could mean into, it could mean unto, it could mean in. It’s just the idea that when we are baptized, we come into a union with the trinity through Jesus Christ. And as I said before, it symbolizes His death and resurrection. We have a full union with Jesus Christ. What a wonderful, glorious thought. And not only with Him, but with the Father, and with the Son, as well. Now, the point is this: becoming a disciple happens at salvation, and involves a full union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which is a transforming reality demonstrated by the beautiful ceremony of baptism.

Jesus ended by saying that the people gathered with Him were to teach others to obey everything that He commanded them, adding (verse 20), ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.

That applies to us also, as MacArthur explains:

What are we called to do, then? While we’re going, or already having gone, we are to be bringing men to the Savior, baptizing them as an outward testimony of this inward union. And then, would you notice verse 20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” It’s not only a converting ministry that we’re called to, but it’s a teaching ministry. Now, we have to follow up that new convert, who is now desirous of being obedient, and therefore desirous of learning what it is he is or she is to obey, by teaching all things – the whole counsel of God, in terms of Acts 20:27.

Oh, that’s such a marvelous thing. We’re to teach them all things the Lord has commanded, lifelong; lifelong commitment to obedience. I love that. You see, being a disciple is a question of obeying commands. You can’t be a disciple of Christ without an obedient heart. You can’t be a disciple of Christ without a desire to follow Him as your Lord. That’s the whole point of the rich young ruler, when He said to him, you know, “Take all you have, sell it, and give the money to the poor, and follow Me,” and the guy went away, and said, “Forget it. You’re not in charge of my life.” He couldn’t be converted.

Coming to Christ is saying, “You are in charge of my life. I submit. I want to be obedient.” And so, He says to those people gathered there, “You teach them all the things whatsoever I have commanded you.” And He’d commanded them a lot. And some of them would write it down. John 14:26, He told them, “I’ll send you the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said.” And the Bible writers wrote it down. The Spirit of God gave it to all of us. We have the commands of Christ. We have the words of Christ. We have the teaching that He gave.

And that is what we are to teach other people. We are to teach them all of it; all of it. I love that. All things. There are not options. There – there’s just a great, grand host of teachings, to which we must submit. There’s no true discipleship apart from personal faith in Christ, and there’s no true discipleship apart from the desire for an obedient heart. That’s why the Bible talks about the obedience of faith. That’s why it says, in Hebrews 5:9, that the only people who really are people who have been redeemed – Hebrews 5:9 – the only ones whom Christ has really transformed – and I think this is so clear – it says, “are all them that obey Him.”

We find the specifics in the books following the Gospels. Some are difficult teachings to obey, especially in today’s world, which gets more bizarre by the day in distancing itself from biblical truth. Believers are called to be Christlike, to reject the world, to become dead to sin rather than dead in it. That comes from knowing Scripture, praying for more faith and grace and submitting to our Lord’s will for our lives.

May all reading this have a blessed Trinity Sunday.

Pentecost2Pentecost Sunday, the Church’s birthday, is May 28, 2023.

Readings for Year A along with other resources for Pentecost can be found here.

There are two Gospel options in Year A. One is an extract — John 20:19-23 — from the Second Sunday of Easter, the Doubting Thomas reading, John 20:19-31.

The other option is from John 7, which follows. Emphases mine below:

John 7:37-39

7:37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,

7:38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”

7:39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This episode in our Lord’s ministry took place less than a year before His crucifixion.

It happened during the week-long Jewish feast of Sukkot, or Booths in the sense of tents or shelters. It is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

It commemorates God’s protection of and provision for the Israelites when they spent 40 years in the desert. Because it takes place in the early autumn, it is also a harvest feast and a time of great joy.

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out that anyone who thirsts should come to Him and let those who believe drink, for Scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water’ (verses 37, 38).

As is so often the case, there is much to examine in so few verses.

Matthew Henry’s commentary summarises what happened on the final day of Sukkot, the festival’s culmination:

… it was a custom of the Jews, which they received by tradition, the last day of the feast of tabernacles to have a solemnity, which they called Libatio aquæ—The pouring out of water. They fetched a golden vessel of water from the pool of Siloam, brought it into the temple with sound of trumpet and other ceremonies, and, upon the ascent to the altar, poured it out before the Lord with all possible expressions of joy.

John MacArthur has more:

At this feast, they celebrated the wilderness wanderings for 40 years when they lived in tents and booths and temporary housing that they moved as they migrated around the wilderness for those four decades.  During that period of time, God protected them, preserved them, gave them food and drink.  Finally, that ended with a generation dying and a few entering into the land of promise, the Canaan land, and the birth of the nation of Israel.

To commemorate God’s preservation of that nation during those years of wandering, God instituted in Leviticus 23, a feast, an annual feast of remembrance around the time of the Fall [autumn]

They were in that feast.  It’s a week-long, and now it’s the last day.  That’s very very important.  The last day.  Very significant.  Let me tell you why.  Every day of the feast, there was a ritual that was repeated.  As far as we can tell from history, it was repeated every day.  And this is what happened.  Based on Leviticus 23:40, the instruction is this: that the people, the worshippers who celebrate the feast are to take the fruit of good trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook – several different kinds of trees They are to get the branches.  That’s Leviticus 23.  They are to take the branches, and they are to use those branches to create booths to commemorate the wilderness wandering and the temporary housing remembering the goodness of God.  That had developed into a very very special kind of ritual. 

The Pharisees had instructed the people to all bring their branches, at each particular time of every day during the feast, to the main altar and to surround that altar and put up their boughs and their branches to create a kind of makeshift covering over the altar.  This was in the temple area.  Every day of the festival, thousands upon thousands, tens of thousands of people were there, and they would come, and they would create this covering of palm branches, willow branches, and other kinds of thick trees.  They would form this kind of covering around the altar.  The altar is then in the midst of this covering with all these people surrounding it – those holding the branches and those beyond.  The high priest would then go to the Pool of Siloam by prescription.  And he had a golden pitcher in his hand, and he would dip it in the water of the Pool of Siloam.  And he would come back, and he would pour the water out on the altar as a remembrance of God providing the waters for the people of Israel at Meribah out of the rock. 

And when he poured the water, historians tell us, the people were required – by the way, he came back through the water gate, which was so named because people brought water through it So he would come back through the water gate, and historians tell us the people recite Isaiah 12:3 Isaiah 12:3 says, “With joy, shall we draw water out of the wells of salvation.”  “With joy, shall we draw water out of the wells of salvation.” 

So the whole ceremony remembers the wilderness wandering.  It remembers the water provided there, but it’s all symbolic of God’s salvation, his deliverance of Israel temporarily during those 40 years – is merely a remembrance of God as a saving God who delivers his people and should remind them of soul salvation.  The water, then, comes to the altar in the hand of the priest.  It is poured out.  And when it is poured out, and the people have recited the passage from Isaiah, they were required then to sing the Hallel.  The Levitical choir would start the Hallel is sung 113-118.  Hallel from which we get “Hallelujah,” hymns of praise.  They would sing Psalms 113-118 So that’s the scene it was the most celebratory of all the Jewish feasts.

So the whole dramatic ceremony is a vivid thanksgiving for God’s salvation of his people and protection and preservation and deliverance of his people in the wilderness wandering and how he supplied water for them.  They also added to the celebration a prayer for more water that God would send rain.  Now what makes this especially important on the last day, is that on the last day, before pouring out the water, the people marched around the altar seven times.  Why?  To commemorate the march around what city?  The city of Jericho because that spelled the end of the wilderness wandering. 

Jesus, ever obedient to Jewish law, was present. He issued an open invitation to everyone there. He stood and cried out in issuing it.

Henry explains our Lord’s intent in crying out:

Jesus stood and cried, which denotes, (1.) His great earnestness and importunity. His heart was upon it, to bring poor souls in to himself. The erection of his body and the elevation of his voice were indications of the intenseness of his mind. Love to souls will make preachers lively. (2.) His desire that all might take notice, and take hold of this invitation. He stood, and cried, that he might the better be heard; for this is what every one that hath ears is concerned to hear.

Henry discusses the importance of seizing the opportunity to pass a message onto a crowd:

Now on this day Christ published this gospel-call, because (1.) Much people were gathered together, and, if the invitation were given to many, it might be hoped that some would accept of it, Prov 1 20. Numerous assemblies give opportunity of doing the more good. (2.) The people were now returning to their homes, and he would give them this to carry away with them as his parting word. When a great congregation is to be dismissed, and is about to scatter, as here, it is affecting to think that in all probability they will never come all together again in this world, and therefore, if we can say or do any thing to help them to heaven, that must be the time. It is good to be lively at the close of an ordinance. Christ made this offer on the last day of the feast. [1.] To those who had turned a deaf ear to his preaching on the foregoing days of this sacred week; he will try them once more, and, if they will yet hear his voice, they shall live. [2.] To those who perhaps might never have such another offer made them, and therefore were concerned to accept of this; it would be half a year before there would be another feast, and in that time they would many of them be in their graves. Behold now is the accepted time.

Both commentators call our attention to the openness of His invitation.

Henry says:

The invitation itself is very general: If any man thirst, whoever he be, he is invited to Christ, be he high or low, rich or poor, young or old, bond or free, Jew or Gentile. It is also very gracious: “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. If any man desires to be truly and eternally happy, let him apply himself to me, and be ruled by me, and I will undertake to make him so.”

MacArthur says:

There will be another one in chapter 8.  There will be a number of invitations right on down to the very end of his ministry.  In fact, I doubt whether a day went by in his ministry in which he didn’t invite people to salvation, to the Kingdom, to the forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  There was likely not a day that he didn’t invite people to believe in him, to confess him as Lord and Savior, and receive the salvation that comes only through him. 

Earlier on, John’s Gospel gives us another of our Lord’s invitations to living water, which He made to the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4:5-42:

4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

4:11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?

4:12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”

4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,

4:14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

MacArthur reminds us:

You will also remember in chapter 6 as he was speaking of himself as the “bread of life.”  He encouraged people to eat this bread and to drink as well.  In a land where water was scarce, a very dry land, water was a great commodity to express the work of salvation, the benefit of salvation to a thirsty soul So this is a striking invitation.  There was a context for the woman at the well.  There was a real well and real water, and he played off of that to talk about the water that will satisfy a soul.  And that soul will never thirst again.  Here again, there is a context for the analogy of water

MacArthur says that Jesus chose a powerful moment to issue His invitation here:

It is on that day, at that moment, when they are all celebrating the deliverance and the salvation of God – with that as a backdrop, and perhaps – can’t be certain – but perhaps, in the quiet moment when the festival reaches its apex and the priest takes the golden pitcher and pours the water, it is perhaps at that moment that Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come and drink.  Let him come to me.”  Jesus dramatically captures the moment – turns it to himself.  He must have positioned himself in the right place. 

We read in verse 37 that he “cried out.”  There’s that ekrazen again that strong word for yelling at the top of his voice He wants to be heard.  And in the drama of that moment, no doubt, he picked a moment when everybody was sort of holding their breath at the drama of the celebration.  Jesus says, “‘You are thankful to God for water in the wilderness – water that satisfied the thirst of your forefathers.  Come to me for water that quenches your soul.’”  Your soul.  You understand again, in a land where there’s so little water, how much water symbolized satisfaction – a necessity for life.  So Jesus uses that analogy now for the third time really in the Gospel of John. 

MacArthur discusses the elements of this invitation and their importance:

In the words that he says at that moment, there are three actions: “thirst,” “come,” “drink.”  Three verbs.  They really generally correspond to what the Medieval Latin fathers used to call notitia, fiducia, and assensus, the three elements necessary for saving faith “Thirst,” that is the knowledge of the problem, the knowledge of the alienation, the knowledge of the deprivation, the knowledge of the condition and understanding of its implications, and including a knowledge of the source of water.  Then “come,” that’s fiducia.  That’s trust.  And then “drink,” that’s assent. 

Let’s kind of break those down a little bit.  It’s pretty simple.  The first tells of a recognized need: thirst.  Thirst.  Notice the general open invitation “If anyone is thirsty.”  “If anyone is thirsty.”  “If anyone is thirsty.”  The invitations of Jesus were always unlimited.  They were always universal.  They were always open-ended.  “‘If anyone is thirsty, come unto me all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’”  God told of the world that he gave his only begotten son that “whosoever believes shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  Here again is another one of those invitations.  “If you are thirsty.”  Thirst is a craving.  Thirst is a conscious craving.  It’s something we know about.  It’s something we’re fully aware of.  We feel it, and the more thirst increases, the more anxious a person becomes.  In fact, there can actually be a kind of madness that sets in if you cannot get a drink as you become more and more seriously thirsty.

What’s he talking about?  He’s talking about a thirsty soul.  A longing for deliverance, longing for hope, longing for peace, longing for forgiveness, for salvation, for liberation from the power of sin.  If you are thirsting – anyone who is thirsting – anyone whose soul is parched, that’s where it all starts.  It starts with that craving.  Then the consciousness, the acute consciousness of that craving. 

People come to Christ because they’re thirsty.  Do you understand that?  Because their souls are empty That’s why when you do Evangelism, you don’t start with “come to Christ.”  You start with the recognition of the desperate situation the sinner is in and try to help him understand that.  So that’s where it all begins with thirst.  Like the Philippian jailer who said, “What must I do to be saved?”  That’s a thirsty soul crying out.

The second verb – the second action is “come.”  It signifies the approach to him.  “‘If any man will come after me” Luke 9:23.  Seeing him as the only source of soul satisfying, nourishing, living water.  Come.  Come to me.  Come to Christ.  It means, with all your heart and with all your will, you come to him.  If he were here, you would do it with your feet, but he’s not here; you do it with your heart and your mind If he were here, you would come and stand before him in your thirst.  And you would fall on your knees, and you would cry out for him to give you the living water as the only source. 

Spiritually speaking, it is to move toward Jesus Christ as the only source of your need.  Turn your back on the world.  Abandon your sin.  Abandon your self-confidence.  Cast your self at the feet of incarnate grace and truth in Christ.  That’s “come.”  No one else you can come to?  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  You come to him.  You come to him alone.  Let me remind you the only qualification is thirst – not morality, not religiosity, not good works, not being a benevolent person, not being “a basically good person.”  There is no qualification like that.  The only qualification is that you are thirsty.  And very often, benevolent, basically good people, religious people, moral people don’t feel the thirst.  That’s why when Jesus came, all the moral, religious people hated him.  And it was the sinners and tax collectors and outcasts that came.  It’s the thirsty that come.  Nowhere else to go but him?  He is the only one who can satisfy the soul. 

Thirdly, “drink.”  Drink means to appropriate – to appropriate.  A river flowing through the parched valley doesn’t do any good unless you drink.  Drinking means to take him, receive him, make him your own, embrace him.  As he said to the woman at the well in John 4:14, “‘Drink, and you’ll never thirst.’”  As he said in John 6, “‘You must eat and drink of me, my life, and my death.’”  A songwriter wrote, “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Behold, I freely give the living water, thirsty one.  Stoop down, and drink, and live.  I came to Jesus and I drank of that life-giving stream.  My thirst was quenched.  My soul revived, and now I live in him.’”  That’s a sentiment that every Christian can understand.  I came; I drank; I took Christ in.

All of that is simply a way to break out what it means to believe. 

Then there is belief itself, which Jesus mentioned next (verse 38):

this may be the most remarkable part about this invitation Look at verse 38: “‘He who believes in me, as the Scripture said,’” and by the way, he collects from several verses in Isaiah and even makes reference to Ezekiel 37, a kind of composite statement, “‘as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”  Let me give you a simple analogy.  This water that flows to you when you come to Christ comes into your life doesn’t stay in you.  You’re not a bucket.  You’re not a reservoir.  It goes through you.  You are a fountain that becomes a river.  Really amazing statement.  Not only do we drink and have our soul thirst forever quenched, but we become the fountain and the river of living water to others as it flows from us

Verse 38 talks about the impact of a believer on the world.  It’s thrilling.  We receive soul-refreshing spiritual water, which is really an analogy for spiritual life, eternal life, with all of its elements and components meaning conversion, redemption, justification, sanctification, adoption, everything.  We receive all that – a constant spring of pure, cleansing water of life in us, sanctifying us, making us more like Christ But at the same time, and the real key here is, we become a fountain that turns into a river for the world The blessed one becomes the blessor.  The recipient of sovereign grace becomes the channel of sovereign grace.  And in not a trickle, but a gushing river. 

This is just an amazing statement about how much your life mattersWhen you think about who matters in society, Christians matter because they are a saver of life unto life.  They’re the fountain and river of living water that flows to the world.  The results and people being redeemed and taken to eternal glory.  That matters. 

Therefore, MacArthur says that these invitations are more than historical episodes from our Lord’s ministry. They raise questions for us as well:

… I want to talk just a little bit about the matter of this invitation to begin with.  Admiring Jesus, being impressed by Jesus, watching Jesus from afar, saying kind things about him is insufficient.  It puts a person, in the end, in the same Hell as the people who hated Jesus, who hate him now, who reject him, who were guilty of his death even in Jerusalem at the Crucifixion.  Admiring Jesus is not sufficient to grant eternal life.  Some kind of superficial commendation of Jesus is not enough.  The question is: what will you do with his invitations?  What will you do with his invitations? 

How were the people at the Sukkot celebration — and how are we — going to become that gushing river of water?

John explains that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit, which believers then were to receive at the first Pentecost, although, when Jesus issued that invitation, the Spirit would not yet be with everyone, because our Lord had not yet been glorified (verse 39) through His death, resurrection and ascension.

Henry gives us this analysis:


(1.) It is promised to all that believe on Christ that they shall receive the Holy Ghost. Some received his miraculous gifts (Mark 16 17, 18); all receive his sanctifying graces. The gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the great blessings promised in the new covenant (Acts 2 39), and, if promised, no doubt performed to all that have an interest in that covenant.

(2.) The Spirit dwelling and working in believers is as a fountain of living running water, out of which plentiful streams flow, cooling and cleansing as water, mollifying and moistening as water, making them fruitful, and others joyful; see ch. 3 5. When the apostles spoke so fluently of the things of God, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2 4), and afterwards preached and wrote the gospel of Christ with such a flood of divine eloquence, then this was fulfilled, Out of his belly shall flow rivers.

(3.) This plentiful effusion of the Spirit was yet the matter of a promise; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. See here [1.] That Jesus was not yet glorified. It was certain that he should be glorified, and he was ever worthy of all honour; but he was as yet in a state of humiliation and contempt. He had never forfeited the glory he had before all worlds, nay, he had merited a further glory, and, besides his hereditary honours, might claim the achievement of a mediatorial crown; and yet all this is in reversion. Jesus is now upheld (Isa 42 1), is now satisfied (Isa 53 11), is now justified (1 Tim 3 16), but he is not yet glorified. And, if Christ must wait for his glory, let not us think it much to wait for ours. [2.] That the Holy Ghost was not yet given. oupo gar hen pneumafor the Holy Ghost was not yet. The Spirit of God was from eternity, for in the beginning he moved upon the face of the waters. He was in the Old-Testament prophets and saints, and Zacharias and Elisabeth were both filled with the Holy Ghost. This therefore must be understood of the eminent, plentiful, and general effusion of the Spirit which was promised, Joel 2 28, and accomplished, Acts 2 1, etc. The Holy Ghost was not yet given in that visible manner that was intended. If we compare the clear knowledge and strong grace of the disciples of Christ themselves, after the day of Pentecost, with their darkness and weakness before, we shall understand in what sense the Holy Ghost was not yet given; the earnests and first-fruits of the Spirit were given, but the full harvest was not yet come. That which is most properly called the dispensation of the Spirit did not yet commence. The Holy Ghost was not yet given in such rivers of living water as should issue forth to water the whole earth, even the Gentile world, not in the gifts of tongues, to which perhaps this promise principally refers. [3.] That the reason why the Holy Ghost was not given was because Jesus was not yet glorified. First, The death of Christ is sometimes called his glorification (ch. 13 31); for in his cross he conquered and triumphed. Now the gift of the Holy Ghost was purchased by the blood of Christ: this was the valuable consideration upon which the grant was grounded, and therefore till this price was paid (though many other gifts were bestowed upon its being secured to be paid) the Holy Ghost was not given. Secondly, There was not so much need of the Spirit, while Christ himself was here upon earth, as there was when he was gone, to supply the want of him. Thirdly, The giving of the Holy Ghost was to be both an answer to Christ’s intercession (ch. 14 16), and an act of his dominion; and therefore till he is glorified, and enters upon both these, the Holy Ghost is not given. Fourthly, The conversion of the Gentiles was the glorifying of Jesus. When certain Greeks began to enquire after Christ, he said, Now is the Son of man glorified, ch. 12 23. Now the time when the gospel should be propagated in the nations was not yet come, and therefore there was as yet no occasion for the gift of tongues, that river of living water. But observe, though the Holy Ghost was not yet given, yet he was promised; it was now the great promise of the Father, Acts 1 4. Though the gifts of Christ’s grace are long deferred, yet they are well secured: and, while we are waiting for the good promise, we have the promise to live upon, which shall speak and shall not lie.

MacArthur says:

verse 39 is a prophecy He spoke of the spirit “whom those who believed in him were to receive” for the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.  The Holy Spirit couldn’t come until Jesus was glorified, ascended into Heaven.  Then he sent the Holy Spirit, and … when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost – launched the church And then the river on the inside began to flow to the world.  And it happened instantaneously because immediately on the day of Pentecost, all those Galileans who didn’t know those multiple languages began to speak the wonderful works of God in all kinds of gentile languages as the river began to flow.

Rivers of blessing begin to pour out of those believers early in Pentecost.  Peter preaches, the river starts, and 3000 people are saved.  They preach again; another 4000 are saved Tens of thousands are being saved.  In Jerusalem, it extends to Samaria, and we’re still living the history today The river is unleashed on the world through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Only the Holy Spirit can make the river flow.  He’s the power behind all witness – all witness.

