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Reign of Christ — Christ the King — Sunday is on November 20, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 23:33-43

23:33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

23:35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

23:36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,

23:37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

23:38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

23:41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

23:43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Apologies in advance for another long post, but what our commentators have to say will open our eyes to the true depth of this reading.

John MacArthur says that the story of the penitent thief is found only in Luke’s Gospel:

The story of the penitent thief is not in Matthew, Mark or John.  It is only in Luke.  This is all we have.  And in a sense, as we look at verses 39 to 43 and consider this miraculous conversion of a thief hanging on a cross next to Jesus, we might conclude that this is a rather cryptic account Perhaps we would wish that Matthew had given us another look at it or Mark or both or John, but this is all we have …

we come to the conversion at Calvary, the story of the salvation of a crucified thief.  And as I said, as you first look at it, it seems a bit brief and perhaps not very revealing, but you will find by the time we’re done that it is anything but that.

MacArthur explains that our Lord’s crucifixion was set up to play out as a comedy for both Romans and Jews:

I understand that’s a stunning notion, that this is a comedy, but it is precisely that which was intended by the crucifiers.  To them, Jesus was an object of absolute ridicule.  As a king, he was laughable.  This whole thing was intended to be a mockery of the fact that he was a king.  He had no army.  He had no sovereignty over anything or any place.  He had meager and minimal followers.  He had conquered no one and nothing and delivered no one.  There was nothing about him that looked as if he was a massive power, but rather he was increasingly weaker and weaker and weaker And so the whole thing was so comedic they turned it into a kind of burlesque.  Here, those that are gathered around the cross are mocking, sneering and hurling abuse at Jesus with sarcasm.  They’re endeavoring to treat the Son of God with as much dishonor as they can muster, with as much disrespect and disdain and shame as they can possibly generate. 

Along with Judas’s betrayal a few days beforehand, this is one of history’s greatest sins. Both show how horrible spiritual blindness truly is:

Here is sin at its apex.  Here is sin at its ultimate.  Here is blasphemy at its pinnacle.  Mocking deity, sneering at the incarnate God, and with glib satisfaction piling sarcastic scorn on the Creator and the Redeemer – the true King; the true Messiah.  Sinners cannot to worse than this.  Nothing that sinners can do could more offend God than this.  Blasphemy can’t be worse than this.  We might ask that in light of the heinousness of this, maybe this is time for God to act.  We should be expecting a holy, righteous God to react to this kind of ultimate blasphemy by pouring out wrath and vengeance and fury on those who are perpetrating this on him …

Judgment will come 40 years after this in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.  Many, if not most of these people, gather today who are still alive 40 years later will perish in that judgment.  Many will die before that ever comes.  But doesn’t this seem like an undue patience?  Just how tolerant is holiness?  Just how patient is righteousness?  Just how enduring is divine mercy and grace?  If ever there seemed to be a time when God’s wrath would be justified if it came swiftly, this would be it.

Well, in a strange irony, His judgment did come swiftly at the cross, but it didn’t come on the crowd, it came on Jesus on behalf of those who blasphemed him.  The Old Testament is clear about blasphemy.  It says this in Leviticus 24:16, “Anybody who blasphemes my name shall die.”  It is a capital crime to blaspheme the name of God.  They are blasphemers.  They know that.  They’re content to blaspheme Him, to pronounce curses on Him, to heap abuse on Him.  That is exactly what they are doing.  In a perverted twist, however, they accuse him of being the blasphemer.  When earlier in his ministry Jesus demonstrated the power to forgive sin, Matthew 9, they said this man blasphemes.  You come to the end of Matthew – or toward the end of Matthew in chapter 26, Jesus says, “You’ve said it yourself, nevertheless I tell you that you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.  And the high priest tore at his robes saying, “He has blasphemed.  What further need do we have of witnesses.  Behold, you have heard the blasphemy.  He is deserving of death.”  And they spit in his face and beat him with their fists and slapped him.

They are the blasphemers, but in a perverted twist, they make him into the blasphemer and they are the ones who think they’re upholding righteousness

MacArthur reminds us of God’s infinite patience:

When you run out of patience, God does not.  When you look, at something and think the patience of God must be exhausted because my patience would have been long ago exhausted, God’s is not.  And the answer is that God is far beyond us, infinitely beyond us, in how He thinks and how He acts.  The uniqueness of God is this: when He is massively offended and when He is relentlessly offended, He still comes to the offenders, and warning them of the judgment to come offers them forgiveness and mercy and grace and compassion and makes them His children and takes them to His holy heaven forever.  It is that God who is hanging on the cross.  That God whose patience is far beyond ours because His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts.  The stunning contrast at Calvary is the contrast between the merciless insults of the crowd and the merciful intersession of the Christ, and those are the two points I want you to look at.  The merciless insults of the crowd, verse 35.  We’re going to look at the merciless insults of the crowd.  The crowd is made up of four groups.  There’s the people, the leaders, the soldiers and the thieves and they all have the same response to Jesus.  They’re literally without sympathy.  They are heartless, cruel, brutal.

When the Romans — ‘they’ — came to the place that is called The Skull, or Golgotha, they crucified Jesus with the two criminals, one on His right and one on His left (verse 33).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

he was crucified at a place called Calvary, Kranion, the Greek name for Golgotha—the place of a skull: an ignominious place, to add to the reproach of his sufferings, but significant, for there he triumphed over death as it were upon his own dunghill. He was crucified. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross as it lay upon the ground, and it was then lifted up, and fastened into the earth, or into some socket made to receive it. This was a painful and shameful death above any other.

Our Lord’s place in the middle of the two men was significant:

he was crucified in the midst between two thieves, as if he had been the worst of the three. Thus he was not only treated as a transgressor, but numbered with them, the worst of them.

Jesus interceded to His Father asking Him to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing; the soldiers cast lots to divide His clothing (verse 34).

MacArthur says that casting lots for a criminal’s belongings was normal:

That’s standard procedure, by the way.  The executioners were given the right to keep the possessions, the final possessions of clothing and things of the people who were executed.  That was sort of a small job benefit, I guess, a perk.  Now there’s a little more detail on this back in John because John gives us some insight into exactly what the soldiers did.  In 19 John 23, “The soldiers, therefore, when they crucified Jesus, took his outer garments and made four parts.”  There would be four parts.  There would be four garments that a man would wear in that day.  There would be an outer cloak that you kept warm with, like a jacket, and you slept on and used as a blanket.  There would be shoes or sandals.  There would be a headpiece.  There would be a sash or a belt.  Four pieces. 

Psalm 22 prophesied this would happen:

We know that there were four Roman soldiers assigned to a crucifixion.  If you look in 12 Acts 4, you read about a squad of Romans.  It’s a quaternion made up of four In fact a full one was four units of four, so it’s very likely that there were four soldiers in a death squad That’s why the four garments could be divided one to each of the four, but there was also a tunic which would have been his regular garment and the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece, so they said let’s not tear it.  Let’s cast lots for it to decide whose it shall be.  That the scripture might be fulfilled they divided my outer garments among them and for my clothing they cast lots.  That, too, in Psalm 22. 

Out of the four groups of people there that MacArthur wants us to look at, we see the soldiers first:

We might expect cruelty out of Roman soldiers because they did this all the time. 

The people stood by watching, and the leaders scoffed at Jesus, saying that if He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the Messiah of God, His Chosen One (verse 35).

Here Luke shows us the crowd and the leaders.

Remember that every Jew possible was in Jerusalem for the Passover, so it was a huge crowd.

Of them, MacArthur gives us something to think about:

these are the people, probably, who had been healed by Jesus of certain diseases.  These might be people who had had experiences of other miracles that Jesus had performed in the area of Judea and Jerusalem, and there were lots of them from, of all places, Galilee in the north.  There may have been, and surely were, people in the crowd who were fed among the 5,000 when Jesus made the food.  There were certainly people who knew well those who had been healed, maybe been given their hearing or their sight, or raised up to walk from a state of paralysis.  I mean wouldn’t we expect to find something sympathetic out of them and didn’t they hear Jesus teaching, and didn’t they experience the meekness and gentleness of Christ and the love of Christ that was so manifest in the beauty and magnificence of what he taught? 

But even the crowd is merciless.  You say, “Wait a minute.  All it says in that verse is the people stood by looking on.”  Well, that’s not all that can be said about the merciless crowd, I’m sorry to say.  This is a large crowd.  They’ve come from everywhere.  It’s Passover.  The city has swelled by hundreds of thousands of people and the crowd moving toward Calvary from the public trial early in the morning is growing and growing and growing, because Jesus is the most popular person in the country by far and he’s drawing a massive crowd that are now collected around the cross.  These are people who were there to hail him as the potential king on Monday when he came into the city.  They were the same people who were there to scream, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” earlier in the day, and now they sort of appear to be exhausted, I guess, sort of blank stares from what Luke tells us.  But Matthew and Mark tell us more.  Matthew and Mark tell us what we need to know.  Matthew 27:39, “And those passing by, the milling crowd, were hurling abuse at him, wagging their heads, a gesture of taunting, and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself.  If you are the son of God, come down from the cross in the same way,” the priests, etc.

MacArthur thinks the leaders influenced the crowd:

Mark 15 verse 29, “And those passing by the milling crowd were hurling abuse at him saying, “Ha!” Wagging their heads, “You are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.  Save yourself and come down from the cross.”  Again, in the same way which sorts out the rulers from the passing, milling crowd.  The crowd were in it.  They had been orchestrated by the leaders.  They’re easily seduced by their evil hearts of unbelief, easily seduced by the manipulation of their leaders.  They’d picked up the comedic game and they pour out the venomous sarcasm on Jesus.  They never do the right thing, this crowd.  They haven’t done the right thing all week.  Here they’re just vicious, merciless, to the merciful son of God.  It’s amazing.  It’s amazing.  This is the worst possible conduct by the people of Israel.  So the merciless crowd, then the merciless rulers – back to Luke 23:35, “And even the rulers were sneering at him.”  Of course they had orchestrated all of it, “Saying he has saved others, let him save himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”  Then they use to Messianic terms, The Christ of God, the Anointed; the word Messiah, and His Chosen One a Messianic title taken from Daniel chapter 9 The Old Testament expressions related to the Messiah are in reference – in general reference when they use the term the Christ of God.  The specific words, “His Chosen One” comes from Daniel 9 and definitely is a Messianic title. 

The soldiers joined in the mocking, offering him sour wine (verse 36) in His moment of greatest thirst and taunting Him, saying that if He were the King of the Jews, He should save Himself (verse 37).

Of the sour wine, Henry says it was a taunting invitation to drink with them:

They mocked him (v. 36, 37); they made sport with him, and made a jest of his sufferings; and when they were drinking sharp sour wine themselves, such as was generally allotted them, they triumphantly asked him if he would pledge them, or drink with them.

MacArthur discusses the Greek word for ‘taunt’ and the sour wine:

The actual Greek word empaiz is to taunt.  Inflicting even more pain on him to his face as he hangs in agony.  And in a mock act of obeisance and service to him as if he were a king, they offer him sour wine Now there are a couple of occasions that are clearly identified when Christ was crucified in which he was offered something to drink.  The first one was when they got him to the place to be crucified, you remember they offered him a drink that had a sedative in it, that would probably be used to sedate the person a little bit so it would be easier to nail him to the cross and he wouldn’t fight And Jesus refused that, remember? 

And then when he comes to the very end of his dying, six hours later, at the very end, at 3:00 in the afternoon when he’s about to die, he says, “I’m thirsty,” and they lift up to him a drink on a sponge on the end of a stick.  This seems to me to be something different from both of those.  This seems to me to be part of the game they were playing.  This is certainly not their giving him the wine in response to his asking.  This does not appear to be the sedative because he’s already there and the mockery is already full scale.  It seems to me that they are offering him sour wine and saying at the same time, if you’re the King of the Jews, save yourself.  It’s a pretend act of obeisance, as if they were bringing royal wine to the king.  The mockery just reaches ultimate proportions.  Roman soldiers drank a cheap form of wine.  They offered it to him, mimicking the rulers, mimicking the people, spewing out the same taunts.

MacArthur looks at Matthew’s account and prophecies from the Old Testament:

According to Matthew’s account, Matthew 27:42, “He saved others, he can’t save himself.  He is the King of Israel.  Let him now come down from the cross and we’ll all believe him.  He trusts in God, let Him deliver him now if he is taking pleasure in him, for he said, “I am the son of God.”  You know, they say these things and they just have no idea what they’re saying.  Listen to this.  Psalm 22 looks at the cross of Christ.  It’s prophecy.  It starts out this way.  Here’s the beginning of 22 Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Does that sound familiar?  The very words of Jesus on the cross. But go down to verse seven, 22nd Psalm 7, “A reproach of men despised by the people, all who see me sneer at me.  They separate with the lip.  They wag the head.”  That’s exactly what they did.  “Saying commit yourself to the Lord.  Let Him deliver him. Let Him rescue him because he delights in him.”  All that sarcasm was predicted in the Psalm.  They fulfilled it to the letter. 

They knew about the title of the Chosen One, because Jesus had applied it to Himself during His ministry:

… you can go back to the ninth chapter of Luke and in verses 20 and 35 you will see that Jesus did take the title The Christ of God and he did take the title His Chosen One.  They knew he claimed it.

Paul said that the Jews would find Jesus to be a stumbling block and the Gentiles would find Him foolish, things that are still true today. MacArthur addresses that and dying on a tree, the ultimate curse for a Jew:

Remember, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that a crucified Messiah is to a Jew a stumbling block, and of course to the gentile, foolishnessThey thought of someone hanging on a tree according to 21 Deuteronomy 23 as cursed by God and Jesus was cursed by God, and so they heap on him all the scorn of this notion that he is the true Messiah and King that they’ve been waiting for.  How could that possibly be true?  It’s absurd.  The leaders orchestrate this and egg on the mindless crowd.  Little did they know, as I said, that he was being cursed by God That was true.  Further, 53 Isaiah 4 says, “He was smitten by God and afflicted,” and verse 10 says, “The Lord was pleased to crush him, putting him to death.”  Paul looks back on that and said he was made a curse for us But it was all nonsense to the people. 

Henry says this mocking of Jesus was a moment of unity between Roman and Jew:

… they said, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself; for, as the Jews prosecuted him under the notion of a pretended Messiah, so the Romans under the notion of a pretended king.

There was an inscription over Jesus: ‘This is the King of the Jews’ (verse 38).

Although Luke doesn’t say so, it was written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Our commentators place great emphasis on it being in those three languages.

Henry says that it was part of God’s plan to spread the Gospel:

That the superscription over his head, setting forth his crime, was, This is the King of the Jews, v. 38. He is put to death for pretending to be the king of the Jews; so they meant it; but God intended it to be a declaration of what he really was, notwithstanding his present disgrace: he is the king of the Jews, the king of the church, and his cross is the way to his crown. This was written in those that were called the three learned languages, Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, for those are best learned that have learned Christ. It was written in these three languages that it might be known and read of all men; but God designed by it to signify that the gospel of Christ should be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, and be read in all languages. The Gentile philosophy made the Greek tongue famous, the Roman laws and government made the Latin tongue so, and the Hebrew excelled them all for the sake of the Old Testament. In these three languages is Jesus Christ proclaimed king. Young scholars, that are taking pains at school to make themselves masters of these three languages, should aim at this, that in the use of them they may increase their acquaintance with Christ.

MacArthur explains why Pontius Pilate wanted the inscription to read just that:

We know historically that when people were crucified, their crime was posted and since Jesus committed no crime there could be no crime posted over him So Pilate decided what was going to go on the sign Pilate, 19 John 19, Pilate wrote an inscription and put it on the cross.  This was Pilate’s thing and this is what it said, “Jesus, the Nazarene” or Jesus of Nazareth, “The King of the Jews.”  If you combine Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it actually says, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.”  It was all placarded there.  Well, therefore this inscription many of the Jews read for the place Jesus was crucified was near the city, again reason for the huge crowd.  It was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.  Pilate wanted everybody to know it and so the chief priests and the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write the King of the Jews, but that he said, “I am King of the Jews.”  Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate wouldn’t change it because this is Pilate’s way to mock them.  They had mocked him.  They had backed him into the proverbial corner and blackmailed him into a executing a man he knew was innocent.  Even his wife said wash your hands of this innocent man.  Pilate said multiple times, “I find no fault in him.”  Herod found no crime.  And Pilate had been made to look like a fool and he wasn’t going to leave it at that, so he wanted to turn the tables and make them look like fools.  It was Pilate’s little joke.  This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.  They said take that down and put up he said he’s the King of the Jews and he said what I have written I have written.  So you have the people mocking Jesus and Pilate mocking the people.

Then we meet the last group, the two criminals on crosses next to Jesus.

One of them also joined in the mocking, saying Jesus that, if He were the Messiah, He should save Himself — and them (verse 39).

MacArthur tells us that in Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts, both thieves had been mocking our Lord:

One of the thieves, only one is quoted by Luke, but Matthew and Mark tell us the rest of the story.  Here’s what Matthew says, 27 Matthew 44, “The robbers were also insulting him with the same words,” both of them; plural.  15 Mark 32, “Those who were crucified with him were also insulting him.”  They both joined in; the whole crowd, all the rulers, all the soldiers, both thieves.  All Luke does is record for us what one of the two said, but they were both involved.  “Are you not the Christ?” again with scorn and sarcasm, “Save yourself and us.” 

The silent thief rebuked the other, asking him if he did not fear God, for both were under the same sentence of condemnation (verse 40).

The penitent thief told his companion that both of them were justly condemned but that ‘this man’ — Jesus — had done nothing wrong (verse 41).

Henry points to divine grace in the spiritual transformation of the penitent thief:

2. He owns that he deserves what was done to him: We indeed justly. It is probable that they both suffered for one and the same crime, and therefore he spoke with the more assurance, We received the due reward of our deeds. This magnifies divine grace, as acting in a distinguishing way. These two have been comrades in sin and suffering, and yet one is saved and the other perishes; two that had gone together all along hitherto, and yet now one taken and the other left. He does not say, Thou indeed justly, but We. Note, True penitents acknowledge the justice of God in all the punishments of their sin. God has done right, but we have done wickedly. 3. He believes Christ to have suffered wrongfully. Though he was condemned in two courts, and run upon as if he had been the worst of malefactors, yet this penitent thief is convinced, by his conduct in his sufferings, that he has done nothing amiss, ouden atoponnothing absurd, or unbecoming his character. The chief priests would have him crucified between the malefactors, as one of them; but this thief has more sense than they, and owns he is not one of them. Whether he had before heard of Christ and of his wonderous works does not appear, but the Spirit of grace enlightened him with this knowledge, and enabled him to say, This man has done nothing amiss.

MacArthur describes what happened to the penitent thief physically and spiritually:

As the hours passed on the cross, one of the two most thoroughly degenerate people on the mountain, at the scene, a man devoted to violent robbery, a wicked criminal, has a massive transformation.  It is shocking; 180 degrees.  His taunting goes silent and while his body is in horrible trauma and agony, the unparalleled suffering of crucifixion, his mind might be assumed to go foggy as he tries to deal with the pain.  And as some kind of shock would set in, just to protect him from agonies that would be totally unbearable, and we know the body has the capacity to send us into shock in order to mitigate those kinds of excruciating experiences, but in the moment of the worst imaginable kind of agony, his mind becomes crystal clear with a clarity and perception of reality and truth that he’d never experienced in his life.  With a clarity and a perception of truth and reality that he hadn’t experienced a moment before.  Something has happened.  All of a sudden, he turns to his friend and rebukes him for doing what he had just been doing.  What has happened?

I’ll tell you what has happened.  A divine, sovereign miracle has happened.  There is no other explanation.  You want a parallel to this?  Paul on the Damascus Road.  That’s the best parallel.  His thoughts of Jesus are thoughts of hate.  His thoughts toward those who confess the name of Jesus are thoughts of persecution and execution.  Paul has papers.  He’s on his way to Damascus to persecute and execute those who named the name of Christ.  And while he’s on his way with his papers in his hand, God invades his life, slams him to the dirt, blinds him and saves him That’s how salvation works, folks.  It is a sovereign miracle.  Not always that dramatic, but sometimes that dramatic

The penitent thief is a form of the Prodigal Son:

If you want to connect this with somebody else, this man would be the prodigal This is a wicked man, but all of a sudden in the moment he is dramatically transformed and it becomes immediately evident what has happened.  He goes from blaspheming Jesus to being horrified at the other criminal blaspheming Jesus.  His whole perception of how you treat Jesus is completely changed and that’s where the story begins The other criminal has had no such change, hanging there hurling abuse at Jesus with the same mocking sarcasm, “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us.”  It must have shocked him to hear from the other side of Jesus, his friend, verse 40, who answered and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God since you’re under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we, indeed, justly for we’re receiving what we deserve for our deeds.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  This must have been a shock to the other thief who was hurling the abuse.  What happened to you?  What happened to you since you were nailed up there?  The transformed man finds the taunts coming out of the mouth of his companion criminal repulsive to him and frightening to him and they had just come out of his mouth.  What this man says is the evidence of his changed heart. Salvation is a divine miracle and it manifests itself There’s a lot more here than you might think. 