MacArthur concludes:

So Jesus says, “‘For those of you who come to me and drink, you will not only be satisfied, but you will become a river of life to the world.’”  That happened seven and a half months later on the day of Pentecost.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit.  What an amazing invitation to say not only will you have your soul totally satisfied forever with a water that’ll cause you to never thirst again – satisfy you forever, but your life will take on eternal significance.  What an amazing invitation.  That’s why I say this is the golden invitation of the Gospel of John Rivers of water, not reserved for super saints or some kind of reservoir but, belonging to all believers all of whom become fountains that turn into rivers.  What an invitation.

May all reading this enjoy a blessed Pentecost Sunday.

Eastertide finished the day before Pentecost. Next Sunday is Trinity Sunday. After that, until the first Sunday of Advent, where vestments are worn, celebrants wear green to mark what some denominations call ‘Ordinary Time’. Others designate those Sundays as being ‘after Pentecost’ or ‘after Trinity’.

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Timothy 6:1-2

Let all who are under a yoke as slaves[a] regard their own masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.


Last week’s post discussed Paul’s instructions to Timothy on the treatment of elders, or pastors, especially in matters of church discipline and discerning their suitability to become church leaders in the first place.

Today’s post focuses on Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding slaves.

Slavery is a hot topic these days.

However, slavery in the eras of the Old and New Testaments was, in many cases, akin to regular employment, for reasons explained below.

The word ‘slave’ in Greek is ‘doulos’. However, a great number of slaves were bondservants, who were tied to their masters, often willingly.

Compelling Truth says that slaves of the Bible eras and even into the latter days of the Roman empire, in many cases, lived lives that had no comparison to slaves in the United States or the West Indies centuries ago. Many lived in what we would call working class or middle class circumstances. This is why the Bible had little to say about slavery (emphases mine):

Does this mean the Bible condoned or promoted slavery? Not necessarily. First, it is clear that the role of a bondservant was broader than views of modern slavery, which explains why some New Testament writing gave instructions for “how” to treat bondservants instead of only commanding their freedom.

In addition, Paul’s most personal letter, the letter to Philemon, offers the most direct discussion of slavery in the New Testament. When the runaway slave Onesimus became a Christian, Paul sent this letter with him to return to his master. Paul wrote, “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Philemon 1:15-16). He clearly noted that the bondservant and his owner were brothers and of equal status before God. Further, Paul told Philemon to “receive him as you would receive me” (Philemon 1:17). How would Philemon be expected to receive Paul? As a fellow believer, treated with respect. Paul indirectly suggests giving Onesimus his freedom (verse 18). Tradition records that Onesimus later became a church leader.

The bondservant was a common role in the New Testament period that ranged from slave to bonded laborer. Commands were given to Christians regarding proper treatment, with freedom recommended whenever possible (1 Corinthians 7:21). Most importantly, the image of the bondservant became one of great importance for Christians, who are called to live as bondservants of Christ Jesus.

This is what 1 Corinthians 7:21 says:

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you – although if you can gain your freedom, do so.

The Apostles, especially Paul, considered themselves bondservants of Christ. Our Lord Himself put a primary emphasis on service to others, notably when He washed the feet of the Twelve just before the Last Supper:

The New Testament also notes that Jews owned bondservants or slaves. Because bondservants existed as a known role in culture, Jesus included them as characters in His own parables (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:41-48). In contrast with the cultural view, Jesus taught that the greatest was the “servant (doulos) of all” (Mark 9:35).

In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle” (2 Peter 1:1).

The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.

John MacArthur preached a whole sermon on slavery in connection with these verses. I will go into it in more detail but let’s start with this:

Now when you go to the New Testament or the Old Testament, you have to understand this. It was a very workable system. It was a very manageable system. And when you think of slavery, don’t think of half-naked people in ratty clothes and chains dangling around their ankles. And don’t think of people who are being whipped in the back or smacked with sticks or were working seven days a week and sixteen hours a day. Think of people who are treated graciously who are a part of a family who have contracted to offer their skills and services for a period of time. And where there was an abuse, there was an abuse in the heart. And that can happen in any situation.

MacArthur says that there were abuses, especially during Roman times, but that did not mean that every slave was treated cruelly:

There were abuses in the Greco-Roman world. Particularly the Romans were abusive from time to time. They did not permit some slaves to marry ever. They had conjugal rights with women and when they gave birth to children, the children became more slaves. They in many ways treated slaves as if they were animals, having no more rights than a beast of burden. There were abuses particularly in the Roman area. There were [fewer] abuses than that typically in Palestine where slavery was a little bit more minimal. But surely there were abuses. And there are abuses of any kind of economic or social system of employment.

MacArthur also says:

Now with all that in mind you understand why, don’t you, in the Old Testament there’s no cry to end slavery. And in the New Testament there’s no cry to end slavery either because the system itself is only a system. And when good hearted people participate in it, it works fine – it works fine. There were abuses of that system. Let me tell you something, folks, we don’t have a slavery system in the United States, but we’ve got a lot of abuses in our system, too. There are a lot of unhappy employers; there are a lot of miserable workers. And I said at the very beginning, 70 percent of the people in the labor force of the United States hate their job for whatever reason. So the abuse factor is the issue; the evil heartedness is the issue. And listen carefully, that is why that when the preachers and teachers of the Old Testament went out, they went to speak a message to change the heart. And when Jesus came and the apostles and prophets went out, they spoke a message to change the heart, because it isn’t the form of the system; it is the heart. That’s the issue.

And the abuses come because the hearts aren’t right. And so what we preach is not, “Let’s overthrow the system.” What we preach is, “Let’s transform the heart.” So we’re not interested in political or economic or social revolution; we are interested in proclaiming the gospel and creating a spiritual revolution. And I believe that slavery was ultimately abolished in America as a direct result of the transformed hearts of people who were impacted in the great revivals of this nation.

There’s more to come about how slavery worked in the ancient world and why no one objected to it.

Slavery encompassed a wide ranging group from cooks to manservants to skilled workmen to accountants to property managers. Many slaves could contract short- or long-term arrangements with their masters. They also earned more money and had better working conditions than a day labourer or a soldier.

As such, this can be considered akin to our modern, Western employment arrangements.

MacArthur points out that professional athletes earning big money are also bondservants in a way:

… it’s very little different than people today who sign long-term contracts with any employer. I think about that every time I see one of these high-priced athletes sign a five-year contract. What he’s basically doing is becoming an indentured servant. What he’s doing is becoming a slave under contract in bondage to the one with whom he covenanted that contract.

In the ancient world, even outside the Roman empire, wherever one went, there were slaves.

MacArthur explains that sometimes slaves came collectively, through conquest, or individually during times of peace. People considered slavery to be a mutually beneficial arrangement for slave and master:

… in understanding the biblical teaching about slavery and masters, we need to divorce ourselves from that kind of thing which is racially discriminatory and which is, for the most part, abusive and structures itself into social stratas that are wrong and not pleasing to God at all. And we need to get a whole new understanding of the social structure of servants and masters that we find in the New Testament. So that’s what I want you to do. Put that other stuff aside and try to understand it in its proper biblical frame of reference. All right?

Now slavery in the biblical sense has its roots deep in the Old Testament, deep in the Middle East. And I want to just talk about that for a moment. Slaves were primarily domestic employees of a family. And they worked sometimes, as I said, out in the field, but for the most part they belonged to the household. They were, for example, cooks and household managers. You would have a doulos who managed your household. He was your bookkeeper. He was your inventory controller. He was the one who decided how to use your resources. And he would be one who had contracted to come into your service and in exchange for his long-term submission to you, you gave him his housing, his clothing, his food, and a proper amount of money for living expenses and personal things.

You might be interested to know that in the ancient times in the Middle East, artisans were doulos, were slaves or servants. Teachers were slaves. When you wanted someone to come and teach your children and raise them in the things of wisdom and knowledge, you would bring in a servant to do that. Not unlike early America. You remember in the colonization of America the term indentured servant. People in Europe were literally contracting to sell their services to a family over here in the New World for say seven, ten, fifteen years. They would come over based upon the fact that they were guaranteed employment. They would be cared for by the family. And when those years ran out, they would be free to then pursue their own career and their own objectives in the New World.

Now slaves in those ancient times were acquired in many different ways. One was they were the captives from conquest. In fact, the people of Israel knew what it was to be servants to conquering nations. They were servants to the Phoenicians, the Philistines, the Syrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans. And there were other nations who in being conquered by Israel were servants to them as well. In fact in ancient times, it was thought to be a very humanitarian option to conquer a people and them make them servants. In effect, that’s what the Babylonians did with Daniel and his friends. Right? And Daniel, in the role of being a servant, rose to become the prime minister of the whole Babylonian Empire and even the Medo-Persian Empire that succeeded it.

So rather than killing the enemy you conquered, you would keep them and put them in the role of serving you. That solved a lot of problems. One, it provided for you servants. Two, it provided for them their needs. Three, it brought them into your culture. And four, if it was Jewish, it brought them into the knowledge of your God and your religion and the truth of revelation. So you find an illustration of this – for example, Numbers chapter 31, Deuteronomy chapter 20, and 2 Chronicles chapter 28. All three of those show how a conquered people are brought in to serve the conqueror with a view to teaching them, to providing for them, to showing humanitarianism to them and to, in the case of Israel, exposing them to the truth of their God. So the first way that people became servants was through being captive in war.

Secondly, people were brought into this role of doulos through purchase. You could be a foreigner, for example, and you could be purchased. For example, let’s say a guy from another country comes into Israel, and he’s looking for employment. A land owner can buy his services, and he can take him in. He then sells himself to that individual. By the way, there was a death penalty, according to Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7, for kidnapping and selling a free man. But a man who was already a doulos or a slave or who sought to be, could be bought and sold, according to Leviticus 25:44 to 46.

Furthermore, a father might sell his daughter. In Exodus 21:7 and Nehemiah 5, a father can sell his daughter to work in a home. It wasn’t a bad thing or an evil thing to do. You literally contracted with someone to employ your daughter over a period of time, and your daughter went to work for that family. Not uncommonly, when she reached marriage age, she would marry the master of the house or one of the sons of the master of the house. And so in that sense it was a very good thing for both families.

A widow, according to 2 Kings 4:1, might sell her children into the employment of someone in order to pay off her husband’s debts which he being dead could no longer pay. And in Leviticus 25:39 and following and Deuteronomy 15:12 to 17, people sold themselves into employment. Literally went and contracted for their services with someone and became slaves in that sense. Children were also sold under conditional contracts, according to Exodus 21. A very interesting case in Nehemiah 5, the first part of the chapter, apparently a father had used his children as collateral for a loan. And when he defaulted on the loan, he had to put his children into service in order to pay back what he had borrowed.

So self-sale was not uncommon. And people could employ people who were willing to be bought, and there were people whom one owner would sell to another owner. There were people who desired to serve life-long with a master, and there were people who desired to serve short time. And there was within the slavery system the ability to contract and negotiate whatever it was that you both agreed on. According to Leviticus 25, interestingly enough, the Old Testament said fifty years is maximum for any service – 50 years. That’s for any non-Jew, any of the Gentile people that came into service, 50-year limit. For a Jew, get this, 6 years. And the reason, I think, is very obvious. When a Gentile come into the service of a Jew, he was exposed to all the truth of God, and so God wanted them to remain there as long as possible and so made the 50-year limit. It could be negotiated shorter than that, but that would be the limit. For a Jew, it was only six years. And that way the Jew had less time forced upon him, perhaps, in any individual or given contract situation. By the way, you can find that in Exodus 21:2 to 4 and Deuteronomy 15:12, the limit of six years was set upon a Jew.

Now another way that people went into slavery was through debt. If you incurred a debt you couldn’t pay back, you might have to go to work for someone to work off the debt. And you became the slave until the debt was eliminated. A thief, for example, a thief who could not pay what he had taken was placed into slavery to the one he had robbed, or the court would put him in slavery with someone else, and he would work off all that he needed to work off, or he would earn enough in his work to give back to someone that he had stolen from. Some slaves were received as gifts. In Genesis chapter 29, Leah received her slave, Zilpah, as a gift. Her personal attendant, this other young lady, was given her as a gift.

And then non-Hebrew slaves were passed on from generation to generation within a family so that you could actually inherit a slave or a servant, according to Leviticus 25:46. There was the more prolonged contract for those who were the original inhabitants of Canaan rather than the short six years for the Jews. And then you could be born into that situation if your parents were under contract as slaves to someone. So you get a little picture. There were a lot of people who were moving in and out of this kind of relationship in the society of the Middle East.

Slaves had many rights, at least in the Jewish world. Some also loved their masters so much they pledged their service for life:

In fact, they were so concerned about the legal rights of those who were the working force that the Old Testament is loaded with the rights and privileges of those who were slaves. Exodus 21, Leviticus 25, Deuteronomy 15 are good starting points to understand this. But let me just give you a brief review.

First of all, they could not as Jews be more than six years in bondage to any one master. They could renew their contract as long as they wanted, or they could say I want to serve him for life, and they would lean him against a door post and punch a hole in their ear and hang an earring or something in there so they would be for life identified as a willing servant of the one whom they had taken for their master. So if they were under contract to a master, that master had to take care of their housing, had to take care of their food, had to take care of their clothing, had to pay them on top of that, had to support their wife and all their children. That was necessary.

Now if the man came to the end of his six years and wanted to leave, he could take his wife and all of his kids. The guy would lose a lot of workers. Unless he had come into his service single and married someone who was already in service to that family, he couldn’t just marry the person and then at the end of his time take them all out. Obviously if that was permitted, people who wanted out of their contracts would find somebody to marry them, break the contract, and that wouldn’t work at all. So you couldn’t take one with you unless you brought her in or unless her time was up also. She was to remain and you had to leave alone if her time was not up.

Furthermore, they had tremendous religious rights within the covenant of Israel, even Gentiles once they identified as servants of a Jewish household had to go under certain vows and they were allowed to enjoy the sabbath rest just like the rest of the people and to enjoy the Passover as well. They had civil rights. If they were injured, they were immediately to be freed. If you poked their eye out or if you broke a tooth or any kind of bodily harm to a slave, they were free – any cruelty, any premeditated injury. If you premeditated the murder of a slave, you were sentenced to the death penalty. So they had rights and they had privileges. They had social rights. They could marry. They could have as many children as they could have and they could have a lot. And when they left they could all go free. And while they stayed the house owner had to support them all.

They had economic rights. They could acquire property and slaves could also have slaves. So you had an enterprising slave who subcontracted to his own slaves the duties that he himself didn’t want to do or whatever. They were given protective rights. Foreign slaves coming and seeking asylum in Israel, according to Deuteronomy 23:15 and 16, were given asylum and protection. The state of Israel even hired state slaves which would be like civil service employees, according to Joshua 16:10 and Judges 1:28, and hundreds of them manned the duties of the temple. They were supported by the state of Israel.

Now in general then, these were household domestic people. They were really members of the family. In fact in Exodus 20:17 they are grouped with women and children. They were as much a part of the family as the women and the children. And as the father, the head of the family, cared for the women and the children, he would also care for the servants or the slaves. They were to be treated with the same love and the same kindness. By the way, Paul says in Galatians 4:1 that a child was no better than a slave. They had rights; they had privileges. And they enjoyed a very good life, for the most part

So nowhere in the Old Testament and nowhere in the New Testament does it say that slaves are to leave their masters and masters are to release their slaves …  That’s not even an issue. If attitudes are right, that’s what matters.

There was one job a master could not ask of a Jewish slave — washing feet:

… if you had a Jewish slave, he was never to be asked to do the most disreputable task which was washing feet, because that would be publicly branding him as a slave, and it was important to protect his dignity. So they would invariably find a Gentile to do the foot washing. That’s what makes the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus such a remarkable act of humility. It was more than a Jew would ever be asked to do in the most abject humility.

MacArthur has more on what was, by and large, a good life:

By law, on the other hand, the slave was equal to the oldest son in the family and he had a right to the same treatment that the master gave his oldest son. He had a right to good clothes, good food, a good place at the table with the family, and a good bed. He could acquire possessions. He could buy things. He could find things and keep things. He could receive gifts, and he could shorten his time of service by making payments. He could marry and his master had to take care of his whole family. The six-year rule still prevailed. He could stay or leave for a better opportunity at the end of the six years. That’s a very reasonable rule. I imagine every employer would like, if he finds a good employee, to sign him up for that length of time so he doesn’t have to worry about turn over. But it also gave an out if the situation wasn’t all that it ought to be.

In fact, Jewish slaves were so protected that an old Jewish saying was, “Whoever buys a Jewish slave, buys himself a master.” They had it good. And all glimpses of slaves in the gospel record of the New Testament are in a positive light and they show a high level of respect and treatment. In fact, the centurion was burdened and wanted Jesus to heal his slave, because he was dear to his heart.

Slaves in Palestine were even paid their full wage up front:

Palestine also had many Gentile slaves. Some of them were certainly abused, as perhaps some of the Jewish ones were. But the average slave cost about two thousand times the daily wage – two thousand times the daily wage. They were expensive. And when you brought one in for six years, you gave him the money for the full six years up front. At the signing of the contract he was completely compensated. Now in general the treatment was so good that people sought this rather than being a day laborer.

Roman slaves were also treated rather well:

Turning with me for a moment to the Greco-Roman world where Paul is writing to Ephesus, what kind of situation was there? We’ve seen the Old Testament, the Middle East and Palestine, but what about Ephesus and other places? It was very much the same. In the third century B.C., slavery was very bad, very abusive. But from the third to the first century, most historians believe there was a humanitarian movement in the Roman world. And by the time you come to the first century, there is a very much better treatment of slaves than in the second and third century before Christ. The Romans were freeing them all the time and most historians believe there was a great freedom movement generated by the Roman government at the time of Christ. For example, as early as from 81 to 49 B.C., before Christ, the record shows, this is a study by a man named Tenney Frank, titled “Economic Survey of Ancient Rome.” The study shows that there were released in the city of Rome in that 30-year period 500,000 slaves and the population of Rome is estimated at 870,000 people. That’s a large number of slaves being released. In a three-year period, 46 to 44 B.C., Caesar is supposed to have sent out 80,000 poor people and slaves to colonize other parts of the Roman Empire. They also freed slaves because every time you freed a slave there was a five percent value tax that the guy who freed the slave had to pay, and so the more slaves were freed, the more money came into the government coffers, and so that helped them decide to do that, too.

But there doesn’t seem to be the abuse. You go a little earlier than that and you see these people who were abused in their roles of slaves. Now let’s say this for sure. There were some abuses, as there are today in the United States, some employment abuses. That’s obvious because men are sinful. But the slaves in the Roman Empire were for the most part better off than their free man counterparts. I’ll give you an idea why. The typical scene is again portrayed by Tenney Frank in his survey, “Economic Survey of Ancient Rome.” And this is kind of the scenario he paints. The free man who just sold himself to whoever to do whatever work could be done was paid one denarius a day. Okay? One denarius a day. Compare that say with the soldiers of Julius Caesar. The archeological records say they were paid 225 denarii a year, which would be less than one a day but they were given all their food, all their shelter, all their booty, and Caesar Augustus gave them a 3,000 denarii bonus on the twentieth year of their service. One of Caesar’s scribes received one denarius a day. So just a day laborer, a soldier would be around one denarius a day.

Diocletian, in fact, set the wages at one half to one denarius. And let’s assume that a free man worked six days a week. Okay? I’m painting a little picture. He works six days a week at one denarius a day, he’s going to get 330 denarii a year. A hundred and eighty four of that would go for his food. They have figured that out. Five to ten of it would go for clothing, and that would be very poor, very ragged clothing. Ninety denarii at least would go for his room, that adds to 279 and leaves him about 35 denarii left for everything else for a full year.

Compare that, for example, with a slave. He received all his food and the best of food that the house had to offer. And the house would have had to have some decent food or it couldn’t have employed domestic servants. The best of clothing, the best of places to stay, and it is estimated that most of the slaves of ancient times stayed on the top floor of the house, inside the house. And they would have received their housing, their clothing, their food plus 60 denarii a year spending money, which is double what the other man who is a free man would have had if indeed he had worked every day through the year. So it was to his advantage if he could find somebody that would take him on, to say nothing of the fact that he would then have to feed, clothe all his family. Whereas the day laborer would have to feed, clothe himself and all his family on those wages. So you can see the benefit was really in behalf of the man who could find a way to contract himself to work as a slave.

Now on to today’s verses.

MacArthur explains why Paul would have written guidance for slaves:

Now remember, Timothy is in Ephesus. Right? Paul has come out of his imprisonment. In the time that he has been away, the Ephesian church has really fallen on hard times. It has declined tragically. Paul was its founder. Paul was its original pastor. Paul is the one who ordained and trained the original elders. The church had all the best beginnings. It was used to found other churches in Asia Minor – modern Turkey. It was a tremendously blessed and powerful church. But by now the leadership has [become] corrupted. The people have bought into ungodly behavior. All kinds of tragic things are happening. It has filtered down to the life style of the people so that in the work place they are denying and blaspheming the testimony of God. And it is to that issue that Paul encourages Timothy to speak.

Let me give you the simple picture here. In verse 1 we have the relationship between an employee and a non-Christian employer. In verse 2, the relationship between an employee and a Christian employer.

Paul says that all under the yoke of slavery should regard their masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that, even with employers who fall short are still worthy of our respect, otherwise we do God — and Christ — a disservice and we are no better than unbelievers. In fact, we might be worse than unbelievers:

They must respect their masters, count them worthy of all honour (because they are their masters), of all the respect, observance, compliance, and obedience, that are justly expected from servants to their masters. Not that they were to think that of them which they were not; but as their masters they must count them worthy of all that honour which was fit for them to receive, that the name of God be not blasphemed. If servants that embraced the Christian religion should grow insolent and disobedient to their masters, the doctrine of Christ would be reflected on for their sakes, as if it had made men worse livers than they had been before they received the gospel. Observe, If the professors of religion misbehave themselves, the name of God and his doctrine are in danger of being blasphemed by those who seek occasion to speak evil of that worthy name by which we are called. And this is a good reason why we should all conduct ourselves well, that we may prevent the occasion which many seek, and will be very apt to lay hold of, to speak ill of religion for our sakes … for Jesus Christ did not come to dissolve the bond of civil relation, but to strengthen it

Paul says that those with believing masters must not be disrespectful because they are brothers in a spiritual sense; as such, the servant should be that much better, doing so in love, because of his superior’s Christian faith, therefore, Timothy should teach and urge these things (verse 2).

Henry tells us:

They must think themselves the more obliged to serve them because the faith and love that bespeak men Christians oblige them to do good; and that is all wherein their service consists. Observe, It is a great encouragement to us in doing our duty to our relations if we have reason to think they are faithful and beloved, and partakers of the benefit, that is, of the benefit of Christianity. Again, Believing masters and servants are brethren, and partakers of the benefit; for in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, Gal 3 28. Timothy is appointed to teach and exhort these things. Ministers must preach not only the general duties of all, but the duties of particular relations.

So what does this mean for us, we who are in an employer-employee relationship?

Interestingly, MacArthur preached these two sermons in 1987, at a time when some Americans began to become disgruntled with the daily grind. Nearly 40 years later, the same negative attitudes persist. Admittedly, I will be the first to say what a blessing retirement is, and I understand the sentiment fully.

MacArthur brings these verses into a present-day context:

Not uncommon even today. A Christian who is working under a non-Christian tends to feel superior. In fact, even intolerantly superior, even belligerently superior. And after all, he’s headed for hell and you’re headed for heaven. After all you’re elect and he’s non-elect. And you’re going to make sure you try to keep it that way. And it’s very easy for a person who is spiritually blessed to feel himself superior to a person who is spiritually bankrupt. And his attitude of superiority begins to project itself in the way he responds to and the way he lacks respect for and the way he serves or does not serve his employer. It’s easy for that resentment to build up and if the guy does things you don’t like, says things you don’t like and you just don’t get along very well, that tendency toward a feeling of superiority is compounded.

I read recently about some company that was putting on some kind of health preparedness course and was taking systematically all their workers through all different kinds of diseases in order to help them to recognize them so they didn’t bring some infectious disease into the work place. It was a large area with a lot of people in close contact. And the instructor was asking one person, “What’s the first thing you’d do if you found you had rabies?” Without hesitating the employee responded, “I’d bite my boss.” And I think there are a lot of employees who can really relate to that sentiment. That’s just really how it is out there. As Christians we can be irritated by the unbeliever who doesn’t understand us, who doesn’t understand our ethics, who doesn’t understand equity, who doesn’t understand compassion or all of the spiritual things that we understand. And we become, by being a problem to him, a discredit to Christ, because if we are a problem to him, then the only Christ he may see is us and Christ becomes a problem to him.

On the other hand, let’s assume that a Christian employee works for a Christian employer. You say, “Boy, I wish I had a Christian boss. Boy, wouldn’t that be paradise? Wouldn’t that be perfect if I just had a Christian employer?” But there’s a tension there as well. The attitude of a Christian employee who is sinful and fleshy and expressing a belligerent or disobedient spirit may come out in the sense that he feels equal to his employer and so he overrides the normal channels of authority. In other words, because my boss is a Christian and I’m a Christian, I’m privileged. As one employee said to me recently, “I don’t go with any of that protocol stuff. You know, I know the boss and he and I are close because we’re Christians. I go right to him and bypass everybody else.”

Well, your privilege, sir, is probably a serious discredit to the cause of Christ. Right? Because all the rest of the people who can’t do that resent you because of your openness and the inability that they have to enjoy that same thing. You can feel privileged over all the rest because you have this commonality in Christ. You could even feel that that’s an excuse for poor work and after all, you’re a brother in Christ. The worst he can do is come and give you step one discipline, and you’ve still got two to go. And if you repent on the first shot, you’re in.

You might even think to yourself, “That because we’re equal in Christ and because the Spirit dwells in me, I ought to tell him how he ought to run this company. The Holy Spirit’s been talking to me lately and giving me all the input.” Or you might even feel that you could get away with inadequate service without any negative consequence, or you might even feel that you can let your break time and your lunch time leak a little, because you’re studying the Bible, or even better yet listening to Grace to You, and it happen to go on a little past the end of your break time.

I mean, you understand the picture. Don’t you? I mean, let’s face it, in our sinfulness, working for an unsaved employer can create problems for us – an intolerant superiority. But listen, having a Christian employer isn’t going to necessarily change that, or a Christian boss or supervisor or manager, because there’s still going to be a tension there for us to assume that in Christ we have just destroyed all normal social order, and that’s not true.

That is what was happening in Ephesus:

Their ungodliness, their lack of eusebeia – uses that word a lot of times in these epistles – their lack of godliness, their lack of holiness, their lack of understanding correct doctrine, their lack of having been taught properly had filtered all the way down so that they were not conducting themselves right before their non-Christian or their Christian employers. And so consequently in these brief two verses the Apostle Paul sums up the basics of attitudes necessary for a conscientious Christian employee.

Today, in England, we have an estimated 5 million people out of work and on benefit. Supposedly, our population is 60 million, so that is a noticeable percentage of people being idle. Many of them got used to the pandemic furlough and realised they can get by on less, hence benefits.

We also have had endless strikes over the past year.

MacArthur takes issue with that, too:

As soon as you perceive your employment as self-serving, then you will fight against everything you do – everything you do will be self-serving, self-indulgence. That’s why people strike all the time. They don’t care about the employment situation from the viewpoint of the employer. They don’t certainly care about the attitude they project very often. All they care about is the demands that they have for themselves. Now there are times when inequities do occur and equity can be brought out even from the negative thing of a strike or whatever. But it does for the most part demonstrate the selfishness and the self-gratification mode in which most people work.

MacArthur reminds us of our obligation to work for a living — for the benefit of others:

You are called into your employment. And there you are called to serve men. You’re not called to serve yourself. Boy, we have lost that, as I said earlier. We think we have a job for one reason and that’s to make money to do what we want for our own selves. But the biblical approach to work would say, “No, we have a job on the human level to serve someone else. That my employment is my way of lovingly serving another person for the common good.”

God called us to work. Even when Adam and Eve were still in the Garden of Eden, God wanted Adam to work:

Just to set your thinking a little bit, in Genesis chapter 2 we read this in verse 15, “And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.” The Fall of man didn’t come until chapter 3. In chapter 2, God designed man to work. Man was created to be a worker. He was created to work. Work is not part of the curse, sweat is part of the curse. It is the intensity of work necessary to earn the bread that implies the curse, but work is a blessing. Man was created to work.

In conclusion:

Your job is where God has placed you. That’s His will. Do it from your heart and do it unto Him. You’re serving men but in serving them best you serve God.

You always have to have that perspective. We’re advancing the kingdom. I’m here not to fulfill my own desires, not to make money, to indulge myself, not to get a bigger car, bigger house, bigger boat, more money, more savings, more security, whatever it is. My task in life is to serve the advance of the kingdom of God. So on my job I don’t lose my testimony in trying to get a raise, because my objective in life is not more money. My objective in life is to advance the kingdom of God so under no conditions would I ever lose my testimony. Right? …

Let me tell you something. When you go to receive your reward in glory, you will be rewarded not just for what you did at the church. I don’t think people understand thatthe Lord will reward you on the basis of how you perform that job within His will, because that is your calling and there’s no such thing as a secular job. That’s a sacred service offered to God. Your eternal reward will be related to your attitude and performance on your job. Does that frighten you? You say, “There go a few crowns.” I can understand that.

… You think you have to fill out job performance things for your boss, wait till you get to heaven. God is keeping account of your job performance. As I said at the very beginning, this is the most crucial arena in the world for Christianity to be lived out

You are serving others but only insofar as you’re serving God. It would be fair, I believe, and the Puritans used to do this, to begin to call your job your calling. And to begin to see your calling as your ministry. And to begin to approach it as the arena in which God has placed you for the advancement of His eternal kingdom and glory. Got that? Boy, that ought to give you a whole new shot when you hit the bricks tomorrow. It’s a whole different approach and I believe – I believe, beloved, with all my heart that if we began to live godly lives and work with an attitude and a diligence that the Lord is asking of us here, that we would begin to see a harvest of salvation among the people around us, because this is where Christianity becomes believable. How wonderful would be the benefit, and then in eternity that which the Lord has deemed to give to those faithful servants by way of reward, which we could enjoy cast back at His pierced feet, who has Himself by His Spirit energized any and every good thing we have ever done.

Wow. This is a message to be spread far and wide.

Paul goes on to discuss the false teachers in Ephesus one final time in 1 Timothy.

Next time — 1 Timothy 6:3-5

Ascension Day is Thursday, May 18, 2023.

Readings can be found here.

I also have exegeses on the First Reading and the Gospel.

The painting of the Ascension is by Francisco Camilo (1610-1671).

The Epistle is as follows (emphases mine):

Ephesians 1:15-23

1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,

1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,

1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

The preceding verses in Ephesians 1 are as follows:

Praise for spiritual blessings in Christ

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

Paul says that he has heard of the Ephesians’ faith in Christ and love for their fellow saints and, for this reason (verse 15), he incessantly gives thanks for them as he remembers them in his prayers (verse 16).

John MacArthur explains ‘for this reason’ in verse 15:

What is the reason? The reason is because of the incomparable blessings of Christ listed from verses 3 through 14. Now if you weren’t here when we went through that, you can download the messages. It’s beyond comprehension how rich the blessings and the promises are in Christ that have been granted to every true believer—on the basis that we have, as verse 3 says, been “blessed . . . with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” On the basis that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” On the basis that He chose us “that we would” one day eternally “be holy and blameless before Him” because “in love He predestined us to adoption as sons”; because, in verse 7, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses”; because “in all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose,” verse 10, of “summing up everything in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” That is, He’s even given us the end of history—it all resolves in Christ because, verse 11, “we have obtained an inheritance,” to which we were “predestined according to His [divine] purpose,” because “having believed,” verse 13, we “were sealed . . . with the Holy Spirit of promise.” And nothing can ever alter that future fulfillment, because, because—because of all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that Paul continues to pray for the Ephesians because of those blessings and that inheritance:

Faith in Christ, and love to the saints, will be attended with all other graces. Love to the saints, as such, and because they are such, must include love to God. Those who love saints, as such, love all saints, how weak in grace, how mean in the world, how fretful and peevish soever, some of them may be. Another inducement to pray for them was because they had received the earnest of the inheritance: this we may observe from the words being connected with the preceding ones by the particle wherefore. “Perhaps you will think that, having received the earnest, it should follow, therefore you are happy enough, and need take no further care: you need not pray for yourselves, nor I for you.” No, quite the contrary. Wherefore—I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, v. 16.

Paul tells them what he is praying for: that God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father of glory, may give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation as they come to know him (verse 17).

Henry’s analysis of this verse is superb. In his era, ‘experimental’ and ‘experimentally’ meant ‘experienced’ and ‘experientially’:

Observe, Even the best of Christians need to be prayed for: and, while we hear well of our Christian friends, we should think ourselves obliged to intercede with God for them, that they may abound and increase yet more and more. Now what is it that Paul prays for in behalf of the Ephesians? Not that they might be freed from persecution; nor that they might possess the riches, honours, or pleasures of the world; but the great thing he prays for is the illumination of their understandings, and that their knowledge might increase and abound: he means it of a practical and experimental knowledge. The graces and comforts of the Spirit are communicated to the soul by the enlightening of the understanding. In this way he gains and keeps possession. Satan takes a contrary way: he gets possession by the senses and passions, Christ by the understanding. Observe,

I. Whence this knowledge must come from the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, v. 17. The Lord is a God of knowledge, and there is no sound saving knowledge but what comes from him; and therefore to him we must look for it, who is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ (see v. 3) and the Father of glory. It is a Hebraism. God is infinitely glorious in himself all glory is due to him from his creatures, and he is the author of all that glory with which his saints are or shall be invested. Now he gives knowledge by giving the Spirit of knowledge; for the Spirit of God is the teacher of the saints, the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. We have the revelation of the Spirit in the word: but will that avail us, if we have not the wisdom of the Spirit in the heart? If the same Spirit who indited the sacred scriptures do not take the veil from off our hearts, and enable us to understand and improve them, we shall be never the better.—In the knowledge of him, or for the acknowledgment of him; not only a speculative knowledge of Christ, and of what relates to him, but an acknowledgment of Christ’s authority by an obedient conformity to him, which must be by the help of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.

That is Paul’s prayer in order that the Ephesians, with the eyes of their hearts enlightened, may know the hope to which our Lord calls them and know the riches of His glorious inheritance among the saints (verse 18).

Henry continues:

This knowledge is first in the understanding. He prays that the eyes of their understanding may be enlightened, v. 18. Observe, Those who have their eyes opened, and have some understanding in the things of God, have need to be more and more enlightened, and to have their knowledge more clear, and distinct, and experimental. Christians should not think it enough to have warm affections, but they should labour to have clear understandings; they should be ambitious of being knowing Christians, and judicious Christians.

II. What it is that he more particularly desire they should grow in the knowledge of. 1. The hope of his calling, v. 18. Christianity is our calling. God has called us to it, and on that account it is said to be his calling. There is a hope in this calling; for those who deal with God deal upon trust. And it is a desirable thing to know what this hope of our calling is, to have such an acquaintance with the immense privileges of God’s people, and the expectations they have from God, and with respect to the heavenly world, as to be quickened thereby to the utmost diligence and patience in the Christian course. We ought to labour after, and pray earnestly for, a clearer insight into, and a fuller acquaintance with, the great objects of a Christian’s hopes. 2. The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Besides the heavenly inheritance prepared for the saints, there is a present inheritance in the saints; for grace is glory begun, and holiness is happiness in the bud. There is a glory in this inheritance, riches of glory, rendering the Christian more excellent and more truly honourable than all about him: and it is desirable to know this experimentally, to be acquainted with the principles, pleasures, and powers, of the spiritual and divine life. It may be understood of the glorious inheritance in or among the saints in heaven, where God does, as it were, lay forth all his riches, to make them happy and glorious, and where all that the saints are in possession of is transcendently glorious, as the knowledge that can be attained of this upon earth is very desirable, and must be exceedingly entertaining and delightful. Let us endeavour then, by reading, contemplation, and prayer, to know as much of heaven as we can, that we may be desiring and longing to be there.

MacArthur says:

Human wisdom is infantile compared to divine wisdom …

Think like a Christian. Think like Christ. Think biblically. Don’t be kidnapped by lies.

He gave these sermons in 2021 and gives examples of the lies we were hearing at the time:

In the United States 99.9 percent of the population survives COVID; that’s a fact. You can’t mesh that up with the behavior they’re requiring. How about this one: “Get vaccinated.” And you’re saying to yourself, “Well, let’s see, they lied about Russia. The FBI lies. CIA lies. The National Health Organization lies. The World Health Organization lies. The CDC lies. The director of all of this lies, because he says something different every time he opens his mouth. The politicians lie. They lied about an incident in Chicago. They’re just lies and lies and lies and lies and lies.” And then they say to you, “Be vaccinated; it’s good for you.” I know why people aren’t getting vaccinated—because people don’t believe they’re being told the truth. It’s simple. It’s just the old Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried, “Wolf, wolf, wolf, wolf,” there never was a wolf. And when there was a wolf, nobody showed up.

You can’t keep lying and then expect people to believe you. You have to think critically and thoughtfully and carefully. You have to realize, CDC reports death rate from the normal flu last year was 99 percent lower. Oh, really. What happened to the flu? Where did it go? It went into the COVID statistic.

Paul also desires that the Ephesians know the immeasurable power of His greatness for those who believe, according to the working of His great power (verse 19).

Henry explains by way of discussing conversion:

The practical belief of the all-sufficiency of God, and of the omnipotence of divine grace, is absolutely necessary to a close and steady walking with him. It is a desirable thing to know experimentally the mighty power of that grace beginning and carrying on the work of faith in our souls. It is a difficult thing to bring a soul to believe in Christ, and to venture its all upon his righteousness, and upon the hope of eternal life. It is nothing less than an almighty power that will work this in us.

Paul says that God put this power to work in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (verse 20). There Paul speaks of the Resurrection and the Ascension.

Henry says:

That indeed was the great proof of the truth of the gospel to the world: but the transcript of that in ourselves (our sanctification, and rising from the death of sin, in conformity to Christ’s resurrection) is the great proof to us. Though this cannot prove the truth of the gospel to another who knows nothing of the matter (there the resurrection of Christ is the proof), yet to be able to speak experimentally, as the Samaritans, “We have heard him ourselves, we have felt a mighty change in our hearts,” will make us able to say, with the fullest satisfaction, Now we believe, and are sure, that this is the Christ, the Son of God. Many understand the apostle here as speaking of that exceeding greatness of power which God will exert for raising the bodies of believers to eternal life, even the same mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him, etc. And how desirable a thing must it be to become at length acquainted with that power, by being raised out of the grave thereby unto eternal life!

MacArthur says:

You not only understand the greatness of His plan, but you understand the “greatness of His power,” power “in accordance with the working of the strength of His might.” There are four words here that describe His power: the word “power,” the word “working,” the word “strength,” and the word “might.” He has the power. He has the energy, energeia, His “working.” He has the strength. He has the might.

This is the good news. He not only has a plan, He has the power to execute that plan. How do we know that? How do we know He can get us out of this world to glory? How do we know that it can come to pass? Answer, verse 20—He put all of His power on display in Christ “when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” If He did it for Christ, He can do it for you. The resurrection of Christ and the ascension of Christ demonstrates the power of God to bring you through death out the other side into His presence, even as He did for His own beloved Son. He has a plan, and He has the power to execute that plan.

Paul continues, saying that Christ is far above any earthly power and dominion, and above every name, not only now but in the age to come (verse 21).

MacArthur explains:

You say, “Well maybe somebody might come along and thwart that plan. What about the devil? Can the devil come along and stop the plan?” And that leads us to the third point: The greatness of His plan, the greatness of His power, the greatness of His person. This is critical. Nobody is going to thwart that plan. Why? Verse 21, because Christ is “far above all.” Notice that—“Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” For now and as long as time exists, even on into the millennial kingdom to come, He far exceeds all rule, all authority, all power, all dominion, possessed by any persons. That’s what it means, those people who are named—these are persons.

There is no person who has the power, and there’s no person, secondly, who has the authority. No one can usurp His authority. All persons are subject to Him now and into the future.

With unsurpassed excellence and authority, Christ has put all things under His feet and has made Himself the head over all things for the Church (verse 22).

MacArthur reiterates the message:

Verse 22, all things are subject to Him, “He put all things in subjection under His feet.” There is no person, there is no thing. Sounds like Romans 8, doesn’t it? What’s going to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?—and Paul lays out a litany of things. No—no persons, no things.

He has a plan, He has the power to execute that plan, and He is the person who is the absolute Sovereign—and that is summed up in verse 22: He has “put all things . . . under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things.” This is amazing. Another way to say that is, “He gave them a name above every name, and the name is Lord.”

Paul ends the chapter by saying that the Church is His body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (verse 23).

MacArthur says that there is no intermediary between the Church and Christ. He is the head and He gives us everything of Himself:

… isn’t it amazing that the One who is head over all things, God gave to the church as the head. He didn’t give us angels, He didn’t give us a committee of godly men; He gave us the head of the universe as head of the church. And we are His body; and as “His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” This is just overwhelming.

He lives in us. The one who has the universal, eternal, redemptive plan has the power to execute that plan, and is the person superior to all other persons and all other things; the One who is head over all things, ruler over everything, is ruler in His church. And not only does He rule His church, but He lives in His church. We are His body, and He fills us with His fullness. There’s so much doctrine and so much theology in this. This is the message we need to preach: It’s about Jesus Christ, who is absolutely everything, and the only hope of salvation and the only deliverance from judgment.

MacArthur is convinced we are under divine judgement in the West. That means there is nothing we can do except to become better Christians:

The folly of all follies in a situation like this is to think there’s anything you can do in the human realm to stop the divine judgment of God. That’s not possible. This is God judging, and He laid it out in detail. We are under judgment at a severe level, the most severe level revealed in Scripture, short of final, global judgment yet to come in the end of the age, and eternal judgment in hell. What is wrong in this country is not fixable; this is God bringing judgment. The good news is that He protects His people in the judgment, that His cover is over us. We are in the shelter of His protection. We are saved from the wrath to come, and we are protected in the current judgment.

But I just want you to understand that the church has one great responsibility in the midst of this judgment. It’s not to try to fix what’s wrong in society. That same chapter, Romans 1, gives us our mandate. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel [of Christ], for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew and the Gentile.” Our responsibility is to preach the gospel—not to be ashamed of the gospel but to preach the gospel, which is the only answer. The only hope is Christ, and the only appropriate response to Christ is to embrace Him as Lord and Savior, and to embrace His glorious gospel.

I guess what I’m saying to you is don’t expect it to get better. But it raises the stakes for what we as believers in the world are called to do. And while so many churches, so many churches, ranging from the liberal churches to the even evangelical churches, are caught up in trying to fix what’s wrong in the world—everything is a result of judgment, even the racial hostility, the insanity of teaching people to hate and living on vengeance and revenge. All of these kinds of things are part and parcel of what happens to a culture when God lets them go. They go to an insanity where nothing makes sense. That’s where we are.

For us, we know the truth because we have the mind of Christ in the Word of God. And our responsibility is not somehow to figure out how to fix the world, but how to proclaim the gospel that can deliver people from the world, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The church needs to focus on the person of Christ; and sadly it’s all over the place on social issues, which cannot be fixed, first of all, because people are sinful. And what’s wrong in the world, in society, is a reflection of sin. And secondly, because that sin is compounded when God removes normal, divine restraint, and it becomes a judgment. So the judgment is that sinners get what they want, and it gets worse and worse and worse.

The church has one calling in the midst of this, and that is to be the church. It should dawn on people about now, if it hasn’t already, that for the church to reach the world it can’t keep trying to be like the world. It amazes me that you have the world cultivating hate and trying to put it in elementary schools and all of that. And then you have evangelical churches feeling like they need to adapt to the issues of the world and filling churches with the same kind of deceptive ideologies. And all it does is rip and shred and tear. You have to see those things for what they are. They’re not fixable; they’re a reflection of fallen sinfulness, a reflection of a nation that has abandoned God, and a reflection of divine judgment itself.