First of all, he becomes very, very aware of God and the fear of God Then he openly acknowledges his own sin Then he confesses the sinlessness of Christ and affirms his messiah-ship and his savior-hood It’s an amazing thing.  And all of these are responses to the miraculous sovereign work of the spirit of God on his dark heart.  This is the light of the glorious gospel of Christ shining in the midst of the darkness and dispelling it.  I want to sort of unpack those elements that are the manifest evidences that God has done the work of transformation.  The other sinner, no fear of God, no fear of judgment, no sense of sinfulness, no sense of justice, no sense of guilt, no desire for forgiveness, no longing for righteousness, no desire for reconciliation.  And the thief who has been transformed confronts that tragic condition, which moments before had been his own condition.  He can’t understand it any more.  In a moment of time he went from being a part of it to not being able to comprehend it.  How can you act like that?  How can you talk like that?  Don’t you fear God?  Don’t you know you’re getting what you deserve?  Don’t you know this man is righteous?  What a transformation.  Let’s look a little more closely at it.

While the one criminal is hurling abuse at Jesus, the other answered and rebuking him said – rebuking is a very strong word Epitima He said, “Do you not even fear God?”  Let me tell you the first evidence that God is doing the work of conversion:  the fear of God.  The fear of God.  If someone is converted to Christ, if someone is regenerate and someone is born again, made new, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 he becomes a new creature, old things pass away and all things become new.  Boy, do we see that here.  And the first thing you see in a real conversion is a heightened awareness that God is a threat.  To be afraid of God, literally to fear God.  He really is not seeking someone to get him off the cross.  He’s not trying to find someone who can save him from physical death.  He wants to make sure he is saved from divine judgment.  His problem is not really what’s happening to him on the earth, it’s what’s going to happen to him when he comes to the throne of God.  He’s a Jew, no doubt, raised to know the laws of God, to understand God – God’s holiness, God’s law, obedience to God’s law.  He is a violator of God’s law.  He is an open violator of God’s law.  He is a known violator of God’s law.  He is a tried and proven violator of God’s law and he’s dying a death that is just and he says it.  And the law of men was a reflection of the law of God, certainly in Israel, and so he knows that if this is what men to do him for breaking the law of God, what in the world is God going to do to me?  All of a sudden he has clarity on what he had learned about the law and guilt and sin and judgment.  He knew he was a violator.  He was internally convicted by the work of the Holy Spirit, to be aware that what he was getting from a human judge was only a small sampling of what he was going to get from a divine judge.  And to add to his guilt, which put him on the cross, you can add that he had been blaspheming the Messiah and he now knows it, producing an even greater guilt From this place of clarity he can’t even imagine that he did that, that he said what he said to Jesus and he can’t understand how his friend can say that.  He says in verse 40, “Do you not even fear God since you’re under the same sentence of condemnation?”  They’re two of a kind.  Look, we’re getting exactly what we deserve.  Don’t you have a fear of what’s going to happen when we wind up before God?  As Jesus said in Luke 12:4-5, “I don’t fear those who destroy the body, but fear him who destroys both soul and body in hell.”  I will tell you this, and you need to remember this, Romans 3:18 says this when it defines the inherent nature of fallen man and his sinfulness, “there’s none righteous, no not one, there’s none that understand, none that is good,” etc.  That text from verse 10 of Romans 3 to verse 18, ends in verse 18 with this statement:  “There is no fear of God in their eyes.”  It is characteristic of the unregenerate not to fear God.  This is a typical unregenerate comment, “I’ve lived a pretty good life.  Certainly God will take me to heaven.”  Like the Jews in Romans 10 who didn’t understand the righteousness of God.  The sinner does not live under the fear of God.  He must be brought under the fear of God by the convicting power of God.  This thief who is still hurling abuse at Jesus has no fear of God like all other sinners.  But the sinner who comes to salvation has been brought by the power of the Spirit of God to a deadly fear of divine judgment And friends, as we communicate the gospel with sinners, you can’t hold back that reality.  The gospel is not telling sinners that Jesus will make them happy or Jesus will give them a better life or Jesus will fix up the pain and bring fulfillment and all of that.  The message of salvation is you are a violator of God’s law and you are headed for eternal punishment under the wrath of God. You’d better fear God.  That’s the message.  And when you see a real conversion, you see this and it’s reminiscent, isn’t it, of Luke 18.  What is the public doing as he pours his head down and looks at the ground and pounds his breast saying, “Lord, be” – what – “merciful to me, a sinner.”  Don’t give me justice.  Don’t give me judgment … 

… All of a sudden, he had crystal clarity in his mind on the fact that he was going to stand before God as a sinner with nothing that could rescue him.  That’s the first evidence of a work of salvation in the heart.  The second one is a sense of one’s sinfulness.  They go together.  The fear of God coupled with a sense of one’s guilt.  Verse 41, we indeed, justly, we’re receiving what we deserve for our deeds.  He says I’m a lawbreaker.  I know that.  It’s a true assessment of his condition.  Like the prodigal, who in getting down with the pigs and trying to eat and be on the brink of death, he says – and Jesus told the story in Luke 15 – he came to his senses That’s where true repentance begins, when you come to your senses.  He’s guilty, he’s aware of his sinfulness, he’s in a sense saying I am a sinner.  I know I am a sinner.  I am receiving what I deserve for my deeds.  This is the attitude of a true repenter.  He understands that if justice is operating in his life, then he is going to get exactly what he’s getting.  No excuses.  He’s not saying I was led astray and there were evil influences in my life.  I was molested when I was four or whatever it might be.  He’s saying look, we’re receiving exactly what we deserve for our deeds.  Justice is operating and it will operate not only in the human world, in the world of men, but it will operate in God’s realm as well.  Spiritual reality makes clear that in spite of the system of Judaism teaching salvation by works, salvation by self effort, salvation by ceremony, etc., the true convert pleads nothing but confesses his utter guilt and absolute bankruptcy.  He has nothing to offer God; nothing to commend himself.  Like the prodigal he comes back stinking and dying.  He needs mercy, he needs grace and he knows it He’s an unworthy sinner.  These are the evidences of a saving work of God He needs mercy and it’s never been this clear.  By the way, sin never becomes as clear to the sinner as when he’s in the presence of righteousness.  Like Isaiah, who in the presence of God, who was holy, holy, holy, said, “damn me, for I am a man of unclean lips.”  He had a clear perception of the judgment of God which he was deserving and a clear perception of his great guilt. 

There’s a third element that becomes in evidence for us of the work of God in his heart and that is that he believed in Christ.  He believed in Christ.  We talk about two things that make up a real conversion repentance under the fear of divine wrath and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we see that.  The things that he says about Christ, though brief, are really quite stunning.  The end of verse 41 he does what the sinner must do.  He compares himself with the perfection of Christ.  “We’re getting exactly what we deserve for our deeds.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Here the story moves from an assessment of his own condition to an assessment of Jesus Christ That’s what happens in a true conversion.  And he goes beyond saying Jesus isn’t guilty of the crime for which he’s being crucified to saying something far broader than that.  He has done nothing wrong.  I don’t know how much he knew about all the attempts to try and find a crime for which they could legitimately crucify Christ and they never could find one.  I don’t know what exposure he had to Christ.  I don’t know what he heard other people say about the perfections of Jesus Christ, but our Lord had been on display for three years with all of his perfections and no one had ever been able to lay any legitimate charge against him.  He is given, by the power of the Spirit of God, clarity to understand that he is hanging on a cross as a sinner who is getting what he deserves next to someone who is righteous and is getting what he doesn’t deserve.  He believes, then, in the righteousness of Christ. 

The repentant thief asks Jesus — by name — to remember him when He comes into his kingdom (verse 42).

It’s a highly humble request.

Henry also says the request showed that the man believed in the righteousness of Christ:

1. Observe his faith in this prayerChrist was now in the depth of disgrace, deserted by his own disciples, reviled by his own nation, suffering as a pretender, and not delivered by his Father He made this profession before those prodigies happened which put honour upon his sufferings, and which startled the centurion; yet verily we have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. He believed another life after this, and desired to be happy in that life, not as the other thief, to be saved from the cross, but to be well provided for when the cross had done its worst. 2. Observe his humility in this prayer. All his request is, Lord, remember me. He does not pray, Lord, prefer me (as they did, Matt 20 21), though, having the honour as none of the disciples had to drink of Christ’s cup and to be baptized with his baptism either on his right hand or on his left in his sufferings when his own disciples had deserted him he might have had some colour to ask as they did to sit on his right hand and on his left in his kingdom. Acquaintance in sufferings has sometimes gained such a point, Jer 52 31, 32. But he is far from the thought of it. All he begs is, Lord, remember me, referring himself to Christ in what way to remember him. It is a request like that of Joseph to the chief butler, Think on me (Gen 40 14), and it sped better; the chief butler forgot Joseph, but Christ remembered this thief. 3. There is an air of importunity and fervency in this prayer. He does, as it were, breathe out his soul in it: Lord, remember me, and I have enough; I desire no more; into thy hands I commit my case.” Note, To be remembered by Christ, now that he is in his kingdom, is what we should earnestly desire and pray for, and it will be enough to secure our welfare living and dying. Christ is in his kingdom, interceding. “Lord, remember me, and intercede for me.” He is there ruling. “Lord, remember me, and rule in me by thy Spirit.” He is there preparing places for those that are his. “Lord, remember me, and prepare a place for me; remember me at death, remember me in the resurrection. See Job 14 13.

MacArthur looks at the thief’s calling Jesus by name:

“Jesus, yeshua.”  What does that mean?  Jehovah saves.  “We shall call him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21.  Yeshua.  He recognizes Jesus as righteous.  He recognizes Jesus as a source of forgiveness and grace and mercy.  He recognizes that Jesus is so merciful and gracious that he’s not even holding the sin of these people against them, but rather desirous of their forgiveness.  And he sees, I think, all of this with clarity given only by the spirit of God who drew, perhaps out of his background, perhaps out of conversations – who knows where it came from – to focus the clarity because he had to know the truth about Christ.  Then when he says, “Jesus,” there’s a lot in that word.  He recognizes Jesus as the Savior.  How do you know that?  Why would he then ask him to remember him when he comes into his kingdom unless he thought he was the one who could save him?  He doesn’t say to him, “Dear sir, could you find somebody that could save me.”  He doesn’t say, “Could you connect with whoever’s in charge of saving people like me?”  He says, “Jesus.  Yeshua.”  Save me.  Remember.  More than a thought.  We think about remember, it’s a hazy, foggy kind of thing.  That’s not what he’s talking about.  Much, much more than that.  It’s a plea of a broken penitent, an unworthy sinner, for grace and forgiveness.  And what he’s really saying is save me from the judgment of God.  Save me from what I deserve.  Forgive me.  You’ve prayed it.  Can I be one of those that’s in answer to your prayer? 

And then I love this.  Boy, he’s got a pretty comprehensive Christology because he says, “Remember me when you come in your kingdom.”  He’s got the Old Testament eschatology.  What did the Old Testament teach?  That the Messiah would come in the end of the age, gloriously, and establish a kingdom, right, fulfilling all the promises to Abraham, all the promises to David and fulfilling all the reiterated promises of the Old Testament that are rehearsed again and again by the prophets, including the new covenant salvation to Israel, and that there would be a kingdom established on earth that’s defined and described in great detail in the Old Testament …  Nobody survived crucifixion, so he also believed that Jesus would die and what, rise again and bring his kingdom.  That’s pretty good Christology.  That’s exactly what he was saying.  Remember me when you come in your kingdom.  He is saying this isn’t the end of you. Like the Centurion, remember, who says surely this is the son of God He’s convinced.

Jesus replied, beginning with ‘Truly I tell you’ — meaning emphatically and sincerely — that the repentant thief would be that day, with Him, in Paradise (verse 43).

Paradise was the third of the heavens referred to in that era. It meant the highest heaven.

MacArthur discusses our Lord’s reply and promise:

Did he have a right to be with Christ?  Are you kidding me?  With me?  Today.  What had he done to earn it?  Nothing.  He’d be dead before he could do anything.  This is grace, isn’t it?  This is the father kissing the son.  This is full reconciliation; instantaneous.  Today.  Paradise, paradeisos, an old Persian word for garden.  It’s a synonym for heaven.  In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says in verse two, “I was called up to the third heaven.”  And in verse four he says he was called up to paradise.  Same thing.  Third heaven, first heaven, atmospheric, second heaven, celestial, third heaven the abode of God.  That’s paradise.  Or in relation to seven, Jesus says, “To him who overcomes I will grant the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.”  If you turn to Revelation 21 and 22, the tree of life is in heaven.  So he’s not saying anything but you’re going to be with me in heaven today.  There’s no waiting place.  There’s no transitional place.  Absent from the body, present with the Lord, to depart and be with Christ.  If that is not the great illustration of grace I don’t know what is.  This is a man whose whole life qualified him for hell.  And in one moment a sovereign God swept down, gave him complete clarity on himself and on Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit rescued him from divine judgment and that same day met him in heaven and fellowshipped with him

Henry has this analysis:

1. Christ here lets us know that he was going to paradise himself, to hades—the invisible world. His human soul was removing to the place of separate souls; not to the place of the damned, but to paradise, the place of the blessed. By this he assures us that his satisfaction was accepted, and the Father was well pleased in him, else he had not gone to paradise; that was the beginning of the joy set before him, with the prospect of which he comforted himself. He went by the cross to the crown, and we must not think of going any other way, or of being perfected but by sufferings. 2. He lets all penitent believers know that when they die they shall go to be with him there. He was now, as a priest, purchasing this happiness for them, and is ready, as a king, to confer it upon them when they are prepared and made ready for it. See here how the happiness of heaven is set forth to us. (1.) It is paradise, a garden of pleasure, the paradise of God (Rev 2 7), alluding to the garden of Eden, in which our first parents were placed when they were innocent. In the second Adam we are restored to all we lost in the first Adam, and more, to a heavenly paradise instead of an earthly one. (2.) It is being with Christ there. That is the happiness of heaven, to see Christ, and sit with him, and share in his glory, John 17 24. (3.) It is immediate upon death: This day shalt thou be with me, to-night, before to-morrow. Thou souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, immediately are in joy and felicity; the spirits of just men are immediately made perfect. Lazarus departs, and is immediately comforted; Paul departs, and is immediately with Christ, Phil 1 23.

What an amazing illustration of forgiveness, divine grace and salvation.

MacArthur has an interesting observation on the Jews’ misunderstanding of Passover during that era. This ties in with the Crucifixion:

There’s another irony, that the Jews want him dead so they can get on with the celebration of the Passover that points to his death.  The Jews want to get on with the slaying of the lambs that can never take away sin while rejecting the one, true lamb of God how alone can take away the sin of the world While they are busy killing the lambs who had no power, God was by their hands, killing the lamb to whom all salvation power belongs.  The Jews looked at Passover as God rescuing them from Pharaoh.  That really wasn’t what the Passover was.  They looked at the Passover as God rescuing them from the power of Pharaoh in Egypt.  It was really far more than that.  While there was a deliverance from Egypt, there was a far greater deliverance in the Passover.  Do you remember what the Passover was?  The word came from God that he was going to come in sweeping judgment on both Egyptians and Jews, and the only people who would be protected from that judgment would be those who put the blood of the lamb on the door post and the lintel.  Otherwise, the judgment of God would hit that house and take the life of the first born.  And God did not discriminate between the Jews and the Egyptians.  He would take the life of any first born.  He would bring wrath and judgment on any household that was not covered by the blood of the Passover lamb.  The night of the Passover, then, was not truly a deliverance from the power of the Pharaoh and the wrath of Pharaoh, it was a deliverance from the wrath of God.  Somehow they had skewed that thinking that they were delivered from the wrath and power of Pharaoh.  They celebrated that part of it and they forgot that the real Passover was a deliverance from the wrath of God And all sinners are always deserving of wrath unless they’re covered by the blood, and the blood of bulls and goats can’t take away sin and can’t really cover the sinner.  So they had no idea what as going on at their cross of Calvary when the true Passover lamb was dying so that his blood might become the protection of all who believe in him.

So in not saving himself, Jesus was able to save others, exactly opposite their assumption that he couldn’t save anybody because he couldn’t even save himself.  How twisted their perception.  How wrong.  And the whole scene was feeding this twisted perception.  There was no clarity anywhere.  The leaders didn’t have clarity.  The people didn’t have clarity.  The Romans didn’t have clarity.  The high priests didn’t have clarity.  The chief priests didn’t have it.  Nobody had it.  Everybody had a twisted and perverted understanding of what was happening and in the midst of all of this, one man gets clarity.  In spite of everything that’s going on around him in which he’s been a participant, the light dawns.  Life comes out of death.  Knowledge comes out of ignorance.  Light dispels the darkness.  And that’s the story of this man that we call the penitent thief.  It’s a personal story. It’s a very personal story.  It’s about one man.  It’s a personal story of salvation, but it’s also the pattern of the story of all people’s salvation  

MacArthur sums up these verses as follows for what to remember about the Crucifixion and what happened at the first Pentecost:

Without argument what is being spewed out of these evil hearts and evil mouths right at the son of God is the supreme blasphemy, the ultimate desecration of holiness, the lowest sin every committed, wickedness at its lowest, and it is deserving of divine cursing, divine threatening, divine vengeance, divine judgment, divine damnation.  This is injustice without parallel, transgression without equal.  This is heresy above heresy, irreverence above irreverence, profanity above profanity, sacrilege beyond comprehension.  We would expect Jesus to pour out furious denunciations on all of them, to judge them, to make them pay for their outrageous, extreme iniquity immediately on the spot, but he doesn’t.

Contrary to that he says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.”  He asks God to provide forgiveness for them.  Now Jesus spoke seven things from the cross He spoke to one of the thieves and said, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise.”  Then he spoke to his mother and John and said, “Behold your mother, behold your son,” and gave the care of his mother to the apostle John who were standing far, far away.  And then for three hours the whole earth was dark and he spoke not at all.  And after the darkness he spoke to God and he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  And then he spoke to the soldiers and said, “I’m thirsty,” and they gave him the sponge And then he spoke to himself and said, “It is finished.”  And then he spoke to God and said, “It’s at thy hands I commit my spirit.”  But the first thing he said, before any of those was, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  His first words were words seeking divine forgiveness for the world’s most wretched sinners Certainly this is Jesus, the Father, running to embrace the stinking prodigal, isn’t it?  This is not surprising.  Jesus even said that the more someone is forgiven the more they love, so he set himself up to forgive great sinners so that he might experience from them great love. 

Peter says that when he was reviled he was reviled not again and that when he was being abused he did not cry out for vengeance, 1 Peter 2:23 and 24 Stephen picked up on this and when Stephen saw life was being crushed out by the bloody stones, Stephen, following his Lord said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”  This is a general prayer.  To understand what he meant by this, it is a general prayer for all the world to know that there’s no sin against the son of God that is so severe it cannot be forgiven if one will repent That’s the message.  If there is forgiveness for these people, there is forgiveness for anyone.  You can’t get beyond this.  But it’s more than just a general prayer, it’s a specific prayer.  When he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing,” he knew who the “them” were because on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 Jews in Jerusalem were converted to Christ and baptized and the church was begun Within a few weeks another 5,000 men and more and more and it moves into tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem who embrace the faith of Jesus Christ, and there must have been many of those who came to Christ in those weeks after the resurrection who were there in that crowd, so that it is a general prayer telling the whole world that the sinner who repents and comes to Christ can be forgiven of the worst crime ever committed.  But it is also a specific prayer that God knows in His mind from before the foundation of the world, who in that crowd He will truly forgive A church was born out of these people who stood at the foot of Calvary and mocked the son of God.  They became the first church.  Not only that, there was a soldier among the soldiers.  One of them came to salvation.  23 Luke 47 when the Centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.”  And Matthew says he said something besides that, he said, “This was the son of God.”  And by the way, don’t think it was just that Centurion Listen to 27 Matthew 54, “Now the Centurion and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus said, “Truly, this was the son of God.”  The prayer was answered on the spot.  Some in the crowd formed the first church.  Some among the soldiers affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ, and a Roman Centurion praising the true God of Israel and affirming the reality of His son and others with him?  By the way, some of the leaders also were saying it.  In 6 Acts 7, “The word of God kept on spreading.  The number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem.”  Listen to this:  “And a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”  And by the way, there was one of the two thieves who said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and to him Jesus said today, “I’ll meet you in paradise.”

In one sense it’s a general prayer that throws open the forgiveness of God for all who have rejected Christ no matter how great the crimes committed against him, but on another level this is a very specific prayer that was immediately answered among the crowd, among the soldiers, among the thieves and even among the priests.  The great irony of Calvary is that while all this scorn was being heaped on Christ, he was bearing the curse of God far worse than anything they could put on him You think it’s bad to be cursed by men, he was being cursed by God.  But in taking both the curses from men and the curse from God, he provided the very atonement which makes the forgiveness he prayed for possible

Christ the King: truly He is, now and forever.

This is the last Sunday in the 2021-2022 Church year. Next Sunday, a new Church year begins with the season of Advent, and a new set of Lectionary readings from Year A.

May everyone reading this have a blessed Sunday.

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All Saints Day is November 1.

Readings for Year C can be found here, including links to the exegeses on the Gospel reading from Luke, his version of the Beatitudes.

The Epistle is as follows, emphases mine:

Ephesians 1:11-23

1:11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

1:12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

1:13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

1:14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

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 first half of this passage concerns predestination: God’s choosing His elect.