So what do we do in a time like this? Well we have very clear calling, as I said, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church needs to become Christ-centered. For the church to reach the world, it has to stop trying to be like the world, because why would you want to identify with a society under judgment? Understand that what’s going wrong in our society is divine judgment. We have to be the church. We have to be the haven; we have to be the eye of the hurricane; we have to be the safe place. We have to be the place where Christ is exalted and the Word of God is proclaimed, truth is known and believed and lived and taught. We have the mind of Christ, and it’s in the pages of Scripture.

Pentecost Sunday, the Church’s birthday, will be with us in ten days’ time. Paul’s words give us much to contemplate between now and then.

Bible croppedThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Timothy 5:17-25

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain”, and, “The labourer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 24 The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgement, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.


Last week’s post discussed Paul’s instructions to Timothy about the roles of older and younger widows.

In today’s verses, Paul turns his attention to pastors, or elders. These days ‘elder’ normally refers to a layman who assists in pastoral care and teaching, possibly preaching. However, most of Paul’s context for ‘elder’ here seems to refer to the head of an individual church.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains (emphases mine):

Observe, The presbytery ruled, and the same that ruled were those who laboured in the word and doctrine: they had not one to preach to them and another to rule them, but the work was done by one and the same person. Some have imagined that by the elders that rule well the apostle means lay-elders, who were employed in ruling but not in teaching, who were concerned in church-government, but did not meddle with the administration of the word and sacraments; and I confess this is the plainest text of scripture that can be found to countenance such an opinion. But it seem a little strange that mere ruling elders should be accounted worthy of double honour, when the apostle preferred preaching to baptizing, and much more would he prefer it to ruling the church; and it is more strange that the apostle should take no notice of them when he treats of church-officers; but, as it is hinted before, they had not, in the primitive church, one to preach to them and another to rule them, but ruling and teaching were performed by the same persons, only some might labour more in the word and doctrine than others.

John MacArthur tells us why these verses are so important in the Church today. He preached all three of the sermons cited here in 1987, by the way:

Our Lord Jesus only founded one organization while He was here on earth and that was His church. That is the only organization, organism, institution the Lord Jesus founded and the only one He promised to bless. He said, “I will build My church.” It is His church that is the fullness of His plan for this world. The church designed by God and initiated by the Spirit of God, made possible by the work of Christ, is designed to be the channel of the saving gospel to the world. In a sense, the church has replaced Israel. God called out the nation Israel in order to be a peculiar people, a people of His own who would be the channel of saving truth to the rest of the world. As you know, Israel was unfaithful, Israel became apostate, the channel was blocked, and God carved out a new channel so the river of salvation could continue to flow to the world and that new channel is the church. We are called by God then not to receive but to channel the truth through us to a waiting world.

The church by design is to have a purity and a power that can penetrate the kingdom of darkness and take men and women captive to the kingdom of light. The church is to be the living body of Christ, the visible form of Christ in the world to reveal His attractive glory and thus draw men to Himself. The church is to be the perfect model and example of godly virtue in the face of an ungodly world in order to draw men out of their sin unto His righteousness.

… The church’s ability then to be this, the church’s ability to establish a pure powerful testimony to radiate Christ’s glory, to manifest godly modeling and patterning of virtue is largely dependent on one crucial area, and that is the area of leadership. No church really rises higher than its leadership. As Hosea put it, “Like people, like priest.” The character of the people of God is in great measure dependent on the character of those who lead them …

Tragically, the church has seen much of the same thing happen in its midst that Israel saw as well. There has been a defection among leaders from the biblical pattern and the biblical standard and the biblical perspective and the biblical role and function of leadership. And I believe the issue facing the church today really most significantly is an issue of leadership. And as the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy here and calls for the restoration of a biblical eldership, I think he speaks to us a message desperately needed by the church today

It wasn’t any different in Timothy’s day. He had been left in Ephesus to set in order the things that were wrong in the church at Ephesus, a church where Paul had ministered so wonderfully for three years, a church he himself had founded, a church with great foundations which had drifted away, the leadership of which had become corrupt. And this church at Ephesus, where Timothy is when Paul writes, was also desperately in need of restoring a biblical pastorate or a biblical eldership, as the church today is in need of the same.

Paul tells Timothy that the elders — the pastors — who rule well should be considered worthy of double honour, especially if they labour in preaching and in teaching (verse 17).

MacArthur homes in on the word ‘honour’:

The key word here is the word honor. You might just sort of mark that in your mind, or in your text. That’s what he’s really saying. This verse calls for honor to be given to pastor-elders in the church. Those who serve the church, leading the church, as it were, fathering the church by way of example and leadership, feeding and teaching in the church are to be given honor.

This is not a new concept in the Scripture. It has appeared in other places. A couple of books earlier in the New Testament Canon we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “We beseech you, brethren, to know them who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” That would be your pastors, your elders. “And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” Those who are over you in the Lord who minister among you, you should know them, you should love them, you should esteem them for the work which they render …

Now I want to just remind you that the term “elder” is a general term referring to those in leadership in the church. They can be called shepherd, pastor – same word. They can be called overseer, as in chapter 3 verse 1 they are referred to, or elder. The term pastor refers primarily to the shepherding function, the term overseer to the authority and the leadership responsibility, and the term elder has to do with their role in maturity as a father or as the senior member of the congregation, senior members I should say, since there are many. There’s no such thing, by the way, as a senior pastor. There’s no such thing as a senior pastor and his staff … So the pastor, overseer, elder as we know is the same person, one in the same. One emphasizes the feeding responsibility, one emphasizes the leading responsibility, one emphasizes the maturity of his position in leadership …

So we’re assuming then elder here, or elders, as it’s always in the plural – except when Peter refers to himself as an elder and when John twice refers to himself as an elder. Every other time it’s a plurality, because the assumption is the church will be led by a plurality of godly elders. So we see then here that when it says, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor,” it means elders who are qualified. If a man is qualified to be an elder, he is qualified then to receive honor. We could say then generally that underlying this verse is the idea that elders are worthy of honor. Okay? Elders are worthy of honor.

Now what do we mean by honor? Well the word is timē. Basically it means respect or regard. It’s so used in chapter 6 verse 1, “But as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor.” That doesn’t mean a servant is supposed to pay his master. It means he’s supposed to give him respect. So the word timē can relate to respect or regard. But also it can relate to remuneration, that is money. Back in chapter 5 we used it that way in verse 3 as Paul had that in mind, “Honor widows that are really widows.” And what we saw there inherent in the word honor is the idea of financial support. It includes, along with respect and high regard, the idea of remuneration, salary, whatever.

In fact, in our English language we have a word that tells us that, it’s the word honorarium. Honorarium is a form of the word honor which relates to giving someone money. When I go out and speak sometimes people will give me an honorarium. When I fill out my income tax every year I put down a category called honoraria, which has to do with people who showed me a certain amount of regard in a financial way. And so the word, meaning that originally, has come down in the English form to mean that even today in some regard.

So when we read about honoring these elders, we are talking not only about respect, but also talking about remuneration. In fact, the word timē is translated in several places in the New Testament by the word price. So it is not a word disassociated from money. You will find it so translated, for example, in Matthew 27:6 and 9, Acts 4:34, 1 Corinthians 6:20. So what Paul is saying is give honor, but let that honor have within it remuneration, if need be.

By the way, honor in the Old Testament – I just thought of that – also contains that same idea. For example, in Proverbs 3:9 it says, “Honor the LORD with your substance.” What does that mean? That means honor the Lord with your respect and your regard as demonstrated by giving Him your money. And then it further says, “With the firstfruits of all your increase.” So there honor carries the idea of giving money to God in an offering. Also in verse 31 of Proverbs 14 it says, “The one who honors the poor by having mercy on him,” it refers to one honoring the poor through mercy that has the idea of giving them something to supply their needs.

You say, if Paul meant that why didn’t he just say money? Well because money is such a crass expression, he would rather deal with the motive behind the money than just deal with the money. How much nicer is it to say, “Here’s your money, fella?” You wouldn’t appreciate that. If someone could say to you, “We want to honor you with this gift,” there’s a big difference in that expression. And Paul was want to do that almost on every occasion. In fact, you’re hard pressed to ever find Paul actually talk about money.

Let me give you just a little insight into that. In writing to the Romans and the Corinthians, he referred to money on one occasion as service. In writing to the Corinthians, the Galatians and the Philippians, he referred to money as fellowship. He referred to it again to the Corinthians as grace. In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 he called it liberality. In 2 Corinthians 8:20 he called it bounty. In 2 Corinthians 9:5 he called it blessing. In 2 Corinthians 9:8 he called it a good work. In Galatians 6:6 he called money good things. In Philippians 4 he called it a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice. In 2 Corinthians 9:10 he called it a seed; in the same verse he called it a harvest of your righteousness. In Philippians 4:17 he called it a gift, and here he calls it honor

Notice the little phrase double honor. What does that mean? Well, it basically means generous ample pay, generous ample respect. The intent here is to show a difference between general category of pastors and a unique category of pastors who rule with great excellence and who work very hard in the preaching and the teaching. They are worthy of double honor. Double honor assumes as its comparative honor. So we say honor for elders, double honor for excellent hard-working elders. That’s the idea. The Spirit of God knows that among those who serve the church there will be a great group of faithful men who will serve the Lord with blessing, but there will also be a group of men who will serve the Lord with a greater effort and a greater commitment and a greater excellence and they are worthy of a greater acknowledgement of honor from the congregations they serve. It’s not a mathematical equation here to figure out what the normal elder gets and double it. It’s the idea of ample, generous support, remuneration and respect. All elders are worthy of it, some are worthy of more.

Proistēmi, the verb, means to stand first. They’re first in order in terms of leadership. It is a word used to speak of the father and the husband in the family. He is the leader; he is the one who stands first; he is the protector, the provider. So the elder is the one who leads, who stands first, given the task of leading the church. It’s a tremendous responsibility, beloved, by the way, for all the privilege that is there, you’re really overwhelmed by the accountability …

But the emphasis is not on the verb ruling, the emphasis is on the adverb – well. And that adverb means with excellence – the elder, the pastor who leads with excellence …  It is bound up in quality leadership. It is bound up in godliness in the life. It is bound up in teaching and explanation of Scripture and exhortation, setting a model and example and pattern that others can follow.

Henry says of the work of an elder, or pastor:

Here we have, 1. The work of ministers; it consists principally in two things: ruling well and labouring in the word and doctrine. This was the main business of elders or presbyters in the days of the apostles. 2. The honour due to those who were not idle, but laborious in this work; they were worthy of double honour, esteem, and maintenance.

Paul goes on to explain, quoting Deuteronomy 25:4 that says the ox treading the grain shall not be muzzled and one from Luke, whose Gospel was written three or four years before Paul penned this letter, that the labourer deserves his wages (verse 18).

Henry says:

We hence learn, (1.) God, both under the law, and now under the gospel, has taken care that his ministers be well provided for. Does God take care for oxen, and will he not take care of his own servants? The ox only treads out the corn of which they make the bread that perishes; but ministers break the bread of life which endures for ever. (2.) The comfortable subsistence of ministers, as it is God’s appointment that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel ( 1 Cor 9 14), so it is their just due, as much as the reward of the labourer; and those who would have ministers starved, or not comfortably provided for, God will require it of them another day.

MacArthur has more:

If God says in Deuteronomy 25 verse 4, you’re supposed to let the ox that treads the grain eat, don’t you think He cares about the one who provides your spiritual food as the ox provides your physical food? And isn’t a man more valuable than an ox? And isn’t a preacher more valuable than anyone?

Admittedly, Paul did not always ask for remuneration himself, depending on the circumstances of the places where he planted churches:

There was some exigencies in Corinth; there were some reasons why he didn’t want to be chargeable to them … They were a tough bunch to work with, and he didn’t need anything that might cause more criticism of his ministry. He was being very harsh with them, as it was. He didn’t want them accusing him of a money motive.

… you can defer from that support for whatever reason you might have. For example, in writing to 1 Thessalonians – writing to the Thessalonians in the first letter, he says, verse 9 of chapter 2, “You remember, brethren, our labor and travail, laboring night and day because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.” We didn’t want to be chargeable, so we worked night and day. He had to work his ministry all day, and he had to earn his living all night. But he did that because he chose to do it to make the gospel more palatable to them.

Back to the ox and on to Luke’s labourer:

The picture here is very vivid. The Deuteronomic law said that if you’re going to have an ox grinding out grain and that ox is providing food for you, then let the ox eat. Don’t muzzle his mouth while he’s doing that, let him eat as he goes

And then he also quotes from another Scripture, “The laborer is worthy of his” – misthos – “his wages.” It’s not a reward; it’s not a gift; it’s his wages. And he moves from an ox to a man. He moves up one level from an animal to a servant. And he says, “The Scripture also says, the laborer is worthy of his misthos.” You know what Scripture that is? Most interesting – Luke 10:7. Here is Paul calling Luke Scripture. Here is Paul, a New Testament writer affirming that another New Testament writer and a dear friend, Luke, is Scripture. This is the testimony to New Testament Scripture.

By the way, the only times that Paul quotes from the gospels, one is here and one is 1 Corinthians 11:24 and 25, both times he quotes from Luke. This is verbatim Luke 10:7. And he probably quoted from Luke because Luke was his dear friend. Luke was written probably in the year 60 A.D. when Paul was in his Roman imprisonment. It is about 63 A.D. as he writes here, so Luke’s gospel has been around for three years. The early church recognized the canonicity and authenticity and authority of New Testament Scripture even before the writers had died. And so here is Paul affirming Luke’s gospel as Scripture. He would have had several years to be exposed to it and read it. And he is saying there is something said there that is analogous to the same truth and that is that a man who works ought to be paid. An animal who works ought to be paid. A man who works ought to be paid. If you pay your animal who helps you eat, if you pay your servant who helps you eat, then you ought to pay your teacher, your pastor, your elder.

When things go wrong with an elder, allow a complaint — a charge against him — only if two or three witnesses come forth with evidence (verse 19).

In other words, be discerning and adopt the principles Jesus laid out in Matthew 18, which, by the way, are also in the Old Testament.

MacArthur explains:

To put it simply, one of the best ways you can protect your pastors and elders is with a deaf ear to accusation. It’s that simple. When a man is placed into spiritual leadership, he has to anticipate that hateful, jealous, sinful people will falsely accuse him to try to ruin his ministry. And people can and often will say anything and everything. This is standard behavior with reference to spiritual leaders. I went back in the Old Testament this week, just kind of tracking through some of the leaders of the Old Testament period and found that one after another of the great heroes of the faith in the Old Testament were beset by false accusation. It was standard fare. I think particularly of Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Nehemiah and many others as well. You come in to the New Testament, Christ was crucified under false accusation, Paul under false accusation, defending himself again and again and again in his epistles

If Satan can’t cause a man to fall into sin, if Satan can’t cause a man to stumble into evil, then Satan may cause some who more willingly will stumble into evil to become a coterie of false accusers, with a net effect of which is to discredit the man as if he himself had sinned. You understand that? And so the insulation of the man of God against that is a deaf congregation in the sense of hearing accusation. Very important.

Notice back in verse 19 again, against the elder or pastor you are not to entertain any kind of formal public accusation. The word but should be translated ‘except when,’ and the word before has the force of ‘by the authority of’ two or three witnesses. The only time you ever even entertain it – doesn’t mean it’s true – but the only time you would ever even entertain it would be when it comes to you with a force of two or three confirming witnesses. In other words, it isn’t one person who has some kind of act of aggression against the man of God …

Now the intent of two or three witnesses is simply confirmation. It goes all the way back to Deuteronomy 19:15 where no accusation against a person is to be upheld apart from two or three confirming credible witnesses. Matthew chapter 18, you remember when – we have an outline of how to discipline a fellow Christian. If you find one in sin you go to him; if he doesn’t hear and repent then you take two or three witnesses in order that they might confirm that sin and confirm either his repentant or failure to be repentant attitude. So two or three witnesses involved in an accusation situation is an old approach. It’s simply the confirmation of viable witnesses. And so we are never to receive any accusation against a pastor, we’re not even to entertain it or to investigate it or to look into it, we are to shun it, to shut it off, to end it unless it has been confirmed by two or three significant and credible witnesses. Pastor-elders are never to be at the mercy of frivolous evil accusers. And they’re not to be having to go around to their people justifying themselves to people who are eager or willing to believe such lies.

Paul tells Timothy that those who persist in sin — the unrepentant — should be rebuked publicly, so that the rest stand in fear (verse 20).

This sounds harsh, but MacArthur explains why this has to be done in public:

Would you please notice here that we don’t have a lot of steps of discipline. It just says rebuke before all. When an accusation has been made – it’s been confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses and investigated – if it indeed is proven to be true, he is to be publicly rebuked. The word rebuke, elegchō, means to expose, to bring to open conviction, to correct, to reprove. And the idea is public, before all. There’s no exegetical base for limiting the all to just the elders, the other elders. There’s no contextual base for limiting it to just the elders. If it says all, it means all. If it was intended to be kept from the congregation it would have said be sure the congregation doesn’t find out. But when it says rebuke before all it means exactly that. And there is no either exegetical or contextual reason to limit the all in any way. It simply means one who is found to be sinning is to be exposed before everyone. There’s nowhere to hide.

Once a pastor-elder’s guilt is established, he is to be publicly exposed. The sin of one in that position is more serious and to be punished more severely because its implications are greater. If you’re the model of spiritual life, if you’re the model of godliness, if you’re supposed to be the example and you do not live the example that pleases God, then the culpability is very severe …

If the man has been found to be in a pattern of sin, then he is disqualified by 1 Timothy chapter 3. He’s no longer blameless so he’s out of the ministry anyway, and he is to be publicly rebuked for his sin, because there has to be some explanation about why he’s out. Understood? And when that isn’t done, let me tell you, confusion reigns supreme. When you try to sneak some pastor or elder out the back door and not explain to the people why he’s leaving, all you’re going to do is create problem upon problem upon problem.

One classic illustration of this, a church, a familiar and wonderful church that I know of had a man on their staff. They were moving him from one office to another and digging out some of the stuff in his closet they found a copy of every issue of Playboy magazine since the first one. The board met on this and felt it would be too devastating to the church and the man and his family if they said anything, so he quietly left town. The pastor suffered repercussions for years and years of people who despised the pastor for pushing this man out of the church with no good reason. And being under instructions never to tell anybody why the man left, he suffered all the slings and arrows of the hate of people who blamed him for something he couldn’t talk about. Furthermore, the man that was expelled from the church went somewhere else. And to this day has a high-profile ministry, I don’t think anybody knows what went on

Rebuking in public restrains other people’s sin:

You say, but that’s – boy, that’s pretty painful for the man. That’s right. But it’s also a pretty good restraint on the others. That’s what it says. Look at verse 20, you do this in order “that others also may fear.” Other elders – other elders. For that matter, other people in the congregation who could be also disciplined for their sin. But the other here is really directly tied to the elders. When an elder is publicly disgraced for his sin, a pastor is publicly disgraced for his sin, that’s going to put a healthy fear in the heart of others …

Others is the word loipoi, loipos really, and it means the rest. So what he’s saying is those that sin are publicly exposed in order that the rest – the rest in what sense? – the rest among any class being discussed, and that has to relate this word to elders. The class being discussed is sinning elders. The rest of the sinning elders will fear. They will be in a healthy respectful concern over being disgraced publicly and losing their ministry. Obviously a public rebuke would affect them, and it would affect everybody, so it would extend to the whole congregation

Hopefully he could stay in the same congregation, be loved, nurtured, restored to a place of usefulness to the Lord. But it’s doubtful that he could ever be a pastor and an elder again, depending, of course, on the nature of the sin and its extent. But there needs to be an acknowledgement that the two-edged sword of ministry is yes you have honor, and yes you have remuneration, and respect and protection, but when you fall into sin there is also the demand made that you be publicly exposed.

Then Paul becomes adamant, charging — commanding — in the presence of God, of Christ Jesus and the elect angels, that Timothy keeps to these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality (verse 21).

MacArthur surmises that Paul said this to push Timothy into cleaning out the bad influences at the top in Ephesus:

So just in case you’re tempted to do nothing, verse 21 comes like a thunderbolt. “I charge you,” he says to Timothy, knowing that Timothy is somewhat timid and a little bit intimidated since he is the Lone Ranger in the midst of the whole bunch of false leaders. He says, “I charge you” – I thoroughly admonish you, is what that means. I solemnly earnestly declare to you – “before God” – who is the judge of all the earth – “and Christ Jesus” – to whom all judgment is given – “and the elect angels” – who are the instruments and agents of judgment. Boy, this is a heavy-duty group here. “I admonish you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels that you observe” – to keep. It means to keep – “these things without” – watch this – “without preference and without partiality.” He says, I’m telling you to do this and I’m telling you to do it because God is watching, Christ Jesus is watching, and the holy angels are watching. And I call you to do this in front of God the eternal judge of the earth; in front of Christ to whom all judgment is given; in front of the elect angels, that is the holy angels, the unfallen angels, who are both spectators of the church and agents in judgment; and I call you before the holiest of the holies of heaven to do this.

Why? God is concerned with the purity of the church. Christ is concerned with the purity of the church. The holy angels are concerned with the purity of the church. The elect angels, those who were chosen to eternal glory and holiness, along with serving God are waiting to see your obedience. That’s the issue. They’re waiting to see your obedience …

It’s to be done without prejudice, prokrimatos, without preferential treatment. In other words, you shouldn’t say, well, you know, such a nice guy. Everybody likes him.” On the other hand, it shouldn’t be done with partiality. That means, “I can’t stand the guy. Let’s really dump it on him.” It’s done without trying to protect someone you prefer and without trying to expose someone you don’t prefer. It’s to be done with accuracy and integrity, unprejudiced and impartial, but it’s to be done and it’s to be done because all of heaven is watching that it be done. That’s pretty strong stuff. I don’t know – I don’t know any way to say any stronger than the way Paul said it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that when you find a pastor who sins, all of the holy beings of heaven demand that you do a public exposure. That’s hard.

You remember back in Matthew 18 when the discipline pattern was given there for how we confront each other with sin. It said, “Don’t be afraid to do this,” in effect, “because what’s being done on earth has already been done in heaven, and where two or three of you are witnessing to that sin, there am I, says Christ, in your midst.” So heaven is making the judgment that discipline needs to be done. Christ wants to enact that discipline. And that’s why you ought to go ahead and do it in Matthew 18. Here he says you ought to go ahead and do it because all of holy heaven is waiting for you to do it. Are you going to protect the holiness of God or are you going to protect the reputation of an earthly organization?

Paul then transitions into ordination and Timothy’s own behaviour by saying he should not be too eager to ordain an elder (pastor) through the laying on of hands — how ordination is still done to welcome others into that holy fellowship; the Apostle adds that Timothy must keep himself pure and not enter into others’ sins (verse 22).

Ordaining the wrong type of man makes one equally guilty of that sin.

Henry says:

Observe, We have great need to watch over ourselves at all times, that we do not make ourselves partakers of other men’s sins. “Keep thyself pure, not only from doing the like thyself, but from countenancing it, or being any way accessary to it, in others.” Here is, 1. A caution against the rash ordination of ministers, or absolution of those who have been under church-censures: Lay hands suddenly on no man. 2. Those who are rash, either in the one case or the other, will make themselves partakers in other men’s sins. 3. We must keep ourselves pure, if we will be pure; the grace of God makes and keeps us pure, but it is by our own endeavours.

MacArthur describes the pre-ordination process at his own church, which is daunting but necessary. I wonder how many seminarians elsewhere could do the following. Not many. Consider all of the following highlighted:

I want you to know in our church in order for a man to be ordained at Grace Church there’s a very long and arduous process that they go through. In fact, a week ago I was reading the syllabus which we put together some years ago and have refined, a very thick syllabus which the men have to really master before they can be considered for ministry. That syllabus has only to do with biblical knowledge. They, for example, must be able to tell…to basically outline every book of the Bible, on their feet without notes when asked in a testing situation. They should be able to be given two to three hundred chapters in the Bible and just by naming the chapter they can tell you the importance and significance of that key chapter. They can be given certain sections of Scripture, or even verses of Scripture which they must know not only what the content is but what it means. They have to not only know the major points of theology but be able to defend them reasonably and defend them biblically with chapters and verses to support them. Not only that, they have a whole list of issues and questions and situations that occur in the church that they must be able to give a biblical resolution for. And then they have a multi-year profile where they have to be visible under other elders, to prove their spiritual character. And when all of those years of accumulating that biblical knowledge and functioning in biblical ministry prove them to be worthwhile, then they go through another process of examination and are finally, if proven to be worthy, ordained. And the reason is because we don’t want to do this hastily.

Paul then gives Timothy health advice, advising him to drink some wine now and then to help with his digestion and frequent ailments (verse 23).

Henry explains that this has a biblical precedent. Note also that most water had to be purified in those days. That purification took place with the addition of alcohol:

It seems Timothy was a mortified man to the pleasures of sense; he drank water, and he was a man of no strong constitution of body, and for this reason Paul advises him to use wine for the helping of his stomach and the recruiting of his nature. Observe, It is a little wine, for ministers must not be given to much wine; so much as may be for the health of the body, not so as to distemper it, for God has made wine to rejoice man’s heart. Note, (1.) It is the will of God that people should take all due care of their bodies. As we are not to make them our masters, so neither our slaves; but to use them so that they may be most fit and helpful to us in the service of God. (2.) Wine is most proper for sickly and weak people, whose stomachs are often out of order, and who labour under infirmities. Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish, and wine to those that are of heavy hearts, Prov 31 6. (3.) Wine should be used as a help, and not a hindrance, to our work and usefulness.

Paul reminds Timothy that some men’s sins appear early on, going before them to judgement — church discipline — however, other men’s sins come later, hence the need for lengthy evaluation (verse 24).

MacArthur says:

So Timothy will be able in the proper kind of judgment, in the proper kind of evaluation and assessment environment to know who these men are. So the problem is resolved in some cases because the man’s sins come first. The problem is resolved in other cases because under proper scrutiny and assessment the man’s sins are revealed, careful investigation can bring them out.

Paul ends the chapter on a positive note, saying that good works are also conspicuous and cannot be hidden (verse 25).

MacArthur reminds us of the first chapters of Revelation, which begin with our Lord’s assessment of the seven churches:

I think the church today assumes that Jesus Christ is in the midst of the church as sort of a mil[que]toast personality, patting everybody on the head and letting them get away with murder, that Jesus is a pal, that Jesus is a buddy, that Jesus’ main agenda for the church is to make you happy, that Jesus’ primary concern is that you feel good about yourself, or that you have a sort of a satisfied ego trip, or that you not be uncomfortable, that Jesus’ main idea in the church is to stroke you and just tolerate you. But if you really want to see what Jesus is concerned about in his church, you need to go for a moment to Revelation chapter 1. Will you turn there for a moment and let’s just see what it is that concerns the Lord Jesus Christ about his church and why he would be watching to make sure the church rebuked sin among its leaders.

John in chapter 1 has a vision of Christ. And Christ identifies Himself in verse 11 as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. Tells John to write these letters to the seven churches that are located in Asia Minor which letters take up chapters two and three. Now these seven churches in Asia Minor, I believe, are representative of all kinds of churches in all eras of church history. Each of these seven churches has some distinctives about it that are characteristic of churches in all periods of time. And so in a very sense you have in a microcosm of Asia Minor in the first century a picture of the church. And among those churches Christ moves in ministry in this incredible vision beginning in verse 12. “I turned to see the voice that spoke to me and I turned and I saw seven golden lampstands.” Seven being a number indicating completeness, golden having to do with the costliness, the precious character, the value of the church. And each lampstand with a light representing one of the seven churches, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

So, here is a picture of Christ moving among these seven churches which are in a symbolic microcosm, a picture of Christ moving in His church in all times. Verse 13, “In the midst of these seven lampstands, one like the Son of Man.” Here is Christ, moving in His church …

… And the idea is He’s moving to maintain the purity of His church and to act against its sin. He is seen in His church not as a pal, not as a buddy, not as the popular Jesus of today who wants you healthy, wealthy and happy, who wants to sanctify your ego trip, who wants to make you feel good about yourself, He is there to penetrate, discover sin and stamp it out …

And as a footnote, what should be our attitude? Do we gloat over the sinning one and push ourselves up the ladder of esteem a little higher because it wasn’t us? Do we feel bad about them but good about ourselves? What is the attitude of one who finds a sinning pastor, a sinning elder and publicly rebukes that person? I submit to you that it is an attitude of sorrow. It is an attitude of sadness.

… It’s not just the sadness of compassion, it’s the sadness of the very role of leadership being so stained which causes all of us to suffer.

And so we are then aware very clearly from this passage of a tremendous responsibility. First to honor, second to protect, and thirdly, and this is the negative side of being a pastor or elder, to rebuke publicly when there is need for that.

Paul closes his first letter in Chapter 6 with more advice for Timothy.

Next time — 1 Timothy 6:1-2

Thankfully, I was wrong.

King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday, May 6, 2023, was much better than I had anticipated last Friday.

The state of the UK today

It is important to note the backdrop against which the coronation took place.

We have a Hindu Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak), a Muslim Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan), a Muslim First Minister of Scotland (Humza Yousaf), a Buddhist Home Secretary (Suella Braverman) and a Chancellor (Jeremy Hunt) with a Chinese wife.

This was not the Britain of June 4, 1953, the date of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

The coronation emblem

The coronation emblem recognised the plant symbols of the four nations: England, Wales, Scotland — which comprise Great Britain — and Northern Ireland:

Coronation video

Here is GB News’s video of the day’s events, from 10:00 a.m. to the flypast mid-afternoon:

Religious ceremony

Most Britons were not alive when the last coronation took place and might have been unaware how religious it is.

As historian Dr David Starkey explained on GB News on April 15, the ceremony is a Christian one:

It involves a covenant between God and the monarch, which is why the King and those before him, are anointed outside of public view.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury presides over the service and, in accordance with tradition, the Presbyterian Moderator of the Church of Scotland presented the monarch with a new Bible. Charles received a gilt-edged edition of the King James Version bound in red leather.

In a first, after his anointing by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the King received blessings from other Christian prelates, as The Telegraph reported on April 30:

They will have their own ecumenical procession and then, after the King is crowned, there will be a series of blessings, bookended by the two Anglican primates, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Four others – the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Thyateira & Great Britain, Nikitas Loulias, plus the Moderator of the Free Churches and the General Secretary of Churches Together in England will between them utter about 90 words amid the thousands upon thousands uttered by Anglican clerics.

In a nod to other world faiths, the King received greetings from their leaders in Britain as he exited Westminster Abbey at the end of the ceremony:

Canon law of the Church of England, which prohibits other faiths saying prayers, has been adhered to.

Rishi Sunak read the Epistle very well, looking at the text only occasionally (emphases mine below):

The most notable involvement of a non-Christian is the Hindu Rishi Sunak, reading the Epistle, but he takes his place by reason of his office: it has become traditional for the Prime Minister to read a lesson at a Church-meets-state-meets-Crown occasion, as Liz Truss did at the late Queen’s funeral.

Here’s the video:

The Times said that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Revd Justin Welby, chose the reading from St Paul to the Colossians for its emphasis on the rule of Christ and the joy we find in it:

Selected by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Epistle to the Colossians proclaims the loving rule of Christ over all people and all things and takes its name from the Christian community in Colossae (now a part of Turkey).

Colossae was one of the first churches to be established after the resurrection of Jesus. Sunak was asked to read to reflect modern customs of leaders of countries speaking at state events.

… “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”

The reading tied in well with the King’s specially composed prayer that preceded it:

God of compassion and mercy

whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve,

give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth.

Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness

and be led into the paths of peace.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The theme of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon focused on service, acknowleging the 400 charity workers who were watching on livestream in the Church of St Margaret next to Westminster Abbey.

I will return to the service itself later in the post.

Another rainy Coronation Day

The weather was only slightly warmer than it was when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.

However, it was rainy on both days:

In fact, rain has been a feature of the last several coronations.

My late mother believed that rain meant good luck. It rained on my wedding day. Here I am over 30 years later, still married. The rain was a blessing. May it be so for Charles III as it was for his mother.

High security

Security was at its highest on Coronation Day.

Only days before, the House of Commons passed new laws enabling police with greater powers of arrest. To their credit, London’s Metropolitan Police used them in pre-empting possible violence.

On Tuesday evening, May 2, GB News broadcast some programmes in a small studio adjacent to Buckingham Palace. Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s programme was interrupted by a small controlled explosion that evening while he was talking with the former BBC Royal reporter Michael Cole:

Guido Fawkes explained (red emphasis his):

… the entire crew were forced to evacuate their perch outside Buckingham Palace while police used controlled explosives on suspicious objects – now thought to be shotgun cartridges – thrown over the Palace gates. The detonation can be heard live on-air as Mogg speaks. “I think that was probably a controlled explosion in the background…”

Rees-Mogg and Cole were remarkably composed throughout.

Dan Wootton, who had arrived at the channel’s Paddington studios early, took over from there.

The procession to Westminster Abbey

Charles and Camilla’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey was shorter than his mother’s was. The Government, who largely directed the coronation as the taxpayer footed the bill, decided that a shorter route would cost less money with regard to security:

The Duke of Norfolk as Earl Marshal planned the sequence of events, working with the military and clergy as required.

His ancestor, who presided over the late Queen’s coronation, did a flawless job. The Dukes of Norfolk, whilst Catholic, have planned Royal state events for generations.

Two glitches

However, there are some things even the current Duke could not control.

Charles and Camilla, riding in the Diamond Jubilee Coach — designed by Rolls Royce, incidentally — arrived at the Abbey five minutes early.

The King had one of his moments, visible in this video:

The carriage doors remained closed for several minutes.

We later discovered that the Prince and Princess of Wales and their two children — Prince George was already at the Abbey as a page — were running late. Somehow, they seamlessly appeared inside the Abbey. This is the magic of planning and part of the genius of the Dukes of Norfolk who have planned these events for generations.

That said, as the King and Queen Consort had arrived early, their carriage doors remained closed until the appointed moment.

Then Camilla’s attendants and pages had some difficulty holding up her robe and the train on her dress, something that did not happen at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation:

Guests’ arrival

The doors to Westminster Abbey opened early, as is customary for Royal occasions.

The Royal couple expected 2200 guests. The Duke of Norfolk would have assigned arrival times to each group. The first group had to arrive at 7:30 a.m. All guests were expected to stay seated as the other groups continued to arrive.

For the first time, the King invited Royal families from around the world. This did not happen previously because other monarchs considered the coronation to be a pact not only with God but also with the British people. Therefore, no outsiders.

Generally speaking, the guests arrive in order of station, with lesser folk arriving first and the greatest — the King and Queen — arriving last.

Jill Biden and her step-granddaughter Finnegan Biden arrived at 9:39. They were seated in a back row of pews. It looks as if Mrs Zelenskyy might be sitting to her left, but I’m not sure:

Prince Andrew got booed as his car was driven down The Mall to the Abbey:

Former Prime Ministers arrived next, around 10:20. John Major and Tony Blair are wearing their Order of the Garter chains and brooches:

Rishi Sunak and his wife followed them:

Royals from around the world arrived afterwards.

Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who arrived with their husbands, reached the Abbey around 10:45, just ahead of the King and Queen. If they had been on time, the Wales family would have arrived in between.

One of the husbands — Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi? — spoke to Harry and the two shared a short but pleasant conversation before Mapelli Mozzi joined his wife to walk down the aisle:

So, Harry was not completely ‘all alone’, as some media outlets reported, although he was as he walked to his seat. Admittedly, it was an awkward moment for him:

Princess Anne, who probably arrived after Harry, Andrew, Eugenie and Beatrice, wore the cloak of Scotland’s Order of the Thistle, which is a deep green velvet. She wore a tall red plume in her ceremonial hat and was seated in front of Harry, obliterating him from view. A coincidence or not? We might never know.

Music played from 7:30 a.m. until the end of the ceremony, so it ended some time after 1 p.m.:

Order of Service

The ceremony began at 11:00 a.m.

Excerpts from The Telegraph‘s Order of Service follow.


The music came from several ensembles:

The service is sung by the Choirs of Westminster Abbey and His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace (Director of Music: Joseph McHardy), with choristers from Methodist College, Belfast (Director of Music: Ruth McCartney), and Truro Cathedral Choir (Director of Music until April 2023: Christopher Gray), and an octet from the Monteverdi Choir.

The music during the service is directed by Andrew Nethsingha, Organist and Master of the Choristers, Westminster Abbey.

The organ is played by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist, Westminster Abbey. 

The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner CBE.

The Coronation Orchestra is conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano.

The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry are led by Trumpet Major Julian Sandford.

The Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force are conducted by Wing Commander Piers Morrell OBE MVO, Principal Director of Music, Royal Air Force.

The fanfares at The Recognition and The Homage were composed for this service by Dr Christopher Robinson CVO CBE.

The King’s Scholars of Westminster School are directed by Tim Garrard, Director of Music.

The Ascension Choir is directed by Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah.

The Byzantine Chant Ensemble is directed by Dr Alexander Lingas.

The Coronation Brass Ensemble is conducted by Paul Wynne Griffiths.

The Order of Service provides more detail with regard to what was played and by which group.

Procession of faith leaders and representatives and Commonwealth countries

Just before 11:00 a.m., the Abbey’s verger led the procession of faith leaders and representatives, beginning with the non-Christian faiths.

Christian leaders then followed, beginning with the group from Wales, followed by Scotland and Northern Ireland and ending with clergy from England.

They were followed by representatives from the 15 countries over which King Charles is sovereign, i.e. the realms. The Order of Service has the complete list.

The King’s Procession

At 11:00, a fanfare sounded, signalling the arrival of Charles and Camilla.

They were led down the aisle by Anglican clergy, followed by the various Pursuivants of Arms, then the Orders of Chivalry and Gallantry Award Holders.

After them came the Heralds of Arms, some of whom bore the items of regalia presented to the King later on.

The Queen Consort and her entourage followed.

The King and those attending him were the last in the procession.

Penny Mordaunt

Among the Heralds of Arms was the Conservative Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt MP, who is also Lord President of the Privy Council. In her position as Lord President of the Council, she carried the Sword of State, which is large and heavy.

Some years earlier, she had appeared in a reality television series, Splash!, hence the aquatic references in this tweet:

Penny Mordaunt, a Royal Navy reservist, was certainly one of the stars of the show. Even Labour MPs tweeted their admiration for her handling of the sword.

The Telegraph has another photo of her carrying it and this report:

Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt has emerged as the quiet star of the Coronation ceremony – one that nobody saw coming …

For the ceremony, Mordaunt was required to carry the 17th-Century Sword of State into the Abbey in the King’s Procession, and continue to hold it aloft for much of the service – specifically at right angles to her body. The sword, decorated with royal symbols including the lion and union and fleur de lis, is also used during the state opening of Parliament.

Given its 4ft length and 8lb weight, this is no mean feat, as evidenced by her shaking arms, when she handed the historic weapon to King Charles. She had prepared for the moment though: “It’s drawing on all of my military drill experience,” she told Politico, prior to the event. The preparation paid off: Mordaunt performed the ceremonial role with such aplomb that her name was trending on Twitter. Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweeted: “Got to say it, @PennyMordaunt looks damn fine! The sword bearer steals the show.”

Mordaunt was the first woman to carry out this high profile role in a Coronation ceremony

Her wardrobe represented a break from tradition too. Instead of the black and gold attire worn by the Marquess of Salisbury at the late Queen’s Coronation in 1953, she commissioned a new garment for the occasion that was rich with meaning.

It was an inspired decision. Mordaunt’s cape dress was by London-based label Safiyaa; a bespoke piece in a deep teal hue described as “Poseidon”, in honour of her Portsmouth constituency.

The look was completed by a bandeau-style hat by milliner Jane Taylor, who is a go-to for the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Edinburgh [Prince Edward’s wife Sophie], and black ballet-style flat pumps, later switched to beige court shoes for her part in the ceremony.

The gold embroidery on Mordaunt’s cape and headpiece is by 250-year-old embroidery house Hand and Lock, which also embroiders the Royal cyphers. The fern design is a nod to the Privy Council uniform motif, adapted and “feminised” for the garment.

The look was modern and elegant, with just the right degree of traditional craftsmanship. Evidently, symbolic dressing is not a skill unique to the Royal family.

Mordaunt told Politico last week that she “felt it wasn’t right” to wear the same attire as Salisbury. Instead, she said that she wanted “to come up with something that is modern and will give a firm nod to the heritage” of the occasion.

Saturday’s well judged look follows her historic role in September, as the first woman to lead the accession council ceremony of the King at St James’s Palace.

The ceremony

When the processions were nearing their end and as the Queen Consort and King approached their chairs, the choir sang the now-traditional I Was Glad, which Hubert Parry composed for the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902. It is based on Psalm 122:1-3, 6-7:

I WAS glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city, that is at unity in itself. Vivat Regina Camilla! Vivat! Vivat Rex Carolus! Vivat! O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, They shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces.

Having reached their places and still standing, Samuel Strachan, Child of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, addressed The King:

YOUR Majesty, as children of the kingdom of God we welcome you in the name of the King of kings.

The King replied:

In his name and after his example I come not to be served but to serve.

The Archbishop of Canterbury then opened the service:

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered to offer worship and praise to Almighty God; to celebrate the life of our nations; to pray for Charles, our King; to recognise and to give thanks for his life of service to this Nation, the Realms, and the Commonwealth; and to witness with joy his anointing and crowning, his being set apart and consecrated for the service of his people. Let us dedicate ourselves alike, in body, mind, and spirit, to a renewed faith, a joyful hope, and a commitment to serve one another in love.

The Kyrie eleison came next, sung by Wales’s Sir Bryn Terfel CBE to an arrangement for the coronation written by Paul Mealor, born in 1975:

ARGLWYDD, trugarhâ, Crist, trugarhâ. Arglwydd, trugarhâ. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

The Recognition followed, which involved the King standing to the four directions of the Abbey — north, south, east and west — with a presentation acclamation for each, to which the congregation responded, ‘God save King Charles’. Fanfares sounded throughout.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, The Right Reverend Dr Iain Greenshields, presented the King with the aforementioned Bible and said:

SIR, to keep you ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, receive this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.

The Archbishop of Canterbury asked whether the King was willing to take his oaths, read out one by one with an affirmative response.

The first two are as follows:

YOUR Majesty, the Church established by law, whose settlement you will swear to maintain, is committed to the true profession of the Gospel, and, in so doing, will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely. The Coronation Oath has stood for centuries and is enshrined in law.

WILL you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, your other Realms and the Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

This is the third:

WILL you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?

After affirming that he agreed to the oaths, the King placed his hand on the Bible, saying:

The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.

He kissed the Bible.

Then came the statutory Accession Declaration Oath, which the King took:

I CHARLES do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.

He then signed copies of the oaths — no problems with the pen unlike at his Accession ceremony — and the choir sang William Byrd’s 16th composition to these words from the Book of Common Prayer:

PREVENT us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Afterwards, the King knelt and said:

GOD of compassion and mercy whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth. Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The choir sang the Gloria to another William Byrd arrangement, this one from the Mass for Four Voices.

Rishi Sunak read Colossians 1:9-17:

FOR this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

The Right Revd Sarah Mullally DBE, the Bishop of London and the Dean of His Majesty’s Chapels Royal read the Gospel, Luke 4:16-21:

JESUS came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, ‘this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’

A gospel choir, the Ascension Choir, sang an Alleluia based on Psalm 47:6-7a. The arrangement was composed for the coronation:

ALLELUIA, Alleluia! O sing praises, sing praises unto our God; O sing praises, sing praises unto our King. For God is the King of all the earth. Alleluia, alleluia!

The Anointing followed, with the choir singing in English, Welsh, Gaelic, and Irish.

A three-part Anointing Screen appeared in order for the King to be hidden from the public. Several Army officers in dress uniform from the Household Division held the three parts in place.

The King was divested of his Robe of State in order that he make the sacred covenant between God and himself. He sat in the ancient Coronation Chair, under which was the Stone of Scone (pron. ‘Scoon’), on loan from Scotland.