The doctrine of election, or predestination, is confusing to the point that people make jokes about it. Old-school Presbyterians have and still do place much emphasis on election. Some say that one can be predestined, commit murder and still be saved. Not so. Others wonder if they are part of the elect and pray for those who do not have faith, some of whom who come to belief later in life.

John MacArthur explains more about election, borrowing a quote from the famous 19th century English evangelist, Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you’ll be saved.” You can’t think for a moment that you are supposed to figure out whether you’re elect; that’s absurd. As Spurgeon said, we can’t run around and see if people have an E stamped on their back. But you are commanded to believe, and, “You’ll die in your sins if you believe not on Me,” Jesus said. The reality of all of this is you have an apparent paradox in every major doctrine in Scripture that brings God together with man.

Paul mentions predestination when he says that, in Christ, we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of Him — God — who accomplishes all things according to His counsel and will (verse 11).

God does this, Paul says, so that we, setting our hope on Christ, live for the praise of His glory (verse 12).

Paul tells the Ephesians — and those of the churches surrounding Ephesus —  that when they heard the Gospel and believed it, they were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit (verse 13), as belonging to God and His Son.

In examining these verses, MacArthur unpicks the confusion many of us face when we think of predestination:

All of this is God’s plan. Go back to verse 11: He is the one “who works all things after the counsel of His will,” energeō. He energizes everything. So when you think about salvation, I want you to think about it as the purpose of God, the will of God, the plan of God, the intention of God. He chose you.

But sometimes people get a little bit confused with this, and they wonder, “Well where is the necessary faith in that?” And it’s side by side, down into verse 13: “You also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed.” Salvation doesn’t happen apart from faith. Through the years that’s been a question that is asked of me over and over again: “How do those go together? If salvation is all of God, if it’s monergistic, if God does the choosing, God does the predestining, if God has to give the life to the dead person, if God has to do the regenerating, if God has to grant the faith, if God has to give the sinner sight and life in order to respond and believe—how is it the sinner’s responsibility? The answer is, I’m not sure the dynamics of that, but I know that God’s purposes in election never come to fruition unless someone believes the gospel. And we’ve been told to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Rather serendipitously, the Gospel for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity in Year C, October 30, 2022, has the story of Zacchaeus, the despised chief tax collector, whom Jesus saved. Jesus knew who he was and Zacchaeus received Him joyfully. Luke 19:10 concludes the story with Jesus saying:

19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

I cited a sermon from MacArthur wherein he says God seeks us first, then we seek Him:

In our sinfulness, in our fallenness, in our reprobation, in our blindness, in our ignorance, in our association and relationship to the kingdom of darkness and under the power of Satan, we cannot seek after God. We do not seek after God.  There would then be no reconciliation, no salvation, no forgiveness, no hope of heaven if God did not seek after us.  God does the initial seeking.  God does the saving of those who apart from Him would hide themselves from Him like Adam and Eve, running from His presence with no capacity in them to ever turn and pursue Him …

And this is the work of the Son of Man.  The Son of Man in verse 10 is a title which Jesus used of Himself more than any other, by far … The word “seek,” zte, means to pursue, to look for, to search for.  To save means basically to rescue from harm, to deliver from danger And the amazing irony of it all is that God sends Christ to seek and to save those who are headed for His own wrath and judgment.

Returning to today’s reading, another essential component of predestination, or election, is that we must believe in Christ and confess Him as Lord. MacArthur says:

You cannot be a believer without believing—basic …

John 1:12, “As many as received Him”—that would be the same as believing—“to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” Who becomes a child of God? Those who believe. Then verse 13, “Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” There you have the same thing again. It’s the will of God, not the will of man—and yet you must believe. In fact, if you don’t believe, you weren’t elect, because election will be confirmed by faith.

Another difficulty is sin. If the Holy Spirit is with us, whose fault is it when we sin?

MacArthur explains it this way:

If—whatever’s good happens in your life, you give Him the praise; whatever wrong happens in your life, you take the blame. There you are again with the same reality that you cannot do anything in the flesh, you can only do it by the power of the Spirit—and yet you are responsible to conduct your life in a sanctified way.

… that should encourage you because it means it’s a far more glorious issue than any human being could ever understand. But it doesn’t happen without believing. That’s why the New Testament is filled with the command to believe, to believe. “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of God.”

It’s somewhat simpler than it sounds:

So we have an inheritance. The ground of that inheritance is basically predestination, verse 11. But the ground of that inheritance is also, according to verse 13, believing. Your responsibility is not to figure out God’s predestined plan; your responsibility is to believe. And whoever believes, the Lord will never turn away, right? So that’s the foundation understanding; the ground of our inheritance is bound up in God’s predestined plan and our response of faith.

Let’s look at the role of the Holy Spirit, because Paul says that the Spirit’s seal is the sign that we are pledged to that inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, for the praise of His glory (verse 14).

MacArthur tells us how the Holy Spirit helps us lead a sanctified life:

The Holy Spirit does illuminate us. The Holy Spirit is our resident teacher. The Holy Spirit does convict us of sin. The Holy Spirit does an ongoing work in our lives of enabling us to minister through spiritual gifts. But He is also “the Holy Spirit of promise,” and that is to say He guarantees the fulfillment of the future inheritance.

MacArthur tells us that a seal was very important in that era and in the Old Testament:

Now it says the seal of the Spirit: “You were sealed in Him.” What does this notion of sealing mean? Well let me see if I can just give you some illustrations of it. In looking at it maybe from different facets. First of all, we’d say sealing is a sign of security

You remember that Christ’s tomb was sealed with a Roman seal, which meant that no one could break that seal. No one had the power to break that seal unless they had more power than Rome. That was a way to secure something. And that is exactly what the seal of the Spirit is. We are secured, and we are secured by the Holy Spirit, and no one has greater power than He. No one can break the seal. The seal also in Jewish culture was a sign of authenticity. You remember back in 1 Kings 21 when Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard, and through Jezebel’s deception she got it for him by writing letters and sealing them with Ahab’s seal. This was the official mark of authenticity, the royal signature. So God seals us to secure us, and He seals us so that it is labeled that we belong to Him. We are legitimate, authentic sons of God

I think that’s a marvelous way to think of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who grants to us delegated authority to access all divine resources. Jesus said, “Ask anything in My name and”—what?—“I’ll give it to you—anything according to My will.” Being sealed with the Spirit is a sign of security, authenticity, ownership, and authority; and we exercise all those things as believers.

A pledge for us, on our behalf, is also involved:

So the ground of our inheritance is predestination and faith. The guarantee of our inheritance is the promise, the Holy Spirit of promise who secures us and our inheritance. One other comment on verse 14: The Holy Spirit is “given as a pledge”—not only a seal, but a pledge. What is a pledge? It’s the Greek word arrabōn. It’s used a couple of ways. One is “a down payment.” The Holy Spirit is the first installment on our inheritance yet to come. The Holy Spirit is God’s down payment on our eternal inheritance. And every believer has the Holy Spirit. “If any man have not the Holy Spirit, he’s none of His,” Romans 8:9. So the fact that the Spirit has taken up residence in us and we are the temple of the Spirit of God means that God has given us the first installment on our eternal inheritance. Arrabōn was also used another way: It was used for an engagement ring. So the Holy Spirit is for us not only the down payment to our future inheritance, but the engagement ring that means we are the bride, and we will be married to the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

Paul has a reason for writing these words to the Ephesians:

Paul is really calling on these troubled believers living in the worst life of their day to suffer patiently and wait with hearts full of praise for the eternal inheritance that was promised to them. He’s calling for them to understand the spiritual heavenly blessings that were already secured for them by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the elective purpose of God in eternity past, and they were just waiting for the full realization of them when they entered glory.

Ultimately, for us:

The ground of our inheritance is predestination and faith. The guarantee of our inheritance is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of promise who is both a seal and a down payment, engagement ring, a pledge. Finally, the goal of our inheritance. What is the purpose in all of this, end of verse 12? “To the praise of His glory”; end of verse 14, “to the praise of His glory.” God is going to finally redeem us into glory as His “own possession,” verse 14, “to the praise of His glory.” That is always the reason for everything. It’s not about us; it’s about Him.

This is what’s remarkable, and I want you to grasp this as a final thought. If you’re like me, you wonder why the Lord even tolerates you. After all, He is perfect—perfect in every way. It’s incomprehensible to imagine a situation where you are altogether, in every way, exactly what He wants you to be so that you have capacity for only one thing, and that is to bring praise to His glorious name. That’s what heaven is all about. It’s not about you getting your own mansion, it’s not about you traversing the New Jerusalem and counting the jewels; it’s about God having made you like His Son so that you fully satisfy His holy desire. You are to Him as His own Son is to Him. That’s your best life.

In the second half of this passage, Paul prays for the members of the church.

MacArthur says:

This prayer, you almost feel, is a kind of interruption in the flow of Paul’s revelation for the church. It’s almost as if he can’t go another step unless he offers a prayer for the church. He’s writing to the church in Ephesus; it’s been four years since he was there. Not only to the church in Ephesus, but Ephesus was a major town in Asia Minor, and there were other churches listed in Revelation 2 and 3; they also would have received this letter. He starts out with that amazing set of blessings, spiritual blessings in Christ; and then before he starts to go into some more detail about the church and what it believes and how it behaves, he raises a prayer starting in verse 15.

Paul is writing this letter in Rome, where he was being held prisoner.

He tells these Christians in Asia Minor that he has heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love towards all the saints, i.e. fellow believers (verse 15).

MacArthur says that Paul would have received reports of them, either written or in person:

Now he knows he’s writing to a true church because if you look at verse 15 he says, “I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints.” Why does he mention those? Because those are the evidences of true salvation: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and manifest love for the saints.

How did he know about this? How did he know that the Ephesian church was doing so well after four years? Well he says he heard; he heard about it. How would he have heard about it? He’s a prisoner in Rome, he hasn’t seen them in four years, he’s incarcerated. But prisoners could receive letters, and they could receive visitors. And over the period of time of his imprisonment he had received both letters and visitors. And the testimonies were always the same; it was about the faith of the people in Ephesus, and it was about their love for the saints. These are evidences of a true church.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that love of the saints, of greater or lesser degrees, brings heavenly blessings:

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.

For the reasons of their future divine inheritance, which they are manifesting through their faith and love in anticipation thereof, Paul gives thanks as he remembers them in his prayers (verse 16).

Paul prays for their further spiritual enlightenment, that God, the Father of Jesus Christ and of all glory, may give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation (verse 17).

Henry explains:

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. This knowledge is first in the understanding.

MacArthur says that we lack this teaching today, because churches have moved away from teaching and preaching about Christ. They have focused too much on worldly matters and losing their essential purpose — proclaiming Christ:

This is how the church should live. We should live with this consuming preoccupation with the person of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, He’s anticipated; in the New Testament, He’s revealed. And He is the revelation of God that is the most clear revelation. God spoke in time past through the prophets and the writers of the Old Testament. In these last days He’s spoken unto us by His Son. God is on display in Christ. To know Christ is to know all the riches of heaven that are yours because you are His. Churches struggle with this. They get caught up, they get seduced away from Christ

Everything is about knowing Christ. And so … Paul says, “That’s my goal in ministry, is to proclaim Him, proclaim Him.” I hear a lot of things from a lot of so-called preachers these days. I say this too often; I say, “Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Christ? Why?” We proclaim Him. Completeness is in Him.

Paul continues praying, saying that with the eyes of the heart duly enlightened, the faithful may know the hope to which they are called, the riches of our Lord’s inheritance among the saints (verse 18). The faithful belong to Christ and He inherits us as His Church.

MacArthur ties that verse in with predestination and encourages us to set our minds on the life to come:

Now look at the sweeping reality of verse 18. I want you to understand the doctrine of election; I want you to understand the doctrine of predestination. Some people say, “If you believe in predestination it’ll make you lazy, it’ll make you indifferent.” If you really understand the doctrine of predestination it’ll make you thankful, and then it’ll make you holy, and then it’ll make you joyful, and then it will fill your life with security. You need to understand that you were chosen, predestined, called to eternal glory. It began with the choice and the calling, and it ends with “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

The very inheritance of Christ is with the saints. It’s in union with the saints that Christ receives His inheritance, and we receive it with Him. Think about it. Before time began God chose you, predestined you to eternal glory, called you in time, granted you faith to believe the gospel, justified you, and set you for glory. And it’s going to take place, because in verse 13 it says, “You were sealed [unto that glorious end] by the Holy Spirit,” who is God’s guarantee, “the Holy Spirit of promise.”

So when you’re focusing on Christ, focus on that which is eternal. You have to fly over life in this world, go from eternity past to eternity future. Think on that: “Set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth.” It’s not going to get better, you can’t fix it; let’s set our affections in the heavenlies. We live; whatever happens in the world around us, we are just a vapor that appears for a little time and vanishes away. This is a very short time; and while we’re here we need to set our affections on things above. Contemplate the greatness of the doctrine of election. This doctrine is so powerful and so important.

Paul then writes of the immeasurable power of Christ towards believers, according to the working of that great power (verse 19).

MacArthur says that the Greek word means ‘energy’:

Christ is your protector

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.

Paul says that God gave His Son that power at the Resurrection, raising Him from the dead, and the Ascension, where He sits at His Father’s right hand (verse 20).

MacArthur tells us:

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.

Christ’s power is above all earthly powers and above every name, not just now but for all eternity (verse 21).

MacArthur says:

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.

Paul concludes with the holy mystery of the Church. Everything and everyone is subordinate to Jesus Christ, who is head of all things and all people for His Church (verse 22), His Bride, his body of faithful people, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (verse 23).

MacArthur conveys Paul’s idea as being one of Christ’s dominion over everything:

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.

I hope that this explains more about predestination and our divine inheritance as believers.

John F MacArthurOne of the things I have found most irritating over the years is the indirect encouragement of emotion by pastors, particularly famous Baptist ones, by using the word ‘heart’ with a tear in their eye.

However, John MacArthur tells us that heart in the Bible has nothing to do with emotion. Heart as used in Scripture refers to the mind. Mention of the gut — or bowels — in the Bible refers to emotion.

MacArthur’s sermon, ‘Strengthen Your Heart’, dated May 16, 1976, is about Colossians 2. It explains this distinction and tells us why we should not be ruled by our emotions.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Let me begin by citing the first three verses of Colossians 2:

2 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

‘Encouraged’ appears as ‘strengthened’ in some translations, which encompasses ‘comforted’. In our world, we see them as three separate concepts, but where Scripture is concerned, the three words go together.

Some reading this will find it hard to stomach the word ‘bowels’. They might do better to think of ‘gut’ instead, as in ‘gut instinct’.

MacArthur begins by giving us our definition of ‘heart’, i.e. linked to emotion, then the biblical one for the word, which means ‘mind’. That is how the Apostle Paul used the word:

Now when we talk about the heart, what do we mean? We have to make that clear, because otherwise we will not understand what he’s saying; because in the English language, the heart is the seat of – what? – emotion. “My heart cries for you,” we say. “I love you with all my heart.” The heart is the symbol of emotion. To the Hebrew it was not the symbol of emotion. Did you get that? In the English language heart represents emotion. To the Hebrew, it did not.

Now the Hebrews referred to two organs of the body, and I want to talk about these two. The two organs that they referred to many, many times in the Scripture are the bowels and the heart. Now we’ll take the bowels first. Don’t panic. There are many references in the Bible to the term “bowels.” They have been fairly well erased in the later translations, but the pure translation of the Hebrew indicates that that is the word.

Now it is used in the Bible to speak of the womb, of the stomach, of the intestines, and of several other abdominal organs; so it becomes a general term for the gut, if you will. When a Hebrew says, “My bowels such and such,” he means, “I feel it in the gut.” That’s what he’s saying. Now watch this. The Hebrews did not know anything of speculative thinking, and they did not know anything of interpreting things in abstraction. Everything to them was a concrete, experiential physical reality.

Turn with me to Psalm 22:14. And here is a description of Jesus on the cross; and this is a prophetic picture of Him on the cross. But I want you to notice how the psalmist expresses what Jesus feels. He’s dying on the cross. “I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint;” – a perfect picture of crucifixion; listen now – “my heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels.” And here he means, “My whole abdominal area is in upheaval. I feel it in the gut,” is what He is saying. “I feel it, and my stomach is in knots.” A very experiential concept, not abstract at all …

I’ll show you another one. This is very interesting. Song of Solomon chapter 5 – and I know you’re all racing there. Song of Solomon chapter 5, verse 4. Now this is very interesting; just to give you an idea of how the Hebrew expressed his feelings. Now you’ve got to have the picture. The bride is waiting for the bridegroom. It is time to consummate the marriage. This is a great hour.

Now listen, the Hebrew says in verse 4: “My beloved put his hand to the latch of the door, and my bowels are moved for him.” Now you say, “Wait a minute. That’s in the Bible?” That’s in the Bible. You say, “What does that mean, John?” That means is that the bowels include that whole area, including the arousal of sexual desire in the human body. All of that area, even feeling in the genital area, was expressed by the Hebrews in that terminology. You see, they didn’t say, “And I began to sense great overwhelming passion.” That’s an abstraction. The Hebrew defined it in its lowest level of experiential feeling.

MacArthur says that the ancient Jews considered emotions — feelings from the gut — the lowest form of human experience:

Lamentations chapter 2, verse 11. Now Jeremiah, he was a patriot. I mean he was a real patriot, Jeremiah. But he wasn’t a blind patriot. He loved his country when his country loved God. In Lamentations 2:11, he says, “My country’s falling apart,” in essence. He’s seeing the death of his country. That’s why Lamentations is called Lamentations; it’s the weeping of Jeremiah over the death of his country. He says, “My eyes do fail with tears,” – and here it comes – “my bowels are troubled. I feel it in the gut again. The pain in my stomach is – I’m in knots.”

Now you’ve experienced that. He is having psychosomatic responses in his body to anxiety in his mind, but the Hebrew expresses it in terms of the psychosomatic symptom, not in terms of the abstraction. So emotions biblically, in the Old Testament particularly, are not experienced as abstractions, but at the lowest level of experience. And so now, watch this, in the cases of the bowels being used in the Scripture, they have reference to emotional responses, so that to the Hebrew mind, the heart is not the seat of emotion. What is? The stomach. The bowels

… it says in 1 John 3:17, “Whosoever hath this world’s good, and sees his brother hath need, and shuts up his bowels from him, how dwells the love of God in him?”

Boy, that is strange. That is strange. What is he saying? He is simply expressing what, in the Hebrew mind, is an obvious thing. He is saying, “Look, when you see somebody have a need, that need ought to cause a gut feeling in you. It ought to stir you up, and tighten up your stomach, and make you feel some real anxiety”.

Now notice, in every one of those passages that I showed you, the bowels are always responding. They responded to pain, in the first one I told you about; they responded to sex, in Song of Solomon; they responded to disaster, in the case of Jeremiah; and they respond to human need, in the case of 1 John 3. So that that in the Hebrew mind, the bowel is always that which responds. It is emotion. They felt it inside.

That isn’t to say that there is no reference to ‘mind’ in the Bible. Occasionally there is, Revelation 2:23 being a case in point, when the Lord says:

I will search the minds and the heart.

However, overall, the heart is used alone in Scripture. I have read the following passages that MacArthur cites and wondered why the authors did not use ‘mind’ instead.

He tells us why the authors used ‘heart’:

What is the heart? Listen to me. First of all, we see from that passage [Revelation 2:23] the heart is the place of responsibility. It’s the place of responsibility. “The heart is that which is wicked,” in Jeremiah 17. “The heart of man is” – what? – “deceitful above all things, and” – what? – “desperately wicked.” It is the seat of responsibility. It is that which God is going to judge. And He will try men’s – what? – hearts. It is that which is righteous or wicked. When God redeems Israel, He will take away their stony heart, and give them a new – what? – heart. It is the seat of responsibility; it is that which is judged.

I’ll take you a step further. It can’t be emotion then. It can’t be emotion. What is it? Let’s look at Revelation 18, verse 7. And here he’s talking about Babylon the Great, the destruction of the final world system in the tribulation. “How much she hath glorified” – Revelation 18:7 – “glorified herself, and lived luxuriously, so much torment and sorrow give her;” – listen – “for she saith in her heart, ‘I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.’”

Now notice something. To say “in her heart” is a metaphor for doing what? Thinking. “She said in her heart.” What does that mean? She thought in her mind. What then does the heart picture? Not the emotions, but the mind. The intellect and the mind is made up of two things: the intellect and the will. That’s the heart in biblical terminology.

In ancient times, you don’t find them referring to the brain. Listen to this one: “The fool hath said in his brain.” No. “The fool hath said in his” – what? – “heart.” Why? Because the heart was the seat of thought. It was the seat of thinking. And so that the heart represents the mind that sets the pace, and the bowels represent the responding emotion.

You say, “Well how did they get to this discovery?” Well, it’s easy to know how they got to the bowels being connected with emotion, because when they got emotional they began to have what we have today: upset stomachs, colitis, and all those symptoms that we get, ulcers – right? – all right here.

But how did they get the heart out of the brain? Well, some have surmised that because when the brain is really functioning, the heart is really working, and they could feel it throbbing and pulsing. But that’s the way they did it. Real serious thinking, says a Hebrew, can be felt in the beat of the heart. So the heart thinks, and the bowels respond with emotion. That’s the way you are.

Now remember this. In the mind of the Hebrew, and in the Revelation of God, emotions never initiate, they always respond. The heart thinks, and the emotions respond. That is the divine pattern.

MacArthur says that it is important for us to be able to control our emotions, whereas the Baptist pastors I mentioned earlier seem to favour emotions running riot.

MacArthur says:

“I can’t control my emotions.” You know why? Because your emotions will only be controlled by your mind, because emotion is a responder. The key to controlling your emotions is filling your mind with divine truth. That’s the key to controlling your emotions. You see, the emotions respond to what the mind perceives as true. Did you get that? Your emotions will respond to what your mind perceives is true, even if it isn’t true. That’s right.

Have you ever been lying in bed, and all of a sudden you woke up with a jolt when you landed after falling off that forty-story building? You weren’t falling, but your mind perceived it, and your emotions responded to it. You know what that teaches me about emotions? Don’t ever” – what – “trust them.” Don’t trust them, because you can make your emotions do anything if you can just make your mind think it perceives that. And the only way to control your emotions is to make sure that your mind is filled with divine truth. Emotions are like bad little children, they’ll run amuck if you don’t control them. And you say, “How do you control them?” You control them indirectly by feeding the mind.

Let me take you to 2 Corinthians chapter 6 … And here’s what he says, 2 Corinthians 6:11, “O ye Corinthians, our speech to you is candid, our heart is wide open.” Now listen. “Corinthians, listen to me. My speech to you is straightforward, candid, pulling no punches; and my heart” – or my mind – “is wide open.”

“Listen, I’ve got all kind of truth to tell you. It’s in my brain, and my brain’s open. It’s in my mouth, and my speech is wide open and straightforward.” Now watch this. “But on our part, there is no constraint. But there is constraint in your affections.” You know what the literal Greek is there? “You are tightened in your bowels.” That’s the literal translation. “I would certainly like to impart truth from my mind to your mind, but you are all tightened up emotionally. You are straightened emotionally.”

Listen to this. The Corinthians had put an emotional attitude against Paul in the way, and they couldn’t receive the truth. Listen to me. When emotions get ahead of the mind, you’ve got a lot of problems. Paul says, “I can’t even tell you the truth.”

… Just think about the person who comes to church and has something against me. They can’t learn, can they, because they put their emotions in front of the truth. The emotions have stopped being a responder, and the emotions are running the show.

Here the Corinthians were putting emotions first. They wouldn’t accept Paul. They were emotionally upset at him, so they were all tightened, uptight, and they couldn’t perceive truth; they had it all backwards. When people start putting emotions first, then they really get into problems.

MacArthur cites a contemporary example of emotions running the show in church:

One classic illustration of that today is the Charismatic Movement, Pentecostalism. You know what they attempt to do? They attempt to start the emotions without the mind. And they get you there, and you’ve got enough hallelujahs going, and enough running around and waving going, you can bypass the mind and you can really get the emotions flying. The only problem is, the emotions are responding to something they perceive that isn’t the truth, because there hasn’t even been the introduction to the truth. What they attempt to do is short-circuit the truth, and let the emotions run wild; and that’s the opposite of the biblical pattern.

You see, emotions should always respond to the truth. The key then to behavior, and the key to the control of emotion is the heart, the heart as seen as the mind. We need to plant the truth in the mind, and it will control the emotional responses.

Therefore, when we read of the heart in the Bible, we should be thinking of the mind rather than of our emotions:

Proverbs 4:23 says – and this is good: “Guard your heart.” What does it mean? “Guard your mind, your brain, with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” You see? You want to control life; guard your mind, and don’t let anybody short‑circuit it. That’s 4:23.

Proverbs 22:5 further, says, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; but he that doth guard his soul shall be far from them.” The same basic terminology: the guarding of the mind, the Hebrew.

You find it in Proverbs 23:19: “Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide your heart in the way.” Guide your heart: guard it, and guide it, that it might hear and perceive the truth, and that your emotion might respond to the truth.

A beautiful passage, Deuteronomy 4:9. I can’t resist reading it to you. “Take heed to yourself; keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your” – listen – “heart.” I’ll read it again. Listen to this: “Take heed to yourself. Guard your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which you have seen, and they depart from out of your heart.” Don’t forget the truth. Guard your heart.

In Psalm 139, a beautiful portion of Scripture, in verses 23 and 24: “Search me, O God, and know my” – what? – “my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts.” You see, the heart equated with thinking. “And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Guard the heart. Guide the heart. Ask God to protect the heart – that’s your brain, your mind.

“A good man” – said Jesus in Matthew 12:35 – “out of the good treasure of the” – what? – “heart brings forth good things.” All the goodness will come out of the mind. The mind must guide the pattern of behavior.

One other passage, Matthew 15:19. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, theft, false witness, blasphemy.” Jesus said in Matthew 12, “All the good things come out of the thinking process.” Jesus said in Matthew 15, “All the bad things come out of the thinking processes.” So the Bible says, “God, guard my thinking processes.”

Earlier, I mentioned the commonality between ‘encouraged’, ‘strengthened’ and ‘comforted’. Readers thinking that these sound like gifts from the Holy Spirit — the Paraclete — are correct.

MacArthur explains how the meanings tie together:

Now let’s go back to Colossians, and watch what this means to you now. “I wish you knew how great a conflict I have for you and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their” – what? – “hearts might be strengthened.” What do hearts mean? Minds. Paul says, “Number one thing I want out of you is to be strong in heart.”

What about the word “comforted”? You say, “It’s comfort in my Bible.” Sure, parakaleō, parakaleō, a very beautiful word; a word used repeatedly in the New Testament, and a word that always contains the idea of strengthening.

In Ephesians 6:22 it says, “that He might strengthen your hearts.” In 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, “Strengthen your hearts.” The word parakaleō includes in it the idea of comfort. It includes in it the idea of courage, it includes in it the idea of being strengthened, and it always carries all those aspects. In fact, we can look backwards into etymology and we can find the use of this word to mean specifically “strengthened.”

It means to provide a strong, courageous inner man; an intellect, and a will that will act heroically for God. A strong heart means a firm mind: a mind that has courage, a mind that has conviction, a mind that believes, a mind that has principle

He tells us how essential the Holy Spirit is in giving us a strong mind in all the right ways:

You say, “But how do you get strong like that?” I’ll show you. Ephesians chapter 3, verse 16 tells you in one verse. How do you get that mind, that inner part of me strong? Verse 16: “He prays to the Father that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power by His” – what? – “Spirit.”

Who is the strengthener of the heart? Who is it? It’s the Holy Spirit. And we need it. We live in a world with a weak heart. People don’t have convictions. People don’t believe in things. People don’t know the truth. People don’t learn the truth: they don’t pursue the truth, they don’t mine the truth. And he says, “I want you to be strong in it. I want you to be courageous. I want you to be comforted, encouraged, and strengthened by it.” All of that’s in the word parakaleō. And the Holy Spirit is the one that can do it.

You say, “How does it happen, John?” I believe as you yield to the power of the Spirit of God, as you walk in the Spirit, He strengthens the inner man. I think that’s what he’s saying here. You give the Spirit of God control of your life on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis, and the Spirit of God will feed that inner man. The Spirit of God, by the revelation of God, will feed your mind, and strengthen your mind.

As we yield moment-by-moment to the presence of the Spirit of God, we’re strengthened. Paul is a perfect illustration of that. In Acts 9 he tells us that he was converted, and immediately one of the things that began to happen after he was converted was that he began to be strengthened. Acts 9:19 says, “He was strengthened.” Acts 9:22, “But Saul increased the more in strength.”

He became stronger, and stronger. It wasn’t that he was lifting weights, and it wasn’t that he was eating a lot of food. It was that he was being equipped by the Spirit of God, and he became so strong in his heart, he became so solid in his confidence, he became so unflinching in his ministry, that in chapter 20, verse 22, he said, “I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem. I don’t know what’s going to happen, except I hear that bonds and afflictions await me. But none of these things” – what? – “move me”

If the word parakaleō means to strengthen, it is the very same word that is used in John 14, 15, and 16 as the name of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember the Holy Spirit being called Paraklētos, the Paraclete? That’s the identical word. You could just as well translate those verses this way.

John 14:16, this would be accurate according to the meaning of the word. John 14:16, Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Strengthener.” Verse 26, “But the Strengthener, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things.” John 15:26, “But when the Strengthener is come.” John 16:7 “If I go not away, the Strengthener will not come.” It’s the same word.

MacArthur brings us the methods of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in practical applications:

If you’re going to be strong in heart, then you’re going to be strengthened by the Strengthener, and that’s the Holy Spirit. And I’ll tell you what makes a weak Christian: that’s a Christian who walks all the time in the flesh. Right? Listen. Every step you take walking in the Spirit is a step like spiritual weightlifting, just that much stronger in your mind, in your convictions, in the things you know and believe about God.

Now I want to go a step further. Although the Holy Spirit is the Strengthener, He uses human instruments. He uses people like me to strengthen you, people like you to strengthen each other. Listen to Acts 18:23, “And after he had spent some time there,” – that’s Paul – “he departed and went over the country of Galatia and Phrygia” – now listen – “strengthening all the disciples.”

What was he doing? What was Paul doing? What did he do to them? He went in there and he poured into their minds divine truth, and that strengthened them. God uses human instruments empowered by His Spirit to strengthen.

Did you ever read 1 Timothy 6:2 this way? Paul says to Timothy at the end of the verse, “These things teach and strengthen.” Same verb. You know what strengthens people? Teaching. “These things teach and strengthen.” It is the Word of God in the hands of the Spirit of God, whether it’s directly as he ministers to you, or through a teacher that strengthens you.

… “Beloved, when I gave all diligence” – Jude 3 – “to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful of me to write unto you, and strengthen you that you should earnestly fight for the faith once delivered to the saints.” He says, “I had to write you to strengthen you.” “What do you mean?” “I had to impart to your brain knowledge to make you strong.”

MacArthur says that emotions are a sign of weakness. May our minds prevail in God’s truth via the Holy Spirit:

Listen. People don’t get strong by exercising their emotions. Do you understand that? You must understand what it says. “I want you to have strong hearts. It doesn’t mean I want you to have over exercised emotions. What it means is that I want you to have the input of the Spirit of God and the truth of God in your mind.” And so it will come from the Holy Spirit who is the Strengthener; and it will come from other instruments, such as Paul, such as Jude, such as me, such as anybody. And you know something, it will come from you; because if you’re strong, you’ll be able to pass that truth on.

I can think of a world-famous couple who have done a lot of damage — and continue to do so — by relying on their emotions rather than cool-headed, rational thinking.

They caused rifts within a tightly-knit family, rifts which might never be mended. They also caused ongoing anxiety in the matriarch of the family, who was already ill and grieving. She died this month and was buried exactly one week ago.

They did it by putting their emotions first and foremost.

We mustn’t be like that couple.

Instead, let us pray for increased knowledge of the eternal truth via the Holy Spirit, as the matriarch did during her long life of service and devotion.

May our minds be ever strengthened and at peace in Christ Jesus via the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible read me 2The 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 with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Philippians 1:19-20

19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s joy that the Good News was travelling quickly around Rome thanks to preachers who were doctrinally sound, even though some of those men bore ill will and jealousy towards the Apostle, hoping to see him languish in prison so that they could usurp his position as the best teacher of the Gospel story.

Comparing those preachers with those who taught out of love for Christ and for Paul, the Apostle wrote that he would rejoice either way (Philippians 1:19):

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

Here he says that with the Philippians’ prayers and the help of the Spirit of Christ — the Holy Spirit — what he is experiencing will turn out well for his deliverance (verse 19).

John MacArthur tells us that Paul was confident of five things, which will become apparent as we look at these two verses.

First of all, Paul had confidence in the Lord (emphases mine):

Number one, he is confident in the precepts of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord, or the Lord’s Word – what the Lord has said Verse 19, “For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance.”  Stop right there.  Great statement.  I know – “Why are you rejoicing?”  “Because I know this: that this shall turn out for my deliverance.”  Now when he says, “For I know,” oida, he is really asserting what to him is an absolute knowledge “I know this; it’s unequivocal.  I know this; this is the knowledge of satisfied conviction.  I know,” he says, “that this—” Now what is this?  The present circumstance – the present trouble, the chains, the detractors, the imprisonment, all of the difficulties, adversities in his life and ministry, the whole scenario, the whole thing he’s going through.  He says, “I know that this present trouble shall turn out” – future tense; it’s going that direction – “shall turn out for my deliverance, for my deliverance.”

You say, “How do you know that?”  Well, because that was the promise of God He had received it first-hand, by the way, when he wrote down, “All things work together for good to them that” – What? – “love God and are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  He knew that principle.  “For I know” – absolutely confident – “that this” – all this trouble – “shall” – future – “turn out for my deliverance.”

MacArthur explains what Paul meant by ‘deliverance’:

The word here is stria, which is the word for salvation And some of your Bibles may say “for my salvation.”  Well, what do you mean by that?  Well, that word can be translated “salvation”; it can be translated “deliverance”; it can be translated “well-being”; it can be translated “escape.”  What does it mean?  Some say it means ultimate salvation Some say he is simply saying, “I know that this present trouble is going to turn out for my eternal salvation, ultimately to be in the presence of the Lord, my soul salvation.”  He is confident that he will endure to the end and be fully, finally saved and glorified in the day of Christ, the day he sees Christ.  Some say, “No, it means his health, his well- being, his welfare, his benefit – that I’m going to benefit from this, that my well-being will be secured.”  Some say “vindication.”  Some say it means “vindication.”  Some commentators think he’s saying that, “I’ll be vindicated in court and that my trial, when it reaches its second phase” – the first phase had already been held when no one defended him, and he’s waiting for the second phase, namely the sentence – that he’s saying, “It’ll all work out for my vindication at my sentencing.”  Others say it means his release from prison Since the primary meaning is deliverance from death, that he’s saying, “All of this that’s going on is going to ultimately end up in my being released from prison.”

Well, which of those is right?  I would say that the truth is in all of those, and let me show you what I mean.  It is in my judgment fair to include in one way or another the whole of all of those things which I mentioned to you in this sense.  Paul believes – and here’s the key thought; you need to get it – Paul believes that his current distress is only temporary That’s really what he’s saying.  It’s temporary; that’s the point.  It isn’t going to last “I will be delivered from it.  Maybe I’ll be vindicated at my second phase of the trial.  Maybe I will be released from prison.  Maybe I will go to heaven to be with Jesus Christ, and therefore be delivered in the sense of ultimate salvation.  Maybe my well-being will be at last the issue.”  I don’t think he knows.  But what he is saying is, “I do know this that what I’m going through now is temporary, and the future holds my deliverance, whether it’s vindication in court, release from prison, well-being, or eternal heaven – I’ll be delivered out of this.”

Paul quotes Job verbatim in verse 19:

… this statement that he makes, “For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance,” is a verbatim quote of Job 13:16, a verbatim quote of the Greek Old Testament, Job 13:16 – word for word.  Paul was a scholar in Scripture And obviously identified his own problems and his own struggle with that of Job He knew the story of Job. All the Jews know the story of Job.  And he knew that Job was a righteous man and that God put Job the righteous man in a situation of suffering, but Job knew because he knew God delivered the righteous that no matter what he went through God would deliver him out of it.  Job knew that even to the point of death where he said, “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I” – What? – “see God.”  He knew that one way or another, either temporally or eternally, God would deliver him.

Why?  Because God delivers the righteous.  That’s an Old Testament principle.  Job knew it because it was the truth about God, even before the Old Testament was written.  Paul knew it, and Paul is identifying with Job, who is a righteous man going through very difficult times who also said, “I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance.” And Paul quotes Job because he takes security in the precepts of the Lord, the truth of the Word of God He obviously viewed his present trouble like that of Job, and since Job was a faithful, righteous man, he was ultimately saved from his situation because God delivers the righteous. So Paul could quote the same thing, “I know that You will deliver me.”  Because He knew his heart, his conscience was clear This wasn’t the chastening of God or the punishment of God or the condemnation of God. So he is giving expression to the conviction that everything must work together for good to them that love God. And whether he was released from prison in this life, whether he was vindicated at his trial, or whether it worked out for his physical well-being, or whether he went to glory as a martyr, he would be delivered.

Personally I don’t think you can isolate it to his release from prison, because he says right here, “Whether by life or death.” So he didn’t know that he was going to live.  He wasn’t sure whether he would live or die, so he can’t say, “I know this will turn out for my release from prison,” or he wouldn’t have said, “Whether I live or die.”  He is simply saying God delivers the righteous. That’s a great principle – confident, then, in the precepts of the Lord.

In addition to his trust in the Lord, Paul also had confidence in the power of prayer, also evidenced in verse 19.

MacArthur has more on the power of prayer:

Secondly, he was confident in the prayers of the saints He was confident in the prayers of the saints.  He says, “Through your prayers” – what a wonderful statement.  Listen, he knew the Word of God would come to pass.  He believed in the sovereignty of God.  He believed in the eternal purposes of God laid down from before time began, but he also knew that God effected His work and brought His purposes to pass in concert with the prayers of the saints And so he says, “Through your prayers.”  One of the most wonderful truths of Scripture is that God works His purposes through the prayers of His people – and he says to the Philippians who loved him so dearly and to whom he was bonded in a very unique way, maybe unlike any other congregation, as we pointed out earlier – he knew he had their prayers, and he knew that the effectual, fervent prayer of righteous men produces much fruit and has great effect. And he knew that God working out His purpose through the faithful prayers of these people would bring his deliverance.  He believed in prayer.  He was confident in prayer.  And he called people to pray on his behalf; in Romans 15:30, “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”  He says, “Please pray for me.”

In Ephesians chapter 6, as he draws to a conclusion the passage on the armor, he says, “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (Ephesians 6:18-19).  “Pray for me.”  And there are other places we don’t have time to examine: 1 Thessalonians 5:25, “Brethren, pray for us.”  Beloved, he believed that God worked His purpose through the prayers of His people.  And so he said, “This will work out for my deliverance. My joy is fixed. My joy is fixed. My joy is fixed in the face of trouble, in the face of detractors, in the face of death.” Why, Paul?  Because the Word says God vindicates the righteous, and because the prayers of the saints are effective.

Paul also had confidence in the power of the Spirit.

MacArthur’s translation says ‘the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ’:

Thirdly, he was confident of the provision of the Spirit In verse 19, “And the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”  “I know this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and – implied – through the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”  And these are the three things that always work together: the Word, prayer, and the Spirit, right?  The Word, prayer, and the Spirit.  And they always work together for the benefit of the servants of God.

“The provision of the Spirit,” a wonderful statement. It means “the provision given by the Spirit,” not “the provision which is the Spirit,” although that certainly is true. I think the emphasis here is “the provision which the Spirit gives.”  In other words, the Spirit will grant to me whatever is necessary to sustain me The word provision,” by the way, epichorgias, means “help” or “supply.”  It can be translated “bountiful supply” here. It could be translated “full supply.”  I like “full resources,” “full resources.”  And the full resources of “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” That’s the Holy Spirit, who is called here “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Who is called in Romans 8 and 9 “the Spirit of Christ,” so that’s not an unfamiliar designation.  The Spirit can either be the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ within the Trinity.

So he is confident that the Holy Spirit – his indwelling teacher, interceder, guide, source of power – will provide what he needs Boy, what a tremendous confidence, tremendous confidence.  The Spirit is the provider.  Acts 1:8, Jesus said, “You’ll receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”  In John 14 Jesus said, “I’ll send you the Helper, the Comforter, and He’ll give you everything that you need. He’ll bring all the resources of God to you.”  That’s right, He’ll bring you all the resources of God.  And the fruit of the Spirit is even listed in Galatians 5, “Love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control” – whatever you need He’ll bring it to you.  If you need power, He brings you power.  He is the provider who brings the provision.  And every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit, and every Christian then has that resource, that provision.  He knew what Zechariah 4:6 says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.”

So, Paul is confident in the presence of the Spirit.  By the way, that’s why everything works out together for good.  In Romans 8:28 it says, “All things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to His purpose.”  But in the verse before it says, “We know not what to pray for as we ought, so the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” and that’s why everything works out together for good That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. That happens as a result of the provision of the Spirit of God, the supply of the Spirit of God, the intercession of the Spirit of God in an unutterable language between Himself and the Father.

Wow. I wish I’d had that lesson in Confirmation class. Even though Confirmation is all about the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity was underemphasised. It is only now in my teatime years that I have begun to appreciate Him. It is a sad admission to make. I mention it because it is essential for those who are parents or in charge of children to make the power of the Holy Spirit abundantly clear to young people.

Another thing I would like to mention is the serendipity of today’s verses with the Year C Gospel reading for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, July 24, 2022, in which Jesus taught the disciples how to pray — boldly. Note Luke 11:13, in which Jesus mentions the Holy Spirit:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Also note Paul is confident that the Holy Spirit will provide his daily bread, so to speak. The Holy Spirit will ensure his survival, what he needs to stay alive.

Amazing. I love it when verses and themes coincide. It makes the Bible come alive.

Paul goes on to say that he has an eager expectation and hope that he will not be at all ashamed and that, with full courage now and always, he will honour Christ in his body, in life and in death (verse 20).