The choir sang Handel’s Zadok the Priest, originally composed for George II’s coronation in 1727. The work became very popular in a short space of time. Handel made it part of another opus of his as a result. It is based on 1 Kings 1:39-40:

ZADOK the priest, and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king; and all the people rejoiced, and said: God save the king. Long live the king. May the king live for ever. Hallelujah. Amen

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury made the Sign of the Cross in holy oil from Jerusalem on the palms of the King’s hands:

Be your hands anointed with holy oil.

He did the same on the King’s breast and on the crown of his head, using similar wording.

He finished as follows:

And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so may you be anointed, blessed, and consecrated King over the peoples, whom the Lord your God has given you to rule and govern; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When the Anointing Screen was removed, the Archbishop prayed:

OUR Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who by his Father was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, by his holy anointing pour down upon your head and heart the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and prosper the works of your hands: that by the assistance of his heavenly grace you may govern and preserve the peoples committed to your charge in wealth, peace, and godliness; and after a long and glorious course of ruling a temporal kingdom wisely, justly, and religiously, you may at last be made partaker of an eternal kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The King rose to be vested in special coronation clothes — the Colobium Sindonis, Supertunica, and Girdlefor his investiture and crowning.

At this point, he was presented by separate participants with his symbols of office while the Byzantine Chant Ensemble sang. Their hymn was a nod to Prince Philip, who had been brought up in the Orthodox Church.

To be continued tomorrow.

Bible spine dwtx.orgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Timothy 5:9-16

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,[a] 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enrol younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.


Last week’s post discussed Paul’s instructions to Timothy on the support of widows, which, in that era, were any women whose husbands had either died or deserted them. The definition of the word ‘widow’ in classical Greek included desertion.

In verse 8, Paul makes it clear that where families could support widows, they should do so rather than rely on church resources (emphases mine):

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Even pagans provided for their own families where possible.

In today’s passage, Paul has more instructions for Timothy on lone women without their men.

Paul says that a widow should be enrolled only when she reaches 60 years of age and has been the wife of one husband, or a one-man woman (verse 9).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this has to do with church support:

He gives directions concerning the characters of the widows that were to be taken into the number to receive the church’s charity: not under sixty years old, nor any who have divorced their husbands or been divorced from them and have married again; she must have been the wife of one man …

However, as we saw last week, John MacArthur pointed out that younger widows also need the church’s support. Therefore, he does not believe that Paul is talking about the church’s charity here but service to the church:

Now listen carefully to what I say. There is no evidence that these women on this list were necessarily all supported by the church or that they were ordained by the leaders in some ordination process. They were simply widows who did this ministry. Some may have been supported by the church, if they were widows indeed; some may not have been supported by the church because they were supported by another widow, they were supported by a man in their network family or maybe they were supported by their own children and grandchildren. The issue of support stops at the end of verse 8, and the issue of the widows on the list of those who serve in the church begins in verse 9.

So here you have these widows who serve in the church. The issue of support is not an issue here. Some have tried to say that these women are all fully supported by the church. You don’t find that in the text at all. These are just a group of women who serve in the church. The issue of support would only come into play if they had no other means of support.

MacArthur explains why Paul chose the age of 60:

If you try to equate the two – and some people have tried to do that, they’ve tried to say, “Well, the only widows a church is to support are the ones that are over 60.” That’s not true.

That’s not true at all. We have just said that the widows who are to be supported are any women who are without a husband and without support. There’s no age qualification. The age qualification comes for the widows who are put on this list of official servants in the church, not the ones that are supported by the church. The church is to take up, the care and demonstrate the compassion of God to any woman who has lost her husband, whatever age she is, and make sure that her needs are met.

But when it comes to that official group of women who serve in the church, they have to be over sixty. There is no age limit placed on the support issue. I want you to understand that. Now, why sixty? It seems like an unusual thing – doesn’t it? -to just drop sixty in there. What about sixty‑one, fifty-nine, sixty-three, fifty-eight? Why sixty? That’s a general idea, that’s just a general point of reference. For example, if you go into ancient times, you find that Plato, in his plan for the ideal state, taught that sixty was the right age for people to become priests and priestesses.

In the East, in that part of the world, sixty was the age to retire from activity and engage in a life of philosophical contemplation. In the Roman Empire, sixty was the recognized age when a person was considered old because sexual passion was thought to wane at age sixty. And it may have been more common then than it is now because sexual attitudes have changed through the centuries. But these women were assumed to be women who were older. They were not driven by their sexual desires. They were mature in spirit and in experience. The key idea is they would be very unlikely to remarry. That’s the key idea. They would be very unlikely to remarry. They would be very content to live out their life without conjugal relationships.

Paul adds that the one-man woman over 60 who is suitable for lay ministry must also have brought up children, shown hospitality (to strangers), cared for the afflicted and devoted herself to good works (verse 10).

Henry clarifies the part about having brought up children:

If she have brought up children: he does not say, If she have borne children (children are a heritage of the Lord), that depends on the will of God; but, if she had not children of her own, yet if she had brought up children.

MacArthur tells us of the number of abandoned children in that era and how compassionate women would take them into their own homes or place them with someone else. Orphanages did not exist at the time:

We know, for example, that many times children were left in the marketplace in the Roman Empire, very frequently they were left there because their parents didn’t want them.

And what happened was the young boys would be taken into a gladiator training program and end up in the arena, and the young girls would be taken into a brothel, and some prostitute would raise them in order to fill up all of her rooms with prostitutes. So these little children in the marketplace became either fuel for the very degrading glee of a Roman crowd watching some animal tear them to shreds or they became population for a brothel in order to provide sexual favors for the degenerate men of that society. And so these kinds of women would go out and find these little children, very often bring them in, place them in homes. They would care for the sick. They would care for the needy. They were available to move around in that kind of ministry. They would teach hospitality. They served in humble ways in the early church.

In other words, the 60+ widow had to have lived a virtuous life in order to be eligible for an office of lay ministry in the church, what we would call a deaconess.

Paul gives his reasons for not enrolling under-60s into this work.

Younger widows often wish to remarry, he says, and their passions draw them away from Christ (verse 11). They may incur condemnation for abandoning the faith (verse 12).

MacArthur explains:

let’s say she’s 35 years old or 40 or whatever, and she says, “I want to give the rest of my life to the Lord. You know, my husband is gone and I loved him and him alone. And now that he’s gone, I just want to give the rest of my life to serve the Lord.” And in about two years, she’s got a real problem. She has strong physical desires. She wants to get married. She is going around from house to house, and that just makes it worse and worse and worse because she keeps seeing happy marriages and home life, and every man she sees turns on lights in her head, and she becomes very, very vulnerable to an unhappy husband while she’s on the circuit, as it were. And then enters compromise.

She begins to want to court somebody or date somebody, and that kind of filters into this whole thing, and she’s trying to serve the Lord and be pure and godly and full of virtue and teach women to be chaste and teach women to love their husbands and teach women to be content at home – and she’s discontent. The whole thing just isn’t right. And it may even lead to the fact that she starts to panic a little bit and settles for marrying an unbeliever.

And the whole issue here is: Look, don’t put a young woman, who may have the desire later, if not now, to get married, in the official situation of being a servant of the church, out there doing spiritual ministry, because it may be very difficult, it may be a compromising environment in which she is living, and it may ultimately end in disaster, and that’ll bring disrepute upon the church. Don’t do that …

Don’t put a young woman on that servant’s list or she’s going to compromise herself, running around from house to house. She’s going to see some guy out there she likes when her sexual passions are aroused, and you’re going to have a problem on your hands. Don’t turn her loose in the community because there’s a lot of men out there who will take advantage of that.

Paul adds that, in addition to the possible compromising situations that young widows might encounter, they learn to be idlers, going from house to house, becoming gossips and busybodies, saying things they should not (verse 13).

Henry says that one sin builds on another:

Observe, It is seldom that those who are idle are idle only, they learn to be tattlers and busy-bodies, and to make mischief among neighbours, and sow discord among brethren.

MacArthur has more:

So, the first reason Paul says not to put women on the list who are young is to protect them from dishonoring Christ in this way. Second reason, in verse 13. “And besides,” he says – or at the same time also – “they learn to be idle.” Or literally, this is an idiom meaning they qualify as idlers. Here’s a second problem. The first problem is a problem of desire for a man.

The second problem is immaturity. You put a young woman on this list – get this scene – and she’s going from house to house ministering to these families, instructing other women, helping with the children, helping counsel and pray with them, and disciple them, and nurture them. And she’s visiting the poor and the needy and the sick, and she’s collecting a mass of very interesting information about everybody’s personal life.

And in the idleness of that, if she is immature, Paul says, “In her going around from house to house” – which no doubt is what those women did a great portion of the time, because of the nature of their ministry – in the circuit of service from home to home, what originally was a purposeful visit to help minister, becomes an aimless wandering, with little or no spiritual work accomplished. At best, it is social; at worst, it is a devastating and disastrous enterprise. They simply wander around from house to house.

And not only are they idle – just wandering around from house to house, too immature to really be of much help, and too consumed with the desire for a man to care – what starts out as just a social meandering, ends up, it says – look at verse 13 – as not only idle, but “talebearers also, and busybodies, speaking things they ought not to speak.” Now, what starts out as something of great devotion and commitment soon is overpowered by a desire for marriage. A hostility grows in the heart.

Pretty soon, as they go, they just go in a social whirl. That’s the best of it. The worst of it is that the information they collect becomes fuel for the tales they tell, and the busybody enterprise they engage in, as they go around saying things they ought not to say. They’re not doing anything constructive. They’re doing things destructive. The word for tattler or gossip means to babble. They just talk – to – to utter nonsense, to talk idly, to make empty charges, to accuse in malicious words; all of those things.

So, they just go around, carrying tales from one place to the next.

For that reason, Paul tells Timothy that he ‘would have’ — ‘command’, in the Greek — younger women marry, bear children, manage their households and give no reason for ‘the adversary’ — Satan working through human agency — reason for slander (verse 14).

MacArthur explains the Greek word ‘boulomai’ in that verse:

“I will” – and as I told you, boulomai is the will of desire that comes from reason, not emotion; it’s a rational thing, due to prior reasoning which he has already given, in verses 11 to 13.

So, for these reasons, we might assume, therefore, “I command” – it has the force of a command – “that the younger marry.” Now, this is exactly what the Scripture says. A younger woman who has lost her husband is to marry. You say, “Well, is everybody up to 60 in that younger group?” I don’t know. It’s a general term, younger. It is qualified some in the verse itself. It says the younger women are to marry and bear children, so we might say that the younger could – would certainly encompass women who are still at a childbearing age.

These women are to marry. Jewish custom, believe me, gave honor to remarriage, and that is Paul’s command. This is not a concession, this is a command. And whenever I hear someone say, “Well, divorce might be tolerable biblically, but remarriage is never tolerable,” to me that flies in the face of the intention of the heart of God revealed in this passage. And that is, to protect a single woman from having to live a life of singleness, in which she is constantly coping with strong desires, and constantly, in her immaturity, unable to handle all that’s going on around her, to provide for herself.

I believe it is God’s design for a young woman who has lost her husband to remarry. That’s what the text says. There may be exceptions. And I’m not certainly saying – neither is Paul – that every woman who has lost her husband becomes a woman on the warpath. That every woman who has lost her husband is a sensual woman looking for trouble. That every woman who has lost her husband is a talebearer and a gossip. But that tends to be a problem. And so, he says – and this is the general picture – young women – he doesn’t even use the word “woman” here, just the younger.

Paul points out that some of these younger women have already strayed after Satan (verse 15) in the churches in Ephesus and surrounding towns.

MacArthur explains what Paul means:

Some have already turned from their vow to Christ. Some have already left the true calling of a woman to the home. Some are out following false teachers. Some are following their own lusts. Some are swerving from the path of virtue. Some may be the “silly women laden down with lusts” that he mentions in 2 Timothy, chapter 3. Some have already spread lies. Some have already been busy with other people’s affairs. Some have given their ears to seducing spirits, believing doctrine of demons. Some have engaged in, perhaps, power play to become teachers in the church.

Some have acted in immoral ways. Some have broken promises to the Lord. Some have married unbelievers. Paul says, “Look, get married to a believer, get back in the home, fulfill your God-given design so that there’s no reproach brought on the church.”

In concluding his instructions, Paul refers back to verse 8, saying that, if any believing woman has relatives who are widows, she should care for them and not burden the church, so that it can care for widows who are truly destitute (verse 16).

Henry says:

Christianity obliges its professors to relieve their indigent friends, particularly poor widows, that the church may not be charged with them, that it may relieve those that are widows indeed: rich people should be ashamed to burden the church with their poor relations, when it is with difficulty that those are supplied who have no children or nephews, that is, grand-children, who are in a capacity to relieve them.

MacArthur tells us:

Verse 16 reads, “If any woman” – any believing woman, the text says – “if any believing woman that has widows, let her assist them.” That’s what I told you, the third line of responsibility. First, children and grandchildren. Secondly, a man in the family to provide. Thirdly, a woman to provide.

There were women, of course, who had the resources. Some of them might have been widowed women. Some of them might have been women married to an unbeliever, who were given the management of their household, and could take some of what they had, and give it to other women who had need. It didn’t always have to be money; it could be meals, it could be lodging, it could be many things – clothing. So, not only were believing men to provide for their extended household – those women who had need – but even women were to do that as well. Let them assist.

And you know, don’t you, well, that many widowed women care for their widowed mothers? That’s not uncommon to us; very common. The reason is, the end of verse 16, “let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.” In other words, don’t even get down to the responsibility for the church to care for a person until all these other possibilities have been exhausted. Children, grandchildren, men in the family, women in the family; if there is no support in all those areas, then the responsibility comes to the church.

And we’re full circle back to verse 3, where the church is said, in general, to be responsible to support bereft women who are really bereft – that is, they have no other means of support. Now, what do we mean by the church? Let me answer that in this way. You are the church, and I am the church. If you or if I have the resources to support them, then we should do it. If we don’t, then we come to the church, and as a body, collectively, we do it. But it should be our joy as individuals, if God’s given us the resource, to take the joy on ourselves to do that.

And we should do that eagerly. You say, “Well, why should we be so eager to spend our money like that?” Listen to it this way. Deuteronomy, chapter 14, lays down, I think, a principle that we want to know. It says that “the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied” – this was God’s law for His people Israel – “in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” Why should I as a person be eager to support a widow? Because I have the promise of the blessing of God.

Why should I pass that off to the church, when I can enjoy it myself? And there are some teeth in that, too, because in chapter 27 of Deuteronomy, the law of God said this: “Cursed be he who perverts the justice due the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.” Help a widow, be blessed. Fail to help a widow, be cursed. God is looking at you, and God says, “If a widow comes across your path, and you have the resources to help, and you help, I bless you. And you don’t help, and you forfeit blessing, and you come under the curse.”

Now, we don’t want to extrapolate too much out of the covenant given to Israel, but certainly, if God was pleased with the care of a widow then, He is pleased with the care of a widow now. If He was displeased with the lack of care then, He is displeased with the lack of care now. So, the responsibility falls upon the individual initially, and God knows that, and then passes where there is no capability to the church, as such. Well, the sum of all of this, what shall we say? The burden that God has placed upon men is clear, and a joyous and happy burden it is.

Paul goes on to instruct Timothy on the treatment of elders — and himself.

Next time — 1 Timothy 5:17-25

The Fifth Sunday of Easter is May 7, 2023.

Readings for Year A can be found here.

The Gospel is as follows (emphases mine):

John 14:1-14

14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

14:4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

14:7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Jesus and the eleven remaining Apostles had finished their final Passover meal together. John 13 through John 16 comprise the Upper Room Discourse. John 17 has our Lord’s prayers before His arrest.

Matthew Henry’s commentary states:

When he had convicted and discarded Judas, he set himself to comfort the rest, who were full of sorrow upon what he had said of leaving them, and a great many good words and comfortable words he here speaks to them. The discourse in interlocutory; as Peter in the foregoing chapter, so Thomas, and Philip, and Jude, in this interposed their thoughts upon what he said, according to the liberty he was pleased to allow them. Free conferences are as instructive as solemn speeches, and more so.

Jesus told the Eleven to not let their hearts be troubled; they were to believe in God and also in Him (verse 1).

Henry has a lengthy and moving analysis of the first part of the verse about troubled hearts. Excerpts follow:

They now began to be troubled, were entering into this temptation

1. How Christ took notice of it. Perhaps it was apparent in their looks; it was said (ch. 13 22), They looked one upon another with anxiety and concern, and Christ looked upon them all, and observed it; at least, it was intelligible to the Lord Jesus, who is acquainted with all our secret undiscovered sorrows, with the wound that bleeds inwardly; he knows not only how we are afflicted, but how we stand affected under our afflictions, and how near they lie to our hearts; he takes cognizance of all the trouble which his people are at any time in danger of being overwhelmed with; he knows our souls in adversity. Many things concurred to trouble the disciples now.

(1.) Christ had just told them of the unkindness he should receive from some of them, and this troubled them all. Peter, no doubt, looked very sorrowful upon what Christ said to him, and all the rest were sorry for him and for themselves too, not knowing whose turn it should be to be told next of some ill thing or other they should do … 

(2.) He had just told them of his own departure from them, that he should not only go away, but go away in a cloud of sufferings. They must shortly hear him loaded with reproaches, and these will be as a sword in their bones; they must see him barbarously abused and put to death, and this also will be a sword piercing through their own souls, for they had loved him, and chosen him, and left all to follow him. When we now look upon Christ pierced, we cannot but mourn and be in bitterness, though we see the glorious issue and fruit of it; much more grievous must the sight be to them, who could then look no further … Now, in reference to all these, Let not your heart be troubled. Here are three words, upon any of which the emphasis may significantly be laid. First, Upon the word troubled, me tarassestho. Be not so troubled as to be put into a hurry and confusion, like the troubled sea when it cannot rest. He does not say, “Let not your hearts be sensible of the griefs, or sad because of them” but, “Be not ruffled and discomposed, be not cast down and disquieted,” Ps 42 5. Secondly, Upon the word heart: “Though the nation and city be troubled, though your little family and flock be troubled, yet let not your heart be troubled. Keep possession of your own souls when you can keep possession of nothing else.The heart is the main fort; whatever you do, keep trouble from this, keep this with all diligence. The spirit must sustain the infirmity, therefore, see that this be not wounded. Thirdly, Upon the word your: “You that are my disciples and followers, my redeemed, chosen, sanctified ones, however others are overwhelmed with the sorrows of this present time, be not you so, for you know better; let the sinners in Zion tremble, but let the sons of Zion be joyful in their king.” Herein Christ’s disciples should do more than others, should keep their minds quiet, when every thing else is unquiet.

Both our commentators reword the second half of the verse, concerning belief, to make the meaning clearer.

Henry says:

2. The remedy he prescribes against this trouble of mind, which he saw ready to prevail over them; in general, believepisteuete. (1.) Some read it in both parts imperatively, “Believe in God, and his perfections and providence, believe also in me, and my mediation. Build with confidence upon the great acknowledged principles of natural religion: that there is a God, that he is most holy, wise, powerful, and good; that he is the governor of the world, and has the sovereign disposal of all events; and comfort yourselves likewise with the peculiar doctrines of that holy religion which I have taught you.” But, (2.) We read the former as an acknowledgment that they did believe in God, for which he commends them: “But, if you would effectually provide against a stormy day, believe also in me. Through Christ we are brought into covenant with God, and become interested in his favour and promise, which otherwise as sinners we must despair of, and the remembrance of God would have been our trouble; but, by believing in Christ as the Mediator between God and man, our belief in God becomes comfortable; and this is the will of God, that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father, by believing in the Son as they believe in the Father. Those that rightly believe in God will believe in Jesus Christ, whom he has made known to them; and believing in God through Jesus Christ is an excellent means of keeping trouble from the heart. The joy of faith is the best remedy against the griefs of sense; it is a remedy with a promise annexed to it; the just shall live by faith; a remedy with a probatum est annexed to it. I had fainted unless I had believed.

John MacArthur says:

Maybe a better way to read it would be, “Do not let your heart be troubled.  You believe in God, believe also in Me.”  Or even a better way, “Stop letting your heart be troubled.  You believe in God, believe also in Me.”  He’s not saying don’t begin to be troubled, He’s saying, “Stop; stop.  No more; no longer”

This is the plea:  “You believe in God,” I take it as an indicative.  “You believe in God,” then an imperative, “believe also in Me.”  So you start with this idea of comfort with God, right, who is called the God, in the Bible, of all comfort.  You start there with God all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, all-ruling, all-caring, all-sufficient, having all resources, all provision.  “You trust God, you believe in God; you don’t have any trouble with that, so believe also in Me.”

Again, this certainly is a claim to deity isn’t that?  “You believe in God, so believe in Me.”  John all the way through his gospel makes the case that Jesus is God, but they are one in nature.  That’s the whole point of this entire gospel that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, John 20:31 We’ve gone through that chapter after chapter after chapter, presentations of His deity.  But the book begins by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 

So you believe in God, what’s the point of this?  Well, the point is simply this:  “You believe in God whom you cannot see.”  You believe in God whom you cannot see.  God is invisible.  No one can see God.  God is a spirit; He is an invisible spirit. 

None of them had ever seen God, but they believed in God.  He’s declaring, “You believe in God.”  In a sense, He’s stating that they are true believers.  In a sense, they are sort of old covenant believers, they believe in God.  They believe in God and they believe in the revelation of God in the Son of God, and that’s why they said, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And that’s why they said, “We know that You’re the Holy One and You have the words of life” …

The apostles again had already by divine regeneration and illumination recognized that Jesus is the one who has come from God.  He is the Holy One of God, the Holy One from heaven.  But then they have seem Him, and heard Him, and watched Him do His miracles and His works.  They have seen and believed.  They did believe in the invisible God, and now they believe also in the visible Christ.  But they need to believe in Him when He’s gone the same way they believe in the invisible God Their faith at this point is a kind of Thomas faith.

You remember, Thomas wasn’t in the room when the Lord showed up the first time after the resurrection and the disciples said, “We’ve seen the Lord.”  And he said, “I will not believe unless I,” what?  “Unless I see.”  It’s a Thomas kind of faith.