MacArthur explains:

Fourthly, he was confident in the promise of Christ, he was confident in the promise of Christ.  This is really implicit here rather than explicit … 

What he is saying there is simply this: “I’m confident in the promise of Christ, that if I’m faithful to Him, He’ll be exalted in me. That if I’m never ashamed of Him, He’ll never be ashamed of me” (Mark 8:38).  Jesus said, “If you confess Me before men I’ll confess you before My Father. But if you’re ashamed of Me before men, I’ll be ashamed of you before My Father.”

And Paul is saying, “I have this earnest expectation and this hope that I will never be put to shame in anything, never. And I just move with all boldness so that Christ, as always, can be exalted in my body.”  He had this earnest expectation, this tremendous hope that he would never be shamed.  He had no fear of being disappointed by Christ He trusted His promise.  He trusted that Christ would never fail him, that Christ would never forsake him, that Christ would never leave him, that Christ would never abandon him, that Christ would never let go of him.  He trusted the words of Christ when he was converted, “You’re a chosen vessel; you’re a chosen vessel to represent Me.”  He knew the promise of Christ – to be with him, to strengthen him, to empower him, to serve through him.

And so he says in verse 20, “My earnest expectations” a very graphic word, apokaradokia. The “earnest expectation” is “to stretch your head.” That’s kind of the literal picture here – “concentrated eagerness”; “intense, fixed gaze,” straining with the neck as far as you can.  And then he adds the word “hope,” and the New English Bible translates it well: “my hope-filled, eager anticipation.”  He says, “I live in this eager anticipation that I’ll never be put to shame, I’ll never be shamed, not before the world, not before the courts of Caesar, not before God, because Christ will be exalted in my body – that’s His promise to me.  So with all boldness I go forward.”  That’s why he’s confident facing death.  “I’ll never be ashamed.  I’ll never be put to shame” …

And he says, “This is, I know this is the promise of God,” and I think he’s reaching back to the promise of our Lord that those who are not ashamed of Him will never have Him be ashamed of them.  In fact, in Isaiah 49:23 the Lord says this: “Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.” Maybe he had that in mind. Maybe he had that very verse in mind. “Those who hope or hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame,” almost a parallel to that statement.  He says, “I’ve got the Word of the Lord on this thing. I’ll never be shamed, so I’ll preach and preach faithfully and not fear death.”  He never feared God because He knew God was on His side – never feared Him in the negative sense He never feared man because, what could man do to him?  The promise of Christ belonged to him. The promise of Christ was his that he would never be shamed or disappointed or disillusioned.  Listen to Romans 9:33 – wonderful statement taken out of Isaiah again – “And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  Oh how wonderful, and that’s what he’s saying.

MacArthur discusses ‘whether by life or by death’:

… he adds this one phrase at the end of verse 20, “whether by life or by death,” and he introduces us to the fifth aspect of confidence He is confident in the plan of God. He doesn’t know what it is. It might be life; it might be death; but he’s confident in it – “whether by life or by death, I will boldly move on, for God’s plan is God’s plan, and I rejoice in it.” Confident in the plan of God.

He’s resigned to God’s plan He didn’t know whether he was going to live; he didn’t know whether he was going to die.  In fact, if he had a choice he’d die. Verse 23, he says, “I’m hard-pressed, I really have a desire to depart and be with Christ, for that’s very much better.  So if you really want to know what I’d like to do, I’d like to die.”  “But,” he says (verse 24), “to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. So I know that I shall remain and continue with you for your progress and joy in the faith.”  He says, “My feeling is, the Lord’s going to let me live because you need me.  But for the time being,” he says, “I’d rather die if I had my choice, but whatever the plan is, I leave it with Him”

And he sums it up in this great statement in verse 21 This is the capstone, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”  That’s it.  That is the summum bonum of his life, “living is Christ, dying is gain.”  I live only to serve Him, only to commune with Him, only to love Him I have no concept of life other than that.  Now follow this thought.  He is saying, “I am totally wrapped up in Christ – loving Him, knowing Him, preaching Him, serving Him.  Christ is the raison d’etre, the reason for my being, the reason for my existence.”  He doesn’t mean Christ is the source of his life, though He is.  He doesn’t mean Christ lives in him, though He does.  He doesn’t mean Christ controls him, though He does.  He doesn’t mean that Christ wants him to submit to Him, though He does.  He simply means “living is Christ.”  Life is summed up as Christ “I’m filled with Christ.  I am occupied with Christ.  I trust Christ, love Christ, hope in Christ, obey Christ, preach Christ, follow Christ, fellowship with Christ, Christ is the center circumference of my life. It’s all Christ.  Christ and Christ alone is my inspiration, my direction, my meaning, my purpose – consumed, dominated by Christ.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary says this about verse 20:

Here observe, (1.) The great desire of every true Christian is that Christ may be magnified and glorified, that his name may be great, and his kingdom come. (2.) Those who truly desire that Christ may be magnified desire that he may be magnified in their body. They present their bodies a living sacrifice (Rom 12 1), and yield their members as instruments of righteousness unto God, Rom 6 13. They are willing to serve his designs, and be instrumental to his glory, with every member of their body, as well as faculty of their soul. (3.) It is much for the glory of Christ that we should serve him boldly and not be ashamed of him, with freedom and liberty of mind, and without discouragement: That in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness Christ may be magnified. The boldness of Christians is the honour of Christ. (4.) Those who make Christ’s glory their desire and design may make it their expectation and hope. If it be truly aimed at, it shall certainly be attained. If in sincerity we pray, Father, glorify thy name, we may be sure of the same answer to that prayer which Christ had: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again, John 12 28. (5.) Those who desire that Christ may be magnified in their bodies have a holy indifference whether it be by life or by death. They refer it to him which way he will make them serviceable to his glory, whether by their labours or sufferings, by their diligence or patience, by their living to his honour in working for him or dying to his honour in suffering for him.

What follows are the remaining verses of Philippians 1. Once again, he uses the words ‘standing firm’:

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy[h] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Paul has more advice on how the Philippians — and we — should live a Christian life. More on that next week.

Next time — Philippians 2:14-18

Pentecost Sunday, the Church’s birthday, is on June 5, 2022.

Readings for Year C, along with my other posts about this important Church feast day, can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 14:8-17, (25-27)

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.

14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

14:17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

14:25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.

14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

It is serendipitous that a similar message about prayer and divine peace was part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving, held on June 3.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was invited to read the New Testament lesson, Philippians 4:4-9, which was St Paul’s closing exhortation (encouragement) to the church in Philippi:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The Gospel reading from John is taken from our Lord’s final discourse to the Apostles at the Last Supper, after Judas had left.

John is the only Gospel writer who told us what Jesus said to the Eleven. John 13-16 and our Lord’s prayers in John 17 are, to me, the most beautiful chapters in the New Testament.

To set the scene, the Apostles were anxious and confused when Jesus told them that He would be leaving them, that He would die imminently and rise again on the third day. Understandably, after three years with Him among them, they did not want to let go of that relationship. Yet, Jesus had to accomplish those things in obedience to God the Father. He also had to ascend to heaven, because that was the only way He could send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, who would then pursue their own powerful ministries in His name.

He had told them about what would happen to Him during His ministry, but they did not understand.

Philip requested that Jesus show them the Father and they would be satisfied (verse 8).

This would appear to be an outrageous request, but Matthew Henry’s commentary says that it has some merit:

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.

Yet:

As Philip speaks it here, it intimates that he was not satisfied with such a discovery of the Father as Christ thought fit to give them, but he would prescribe to him, and press upon him, something further and no less than some visible appearance of the glory of God, like that to Moses (Exodus 33:22), and to the elders of Israel, Exodus 24:9-11. “Let us see the Father with our bodily eyes, as we see thee, and it sufficeth us; we will trouble thee with no more questions, Whither goest thou?And so it manifests not only the weakness of his faith, but his ignorance of the gospel way of manifesting the Father, which is spiritual, and not sensible. Such a sight of God, he thinks, would suffice them, and yet those who did thus see him were not sufficed, but soon corrupted themselves, and made a graven image. Christ’s institutions have provided better for the confirmation of our faith than our own inventions would.

John MacArthur says:

their Christology was accurate, but not complete They didn’t get the whole thing.  And, furthermore, they didn’t understand the relationship between Him and the Holy Spirit.  He had told them that He did what He did by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to blaspheme Him was to blaspheme the Spirit who is doing the work through Him.  But they didn’t fully understand They were a little short on their Trinitarian theology …

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.”

I doubt that he’s a biblical scholar and that he threw those kind of things at our Lord.  This is just weak faith, and we know they had weak faith because Jesus kept calling them, “Oh, you of little faith.” 

“We want a vision of God.  We want a visible God.  We want a God we can touch, a God we can handle, or we’re going to have trouble believing.”  This is a preview of Thomas:  “If I don’t see, I won’t believe.”

Being omniscient, Jesus knew Philip would say that, but He must have been disappointed all the same.

Jesus replied, saying that, after all the time He was with them, how could they not know that seeing Him was seeing the Father (verse 9).

Henry reminds us that, early on, Philip said that Jesus was the Messiah:

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 (John 1:45; John 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 (Romans 8:26), but often ask amiss (James 4:3), for that which either is not promised or is already bestowed in the sense of the promise, as here.

Jesus continued, asking Philip whether he believed that He was in God and God in Him; furthermore, what Jesus spoke were not His own words but those of the Father (verse 10).

There we have the importance of faith: believe that Christ is in God and that God is in Christ.

Henry tells us:

In Christ we behold more of the glory of God than Moses did at Mount Horeb.

Jesus repeated the importance of that belief in verse 11, adding that, at the very minimum, we should believe Christ is in God and God is in Him by virtue of His miracles.

Henry makes the following observations:

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

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, John 2:11; John 5:36; John 10:37.

Jesus continued impressing the importance of belief, saying that those who believe in Him — meaning the Apostles, in this context — would do works greater than His because He is going to the Father (verse 12).

Jesus was leading into announcing that He would send them the Holy Spirit to enable those great works to happen in order to build the Church.

Henry points out that this is not to belittle our Lord’s miracles at all. In fact, it strengthens them:

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.

Jesus then emphasised the importance of prayer.

He said that He will do whatever is asked in His name, so that the Father is glorified in the Son (verse 13).

That does not include frivolous requests, but those which are worthy, as Henry explains:

Here is, (1.) Humility prescribed: You shall ask. Though they had quitted all for Christ, they could demand nothing of him as a debt, but must be humble supplicants, beg or starve, beg or perish. (2.) Liberty allowed: “Ask any thing, any thing that is good and proper for you; any thing, provided you know what you ask, you may ask; you may ask for assistance in your work, for a mouth and wisdom, for preservation out of the hands of your enemies, for power to work miracles when there is occasion, for the success of the ministry in the conversion of souls; ask to be informed, directed, vindicated.” Occasions vary, but they shall be welcome to the throne of grace upon every occasion.

It is also essential to pray those petitions in His name for the following reasons:

To ask in Christ’s name is, (1.) To plead his merit and intercession, and to depend upon that plea. The Old-Testament saints had an eye to this when they prayed for the Lord’s sake (Daniel 9:17), and for the sake of the anointed (Psalms 84:9), but Christ’s mediation is brought to a clearer light by the gospel, and so we are enabled more expressly to ask in his name. When Christ dictated the Lord’s prayer, this was not inserted, because they did not then so fully understand this matter as they did afterwards, when the Spirit was poured out. If we ask in our own name, we cannot expect to speed, for, being strangers, we have no name in heaven; being sinners, we have an ill name there; but Christ’s is a good name, well known in heaven, and very precious. (2.) It is to aim at his glory and to seek this as our highest end in all our prayers.

Our Lord said that He will do anything we ask in His name (verse 13).

Some might say that their prayers have not always been answered. Our ways are not the Lord’s. Unfortunately, each of us suffers loss during our lifetimes. Some say that those are our crosses to bear, as hard as that is to hear.

On the other hand, sometimes with relationships that didn’t work or job offers that didn’t materialise, God has a bigger and better plan for us. I can speak to that personally on both those fronts. He has made my life more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. My prayers have been more than answered. So, I would encourage everyone to continue praying. Pray diligently. God will show the way through His Son and the Holy Spirit.

Returning to our text, Jesus said that if the Apostles loved Him, then they would keep His commandments (verse 15).

If they kept those commandments, He would send them another Advocate — the Holy Spirit — to be with them forever (verse 16).

Henry says this means that the triune God will be with us if we obey those commandments:

When Christ has given them precious promises, of the answer of their prayers and the coming of the Comforter, he lays down this as a limitation of the promises, “Provided you keep my commandments, from a principle of love to me.” Christ will not be an advocate for any but those that will be ruled and advised by him as their counsel. Follow the conduct of the Spirit, and you shall have the comfort of the Spirit.

MacArthur reminds us of our Lord’s perfect obedience to His Father:

Go to chapter 15.  John makes another statement that essentially says the same thing.  John 15:10, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”  How do you know that Jesus loved the Father?  How do you know Jesus loved the Father?  Because He what?  He obeyed the FatherThat’s the model; that’s the pattern.  That’s the model.

In chapter 15, He says, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave – ” verse 15 “ – doesn’t know what his master is doing; but I’ve called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I’ve made known to you.”  This is Jesus talking about His obedience to the Father:  “I showed you My obedience to the Father.”  That’s the true proof of love.

How serious was it?  Verse 13:  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  He is the model of love.  He loved the Father enough to do the Father’s will, even when it meant laying down His life So a relationship with God basically manifests itself on the basis of love, demonstrated in obedience.

You’ll find the same emphasis made as well, chapter 17, verse 6:  “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world.  They were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.  They have kept Your word.”  This is always going to be John’s standard for manifesting true salvation.

Jesus then said that the world — unbelievers — cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but the Apostles would receive the Spirit because He abided with them and would be in them (verse 17).

MacArthur interprets the verse, using the Greek text:

It’s the word Paraclete That’s the transliteration in English Greek it’s Parakltos.  Kltos is a verb form of a verb kale which means to call, pará  means alongside like parallel – to call somebody alongside That’s what the word means, somebody called alongside.  Very, very general.

Called alongside for what?  For anything and everything that you would need.  Could be an intercessor, could be an advocate, could be a comforter, could be an encourager, could be a teacher, could be somebody to warn you – somebody called alongside, somebody with more wisdom, somebody with more truth, somebody with more power, somebody with more experience, somebody with more knowledge than you have Not somebody less than you, but somebody infinitely more than you on all levels of capability.

That’s the Helper I know in many Bibles it says the Comforter, but that’s such a very small sort of narrow understanding of what the role of the Holy Spirit is Certainly there’s that.  Certainly He’s there to comfort, and doesBut far beyond that, to help at every level where we need help

Állos is used here It means another of the exact same kind; and Jesus uses that:  “I will give you állos Parakltos I will give you another exactly like I am, which is to say that I’m going to send you a Helper exactly like the Helper that I have been,” and that defines for you the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

If verses 25 through 27 look familiar, they were read on the Sixth Sunday of Easter a few weeks ago. You can find the commentary here.

In closing, here are two important lessons for us in our Christian walk.

The first, MacArthur says, is an in-depth knowledge of Scripture. He is not wrong:

Your faith increases proportionately to your understanding of Scripture.  Scripture reveals God; and the more you see God revealed in Scripture, the greater your faith becomes, the stronger it becomes

The second, he says, is having a proper understanding of heaven, not only as a place but also a divine relationship with the Trinity:

Most people, when they think about heaven, they think about it as a place where certain activities take place; and that is true There will be, around the throne of God in heaven, activities.  One of them obviously will be praise, and worship, and adoration.  That will be going on all the time.  There will be in heaven other activities as well.  We will serve the Lord in heaven.  We will serve throughout eternity in ways that are unimaginable to us.

So it is true; heaven is a place, and heaven is a place where there will be activity.  But if that’s all you think about heaven, then you miss the main event, you miss the main point.  Heaven is primarily a fulfilled relationship When you think about heaven, I want you to think about it that way.  It is the full presence of the triune God; the full, glorious presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit We will be in the full, complete, transcendent relationship with the TrinityThat will define our existence.

So primarily – listen – heaven is a relationship It is a relationship.  It is communion.  It is fellowship at its purest and highest level.  That’s what heaven is.

All of our praise is response to the relationship All of our service is in view of the relationship.  We praise because of that relationship.  We serve because of that relationship.

The dominant reality is the relationship We will have a relationship with God that is absolutely perfect and complete, as full and complete as is possible in an eternally perfected human being.  This is what heaven is.  It is a relationship brought to its absolute perfect fulfillment.  It is defined as peace and joy because that is drawn out of that relationship That’s what your inheritance is.  To put it simply, heaven is the presence of the triune God Your inheritance is God; your inheritance is the Son; your inheritance is the Holy Spirit.  The triune God is your inheritance.

Pentecost Sunday is the final day of Eastertide. Next Sunday is Trinity Sunday and the season that follows is that of either Pentecost or Trinity. Catholics call the next few months of Sundays from now until Christ the King Sunday ‘Ordinary Time’. It’s terrible nomenclature, suggesting that we can ignore them. My church uses the season of Trinity, and so do I.

May everyone reading this have a blessed Pentecost, remembering that it is the Church’s birthday.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter is on May 29, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

This particular Sunday, which falls between the Ascension and Pentecost, is traditionally known as Exaudi Sunday.

For centuries, a number of theologians deemed it the saddest of the Church year, because Jesus ascended into Heaven and would no longer physically be with His disciples.

I wrote about the history behind Exaudi Sunday several years ago. Here is an excerpt:

Exaudi is Latin, from the verb exaudire (modern day equivalents are the French exaucer and the Italian esaudire). It has several meanings, among them: hear, understand and discern, as well as heed, obey and, where the Lord is concerned, grant. The French version of the Catholic Mass uses exaucer a lot, as do hymns: ‘grant us, Lord’.

Exaudi Sunday is so called because of the traditional Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 17:20-26

17:20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,

17:21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

17:22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,

17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

17:24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

17:25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.

17:26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John 17 is comprised of our Lord’s three prayers before His arrest. He prays for God to glorify Him, then prays for His disciples, then — today’s reading — for all believers throughout history into the future.

On Ascension Day, this past Thursday, we heard Luke’s versions of the Ascension. The Gospel reading concluded his Gospel with Jesus blessing the disciples until they could see Him no more, and the Epistle is a fuller account from Acts 1 of that glorious event which meant that He could send the Holy Spirit to them at the first Pentecost.

Luke’s Gospel says that the Apostles rejoiced at the Ascension. They were finally beginning to understand the full import of what Jesus had told them throughout His ministry.

Yet, later on in the ensuing ten days, they might have wondered what would truly happen next. They might also have realised that they would never see Jesus again in their lifetime. Hence, Exaudi Sunday. We cannot know for certain.

As today’s reading opens, Jesus had just finished praying for His disciples. Therefore, He petitions His Father not only on their behalf but also those who will believe in the future through their word (verse 20), meaning those who heard the Apostles preach or read their Gospel accounts.

Matthew Henry’s commentary offers the following analysis:

Note, here, 1. Those, and those only, are interested in the mediation of Christ, that do, or shall, believe in him. This is that by which they are described, and it comprehends all the character and duty of a Christian. They that lived then, saw and believed, but they in after ages have not seen, and yet have believed. 2. It is through the word that souls are brought to believe on Christ, and it is for this end that Christ appointed the scriptures to be written, and a standing ministry to continue in the church, while the church stands, that is, while the world stands, for the raising up of a seed. 3. It is certainly and infallibly known to Christ who shall believe on him. He does not here pray at a venture, upon a contingency depending on the treacherous will of man, which pretends to be free, but by reason of sin is in bondage with its children; no, Christ knew very well whom he prayed for, the matter was reduced to a certainty by the divine prescience and purpose; he knew who were given him, who being ordained to eternal life, were entered in the Lamb’s book, and should undoubtedly believe, Acts 13:48. 4. Jesus Christ intercedes not only for great and eminent believers, but for the meanest and weakest; not for those only that are to be employed in the highest post of trust and honour in his kingdom, but for all, even those that in the eye of the world are inconsiderable. As the divine providence extends itself to the meanest creature, so does the divine grace to the meanest Christian. The good Shepherd has an eye even to the poor of the flock. 5. Jesus Christ in his mediation had an actual regard to those of the chosen remnant that were yet unborn, the people that should be created (Psalms 22:31), the other sheep which he must yet bring. Before they are formed in the womb he knows them (Jeremiah 1:5), and prayers are filed in heaven for them beforehand, by him who declareth the end from the beginning, and calleth things that are not as though they were.

John MacArthur points out:

He doesn’t pray for unbelievers.

Jesus prayed that believers would all be as one, a commingling — a communion — of us with God the Father and God the Son, so that the world will believe that God sent Jesus (verse 21) to redeem us.

This is a prayer of unity, Henry says:

The heart of Christ was much upon this. Some think that the oneness prayed for in John 17:11; John 17:11 has special reference to the disciples as ministers and apostles, that they might be one in their testimony to Christ; and that the harmony of the evangelists, and concurrence of the first preachers of the gospel, are owing to this prayer. Let them be not only of one heart, but of one mouth, speaking the same thing. The unity of the gospel ministers is both the beauty and strength of the gospel interest. But it is certain that the oneness prayed for in John 17:21; John 17:21 respects all believers. It is the prayer of Christ for all that are his, and we may be sure it is an answered prayer–that they all may be one, one in us (John 17:21; John 17:21) …

Jesus expanded on His petition, saying that He has passed on His God-given glory to believers so that they may be one corporate body as are the Father and the Son (verse 22).

He prays that as He and His Father are one, so may we be one also, witnessing to the fact that God sent Him to love us just as much as the Father loves the Son (verse 23).

Henry tells us that this can happen only with the presence of the Holy Spirit:

This is plainly implied in this–that they may be one in us. Union with the Father and Son is obtained and kept up only by the Holy Ghost. He that is joined to the Lord in one spirit,1 Corinthians 6:17. Let them all be stamped with the same image and superscription, and influenced by the same power.

Henry explains what this unity means:

That they all may be one, (1.) In judgment and sentiment; not in every little thing–this is neither possible nor needful, but in the great things of God, and in them, by the virtue of this prayer, they are all agreed–that God’s favour is better than life–that sin is the worst of evils, Christ the best of friends–that there is another life after this, and the like. (2.) In disposition and inclination. All that are sanctified have the same divine nature and image; they have all a new heart, and it is one heart. (3.) They are all one in their designs and aims. Every true Christian, as far as he is so, eyes the glory of God as his highest end, and the glory of heaven as his chief good. (4.) They are all one in their desires and prayers; though they differ in words and the manner of expressions, yet, having received the same spirit of adoption, and observing the same rule, they pray for the same things in effect. (5.) All one in love and affection. Every true Christian has that in him which inclines him to love all true Christians as such. That which Christ here prays for is that communion of saints which we profess to believe; the fellowship which all believers have with God, and their intimate union with all the saints in heaven and earth, 1 John 1:3. But this prayer of Christ will not have its complete answer till all the saints come to heaven, for then, and not till then, they shall be perfect in one, John 17:23; Ephesians 4:13.

Jesus added another petition, asking that those whom the Father has given Him be with Him in Heaven to see His glory, which the Father gave Him before the foundation of the world (verse 24).

MacArthur says:

Here is the ultimate; here is the ultimate: the Son prays for the Father to bring all His chosen sons to glory. Again, Jesus is praying us into heaven. We’re going to heaven; that’s a promise. The reason that promise is fulfilled, the means for that to be fulfilled, is the intercessory prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Henry also says that this is the ultimate petition; the first three built up to this culmination:

He had prayed that God would preserve, sanctify, and unite them; and now he prays that he would crown all his gifts with their glorification. In this method we must pray, first for grace, and then for glory (Psalms 84:11); for in this method God gives. Far be it from the only wise God to come under the imputation either of that foolish builder who without a foundation built upon the sand, as he would if he should glorify any whom he has not first sanctified; or of that foolish builder who began to build and was not able to finish, as he would if he should sanctify any, and not glorify them.

Jesus then offered the closing verses of His prayer, first by addressing God as Righteous Father, then appealing on the believers’ behalf by saying that although we have not seen God, we know — unlike the rest of the world — that He sent His Son to us (verse 25).

Henry explains:

(1.) The title he gives to God: O righteous Father. When he prayed that they might be sanctified, he called him holy Father; when he prays that they may be glorified, he calls him righteous Father; for it is a crown of righteousness which the righteous Judge shall give. God’s righteousness was engaged for the giving out of all that good which the Father had promised and the Son had purchased.

(2.) The character he gives of the world that lay in wickedness: The world has not known thee. Note, Ignorance of God overspreads the world of mankind; this is the darkness they sit in. Now this is urged here, [1.] To show that these disciples need the aids of special grace, both because of the necessity of their work–they were to bring a world that knew not God to the knowledge of him; and also, because of the difficulty of their work–they must bring light to those that rebelled against the light; therefore keep them. [2.] To show that they were qualified for further peculiar favours, for they had that knowledge of God which the world had not.

(3.) The plea he insists upon for himself: But I have known thee. Christ knew the Father as no one else ever did; knew upon what grounds he went in his undertaking, knew his Father’s mind in every thing, and therefore, in this prayer, came to him with confidence, as we do to one we know. Christ is here suing out blessings for those that were his; pursuing this petition, when he had said, The world has not known thee, one would expect it should follow, but they have known thee; no, their knowledge was not to be boasted of, but I have known thee, which intimates that there is nothing in us to recommend us to God’s favour, but all our interest in him, and intercourse with him, result from, and depend upon, Christ’s interest and intercourse. We are unworthy, but he is worthy.

(4.) The plea he insists upon for his disciples: And they have known that thou hast sent me; and, [1.] Hereby they are distinguished from the unbelieving world. When multitudes to whom Christ was sent, and his grace offered, would not believe that God had sent him, these knew it, and believed it, and were not ashamed to own it. Note, To know and believe in Jesus Christ, in the midst of a world that persists in ignorance and infidelity, is highly pleasing to God, and shall certainly be crowned with distinguishing glory. Singular faith qualifies for singular favours. [2.] Hereby they are interested in the mediation of Christ, and partake of the benefit of his acquaintance with the Father: “I have known thee, immediately and perfectly; and these, though they have not so known thee, nor were capable of knowing thee so, yet have known that thou hast sent me, have known that which was required of them to know, have known the Creator in the Redeemer.” Knowing Christ as sent of God, they have, in him, known the Father, and are introduced to an acquaintance with him; therefore, “Father, look after them for my sake.”

Jesus closed His prayer by saying that He made His Father’s name known to believers and will continue to do so in order that the love God has shown Him will be in them and Jesus with them (verse 26).

Henry says that Jesus asked for communion between believers and God as well as their union in Him, the Son:

[1.] Communion with God: “Therefore I have given them the knowledge of thy name, of all that whereby thou hast made thyself known, that thy love, even that wherewith thou hast loved me, may be, not only towards them, but in them;that is, First, “Let them have the fruits of that love for their sanctification; let the Spirit of love, with which thou hast filled me, be in them. Christ declares his Father’s name to believers, that with that divine light darted into their minds a divine love may be shed abroad in their hearts, to be in them a commanding constraining principle of holiness, that they may partake of a divine nature. When God’s love to us comes to be in us, it is like the virtue which the loadstone gives the needle, inclining it to move towards the pole; it draws out the soul towards God in pious and devout affections, which are as the spirits of the divine life in the soul. Secondly, “Let them have the taste and relish of that love for their consolation; let them not only be interested in the love of God, by having God’s name declared to them, but, by a further declaration of it, let them have the comfort of that interest; that they may not only know God, but know that they know him, 1 John 2:3. It is the love of God thus shed abroad in the heart that fills it with joy, Romans 5:3; Romans 5:5. This God has provided for, that we may not only be satisfied with his loving kindness, but be satisfied of it; and so may live a life of complacency in God and communion with him; this we must pray for, this we must press after; if we have it, we must thank Christ for it; if we want it, we may thank ourselves.

[2.] Union with Christ in order hereunto: And I in them. There is no getting into the love of God but through Christ, nor can we keep ourselves in that love but by abiding in Christ, that is, having him to abide in us; nor can we have the sense and apprehension of that love but by our experience of the indwelling of Christ, that is, the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. It is Christ in us that is the only hope of glory that will not make us ashamed, Colossians 1:27. All our communion with God, the reception of his love to us with our return of love to him again, passes through the hands of the Lord Jesus, and the comfort of it is owing purely to him. Christ had said but a little before, I in them (John 17:23; John 17:23), and here it is repeated (though the sense was complete without it), and the prayer closed with it, to show how much the heart of Christ was sent upon it; all his petitions centre in this, and with this the prayers of Jesus, the Son of David, are ended: “I in them; let me have this, and I desire no more.” It is the glory of the Redeemer to dwell in the redeemed: it is his rest for ever, and he has desired it. Let us therefore make sure our union with Christ, and then take the comfort of his intercession. This prayer had an end, but that he ever lives to make.

MacArthur says that this prayer defines Heaven:

if you want to define heaven, you just got the definition. It’s all glory and all love, all glory and all love. God is love and eternally loved His Son – infinitely loved His Son, intimately loved His Son; and eternally, infinitely, and intimately loves all of His sons, all of us. And His eternal Son wants to bring us all to glory so that we can see the manifestation of how much the Father loves Him, and so that we can also experience it ourselves. God cannot love His Son any more than He does; He cannot love us any more than He does. His mediatorial work, to bring us to glory, is to bring us into that incomprehensible love; and He will get us there.

What a marvellous meditation to contemplate as we near Pentecost Sunday, which is one week away.

330px-john_donne_by_isaac_oliverLast week, I profiled John Donne, who made an incredible personal journey from a handsome rake to devoted husband and father to the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Most of us remember his poetry from English Literature class.

Although digital collections of his sermons exist, only one — and a partial one at that — is in an easily accessed format categorised by Scripture. Thank you, BibleHub.

John’s Gospel has the most detailed account of Jesus’s final teaching at the Last Supper, which we remember on Maundy Thursday.

John Donne was inspired to write an entire sermon on John 14:20 alone. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

First, let’s look at John 14 in its entirety. Jesus spoke these words while He and the Apostles were in the upper room at the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot had already left. The Judas referred to in verse 22 is Jude Thaddeus, who wrote the shortest book in the Bible, Jude:

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[e] anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[f] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[g] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

John Donne’s sermon on John 14:20 is called ‘Christ’s Legacy’. Most of it follows below:

I. THE LEGACY ITSELF: Knowledge. “Ye shall know.” God delivered the Jews to some extent from ignorance by the law, which was their schoolmaster. But in the gospel we are graduates, and know as a matter of history and experience what was only previously known in prophecy and type, in the manifestation of Christ, and the presence of the Spirit

II. THE TIME WHEN THIS LEGACY ACCRUES TO US. “At that day.”

1. The word itself affords cheerfulness. When God inflicted the greatest plague on Egypt it was at midnight; and when He would intimate both deaths at once He says, “Thou fool, this night,” etc. Against all supply of knowledge He calls him fool; against all sense of comfort in the day He threatens night.

2. It was a certain day: “That” — and soon. For after Christ had made His will at this supper, and given strength to His will by His death, and proved His will by His resurrection, and left the Church possessed of His estate by His ascension, within ten days after that He poured out this legacy of knowledge.

3. On that day the Holy Ghost came as a wind to note a powerful working; filled them, to note the abundance; and gave them utterance, to infer the communication of their knowledge to others. But He was poured forth for the benefit of all. The prophets, high as their calling was, saw nothing without the Spirit; with the Spirit simple man understands the prophets.

III. OUR PORTION IN THIS LEGACY — the measure of the knowledge of those mysteries which we are to receive. When Felix the Manichaean would prove to that was the Holy Spirit who should teach all truth, because Manes [Mani] taught many things of which men were ignorant concerning the frame and nature of the heavens, Augustine answered, “The Holy Ghost makes us Christians, not mathematicians.” This knowledge is to know the end and the way — heaven and Christ. Now, in all our journeys, a moderate pace brings a man most surely to his journey’s end, and so does a sober knowledge in the mysteries of religion. Therefore, the Holy Ghost did not give the apostles all kind of knowledge, but knowledge enough for their present work, and so with us. The points of knowledge necessary for our salvation are three.

1. The mystery of the Trinity. “I am in My Father.” tells us that the principal use of knowledge is to know the Trinity. For to know that there is one God, natural reason serves our turn. But to know that the Son is in the Father I need the Scriptures, and the light of the Holy Spirit on the Scriptures, for Jews and Arians have the Bible too. But consider that Christ says, “ye shall know,” not “ye shall know how”. It is enough for a happy subject to enjoy the sweetness of a peaceable government, though he knows not the ways by which his prince governs, so it is enough for a Christian to enjoy the working of God’s grace, though he inquire not into God’s unrevealed decrees. When the Church asked how the body of Christ was in the sacrament we see what an inconvenient answer it fell upon. Make much of that knowledge with which the Spirit hath trusted you, and believe the rest. No man knows how his soul came into him, yet no man doubts that he has a soul.

2. The mystery of the Incarnation — “Ye in Me.” For since the devil has taken manhood in one lump in Adam, Christ to deliver us as entirely took all mankind upon Him. So that the same pretence that the devil hath against us, “You are mine, for you sinned in Adam,” we have also for our discharge, we are delivered, for we paid our debt in Christ.

3. The assurance of this grows from the third part of our knowledge the mystery of our redemption, in our sanctification. “I in you.” This last is the best. To know that Christ is in the Father may serve me to convince another who denies the Trinity; to know we are in Christ may show that we are more honoured than angels. But what worth is this if I know not that Christ is in me. How then is this? Here the question is lawful, for it has been revealed. It is by our obedience to His inspiration, and by our reverent use of His sacrament, when the Spirit visits us with effectual grace, and Christ marries Himself to our souls.

What stood out for me were four things:

First, Donne clearly understood Paul’s epistles about the shortcomings of the law in the Old Covenant. It could not — and cannot — save. Note that Donne calls the law the Jews’ ‘schoolmaster’. How true.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is available to all, not just a select few. Furthermore, St Augustine said that the primary purpose of the Spirit is to help us to live a Christian life. Donne makes it easy to grasp by saying that the Spirit enables simple man to understand the prophets. One does not need a university degree to understand the Bible.

Thirdly, if the devil tempts us by telling us we are doomed, we should keep in mind that Christ paid our debt in full. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Finally, Christians are not required to understand how the holy mysteries work, only to believe, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, that they exist, e.g. the Triune God, one in three Persons. Donne wisely noted the ancient controversy in the Church that took place over what happens during the consecration of bread and wine, still a contentious subject today.

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Readings, exegeses and other observations about Wednesday of Holy Week, or Spy Wednesday, as it is traditionally known, follow:

Readings for Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday

Judas offers his services

More on Spy Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday (2017, Henry and MacArthur on Judas: bad hombre)

Bible oldThe 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 with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Galatians 4:8-11

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

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Last week’s post discussed what Paul called enslavement to ‘the elementary principles of the world’, meaning law for the Jews and idolatry for the Gentiles.

The New Covenant, which Christ introduced, does away with the law and brings in redemption, to which believers are heirs. God’s plan was to bring the Jewish church to maturity by abolishing Mosaic law and bringing His Chosen to a belief in Christ, the Messiah.

These verses are in the Lectionary, but they will help bridge the gap between last week’s reading and today’s (emphases mine):

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

However, Judaisers had come from Jerusalem to persuade the Galatians, most of whom were Gentiles, that they could be proper Christians only if they obeyed Mosaic law. That is another gospel, and plainly incorrect.

Paul tells the Galatians that, before they knew God, they were enslaved to idols (verse 8).

Matthew Henry elaborates on this enslavement:

He reminds them of their past state and behaviour, and what they were before the gospel was preached to them. Then they knew not God; they were grossly ignorant of the true God, and the way wherein he is to be worshipped: and at that time they were under the worst of slaveries, for they did service to those which by nature were no gods, they were employed in a great number of superstitious and idolatrous services to those who, though they were accounted gods, were yet really no gods, but mere creatures, and perhaps of their own making, and therefore were utterly unable to hear and help them. Note, 1. Those who are ignorant of the true God cannot but be inclined to false gods. Those who forsook the God who made the world, rather than be without gods, worshipped such as they themselves made. 2. Religious worship is due to none but to him who is by nature God; for, when the apostle blames the doing service to such as by nature were no gods, he plainly shows that he only who is by nature God is the proper object of our religious worship.

Paul asks them how, now that they know God and He knows them, they can revert to the ‘weak and worthless elementary principles of the world’ (verse 9).

Paul is at a loss to understand. Most of them are Gentiles, so they would not have known Jewish law, therefore, why embrace it? Mosaic law was only a forerunner of the Messiah. It was never intended to be in place permanently. Christ’s payment for our sins, however, will last forever.

He chides them further by telling them they are celebrating festivals under Mosaic law, observing days and months, seasons and years (verse 10).

Henry explains:

they had never been under the law of Moses, as the Jews had been; and therefore on this account they were more inexcusable than the Jews themselves, who might be supposed to have some fondness for that which had been of such long standing among them. Besides, what they suffered themselves to be brought into bondage to were but weak and beggarly elements, such things as had no power in them to cleanse the soul, nor to afford any solid satisfaction to the mind, and which were only designed for that state of pupillage under which the church had been, but which had now come to a period; and therefore their weakness and folly were the more aggravated, in submitting to them, and in symbolizing with the Jews in observing their various festivals, here signified by days, and months, and times, and years.

Paul laments that the time, prayers and effort he spent on them were in vain (verse 11).

Henry discusses Paul’s despondency. Unfortunately, this is a sad part of ministry. Ultimately, the person who turns away from faith in Christ will have to account for it:

Hereupon he expresses his fears concerning them, lest he had bestowed on them labour in vain. He had been at a great deal of pains about them, in preaching the gospel to them, and endeavouring to confirm them in the faith and liberty of it; but now they were giving up these, and thereby rendering his labour among them fruitless and ineffectual, and with the thoughts of this he could not but be deeply affected. Note, 1. A great deal of the labour of faithful ministers is labour in vain; and, when it is so, it cannot but be a great grief to those who desire the salvation of souls. Note, 2. The labour of ministers is in vain upon those who begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh, who, though they seem to set out well, yet afterwards turn aside from the way of the gospel. Note, 3. Those will have a great deal to answer for upon whom the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ bestow labour in vain.

Paul is despondent because the Galatians are adopted sons of God, heirs to His everlasting kingdom, but they want to embrace legalism.

John MacArthur explains how believers are God’s heirs and why it is such a privilege:

The law couldn’t save. The law couldn’t bring forgiveness. The law couldn’t remove the sentence of death and hell.

What the law couldn’t do, weak as it was to the flesh – it wasn’t the law’s fault, it’s holy, just and good; but the flesh is weak – God did, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. And as an offering for sin He condemned sin in the flesh so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. He not only became accursed for us, but He fulfilled in His death; but in His life He fulfilled the law for us. So our sins are imputed to Him in His death, and His perfect life is imputed to us by faith.

He sent His Son. Why? Verse 5, “so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” He wanted to redeem us, buy us back from our bondage, pay the price.

The word “under” appears a lot here. Have you noticed that? “Under law,” once in chapter 3, once in chapter 4. “Under a curse,” chapter 3. “Under sin,” chapter 3. “Under elemental things,” chapter 4. Even, “Under a tutor.” This describes the life of someone before Christ, under the law, under sin, under elemental things of basic religion, under a curse. All of this reflects our bondage.

Our Lord, it says, was born under the law, but He kept it perfectly. That’s His active righteousness, His active obedience. And then He died in our place, and that’s His passive righteous obedience. “And He did it to redeem us,” – buy us from the bondage of sin – “that we might” – here it comes at the end of verse 5 – “that we might receive the adoption as sons.” This is such an honorable privilege.

MacArthur tells us why Paul uses the notion of adoption. We had another family before God adopted us, thanks to His Son’s perfect and sufficient sacrifice:

… let’s talk about adoption. What’s our former family? “You’re of your father the devil,” John 8. Sons of disobedience, sons of wrath. Our home is the world system. We’re in bondage to sin and death and hell. Our father is the devil; that’s our family. This is the universal human condition. But God displayed His glory through love and grace toward us. And chapter 3, verse 26 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

And then as we read in verse 5, He came to redeem us, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” We were regenerated, given life, we were declared righteous; and now God says, “I am moving you from the family of Satan into My own family, and I’m placing you in My family, and so intrinsically into My family that I am placing you in union with My Son, in union with My Son.”

John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become the children of God.” We have authority as the children of God.

I’m always drawn to 1 John chapter 3. Listen to verse 1: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God. How great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we will be called children of God.” Yes, we were actually born anew so that we are new creations with new life. But we were also doubly put into God’s family by then being chosen and adopted and taken out of the kingdom of darkness.

In order to appreciate the notion of adoption, it is important to keep in mind that, in Roman times, it was very different to today’s practice.

Today, people adopt babies and young children from charities. It is seen as a charitable act.

It was quite the opposite in the Roman empire. Adoption in that era was a sign of social status and was for adult men only, not women or children.

MacArthur explains the whys and wherefores of Roman adoption:

In the ancient Roman world they did not adopt children. They adopted adults, and they adopted male adults. Very rarely was a female adopted. That is why when Paul talks about adoption he talks about sons, because adoption was done with male, adult young men. Rarely does anyone in our society adopt an adult. There wouldn’t be any compelling reason to do that basically in our society.

But let me tell you a little bit about Roman adoption – almost always an adult male twenty years of age and up, even into the thirties. They were adopted into wealthy families, families of status, families with an estate, families of prominence, and virtually all those kinds of families did adoptions. Even if they had children, even if they had sons, they would adopt. If they had no sons, obviously they would adopt in order to have an heir. But if they had sons that they didn’t think were suited for the future of the family, they would adopt another son.

And by the way, there was a power in ancient Rome called patria potestas, which essentially says “the father’s power.” And a father could disown a born child. More frequently than not, it would be a girl. But the father could also disown a son. He could also sell a son for adoption. He could also kill a son for whatever reason he wanted.

So the father had absolute power over his children. And if he had no sons or if he had sons that he didn’t want to become the heirs of his estate, he would adopt. They were chosen, not as babies, because many babies didn’t survive childhood. You wouldn’t go through all the adoption to have a baby that would die. And furthermore, you didn’t know what kind of a young man this baby would become.