But He was about to be removed from them.  So He was saying, “You must believe completely in Me when I’m invisible the way you believe in God who is invisible.” 

Jesus said that in His Father’s house there are many dwelling places — ‘mansions’ in older translations — and, if that were not so, would He have told them that He was going to prepare a place for them (verse 2).

Henry explains:

See under what notion the happiness of heaven is here represented: as mansions, many mansions in Christ’s Father’s house. [1.] Heaven is a house, not a tent or tabernacle; it is a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [2.] It is a Father’s house: my Father’s house; and his Father is our Father, to whom he was now ascending; so that in right of their elder brother all true believers shall be welcome to that happiness as to their home. It is his house who is King of kings and Lord of lords, dwells in light, and inhabits eternity. [3.] There are mansions there; that is, First, Distinct dwellings, an apartment for each. Perhaps there is an allusion to the priests’ chambers that were about the temple. In heaven there are accommodations for particular saints; though all shall be swallowed up in God, yet our individuality shall not be lost there; every Israelite had his lot in Canaan, and every elder a seat, Rev 4 4. Secondly, Durable dwellings. Monai, from mneio, maneo, abiding places. The house itself is lasting; our estate in it is not for a term of years, but a perpetuity … [4.] There are many mansions, for there are many sons to be brought to glory, and Christ exactly knows their number, nor will be straitened for room by the coming of more company than he expects …

Note, Christ’s good-will to us is a great encouragement to our hope in him. He loves us too well, and means us too well, to disappoint the expectations of his own raising, or to leave those to be of all men most miserable who have been of him most observant.

MacArthur surmises that Jesus was saying that, as grand as the temple in Jerusalem was, it was but a copy of heaven:

It was the Father’s house in the sense that it was a copy of the Father’s house which is heaven Christ came and I guess you could say cleansed the Father’s house that had been turned, as Luke says, into a den of robbers.  He cleansed the Father’s house on earth and then He destroyed the copy so that He might gather His people and take them into a place prepared for them that was reality in heaven.

The temple at Jerusalem is called the Father’s house, but it’s just a copy.  God had designed it so it was His.  He had laid out the prescription as to its architecture and design, and the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies, and the sacrifices and everything, and it was to symbolize His presence among His people.  And there He was to be honored and adored, and there He was to be worshipped by His people. 

But that worship had become apostate; it was perverted, it was corrupted.  The temple was a criminal enterprise, it was a den of robbers, and He sent His Son at the beginning of His ministry to attack it.  And then He sent His Son at the end of His ministry to attack it again.  And then He sent the Romans in 70 AD to smash it to bits.  And there is now, even today, no longer any earthly copy.  So when our Lord Jesus says, “In My Father’s house,” He’s not talking about the copy, He’s talking about heaven, heaven.

Jesus then spoke of His coming again in glory by saying that if He goes to prepare a place for them — and us — He will come again and take them (and us) to Himself, so that where He is we may be also (verse 3).

Henry tells us to be reassured by those words:

Now these are comfortable words indeed. (1.) That Jesus Christ will come again; erchomaiI do come, intimating the certainty of it, that he will come and that he is daily coming. We say, We are coming, when we are busy in preparing for our coming, and so he is; all he does has a reference and tendency to his second coming. Note, The belief of Christ’s second coming, of which he has given us the assurance, is an excellent preservative against trouble of heart, Phil 4 5; James 5 8. (2.) That he will come again to receive all his faithful followers to himself. He sends for them privately at death, and gathers them one by one; but they are to make their public entry in solemn state all together at the last day, and then Christ himself will come to receive them, to conduct them in the abundance of his grace, and to welcome them in the abundance of his love. He will hereby testify the utmost respect and endearment imaginable. The coming of Christ is in order to our gathering together unto him, 2 Thess 2 1. (3.) That where he is there they shall be also. This intimates, what many other scriptures declare, that the quintessence of heaven’s happiness is being with Christ there, ch. 17 24; Phil 1 23; 1 Thess 4 17.

Jesus told the Apostles that they knew the way to the place where He was going (verse 4).

Henry explains:

Christ, having set the happiness of heaven before them as the end, here shows them himself as the way to it, and tells them that they were better acquainted both with the end they were to aim at and with the way they were to walk in than they thought they were: You know, that is, 1. “You may know; it is none of the secret things which belong not to you, but one of the things revealed; you need not ascend into heaven, nor go down into the deep, for the word is nigh you (Rom 10 6-8), level to you.” 2. “You do know; you know that which is the home and which is the way, though perhaps not as the home and as the way. You have been told it, and cannot but know, if you would recollect and consider it.” Note, Jesus Christ is willing to make the best of his people’s knowledge, though they are weak and defective in it. He knows the good that is in them better than they do themselves, and is certain that they have that knowledge, and faith, and love, of which they themselves are not sensible, or not certain.

However, Thomas said that they did not know where He was going and asked how they could know the way (verse 5).

Henry says that the Apostles expected Him to be going to an earthly destination, hence their incapacity to understand He meant His heavenly home:

They knew not whither Christ went, because they dreamed of a temporal kingdom in external pomp and power, and doted upon this, notwithstanding what he had said again and again to the contrary. Hence it was that, when Christ spoke of going away and their following him, their fancy ran upon his going to some remarkable city or other, Bethlehem, or Nazareth, or Capernaum, or some of the cities of the Gentiles, as David to Hebron, there to be anointed king, and to restore the kingdom to Israel; and which way this place lay, where these castles in the air were to be built, east, west, north, or south, they could not tell, and therefore knew not the way. Thus still we think ourselves more in the dark than we need be concerning the future state of the church, because we expect its worldly prosperity, whereas it is spiritual advancement that the promise points at. Had Thomas understood, as he might have done, that Christ was going to the invisible world, the world of spirits, to which spiritual things only have a reference, he would not have said, Lord, we do not know the way.

Jesus responded, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (verse 6).

MacArthur provides this analysis:

this is the sixth “I am” in John’s gospel.  The seventh one is in the fifteenth chapter

He is saying, “I am the only way to God.”  I told you that in chapter 10 when I told you I was the door “I am the truth about God.”  John says in chapter 1, verse 14, He was full of grace and truth.  “I am the life of God.  In Him was life,” John writes, chapter 1, verse 4.

He is life itself, chapter 11.  This is the positive statement:  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  That’s the positive statement.  It’s followed by a negative, very important negative:  “No one comes to the Father but through Me.” 

Jesus alone revealed God.  Jesus alone was God’s chosen sacrifice.  Jesus alone is God’s Savior.  Faith in Jesus is the only way of salvation.  Jesus said you’ll die in your sins earlier in John, and “Where I go, you’ll never come because you believe not on Me.” 

Did you get that?  That’s why there’s a Great Commission, folks.  There has to be a Great Commission to take the Word to every creature in the world because there’s no other way to saved.  That’s why the gospels end with those Great Commissions.

Christianity actually became known as “the way” because of its exclusivity.  Christianity became known as “the way.”  Six times in the book of Acts it’s called “the way, the way, the way.” 

It would be good to get that back, wouldn’t it, to be known as “the way, the only way, no other way”?  And that’s what’s behind the necessity of going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature.  This is always the Great Commission mandate.  Jesus is the way to God, the truth about God, and the life of God; and no one can come to the Father, to the Father’s house, except through Him.

We might have forgotten about that verse. Theologians have certainly twisted its meaning:

The modern church has created a new wave of heresy related to this foundational truth that people somehow can be saved and welcomed into heaven when they die, or even taken up to heaven when Christ comes who never had a Bible, never heard about the true God, never heard about Jesus Christ.  They’ve even come up with some names for it.  They call it “later light” or they call it “natural theology.”  “Man can reach God by natural reason which can lead him to live a good life.  And if he lives a good life, he’ll be acceptable to God”

Peter Kreeft in the book Ecumenical Jihad has all kinds of different religions sending people to heaven into the Father’s house.  Some would say if you’re monotheistic you’re really okay because you’ve hooked onto the idea of one god

Larry King said to me one time off television, “I’m going to be okay.  A very well-known evangelist told me because I’m Jewish I’m going to be okay.”  Really?  An evangelist told you that?

There’s even a view called “transdispensational salvation” which means that people who never heard about Christ will be treated by God as if they lived in another dispensation before Christ ever came.  So we can call all the missionaries home, leave them to their natural reason, or leave them to some wider mercy, or leave them to some other dispensation.  But the Bible says, “Go preach the gospel to every creature because no one can get to heaven without believing in Christ, no one.”

Man’s reason is so depraved he suppresses the truth in righteousness.  Man’s religion is so depraved that he worships demons that are named gods.  Man is so depraved in his reason that by wisdom he cannot know God.  The natural man can’t even understand the things of God.  He is so depraved that there’s only salvation through Christ and Christ alone, and that by a divine miracle.

So to wrap it up with the powerful words of the apostle Paul, listen to this:  “When Christ does come from heaven with His mighty angels and flaming fire,” 2 Thessalonians 1, “He will deal out retribution,” to who?  “Those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction.”

It’s great to know this; it’s more important to understand that that means we’ve got to get busy with the gospel. 

Jesus said that if they knew Him, they would also know His Father, adding that, from now on, they did know him and had seen Him (verse 7).

It’s actually better in the King James Version because of the verb tenses:

If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

Henry reminds us that Jesus said the words in the first part of the verse to the Jews in John 8:

Here is, [1.] A tacit rebuke to them for their dulness and carelessness in not acquainting themselves with Jesus Christ, though they had been his constant followers and associates: If you had known me—. They knew him, and yet did not know him so well as they might and should have known him. They knew him to be the Christ, but did not follow on to know God in him. Christ had said to the Jews (ch. 8 19): If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; and here the same to his disciples; for it is hard to say which is more strange, the wilful ignorance of those that are enemies to the light, or the defects and mistakes of the children of light, that have had such opportunities of knowledge. If they had known Christ aright, they would have known that his kingdom is spiritual, and not of this world; that he came down from heaven, and therefore must return to heaven; and then they would have known his Father also, would have known whither he designed to go, when he said, I go to the Father, to a glory in the other world, not in this.

The second half of the verse shows that our Lord excused their ignorance:

A favourable intimation that he was well satisfied concerning their sincerity, notwithstanding the weakness of their understanding:And henceforth, from my giving you this hint, which will serve as a key to all the instructions I have given you hitherto, let me tell you, you know him, and have seen him, inasmuch as you know me, and have seen me;” for in the face of Christ we see the glory of God, as we see a father in his son that resembles him. Christ tells his disciples that they were not so ignorant as they seemed to be; for, though little children, yet they had known the Father, 1 John 2 13.

Then Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father and they would be satisfied (verse 8).

Recall what Philip said early on three years previously (John 1:43-45):

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’

MacArthur says:

This is disappointing; this is very disappointing.  Shallow, faithless question.

By the way, it’s we.  Don’t lay all this blame on Philip.  He’s talking for the rest of these guys who are having the same problem “Show us the Father.  Show us the Father.”  Sounds like a sort of pre-charismatic charismatic:  “I need a vision.”

I think he’s just saying, “Look, I don’t think we can do this thing by faith.  I really don’t think we can do this by faith.  God’s going to have to show up.  God is going to have to show up.  You’re handing us off here and we’re used to having You in our grip.”

Disappointing as it must have been for Jesus to hear Philip dictate terms to him, Henry reminds us of the desire of all faithful people — the sight of God:

In the knowledge of God the understanding rests, and is at the summit of its ambition; in the knowledge of God as our Father the soul is satisfied; a sight of the Father is a heaven upon earth, fills us with joy unspeakable.

I also think there was an aspect of none of them, apart from Judas, who had left earlier, being able to think straight. Finding out that Judas had betrayed Christ must have stunned them to the core, in addition to knowing that He was leaving them.

Jesus asked how Philip could not know Him after spending all that time with Him and still asking to see the Father, stating that whoever had seen Him had seen the Father (verse 9).

Henry discusses the reproof, which we might have occasion to apply to ourselves:

He reproves him for two things: First, For not improving his acquaintance with Christ, as he might have done, to a clear and distinct knowledge of him: “Hast thou not known me, Philip, whom thou hast followed so long, and conversed with so much?” Philip, the first day he came to him, declared that he knew him to be the Messiah (ch. 1 45), and yet to this day did not know the Father in him. Many that have good knowledge in the scripture and divine things fall short of the attainments justly expected from them, for want of compounding the ideas they have, and going on to perfection. Many know Christ, who yet do not know what they might know of him, nor see what they should see in him. That which aggravated Philip’s dulness was that he had so long an opportunity of improvement: I have been so long time with thee. Note, The longer we enjoy the means of knowledge and grace, the more inexcusable we are if we be found defective in grace and knowledge. Christ expects that our proficiency should be in some measure according to our standing, that we should not be always babes. Let us thus reason with ourselves: “Have I been so long a hearer of sermons, a student in the scripture, a scholar in the school of Christ, and yet so weak in the knowledge of Christ, and so unskilful in the word of righteousness?Secondly, He reproves him for his infirmity in the prayer made, Show us the Father. Note, Herein appears much of the weakness of Christ’s disciples that they know not what to pray for as they ought (Rom 8 26), but often ask amiss (Jam 4 3), for that which either is not promised or is already bestowed in the sense of the promise, as here.

In the next three verses, Jesus made a point of using the verb ‘believe’.

He asked whether Philip did not believe that He is in the Father and the Father in Him; furthermore, He said that His words were not His own but the Father’s, the Father who dwells in Him and does His works (verse 10).

Jesus told Philip — and the other Apostles — to believe that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him; however, if they could not do that, they should believe because of the works themselves (verse 11).

Henry explains:

[1.] See here what it is which we are to believe: That I am in the Father, and the Father in me; that is, as he had said (ch. 10 30), I and my Father are one. He speaks of the Father and himself as two persons, and yet so one as never any two were or can be. In knowing Christ as God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, and as being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, we know the Father; and in seeing him thus we see the Father. In Christ we behold more of the glory of God than Moses did at Mount Horeb.

[2.] See here what inducements we have to believe this; and they are two:—We must believe it, First, For his word’s sake: The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. See ch. 7 16, My doctrine is not mine. What he said seemed to them careless as the word of man, speaking his own thought at his own pleasure; but really it was the wisdom of God that indited it and the will of God that enforced it. He spoke not of himself only, but the mind of God according to the eternal counsels. Secondly, For his works’ sake: The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth them; and therefore believe me for their sake. Observe, 1. The Father is said to dwell in him ho en emoi menonhe abideth in me, by the inseparable union of the divine and human nature: never had God such a temple to dwell in on earth as the body of the Lord Jesus, ch. 2 21. Here was the true Shechinah, of which that in the tabernacle was but a type. The fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily, Col 2 9. The Father so dwells in Christ that in him he may be found, as a man where he dwells. Seek ye the Lord, seek him in Christ, and he will be found, for in him he dwells. 2. He doeth the works. Many words of power, and works of mercy, Christ did, and the Father did them in him; and the work of redemption in general was God’s own work. 3. We are bound to believe this, for the very works’ sake. As we are to believe the being and perfections of God for the sake of the works of creation, which declare his glory; so we are to believe the revelation of God to man in Jesus Christ for the sake of the works of the Redeemer, those mighty works which, by showing forth themselves (Matt 14 2), Show forth him, and God in him. Note, Christ’s miracles are proofs of his divine mission, not only for the conviction of infidels, but for the confirmation of the faith of his own disciples, ch. 2 11; 5 36; 10 37.

MacArthur says:

So this is the revelation of His person meant to comfort them to know that He is one with the Father, and it will have an unfolding kind of reality that will eventually grip their hearts and anchor them down.

By beginning His next sentence with ‘Very truly’, Jesus impressed upon them the importance of the Apostles’ belief in Him, which would enable them to do the same works as He — even greater works — as He was going to the Father (verse 12).

Henry says:

This does not weaken the argument Christ had taken from his works, to prove himself one with the Father (that others should do as great works), but rather strengthens it; for the miracles which the apostles wrought were wrought in his name, and by faith in him; and this magnifies his power more than any thing, that he not only wrought miracles himself, but gave power to others to do so too.

MacArthur tells us:

there’s a second revelation, the revelation of His power; not just His person, but His power.  Look at verse 12:  “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me – again, it’s about believing “ – the works that I do, he will do also; and greater than these he will do because I go to the Father.”

What is that?  What is that?  First of all, the primary interpretation to the apostles, 11 apostles, “You who believe in Me, you’re going to do what I have done.  You’re going to do also what I have done.”

What does that mean? “You’re going to do miracles.”  Read the book of Acts.  Read the opening of the book of Acts.  The apostles, the associates of the apostles had that miraculous power.  They used their miracle power to do the very same miracles that Jesus did miracles over disease, miracles over demons, miracles over death That power was extended beyond Jesus, so in a sense, it’s greater in extent.

It was Jesus; and you remember, He delegated those powers to the apostles, but we don’t see illustrations of the apostles doing miracles.  In fact, sometimes they come back and report, “We tried, but we couldn’t pull it off.”  And now all of a sudden that’s going to change, and not greater in kind because you couldn’t do greater in kind or nature of miracles, you couldn’t do greater miracles in terms of what they actually were, but greater in extent.

“This is going to spread through all 11 of you and those associated with you,” even someone like Philip.  So He says, “Greater things are going to happen.  As this is multiplied, miracle power is multiplied through you starting on the Day of Pentecost.”

In Acts 2, you read how it flows through the Apostolic Age.  This is the power given to the apostles.  It’s defined for us clearly in 2 Corinthians 12:12, the signs and wonders, and miracles of an apostle.  And it’s in Hebrews 2:4 where it says that the message the apostles preached was confirmed by signs and wonders and mighty deeds done by the apostles.

Before the Scripture was written, the way God validated those preachers was by miracles.  They’re not going to do greater in kind.  What’s greater than a healing, a resurrection, casting out demons?  Nothing.  But greater in extent, greater in extent.  This is primarily to the apostles.  But when that Apostolic Era ended, by the way, there’s still a sense in which greater works are being done.

Jesus left them with an important message for the Apostles and for us. He said He will do whatever we ask in His name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (verse 13).

Now, it should be a request worthy of His name.

Henry says:

It is to aim at his glory and to seek this as our highest end in all our prayers.

If we ask our Lord for anything, He will do it (verse 14).

Henry concludes:

By faith in his name we may have what we will for the asking …

For what reason their prayers should speed so well: That the Father may be glorified in the Son

This they ought to aim at, and have their eye upon, in asking. In this all our desires and prayers should meet as in their centre; to this they must all be directed, that God in Christ may be honoured by our services, and in our salvation. Hallowed be thy name is an answered prayer, and is put first, because, if the heart be sincere in this, it does in a manner consecrate all the other petitions.

MacArthur concludes:

But what does His name mean?  Consistent with His identity, consistent with His person.  That is it’s as if you’re standing in His place.  It’s as if when He says, “I’m sending the Spirit in the Father’s name, I’m sending the Spirit because that’s the Father’s will.”  If He says, “The Father sends the Spirit in My name, it means that the Father is sending the Spirit because that’s My will.  So if you say, ‘If you ask anything in My name,’ it means in consistency with My will.

First John 5:14, we have this confidence that we ask anything according to His will, we know that He hears it, and we have the petition we ask of Him consistent with His person, will, His purposes, what He’s attempting to do in the world when we pray for what is consistent with His nature, consistent with His purpose, consistent with His perfections, consistent with His glory.

We’ve been taught to pray:  “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done as it is in heaven.”  We ask God for anything that is consistent with His person, His purpose, and His perfection, “And I’ll do it.  I will do it; personal promise.  I will do it.”

He doesn’t say it’ll happen like in some passive form.  “I will do it.  I’m going to be working for you through the Holy Spirit.  The Father’s working for you through the Holy Spirit.  The whole of the Trinity is on your side providing everything you could ever need.” 

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

bible-wornThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Timothy 5:3-8

Honour widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.


Last week’s post introduced Paul’s instructions on how to properly rebuke those in the congregation who were falling away from their Christian duties.

The Apostle then goes on to provide more detail, beginning with widows.

He tells Timothy to honour widows who truly are widows (verse 3).

Paul gives more specifics later on in the chapter, but he wants Timothy to know that not every woman who has lost her husband is worthy of the church’s charity. In other words, there are widows and there are widows. Much depends on their conduct.

John MacArthur explains the context here (emphases mine):

Paul, then, wants Timothy and the church at Ephesus and us to understand our responsibility to widows. He gives five principles … The first principle is this – verse 3 – “Honor widows who are real widows.” Honor widows who are real widows. Now let me just give you enough background to understand where Paul is coming from as he writes. Keep this in mind. From the beginning of our study of 1 Timothy, I have told you that I believe this epistle is a polemic; that is to say, it speaks against some problem.

And I believe this church was filled with problems of ungodliness, problems of false doctrine, not the least of which was mishandling the matter of care for widows. The church was as inept at that as it was at all the other things Paul deals with. So this is a corrective passage. We can conclude, then, that widows were not being properly honored. We can conclude that unqualified, older widows were being allowed to serve semi-officially for the church and their lives were really not clear and clean and pure. We can also conclude that younger widows were remarrying unbelievers.

Younger widows were breaking vows made to Christ. There were families that weren’t supporting their own widows. There were women who could have supported many widows, such as Dorcas did, but they weren’t doing that either. In other words, the whole area of biblical instruction to widows needed to be taught because of what needed to be corrected at Ephesus. It is a very, very basic ministry of the church to care for these women.

Principle number one, then, in verse 3, the obligation of the church to support widows; the obligation of the church to support widows.

MacArthur says that the status of ‘widow’ in classical Greek encompasses more than we understand it to today:

Now what do we mean by widows? To us, the word means a woman whose husband is dead. The Greek word includes that but is not limited to that. That’s a very important statement: The Greek word includes that but is not limited to that.

The word “widow” is chēra. It is a word that’s a feminine form of an adjective used as a noun. It is an adjective, it means bereft. It means robbed. It means having suffered loss. It carries the idea of being alone. It comes from chēras, and that’s what that means, bereft, robbed, having suffered loss, being left alone. The word, then, doesn’t speak about how a woman got into the situation, it just describes the situation. She is alone, she is bereft, she has suffered the loss of her husband. It doesn’t say how she lost the husband.