So they waited until they were in their twenties or thirties and they could see their leadership potential, their mental skills, their physical strength, their wisdom. They were looking for someone who would be the next patria familias, “father of the family.” The father wanted someone to take over the estate. The purpose was really singular: to bring an heir into the family who was worthy of this estate and could guarantee the future of that estate going forward.

And this would happen either because they had no son, or they had no son they felt was qualified. And there were families who had more sons than they needed. They would have sons to carry on their line, and they would be happy to have one of their sons adopted by one of these patrician families – very often adopted out of the plebeian, the common families.

In Roman times, the head of the family was both a manager of the family’s estate – a bookkeeper and a financial caretaker for the family’s fortune, and a priest, who basically ran the family religion – whatever gods they worshiped, whatever household gods, whatever forms of worship were part of that heritage were his responsibility. He was patria familias, “the family father.” And so when they adopted young men they were looking for an heir who could step into that role – very, very important: be the keeper of the family’s fortune and the keeper of the family’s reputation in the future. Poor, again, less noble parents who had such desirable sons would gladly make those sons available to a noble family for a price, for a price. And the price could be very high. It was an honor, by the way, not a dishonor. It was an honorable act to give your son to one of the patrician families, one of the families of the senators, the people who were elite.

Keep this in mind. Somebody might say, “Well, wait a minute. If you’ve got a really bright, sharp young son, maybe he could take the family he’s in and elevate that family and move that family up the social ladder to make them one of the elite families.” Couldn’t happen; didn’t happen. There was an elite class of patricians in the Roman world that was essentially unapproachable and unavailable to the rest of the plebeian society. So if you wanted to advance your capable son, this would be a great way to do that, and maybe the only way to elevate him.

It wasn’t secret. It was very public. It was very official. In fact, it was so official that at a high level it required senate confirmation, senate confirmation. A lot was involved. You’re talking about wealthy families with estates and reputations. Many of them senators. Many of them, by the way, emperors in Rome.

So this had senate involvement. It was a long drawn out, very official, very formal ceremony, like a wedding. It was that public. It was that kind of celebration. And like a wedding when the bride gives herself to the husband, she doesn’t intend to never speak to her family again. She doesn’t intend to forget her family, even though they cleave together and create a union all their own; they continue to be connected to the family that was their birth family. They create a new family, but they have a connection to the family of the past in some way.

That was true in adoption. It was not a complete forsaking of your family, so that the family in the future would in some ways be able to enjoy something of the success of the adopted son as they stayed connected in some way with him. However, he would take the father’s name, the new father’s name, and he would bear that name for the rest of his life. He would get all of the rights and privileges of that family. In fact, he would be the heir of everything that family possessed, and he would bear the name of his new father.

Adoption – here’s a definition: “The condition of a son, chosen and given to a father and family to which he doesn’t naturally belong, to formally and legally declare a son who is not a son by birth, but a son by choice, granting him complete rights and inheritance.” That’s Roman adoption.

There were four results of this adoption. Number one: You had a new father. You had a new father. Number two: You were heir to his estate. And that’s the primary reason for this adoption. And if you were adopted to become the primary heir, and the couple had more sons, those sons could never supplant the adopted son who was declared the heir. They could share in the inheritance like co-heirs, but that adopted son would be the ultimate heir.

Third thing: all the adopted son’s previous debts and responsibility were wiped out. If he owed anything to anyone anywhere, that was all gone. They erased his past life, except the connection with his family. It was as if he had never lived before. Everything was set aside; everything was erased. He is now legally and absolutely the son and heir of his new father, and there is no past life to take into account.

The fourth element is: he would have to be purchased with a high price, which is one of the reasons that poor families would make this overture of a son that was desired by a wealthy family. So the results were significant.

One other thing to say – according to the Roman-Syrian law book, I found an interesting quote there on this subject. It says, and I quote, “A man cannot disown an adopted son,” end quote. So once you were adopted, it was permanent.

Does this make our adoption as sons of God more meaningful?

MacArthur continues:

So much care was taken about who was adopted. The adopted son – listen – then is more secure in his inheritance than a born son. The adopted son is more secure in his inheritance than a born son. A born son could be disowned, sold, adopted out, or even killed, as I said earlier.

This is such a noble event that nine of the Caesars were adopted. Julius Caesar had no children, so he adopted Augustus. Augustus had no sons, so he adopted Tiberius. Nine Caesars, nine emperors were adopted from other families into the royal line. So this is a very richly textured picture of what Christian believers experience in being adopted into God’s family.

And if you look at it in the breadth of that, you begin to see what the Galatians would have understood, and what Paul intended them to understand, that what happens when God adopts us into His family is, first of all, we are in another family. We are comparatively in an impoverished family. We are in a family with no future, no hope of ever achieving what that new family possesses. We are chosen; we are chosen. We are then purchased. We are then given the name of the new family. We then become heirs of everything that that father possesses; and that can never change. That’s adoption. And we say, “Abba! Father!”

We have a new Father, and we’re so intimately connected to Him that we say, “Papa. Daddy.” It’s that intense a relationship. And we have all the rights and privileges, so that Jesus says in John 1:12, to those who believed in Him, He gave “the authority to be called sons of God.” It is a position of authority In heaven we will sit with Him on His throne. We will be, as we have read in Romans 8, “heirs and joint heirs with Christ” of all that God possesses.

The adoption ceremony in the Roman empire also had to have witnesses. We believers also have a witness, the Holy Spirit:

By the way, in the adoption ceremony, according to one source, there were seven witnesses, seven witnesses. Why would you have witnesses of the adoption? To establish the legality of it and testimony to it, in case in the future other children of that wealthy family would contest to that adoption and say, “Wait a minute.” When the estate starts getting passed out and they are overlooked, there could well be conflict in the family.

And so one source says there were seven witnesses required, which fascinates me, because we have in our text, if you’ll look down at verse 6, “Because,” verse 5, “we have received the adoption as sons,” verse 6, “because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.” And what is the Spirit sent into our hearts to do? Romans 8 says, “To witness that we are the sons of God.”

The Holy Spirit is the witness that we are the sons of God. And according to Isaiah 11:2, the Holy Spirit is the sevenfold spirit. In Isaiah 11:2 there are seven features of the Holy Spirit. They are demonstrated in the menorah with its seven flames. The fullness of the Spirit is a sevenfold fullness. And so the fullness of the sevenfold Spirit is God’s witness to the legality of our adoption that can never be contested, because of the witness of the Holy Spirit.

We have seen the preparation for our sonship in the early verses: the realization of our sonship, verses 4 and 5, when we become adopted as sons; the confirmation of our sonship, verse 6, receiving the Spirit in our hearts who witnesses with our spirit that we are the sons of God. All of this is built on this incredibly rich picture of Roman adoption.

Now we come to the consummation of sonship in verse 7, the consummation of sonship. “Therefore you are no longer a slave.” And by the way, slaves could be adopted; both slaves and free men could be adopted. Slaves, by the way, were not all the kind of slaves you might think. Many of them were highly educated; many of them were professionally skilled people. That was just their social status.

“You are no longer a slave, but a son;” – and here it comes – “if a son, if a son, then an heir through God.” The point of adoption was to give the estate to that adopted son. It was that he would be the heir through God, dia, by the immediate agency of God. God is choosing an heir.

Think of your salvation that way. He chose you before the foundation of the world to be an heir of everything that He possesses. This is the magnanimous nature of the grace and love of God. This is astonishing, astonishing.

That is what our adoption by God means. It is an immense privilege, more than we can possibly appreciate or understand.

I hope that this gives us renewed appreciation of our spiritual state as believers in Christ Jesus and of our inheritance to come in eternity.

Next time — Galatians 4:12-16

Bible kevinroosecomThe 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 with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Galatians 3:10-14

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”[a] 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit[b] through faith.

Galatians 3:22

22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

———————————————————————————

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s brief explanation on Abraham’s justification by faith and the promise that God made to him: ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’.

Paul told the Galatians they were ‘bewitched’ for believing the interloping Judaizers who told them that faith was not enough for salvation; it must be combined with works, e.g. circumcision.

Unfortunately, the doctrine of justification — righteousness — by faith has often been ignored through the centuries to the present day. Yet, it is central to the Gospel and was present from the very beginning in the Old Testament, as we saw with Abraham’s unfailing belief in God, faith which God imputed to him as righteousness.

John MacArthur explains that belief in justification by faith is essential, which was what drove Paul to bring the Galatians back to the truth instead of the curse of obeying a false gospel (emphases mine):

Back in chapter 1, Paul said, “That’s a false gospel, and anybody who believes and preaches that false gospel is cursed.” So the curse is even more profound: universally cursed, because we can’t keep the law of God; doubly cursed, because we believe that our works can gain us salvation; and the triple curse is, we propagate that as a true form of religion, and anybody who does that, Galatians 1, is accursed.

Let me make it even more practical. Anyone who believes that works are necessary for salvation has bought into a cursed gospel. Anyone who preaches that is preaching a cursed gospel. And the people who are believing it and preaching it are themselves cursed: cursed by their sin, doubly cursed by their works system, triply cursed by preaching it

The Galatians had become bewitched, and they were true believers; but they were buying into the fact that works were necessary. Even though they hadn’t believed that, they had believed correctly and been saved, they were allowing for an accursed heresy. So Paul is colliding with them head-on in chapters 3 and 4 of Galatians.

MacArthur preached the sermons cited here today in 2017.

He talked about a Pew survey done that year:

Let me shock you. This week a new survey by the Pew survey people came out; pretty timely. A question was asked to thousands of people across America who are evangelical Protestants, and the question is this: “Is salvation by faith alone, or is it by faith and good deeds?” This is Protestants, not Catholics. They surveyed Catholics. Eighty-two percent of Roman Catholics said salvation is by faith and good deeds, eighty-two percent of Catholics. Where were the other eighteen percent? They’re just Catholics who don’t know what Catholics believe, nominal Catholics. But Catholics get it. They know what they’re supposed to believe, and they believe that heresy.

Protestants, evangelical Protestants were asked, “Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus good deeds?” Fifty-two percent of evangelical Protestants said faith plus good deeds. I told you when we started chapter 3 about being bewitched, and I told you that most churches and most people sitting in evangelical churches across this country, if not the world, are bewitched. They are bewitched by this lie of works being added to salvation.

In today’s verses, Paul proves the doctrine of justification by faith by looking at the law of the Old Testament.

Mosaic law has 613 commandments. Granted, some apply only to men (e.g. circumcision) and some only to women (e.g. ritual cleansing after menstruation), but that still leaves hundreds of laws for a Jew to obey perfectly. Today, the Orthodox Jews try to follow as many as possible. Conservative Jews are a bit more lenient. Many Reform Jews believe that there is no need to follow them anymore.

However, in Paul’s era, Jews still attempted to follow them all.

Paul quotes Deuteronomy and says that those relying on works of the law over faith are cursed because the person who fails to obey all of those commandments is cursed (verse 10).

This is what Deuteronomy 27:26 says:

26 “‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that everyone would fail. We would all be convicted by the law and, therefore, cursed:

If we put ourselves upon trial in that court, and stand to the sentence of it, we are certainly cast, and lost, and undone; for as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, as many as depend upon the merit of their own works as their righteousness, as plead not guilty, and insist upon their own justification, the cause will certainly go against them; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them, Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26.

Paul says that no one is justified before God by the law, because, citing Habakkuk, the righteous live by faith (verse 11).

This is what Habakkuk 2:4 says:

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
    but the righteous shall live by his faith.[a]

Paul then states that the law has nothing to do with faith, rather the one who obeys those 613 commandments shall live, citing Leviticus (verse 12).

This is Leviticus 18:5:

You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.

That means the person obeying all of Mosaic law would not die.

However, who can obey all of those laws? Even in our Lord’s day, some of those commandments were seen to be more important than others.

Matthew Henry says that obeying all of the law would require a continual, perpetual effort which is impossible, given our sinful nature as human beings:

The man that doeth them shall live in them: and for every failure herein the law denounces a curse. Unless our obedience be universal, continuing in all things that are written in the book of the law, and unless it be perpetual too (if in any instance at any time we fail and come short), we fall under the curse of the law. The curse is wrath revealed, and ruin threatened: it is a separation unto all evil, and this is in full force, power, and virtue, against all sinners, and therefore against all men; for all have sinned and become guilty before God: and if, as transgressors of the law, we are under the curse of it, it must be a vain thing to look for justification by it.

Indeed, it is pure folly to want to be justified by the law, because God would condemn every one of us for eternity.

MacArthur summarises the meaning of those three verses:

Verses 10-12: “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” That’s the curse on all men, the entire human race. And the reality is so bad that it is really without human remedy. There is nothing that man can do. No matter how noble his moral efforts, no matter how extensive his religious efforts, no matter how many rituals, ceremonies, sacraments he goes through, there is nothing a man can do to come out from under that curse.

In fact, his condition is delineated in Romans 3 – you’ll remember these verses – starting in verse 10: “As it is written” – this all comes from the Old Testament – ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,’ ‘the poison of asps’ – or ‘snakes’ – ‘is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There’s no fear of God before their eyes.’” So every mouth is closed and the whole world made accountable to God. That is the true human condition.

Paul reminds the Galatians of the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the Cross. Paul says that He redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because anyone who hangs from a tree is cursed (verse 13).

That curse comes from Deuteronomy 21:23:

23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

That was the penalty for a blasphemer.

MacArthur says:

When somebody was basically a blasphemer, somebody was an abomination to God, when capital punishment was executed against someone like that, they would stone them to death. They didn’t crucify them, they stoned them. But after they stoned them, it was their habit to tie them to a post, that is the corpse, or to a tree as a visible sign of rejection by God, visible sign of rejection by God. It was not that a person was cursed because they were tied to a tree; it is that because they were cursed by God, they were tied to a tree.

And here, Paul is saying, “This is Jesus. In a sense, He’s the ultimate fulfillment of that picture. God cursed Him. God killed Him, tied Him to a tree.” This is the curse of God.

You want to know how severe the curse of God is? It brought all the sins of all who would ever believe on Jesus, and He took the full fury of the punishment, and He was even openly, publicly, blatantly the picture of one cursed by God. The Jews would know that. They would know that somebody tied to a tree was cursed; they knew their Scripture. Jesus was cursed by God.

MacArthur explains the seeming theological contradiction of God putting His Son — perfect in every way — under a curse for us, we wicked sinners:

Is God going to justify the wicked and condemn the righteous? That is exactly what God does. He condemns His Son, the Righteous One, and justifies us, the wicked.

How can God do that and not be Himself unrighteous? And the answer, of course, is 2 Corinthians 5:21. “He made Him who knew no sin” – Jesus – “sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The guilty are not unpunished. The guilty are punished, but a substitute takes the punishment. A substitute takes the punishment. God only can justify the ungodly, in the language of Romans, God only can justify the wicked, in the language of Proverbs, if He punishes their sins; and He has chosen to do that in the Righteous One, Jesus Christ.

This is the glory of the gospel, and this is the second curse. Go back to verses 13-14. The first curse: the divine curse on all men. Now the second curse: the divine curse on one Man, the divine curse on one Man. The divine curse on all men, that’s the bad news; the divine curse on one Man, that’s the good news.

Verse 13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.” “Curse of the Law” simply the curse from God for all law-breakers; and that’s the whole human race. “There’s none righteous; no, not one.”

The curse of the Law is the violation of the law of God. But God has redeemed us, bought us back from that curse through Christ who became a curse for us. That is how God justifies the ungodly, as Paul says in Romans. He became “a curse for us.” No sin goes unpunished. But in the grace of God, we’re not punished for our sins; Christ is punished in our place.

Man’s sin has to be punished; justice has to be satisfied. God requires it; it’s not whimsical. But man’s spiritual deadness, man’s spiritual inability, man’s spiritual unwillingness leaves him unable to pay the penalty for his sin without going to hell forever. So God has appointed His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to take the place of sinners and receive their punishment. And in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 it says, “He became the propitiation for our sins; and not ours only, but the sins of the whole world.”

It simply means “satisfaction.” God’s justice has to be satisfied. And in the death of Christ, justice was satisfied, because divine justice meted out full punishment for all who would ever believe, through all of human history, on Christ. All the sins that we will ever commit were paid for. He is the propitiation, the satisfaction of divine justice.

“Propitiation” is used again in Hebrews 2:17. It’s used again in Romans 3:23-26. It’s a critical word. God’s justice must be satisfied; it must be satisfied. He can by no means clear the guilty. He cannot justify the wicked and condemn the righteous, unless the sins of the wicked are paid for in full so that divine justice is satisfied. Simply stated, 1 John 3:16 says, “Christ laid down His life for us.” “Christ laid down His life for us” …

Furthermore, Paul says that our Lord’s death on the Cross enabled the blessing that God gave Abraham to extend to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promised Spirit — or ‘the promise of the Spirit’ in some translations — through faith (verse 14).

Under the Old Covenant, the vast majority of Gentiles could not be saved because they did not know of the God of Israel and His law. Some Gentiles did convert to Judaism from paganism.

MacArthur tells us:

Christ was cursed so that punishment for sin was completely exhausted; and for all who turned to Christ, there is the blessing of Abraham. What is the blessing of Abraham? Salvation, righteousness. Righteousness was reckoned to him, imputed to him, credited to him, accounted to him by faith. That’s the blessing of Abraham.

The blessing of Abraham can come on Gentiles, come on all nations, because it’s by faith, not by being a part of the Jewish people or the nation Israel, or understanding the Mosaic litany. So salvation is by faith in order that in Christ Jesus where you place your faith, the blessing that came to Abraham could come to the whole world regardless of what they know about Moses and the law.

Secondly, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Through faith we – faith is the beginning. Justifying grace brings sanctifying power. Justifying grace through faith brings sanctifying power through the Holy Spirit. I love the fact that it ends there, “through faith, through faith.”

Finally, Paul says that, according to Scripture, all of us are convicted as prisoners because we sin, therefore, the only remedy is a promise of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (verse 22).

Henry elaborates:

the scripture hath concluded all under sin (Galatians 3:22; Galatians 3:22), or declared that all, both Jew and Gentile, are in a state of guilt, and therefore unable to attain to righteousness and justification by the works of the law. The law discovered their wounds, but could not afford them a remedy: it showed that they were guilty, because it appointed sacrifices and purifications, which were manifestly insufficient to take away sin: and therefore the great design of it was that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those that believe, that being convinced of their guilt, and the insufficiency of the law to effect a righteousness for them, they might be persuaded to believe on Christ, and so obtain the benefit of the promise.

Paul goes on to discuss sons and heirs in Galatians 4, more about which next week.

Next time — Galatians 4:1-3

The First Sunday in Lent is March 6, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 4:1-13

4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,

4:2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.

4:3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

4:4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

4:5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

4:6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.

4:7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

4:8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

4:9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,

4:10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’

4:11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

4:12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

4:13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Before beginning the exegesis on this passage, I commend thoroughly the commentary from Matthew Henry and the sermons by John MacArthur.

I could write a week’s worth of posts on this passage. Indeed, a seminary candidate could write a thesis on these thirteen verses, there is so much theology to explore.

I will try to make this as brief as I can but would suggest that if you want a cup of tea or a snack, get it now. This will be a long read.

In Luke 3, we read of John the Baptist’s ministry, followed by the baptism of Jesus and ending with Joseph’s geneaology which, for earthly intents and purposes, leads all the way back to Adam and, ultimately, to God.

Let’s look at a few principal verses from that chapter.

We know that the world is sinful and evil:

19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

The baptism of Jesus saw Him imbued with the Holy Spirit and lovingly commended by God the Father:

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus is the Son of Adam and the Son of God:

38 the son of Enosh,

the son of Seth, the son of Adam,

the son of God.

Matthew Henry notes that, while Adam succumbed to temptation in a perfect atmosphere of the Garden of Eden, Jesus did not falter in a frightful desert for 40 days and nights:

The last words of the foregoing chapter, that Jesus was the Son of Adam, bespeak him to be the seed of the woman; being so, we have here, according to the promise, breaking the serpent’s head, baffling and foiling the devil in all his temptations, who by one temptation had baffled and foiled our first parents. Thus, in the beginning of the war, he made reprisals upon him, and conquered the conqueror.

Luke tells us that Jesus, being full of — or thorougly imbued with — the Holy Spirit left the Jordan, the place of His baptism, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (verse 1).

John MacArthur explains why this was necessary:

So Luke for three chapters has been massing all the proof to indicate that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, Son of God, Savior of the world But if one is to be the Savior of the world, there is one rather formidable credential that one must possess Since the problem in the world is a sin problem, and since it is sin that has damned all humanity, since it is sin that has produced death, since it is sin that brings about the death that catapults sinners into eternal hell, since sin is under the aegis of the prince of this world, the ruler of this world, namely the devil, if one is to come and break the power of sin and conquer evil and defeat Satan, He must be able to combat the devil and come out the victor And that’s precisely what Luke tells us He is able to do in this chapter.

Messiah’s credentials would be incomplete without this battle.  If Jesus cannot defeat Satan head on, one on one, then He is not adequate to redeem sinners If He Himself is not impervious to sin, if He is not impeccable, if He is not invulnerable to sin, if He does not come out pure and spotless in the midst of the most violent conflict with the devil, then He cannot be the Savior.  If He is to save sinners from their sin, if He is to save them from the devil, if He is to save them from death and hell, then He must conquer sin and Satan himself.  That is what this text intends to prove.