Usually, of course, we would think she lost the husband through death. There’s nothing in this word to indicate that it is limited to that. In fact, if you do any kind of study of the word and trace it through any classical Greek usages, you will find that the word means a woman who lost her husband in any fashion – death, divorce, desertion – anything. That can all be summed up in this word.

William Barclay, for example, feels it should include those who were polygamists in the Roman world, and when they came to Jesus Christ in faith, they may have given freedom to their wives that – other than their first wife, to leave in order that they might be monogamous, according to the teaching of the Word of God. And when they sent those women away, those women would fall under this same kind of word. They also would be chēra, bereft of their husband, even though their husband was still alive.

There’s no reason to indicate that this should exclude people whose husband left them in desertion or divorced them through a legal means. The word simply describes a woman who has lost her husband, whatever that might be in terms of cause.

MacArthur gives us a modern-day example of a widow without a family structure upon which to rely:

What happens, for example, when a woman is raised in a broken home? Maybe her mother’s been married a couple of times, she’s had a father and a stepfather, which is not atypical at all but somewhat common. She goes off into a career kind of orientation. Maybe she doesn’t get married until she’s 26, 27, 28, 29. By that time, she’s charted her own course. She marries somebody who has charted his own course. They get together. Something happens to him. She’s out there, she’s had sort of a career kind of background. She’s had a very messed-up family situation.

He dies. She’s left with a couple of little kids on her hands. She can’t plug back into an intimate family network because it’s long gone, if there ever was one, and the burden on the church is even greater.

You see, the price to pay for the disintegration of the family is really monumental. Those widowed women, those women who lose their husbands, need to be able (as Genesis 38 illustrates) to move back into the home of family one way or another, but so often that can’t happen or it won’t happen because of the disintegration of the family. The tragedy in the breakdown of the family is the loss of the support network. And it puts the burden even greater on the church.

MacArthur says that there were many widows in the classical sense of the word at the time Paul wrote to Timothy:

Now, I want you to know that this expands the accountability and the responsibility of the church immeasurably because what we’re talking about here is a responsibility to take care of all those women who have lost their husband, which is a very, very large company of women. Maybe as large now as at any time in the world’s history with divorce and desertion and all of those things such a common, everyday matter.

Furthermore, unlike today, it was not possible for women to work in gainful employment and there was no welfare state:

In those days, women could not find honorable employment easily. There were no secular institutions to care for them. And so they were in serious straits. They were very often reduced to poverty unless their husband had left something with them or their father had left an inheritance to them or perhaps they were under the care of a father’s family or a mother-in-law’s family, or friends or whatever, but many widows were left destitute.

And as I said, there was no honorable employment available to women because women were seen as being cared for within the context of the family and the home, not caring for themselves outside that context. The treatment of these women, then, was a watershed, was a test case for the love of Christ borne in the hearts of the Christian community. Their spiritual character, the demonstration of their devotion to Christ could be seen in how they cared for people who were desperately in need of that care. And I might add that this has been a part of the church’s life throughout all of its history.

MacArthur discusses the Greek word for ‘honour’:

It’s the verb timaō. It means to show respect, to show care, to give support, to treat graciously, and it encompasses the idea of meeting needs – whatever they are – financially, of course.

In fact, it is used of pricing something in Matthew 27:9, to put a value on something and then to care for that in light of its value, and certainly there’s nothing more valuable than one made by God, than a believing woman, and nothing more precious to the church than a believing woman desperately in need of the church’s care.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that Paul is talking not only about charity but admitting women into the office of deaconess, in which they take instruction from a deacon:

Honour widows that are widows indeed. Honour them, that is, maintain them, admit them into office. There was in those times an office in the church in which widows were employed, and that was to tend the sick and the aged, to look to them by the direction of the deacons. We read of the care taken of widows immediately upon the first forming of the Christian church (Acts 6 1), where the Grecians thought their widows were neglected in the daily ministration and provision made for poor widows. The general rule is to honour widows that are widows indeed, to maintain them, to relieve them with respect and tenderness.

Paul gives specific instructions on widows becoming deaconesses later in the chapter.

Paul says that, if a widow has children or grandchildren, then they should show their godliness by making some return — financially — to their parents, because it is pleasing in the sight of God (verse 4).

MacArthur says that Paul is telling Timothy to be discerning in using church funds to aid widows:

So first of all, the church has an obligation to support widows. Second point, and we’ll just introduce this with one verse, the obligation of the church to evaluate those widows needing support. It’s not a question of everybody get in line, we’re just going to give it away, we have to evaluate. The church cannot indiscriminately take on everyone who applies for help. There has to be some criteria, and that comes in verses 4 through 8

I just want to introduce verse 4. I think it’s so interesting, so important. If any woman who is bereft of a husband, any widow, has children or grandchildren, ekgonos means descendants or grandchildren, not nephews. Now, many widows in the church have children and grandchildren. It is the responsibility of the children and the grandchildren to support that widow. That’s what he’s saying. It says “Let them” – that is, the children and grandchildren – “learn first to show their godliness in the family.” The word home, oikos, referring to family. You say you’re godly, then let’s see it in your family

And don’t tell me about your godliness – first put it on display in your family. First, show your godliness at home, in the house, before you make a speech about it anyplace else. I’ve thought to myself that one of the things we ought to do in a seminary application is to ask the mother to write a letter of reference. I don’t think we’ve ever done that but … as I think about it, that would be a great idea. What kind of son is this young man? And what are the evidences of godliness that you have seen in the home?

We might cut down our applications a bit with such a process, but it might be well worth it because that’s where godliness is proven, it’s proven in the home.

Of the family obligation to help a widow, Henry says:

This is called showing piety at home (v. 4), or showing piety towards their own families. Observe, The respect of children to their parents, with their care of them, is fitly called piety. This is requiting their parents. Children can never sufficiently requite their parents for the care they have taken of them, and the pains they have taken with them; but they must endeavour to do it. It is the indispensable duty of children, if their parents be in necessity, and they in ability to relieve them, to do it to the utmost of their power, for this is good and acceptable before God If any men or women do not maintain their own poor relations who belong to them, they do in effect deny the faith; for the design of Christ was to confirm the law of Moses, and particularly the law of the fifth commandment, which is, Honour thy father and mother; so that those deny the faith who disobey that law, much more if they provide not for their wives and children, who are parts of themselves; if they spend that upon their lusts which should maintain their families, they have denied the faith and are worse than infidels.

MacArthur points out that, in ancient Greek law, children were obliged to support their elders:

Reading from the Greek culture, it was Greek law from the time of Solon that sons and daughters were not only morally but legally bound to support their parents. Anyone who refused that duty lost his civil rights.

Aeschines, the Athenian orator, said in one of his speeches, “And whom did our lawgiver condemn to silence in the assembly of the people? And where does he make this clear? Let there be,” he says, “a scrutiny of public speakers in case there be any speaker in the assembly of the people who is a striker of his father or mother or who neglects to maintain them or to give them a home.” Demosthenes said, “I regard the man who neglects his parents as unbelieving in and hateful to the gods, as well as to men.” And Philo talked about the fact that even old birds take care of their parents because they taught them how to fly. Should humans do less than that? And we have a responsibility to care for our parents, particularly those widowed ones.

Paul distinguishes two types of widow: one who is all alone but continues her devotions to God (verse 5) and one who is self-indulgent and dead, even though she is alive (verse 6). Paul means the second type of widow is dead in sin, not dead to sin, which the first widow is.

MacArthur gives us the Greek for ‘all alone’ in verse 5:

The verb here “has been left alone” monoō. We get the word mono, which means single. It’s in the perfect tense and it means a continual condition or state or permanent position of being forsaken without resources.

He discusses the first type of widow, the one devoted to God:

Verse 5, “She trusts in God.” Now, the Greek text says elpizō, the verb, “She has fixed her hope on God.” She has fixed her hope on God. That’s also a perfect tense. She not only is in a continual condition of being without means but she is in a continual condition of presenting herself to God as her only hope. Her settled condition is one of desolation. Her settled attitude is one of hope in God.

What does that tell us? She’s a Christian. What kind of widows is the church responsible to support? Number one, those who have no children or grandchildren who are supporting them. Two, a widow who is a believer, a single woman having lost her husband who is a believer. If she’s never had a husband and is single, she is still the care of her father. That’s another issue. But this woman is the woman who has no one to care for her and she has fixed her hope on God. She trusts in the God who has promised to care for widows, the God who has entrusted Himself to her to be her support when she has no support.

This means she’s a Christian lady. Only – now get this – only to such women does the church have this special responsibility. We may choose to help non-Christian women; we must help Christian women. This is a mandate. We might choose to do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith. We are bound to serve the Christian woman who is destitute. She looks to God for the supply of her needs

So here is the kind of widow that is to be supported. We are to come to the aid of a woman who trusts in God, a believing woman, a godly woman. And her godliness is seen in the next phrase. “She continues in supplication and prayers night and day.” The fact that she had fixed her hope on God shows that she’s a Christian; the fact that she continues day and night in prayer and supplication shows that she’s a committed Christian, a godly woman – not just a saved woman but a godly woman.

Anna the prophetess was one such example of a godly widow:

Her name was Anna and she was there at the dedication of the baby Christ, the child Christ, when He was brought to the temple. “And there was one Anna,” Luke 2:36 says, “a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, she was of great age and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity.” She would have been married very young, no doubt in her teens, she lived seven years with her husband and her husband died.

“And she had never departed from the temple but served God with fastings and prayers” – there it is – “night and day.” She had the privilege of being there when the Messiah Himself arrived and was dedicated in the privilege of going out and speaking of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Israel. Here was a woman who lost her husband and devoted herself to God. This is a woman worthy of support. If God wanted to give her a husband, that’s fine. If God wanted her to be remaining single, that’s fine.

Her heart was given to God. And yes, she poured out her petition, and yes, she poured out her supplication, but also with it her praise and her thanks and her adoration and her worship.

Now let’s look at the widow of verse 6.

Henry says:

But she is not a widow indeed that lives in pleasure (v. 6), or who lives licentiously. A jovial widow is not a widow indeed, not fit to be taken under the care of the church. She that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives, is no living member of the church, but as a carcase in it, or a mortified member. We may apply it more generally; those who live in pleasure are dead while they live, spiritually dead, dead in trespasses and sins; they are in the world to no purpose, buried alive as to the great ends of living.

MacArthur would agree with that assessment:

The Greek says the living for pleasure one living is dead. In other words, the one who goes out and lives for her own ease and all she wants is her own satisfaction and her own indulgence, she may be living physically but she is dead – what? – spiritually.

There are women like that. They have no family. They have to go out and support themselves, but they don’t trust God for that. They don’t hope in God for their guidance. They don’t depend on God. They have no heart of devotion to Him, no love for Him, no dependence on Him, no desire to obey Him, but rather they live for pleasure. Now that Greek term means to live sensually. Some have translated – it’s a very rare verb, spatalaō, it means to plunge into dissipation. It means to lead a life of wanton pleasure. The word “wanton” means with disregard for what is right. To lead a life of pleasure with no thought for what is right or what is wrong …

Now, it’s likely because of the context here that such women existed in that church, that when their husband was around, they were active in the church. When the husband died or when the husband disappeared, they split and went into that kind of lifestyle. Whatever their past involvement in the church, they forsook it. They were the rocky soil where the plant grew for a little while and then it died. They were the weedy ground where it grew for a little while and then was choked out by the love of lustful desire and the pleasures of the world. For that woman, the church needs to provide nothing. She needs to be turned over to the consequence of her own choices.

And so I do not believe the church is under obligation according to the Word of God to be running around helping ungodly women continue to live their ungodly life.

Paul tells Timothy to command these things so that they may be without reproach (verse 7).

MacArthur explains the verse:

What are these things? Everything he said since verse 3. You command this to your people, Timothy, that they might be without blame, whether they are families who ought to support widows or whether they are widows who ought to live godly lives. He’s pulling everybody in. Everybody involved should be above reproach. The church should be above reproach. The church should be a model of virtue in this area, leaving no legitimate fault to be exploited by the critics.

… the reputation of the church is at stake, and if the church is to be blameless, then you better be commanding these things all the time. You tell your people they’re responsible for caring for widows, widows who are widows indeed, that is without support and who are godly and who walk with the Lord, have manifested their dependence and hope in Him through a life of prayer. If the church is careful and makes these distinctions and supports these women, it will be above criticism, it will gain a marvelous and wonderful reputation. 

Paul returns to the obligation for a household to care for its widows, saying that anyone who does not do so is denying the faith and no better than an unbeliever (verse 8).

MacArthur says:

That’s one of the strongest statements in the whole Bible. You say, “I didn’t think a Christian could be worse than a non-Christian.” Yeah, you can. In terms of the expression here, you are worse than an unbeliever if you don’t take care of your own.

Now, what is he saying here? There’s no break in thought. The term “but” keeps the same flow going, the break comes in verse 9 … he states in verse 8 negatively what he said in verse 4 positively. In verse 4 he said, first of all, children take care of your parents. Now in verse 8, he says if you don’t, you’re worse than an unbeliever. But he goes beyond parents here, and he gives us more criteria to evaluate our responsibility.

The fact that he said it in verse 4 in a positive way and now says it in verse 8 in a negative way leads me to believe that there were a lot of violations of this in Ephesus, and the level of Paul’s exasperation was rising and rising because so many people were violating the biblical ethic toward women in need. So he says, “If anyone doesn’t provide for his house” – and it’s a first-class condition and that means it states a fact so it could be translated, “When any of you doesn’t provide for your family” or “Since some of you are not providing for your family.”

It’s a very simple statement of fact. If you don’t provide, and that is pronoeō, to think before, to plan before, to care for someone, to take thought to help, if you’re not planning into your life the care of your own – your own what? – your own widows.

Now, what does he mean, your own widows? That’s very vague and it is purposely vague because it refers to anybody networked with you. In your family? Not specifically because that comes next, but in your circle of relationships, maybe your relatives, maybe your friends, maybe your neighbors, maybe your acquaintances, anybody networked in life through you, whether in your house or another house, it’s purposely vague. And again I say it isn’t the question of the organized church doing it, it’s the question of a believer doing it.

MacArthur says that the onus can fall upon us as individual churchgoers to support godly widows if we see their need before our church does:

many people will come to me, and they will say the church ought to help this lady, she needs $200. Why can’t the church help her? Well, we want to do everything we can, but if you say that to me I’m liable to say back to you, “Why can’t you help her?” And if you say to me, “I can’t help her because I don’t have anything, either,” then we’ll help both of you gladly. But don’t come and expect the church to do what you won’t do. That’s not the idea. Where do you – who do you think the church is? If you have a burden for someone, then the responsibility lies with you to do what you can to see that that burden is alleviated.

So first of all, if you don’t provide for your own, that is the widows that are in your network, the bereft women that you know of, and especially of those of his own family. So we know the first phrase is beyond family, especially of your own family. He says if you don’t help the ones in your network and especially in your own family, your own parents or grandparents or your own aunt or your own sister or whatever, someone close to you, if you don’t help those along with everyone networked who in any sense belongs to you as a friend or an acquaintance, you are guilty of two things.

Look at the first one, you’ve denied the faith. Now, he doesn’t mean you personally have lost your personal faith in God. He doesn’t mean that. He’s not judging your soul. What he means is you deny the biblical principle of compassionate love that is the very center of the Christian faith. God so loved the world that He – what? – gave. And that’s the heart of the Christian faith. The love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts, Romans 5:5. By this shall all men know that you’re my disciples, you have love one for another …

So first you’ve denied the faith, and if you’ve denied the faith, secondly, you’re worse than an unbeliever. In practice, you’ve denied the faith. In practice, you look worse than an unbeliever. Why? Because most unbelievers take care of their own. I mean, most pagans know that. And most unbelievers have no idea of the obligation of love that God has given, they just do it naturally.

And most unbelievers have no real model to follow since they don’t know Christ. And most unbelievers – obviously, all unbelievers don’t have the power to love that we have. So we have the mandate, we have the model, and we have the power, and if we don’t come up to the level of an unbeliever in caring for someone in need, then we’re worse than they are. That’s the point. Even pagans revere their ancestors and worship their elders. And the Christian who falls below that basic standard of loving provision is more to be blamed than anybody is to be blamed – blamed because of what he knows, the command he’s under, and the love he possesses.

I can attest to an example of anonymous giving at my church just a few months ago. Someone put £200 in an envelope which had a congregant’s name on it and gave it to one of our churchwardens. The churchwarden made sure that the person received the cash.

Our church has turned into an amazing place in the past couple of years. But I digress.

I would like to end with observations that John MacArthur has on feminism. In parliamentary debates here in the UK, I hear many Labour MPs, particularly women, lament the poverty levels in single-parent homes. Those Labour MPs are also very much pro-abortion.

MacArthur says the problem will only grow worse, and he delivered today’s sermons in 1986. He was speaking of the US here, but similar things are happening in Britain:

Seventy percent of today’s women in the labor force work out of economic necessity. More often than not, they are single, widowed, or divorced. And more often than not, they are poor. Seventy-seven percent of this nation’s poverty is borne by women and their children. The number of poor families headed by men has declined over the last 15 years by more than 25 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of women who headed families at the poverty level or lower has increased nearly 40 percent. Thus, today, one in three families headed by women is poor, compared with one in ten headed by men, and one in nineteen with two parents.

The point of all of this is to let you know that with women’s liberation has come female poverty. When you have the liberation of woman alongside the liberation of everybody from marriage commitment, you have women being thrown out of marriages and left to fend for themselves everywhere. According to the 13th annual report of the President’s National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity, I’m quoting: “If the proportion of the poor among female householder families continues at the speed that it’s going now, the poverty population will be composed solely of women and their children before the year 2000.”

Women are being dispossessed. They are being left alone. Therefore, they don’t want children. The only way to deal with unwanted children in a society where they’re reaching out for every relationship they can find is to abort those children. And the Centers for Disease Control tell us now that abortion has reached the place where it is the sixth leading killer among maternal diseases. And according to the May ’85 issue of OB/GYN, obstetrics and gynecological journal, they estimate that 50 percent of the deaths related to abortion are not reported, so it’s double whatever the statistics indicate.

Women are victims of abortion in incredible ways. Not only death, pelvic abscess, perforation of the uterus and other internal organs, medical complications in abortion include sterility in as many as 25 percent of all women having abortions. Hemorrhaging occurs in ten percent of all cases, requiring transfusions. Viral hepatitis, cervical laceration, cardiorespiratory arrest, acute kidney failure, amniotic fluid embolus, and it goes on and on like that.

The result of this is medical care for men has gone up 12 percent in the last few years. Medical care for women has gone up nearly 30 percent. So what we have now are a rising population of dispossessed women who have to run their own life and their own family, earn their own living, take care of their own medical needs, and in the process of doing that, pay more money than men do for medical care because of the problem of abortion. Such is the cost of feminism: the loss of health, the loss of financial stability, the loss of care.

Since 1960, the number of women in the work force has doubled. Forty-five percent of the entire labor force of the United States is now female, and they still earn an average of $10,000 a year less than men, and get this: The average four-year-college-graduate female in the working place earns the same amount or less as a male high school dropout. Now, I’m not saying that’s right, I’m just saying that’s fact. What they have worked to get, they haven’t gotten, and what they didn’t expect to get, they got.

Demanding equality has backfired. Employees won’t pay women as much because of daycare center costs, because of maternity leave, because of sick-child absences, and 45 percent of the women in the work force are single, divorced, separated, or widowed, and they’re the only person to care for themselves and their children.

And women’s liberation and women’s equality and everybody saying, “Take care of yourself, baby” has backfired. You add to that casual, recreational sex and illegitimate children and abortion, you add no-fault divorces, which leaves them with no right to alimony, and you have the feminization of poverty. And women have become the victims of the second biggest con game in history. The first was when the serpent persuaded Eve she needed to upgrade her life and be equal to God. The second is when the serpent deceived woman into thinking she needed to upgrade her life and be equal to man. Women will never be equal to men, nor will men be equal to women, they’re just different.

According to Lenore Weitzman, in her book The Divorce Revolution: The Unexpected Social and Economic Consequences for Women and Children in America, she writes, “On the average, divorced women and the minor children in their households experience a 73 percent decline in their standard of living in the first year after divorce.” That’s devastating. Seventy-three percent decline. The former husbands, in the first year after divorce, experience a 42 percent rise in the standard of living. He’s unloaded all his baggage. And now – in 1940, one out of every six marriages ended in divorce. Fifty years later, half of all marriages end in divorce.

[The author George] Grant closes this chapter on this issue in his book by saying, “Poverty in America has taken on an increasingly feminine face. More and more women than ever are falling through the gaps in society’s safety net. Much of the cause for this abominable situation must be laid at the door of the very movements that sought to liberate women, the abortion movement, the careerist movement, and the no-fault divorce movement. Through them, the structures once built into our cultural system designed to protect women have been systematically dismantled. Dire poverty and even homelessness have become inevitable.”

And then he says this: “The solution to the feminization of poverty and the feminization of homelessness thus does not depend upon the advocacy of feminism. Indeed, it cannot. The solution lies with the church. Care for women caught in the clutches of poverty and homelessness, abandonment, widowhood, and distress is always a central sign of devotion to God because God cares so much.”

By God’s design, women are always to be cared for. Whoever said, “Baby, you’re on your own” defied the purpose and plan of God. And what I’m saying in all of this is what we’re looking at, people, is a continual explosion of dispossessed, homeless, poor, alone, desolate, needy, non-supported women. And the burden for all of that is going to come right to the foot of the church initially because if we are the representation of God in the world, then we need to represent the compassion of God toward those people, and He cares, and we have to care as well.

You see, whenever you buy into Satan’s lies and deceptions, you never get what you think you’re promised. All you get is tragedy. So Paul, writing to Timothy and for us as well, sets in order the responsibility of the church for the care of dispossessed women who are in need.

Paul has more specific instructions for Timothy on the treatment of widows. More on that next week.

Next time — 1 Timothy 5:9-16

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