This, as I said, is the capstone on messianic credentials.  This is what ultimately has to be known.  If we are to trust our time in eternity to Christ, if we are to trust Him as our Savior and the forgiver of our sins, if we are to trust Him to overpower sin and overpower death and overpower the devil and overpower hell and set us free and bring us to heaven, then we need to know that He has the ability to conquer Satan in the most intense confrontation.

MacArthur says that the place where Jesus went is terrifying:

Let me talk about the wilderness a little bit.  I’ve been there.  I’ve stood in that place.  And some of you have done it as well.  The last time I went to Israel we took a group of people and we gave them an experience, the likes of which they’re not likely to forget, and that is we took them into this wilderness on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, not the main road, not the road everybody travels, but the old road that runs along the area called “the devastation.”  This is a frightening and terrifying kind of experience That is where the Holy Spirit leads Jesus

the area between the Dead Sea, the Jordan river, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem It is an area in the Old Testament called Jeshimon, and it’s called… It could be translated “the devastation.”  It’s a really terrifying place To take a ride in a vehicle up that road is frankly very frightening Many people have been frightened by that.  It is a precipitous area, loose rock. It is rock, rock, rock and more rock, jagged, ragged, craggy peaks with severe ravines that go down hundreds of feet It is dry.  It is barren It is inhabited by wild animals, snakes, scorpions and all of that It is barren.  It is the worst part of the Judean desert It is certainly a place where Jesus would be more alone than any other place in Palestine.  And the fact of the matter is, the only reason we even know what happened there is because Jesus allowed it to be recorded because He was the only one there.  It’s about a thirty-five by fifteen mile area, be very hard to move around in that area I have felt the rocks sliding under my feet I remember standing on a little knoll and feeling the rocks sliding under my feet as I was trying to get closer to the edge and seeing the sheer drop down to a bottom I couldn’t even see It’s that kind of an area; very difficult area to traverse, almost unthinkable experience to spend forty days there, six weeks.

The devil tempted Jesus there for 40 days, during which time He ate nothing; when they ended, He was famished (verse 2).

There is much to look at in this verse.

One aspect of theology I find problematic is the reference to Jesus as the Son of Adam, who capitulated to sin in the Garden of Eden, where everything was perfect.

MacArthur explains:

There once was a man who was perfect.  There once was a man who was without sin.  There once was a man who was undefiled.  There once was a man who lived in a perfect environment, a perfect place, a perfect world.  There once was a man who had everything that could possibly be given him by God and that man, the first time he was ever assaulted with temptation, fell, both he and his wife, and catapulted all of humanity into condemnation Is Jesus like Adam?  Is this another Adam, who though perfect at the start, can’t sustain that in the battle with the enemy?  We need to know that.

And Luke knows we need to know that and the Holy Spirit knows we need to know that.  We cannot have a victim for our Savior We can only have a victor We cannot have someone who is as susceptible to sin as we are, as susceptible to death and hell and the devil as we are.  We have to have someone who can conquer sin, conquer death, conquer Satan, conquer hell

He is not like Adam and yet He is like Adam.  He is a son of Adam, but He is far beyond Adam Though He, like Adam, is truly human, He, unlike Adam, cannot sin.  Let me kind of help you a little bit to see deeper into that contrast because I think it really elucidates this account.

All the way back, son of Adam, Son of God, that is to say Jesus is truly human, He is truly and fully human.  He is not like a man.  He doesn’t look like a man or act like a man, He is a man.  He is 100 percent fully human Hebrews 2:17 puts it this way, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things.”  There is no area in Jesus’ existence that is not fully human.  He is fully human.  He is truly a son of Adam.  He was born as a human.  He was a babe in the womb of His mother.  He lived as an infant, as a toddler, as a child, as a young person, as a teen-ager, as a young adult, as a mature adult, and according to chapter 2 verse 40 and verse 52, He grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.

Remember, one of the most important messages I gave you a few weeks ago was on the humanity of Jesus.  He is God, but He voluntarily set aside the independent exercise of His deity He didn’t cease to be God, He is fully God and fully man, but He voluntarily set aside the independent exercise of His deity and submitted Himself to the Father’s will and the Spirit’s power He did what the Father wanted Him to do and He did it by the power of the Holy Spirit So He set aside the use of His divine powers and submitted Himself to true humanness and allowed the Spirit of God to work His work through Him

So, this is a monumental moment.  This is the second Adam being confronted with a massive assault like the first Adam.  The first Adam was also sinless, like the second Adam But the first Adam fell. The second Adam did not, cannot, and will notAdam then puts the whole race into sin and damnation, and Jesus lifts sinners to heaven It all comes down to the issue of defeating sin He was a true Son of Adam then, truly human, and as a man His Father could say of Him, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  Thirty years He’s lived, He’s never thought, said, or done anything that didn’t please Me.  That is His perfection.”  He is then going to be attacked, as it were, by Satan and where the first Adam fell, He triumphs

So here is Jesus Christ, the second Adam, the head of a new humanity who will rise to glory rather than fall to hell like the old humanity led by the first Adam It tells us that He has infinitely greater power in Himself than Adam ever had.  Adam was just a man, this is the God-Man and His humanity is protected from sin by His deity.

Think about the circumstances that make the distinction between Jesus and Adam so obvious Adam was in a garden, the best imaginable place He was in Eden, he was in paradise Jesus was in an anti-Eden, the most desolate, forsaken, and dangerous place in the Judean desert, barren and empty.

Adam lived in a sinless world, a sinless environment Jesus lived in a sinful world Adam never had known any temptation.  Adam fell at the first temptation, which means there was no prior assault to try to break down his resistance Jesus has had thirty years of temptation and then forty days of temptation before the final three come, all that attempting to break down His resistance.

Adam had perfect human strength, perfect human strength.  Adam was delightfully and wonderfully fed by all the lush provisions of the garden Jesus was weakened by forty days with no food.

Adam had all conceivable things to enjoy, never knowing hungerJesus was hungry, well He was starvingAdam needed nothing, he needed nothing.  He had everything.  He ruled everything.  Jesus had nothing, no food, no authority, nothing, no kingdom, no sphere of rule.  He’s all alone.

And Adam certainly had no need to test God to see if God really cared, to see if God really loved him, since he had ample evidence that God loved him and God cared while he was wandering around in the lavishness of Eden.  Jesus deprived of all of that and everything else, with nothing but a desolate desert and Satan trying to push Him to test God to see if God really does love Him

So, Jesus with a right to eat as the Creator has no food Jesus with the right to rule as King has no kingdom Jesus with the right to divine care and divine protection and divine blessing is exposed to the severest dangers And the point should be clear. Jesus didn’t fall, Adam did.  And that tells you what a vast difference there is between Jesus and Adam.  In the best of circumstances, Adam fellIn the worst imaginable circumstances, Jesus did notThis is our Savior This is our Messiah.  And this is the proof of it Adam, innocent, perfect, rich, lacking nothing, fell under the first assault.  Jesus did not. Poor, alone, weary, hungry and He is triumphant.

I can’t tell you other than to say this is absolutely critical to the issue of salvation That’s why it’s here It’s not just an interesting incident. It’s the heart and soul of everything Jesus can’t save us from sin and death and hell if He Himself cannot conquer it.  So where the first man failed, in Adam we all died, the second man succeeds, in Christ we all live.

Another point to explore before going any further is the Jewish belief in the devil. Although they acknowledge that sin exists, most Jews today do not believe in Satan. They find it quaint that Christians do.

MacArthur says that this was not always so:

Now the Jews knew about the devil In the Old Testament he was called Satan, which means adversary, or enemyHe first appears by name, of course, in Job, then again in Zechariah, then again in 1 Chronicles, but he appears, first of all, as a serpent in the third chapter of Genesis The Jews knew about the enemy, the adversary.  They knew about the personification of evil.  They knew Satan as the source of evil They knew that he had brought down the whole human race in Eden And the question was: If Jesus is the Messiah, can He overturn this?  Can He bring back the paradise lost?  Can He conquer the enemy of God and the enemy of our souls?

Obviously Jesus triumphs over Satan That is absolutely critical That is the last capstone on the wall of messianic credentials This is the final exam that Jesus passes to qualify as the Savior of sinners …

Now devil…the devil, as he is called here in verse 2, is the Greek word diabolos and it means “accuser,” and it means “slanderer.”  And that’s what Satan does.  That’s what he is.  He’s the accuser of the brethren He’s the slanderer And, of course, he would love to bring an accusation against God’s elect, and the Lord, of course, defends us from that, according to Romans 8, because we belong to Him and Jesus has already paid the penalty for our sins It is also true that he would want to bring an accusation against Jesus Himself, but he had none that he could bring legitimately He has no claim on Me. He has nothing in Me.  There was no justifiable charge of sin that ever could be leveled at the Son of God.

There is also the question of the deity of Jesus, which even some of today’s clergy doubt, sadly. MacArthur says that Satan and his demons have never questioned that Jesus is the Son of God:

Some people question the deity of Jesus. Lots of people question the deity of Jesus Mormons deny the deity of Jesus.  Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Jesus.  Liberals deny the deity of Jesus.  But I’ll tell you one group who don’t: Demons Demons do not deny the deity of Jesus and the devil never denies the deity of Jesus. He always assumes it.  Repeatedly he says to Him, “If” or since “You are the Son of God.” verse 3.  It never was a question, never.  They know who they are dealing with and Satan knew exactly who he was dealing with and he knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish and that was somehow to put so much subtle, powerful, clever pressure on Jesus as to overturn His holiness and force Him into sin so that he could literally destroy Jesus’ ability to save sinners and to destroy him, the devil.

The final theological point to look at is how Jesus was tempted and how He managed to resist sin:

He knew He was the Son of God He knew why He had come He grew like any person grows, like any human being grows.  And as He grew as a real man, the Spirit of God gave to Him more and more of the truth of His personhood And as He grew He was exposed to temptation When the writer of Hebrews says He was at all points tempted like as we are, it means in all points in the chronology of His life.  He was tempted as an infant, the way infants are tempted He was tempted as a child the way children are tempted.  He was tempted as a young adult the way young adults were tempted and so forth and so forth.  All through His life He was tempted, with one great distinction, and you must understand this, all the temptations, all the solicitations to evil that ever came to Jesus stayed on the outside This is why it’s impossible for us to grasp that because we don’t understand temptation in that sense Why?  Because for us temptation takes place predominantly on the inside; but for Jesus, there was nothing in Him that could internalize that temptation and work it toward evil

So, He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without what?  Without sin.  Because He had no capacity to internalize it.  But nonetheless the onslaught came and He heard it and He heard all the cleverness of it and He saw it in the world around Him and in people and the demons that orchestrated it and here Satan himself who orchestrates it He could see the temptation He could understand the temptation, but He could not internalize it, mixing it with some evil intent because it didn’t exist in Him He was true humanity, He was holy, He was unfallen and He was perfect, but different than Adam in that Adam apparently did have the capacity to internalize temptation and turn it into sin. Jesus did not.  That’s why I love the statement Jesus made in John 14:30, He said that, “The ruler of the world,” Satan, “is after Me but he has nothing in Me.” He has nothing in Me, he has nothing on Me, he can lay no claim on Me, he can make no justifiable charge of sin.” 

Now this brings up the question and theologians have always liked to talk about this question, although I’ve always thought it was kind of silly to do that. The question is: Could He have sinned?  This is called the debate about the impeccability of Jesus, and you can read all kinds of material on this.  Could Jesus have sinned?  And there have been theologians through the years who have said yes He could have sinned.

They’re wrong, clearly. I don’t even know why anybody would discuss it. Of course He couldn’t sin. Can God sin?  God can’t sin. “He’s of purer eyes than to behold evil,” “can’t look upon iniquity.”  He has no capacity to sin.  Jesus had no capacity within Him to turn anything into a sin. He couldn’t conceive anything in such a way, mixing it with lust and evil intent as to produce a sin.  It was impossible because there was nothing in His nature to do that, nothing

Well then, some theologians would say, “Well if He couldn’t sin then temptation wasn’t real.”  That’s not true That’s… That’s not true.  You don’t always sin when you’re tempted which means you could be tempted and not sin You can be hit with some strong temptation and you can be victorious and walk away and not sin and thank God and praise God and be triumphant.  As Christians we do that That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a temptation The fact that Jesus couldn’t sin doesn’t mean He couldn’t be tempted.  Look, Satan tempted Him, he tempted Him personally The devil came and tempted Him personally.  Demons came and tempted Him personally Demons working in the wicked leaders of Israel and others came after Jesus. He was exposed to sin all around Him as the system of Satan worked its way through human depravity.  It came at Him on the outside. He saw it all.  He understood it in His mind but He had no internal capacity to turn that into a sin But it doesn’t mean that He didn’t feel or experience the reality of that temptation

Westcott says, “Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin, but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin which only the sinless can know in its full intensity,” end quote.  That’s exactly right.  Only the sinless One knows how intense the temptation can be, every temptation, because he never gives in and finally the temptation having exhausted itself departs.

Returning to our Lord’s hunger, the devil said to Him that ‘if’ — MacArthur prefers ‘since’ — He is the Son of God, He can command a stone to become a loaf of bread (verse 3).

The devil was tempting Jesus in a way that only He could be tempted: to perform a miracle to stave off His hunger.

MacArthur elaborates:

Satan senses in that hunger a new vulnerability. He senses that in the fact that Jesus is feeling hunger that Jesus is beginning to feel His mortality. He moves in for what he thinks might be the kill. What happens is three temptations that Satan devises that are the most brash, the most ruthless and the most clever. He keeps them until he finds in Christ this moment of vulnerability

… the pattern of battle is very, very important. The temptations directed at Jesus Christ are unique to Him, and I want you to understand that …

MacArthur says that, although Satan tempted Jesus in the way only He could be, the common thread of any temptation is the sense that God does not love us. Satan works on that deception carefully. He did with Jesus, albeit unsuccessfully, and he does the same with us:

We can understand that categorically, can’t we?  That’s there.  I can’t turn stones into bread but I can be tempted to distrust God’s love for meAnd the question, why it is that I don’t have the things that I think would be given to me would be measures in some way of God’s love for me.  And that’s precisely the category, but the temptation is specific.  Let’s look at it.

Verse 3: “The devil said to Him.” All the way through the devil speaks, by the way, with a measure of truthDeception only works if it somehow has partial truth in itAnd so when the devil speaks, he starts from a point of truth. That’s the subtlety of his deceptionSo the devil said to Him, “If” or probably better translated, “Since…” This is a first class conditional with a particle, which is ei in the Greek. And a first class conditional does not presume doubt. It does not presume doubt.  So he’s really saying, “Since…since You are the Son of God.”  This is true and this is the measure of truth with which Satan launches the deception

The implication here is to distrust God’s love.  The implication here is based upon the fact that Satan knew that Jesus had restricted His independent use of His own deity to do only the will of the Father through the power of the Spirit, and that He wasn’t to do anything that the Father didn’t will and the Spirit empower.  In fact, Jesus said, John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.”  Numerous times in the gospel of John Jesus says that one way or another. “I only do what the Father tells Me to do, I only do what the Father shows Me to do.  I’ve come to do the Father’s will, that’s it.”

Part of the self-emptying — the kenosis as theologians call it — part of Jesus’ humiliation was to set aside the independent use of His own deity and operate only under the Father’s will in perfect submission and by the Spirit’s power in effecting that will. That was part of His full … condescension.

So the implication here is to say, look, if God really loved You, You wouldn’t be hungry.  How much does God really love You?  You’ve waited all this time in Nazareth, You had Your moment in the sun down there at the Jordan river at Your baptism, and now for forty days You’ve been out here in this God-forsaken place and You’ve been in conflict with the devil and You’ve had nothing to eat for forty days and now You’re very hungry and God hasn’t provided anything for You.  So You think You can trust God’s love?   Do You think that’s an evidence that God really loves You?  Maybe God doesn’t love You as much as You think He loves You.

This is exactly the…the formula that Satan used with Eve, isn’t it?  What Satan was saying to Eve in the Garden is, “You mean to tell me there’s a tree that has fruit on it and God doesn’t want you to have it?  Well if God really loved you, why would He restrict you?  God probably isn’t as loving as you think He is. He’s probably not as kind as you think He is.  He’s probably not as good as you think He is or He wouldn’t…He wouldn’t restrict you from eating that true…that tree.  Don’t you think that maybe God isn’t quite as good as you think He is, or as loving as you think He is.  In fact, you know I’ll tell you why He doesn’t want you to eat that, because if you eat that you’ll be like Him and He hates competition at that levelAnd that will tell you He’s really not good at all because the reason He doesn’t want you to eat of that is you’ll be like Him and He doesn’t want that kind of competition.”

And Eve bought into the lie that God wasn’t as good as she thought He was; He wasn’t as kind as she thought He was; He wasn’t as loving as she thought He was.  And so she ateThat’s the same scenario here.  You think God is loving?  You’re the Son of God, how come You’re hungry?  You think God is loving?  Didn’t You just hear God out of heaven down at the Jordan river say, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” so is this how He demonstrates it?  Forty days in the wilderness, forty days in here in conflict with Satan in this precipitous, dangerous, God-forsaken place, forty days with nothing to eat, this is love?  Since You’re the Son of God, let me suggest to You it’s time to use Your own prerogatives.  And what…what Satan wants to do is to set Jesus against the Father and the Spirit, acting independently on His own.  And he can’t appeal to Him in His deity so he appeals to Him as the God-Man through His humanity.  You shouldn’t be hungry, You shouldn’t be suffering this.  You shouldn’t be going through this.  You’re the Son of God …

You see, he’s never denying the deity of Jesus. He’s never denying He’s the Son of God. He just wants to get Him through this clever manipulation to act independently of the Father, therefore express disobedience, which is sin, and that’s the idea. Distrust God

Jesus responded by quoting Scripture — ‘It is written’ — ‘Man does not live by bread alone’ (verse 4).

Henry says that it is important for us to know Holy Scripture, because it is a principal weapon in spiritual warfare:

it is a quotation out of the Old Testament, to show that he came to assert and maintain the authority of the scripture as uncontrollable, even by Satan himself. And though he had the Spirit without measure, and had a doctrine of his own to preach and a religion to found, yet it agreed with Moses and the prophets, whose writings he therefore lays down as a rule to himself, and recommends to us as a reply to Satan and his temptations. The word of God is our sword, and faith in that word is our shield; we should therefore be mighty in the scriptures, and go in that might, go forth, and go on, in our spiritual warfare, know what is written, for it is for our learning, for our use. The text of scripture he makes use of is quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live by bread alone. I need not turn the stone into bread, for God can send manna for my nourishment, as he did for Israel; man can live by every word of God, by whatever God will appoint that he shall live by.” How had Christ lived, lived comfortably, these last forty days? Not by bread, but by the word of God, by meditation upon that word, and communion with it, and with God in and by it; and in like manner he could live yet, though now he began to be hungry. God has many ways of providing for his people, without the ordinary means of subsistence; and therefore he is not at any time to be distrusted, but at all times to be depended upon, in the way of duty. If meat be wanting, God can take away the appetite, or give such degrees of patience as will enable a man even to laugh at destruction and famine (Job 5:22), or make pulse and water more nourishing than all the portion of the king’s meat (Daniel 1:12; Daniel 1:13), and enable his people to rejoice in the Lord, when the fig-tree doth not blossom, Habakkuk 3:17.

The devil then showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in an instant (verse 5).

MacArthur thinks that such a vision was real, but Henry says it was a mirage, a phantasm, something Satan conjured up:

He gave him a prospect of all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, an airy representation of them, such as he thought most likely to strike the fancy, and seem a real prospect. To succeed the better, he took him up for this purpose into a high mountain; and, because we next after the temptation find Christ on the other side Jordan, some think it probable that it was to the top of Pisgah that the devil took him, whence Moses has a sight of Canaan. That it was but a phantasm that the devil here presented our Saviour with, as the prince of the power of the air, is confirmed by that circumstance which Luke here takes notice of, that it was done in a moment of time; whereas, if a man take a prospect of but one country, he must do it successively, must turn himself round, and take a view first of one part and then of another. Thus the devil thought to impose upon our Saviour with a fallacy–a deceptio visus; and, by making him believe that he could show him all the kingdoms of the world, would draw him into an opinion that he could give him all those kingdoms.

The devil said that he would give these kingdoms to Jesus, including authority over them because they were his to give (verse 6), provided that Jesus worship him (verse 7).

MacArthur points out that was Satan’s huge failure. One could say that Satan ‘jumped the shark’ with that one:

Satan makes this serious overstatement in verse 6, “For it has been handed over to me and I give it to whomever I wish.”  Oh really?  Boy, did he have an inflated opinion of himself and his power.  There is some truth in that and Satan always likes to deal in half-truth.  He is called in John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11, “the ruler of this world.”  That’s true.  In 1 John 5:19 it says, “The whole world lies in his lap.”  In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he’s called, “the god of this age.”  It does not mean that he literally possesses the nations of the worldWhat it means is that he rules the system of evil that dominates the nations of the world

… He simply rules the system of evil. He does not determine the nations and who rules the nations. In fact, Romans 13 says the hours that be are ordained by God. But Satan is a liar. Not only did he not have the power to give it, it wasn’t his to begin with anyway.

Once again, Jesus responds by quoting Scripture: ‘It is written’. He quotes the Old Testament, whereby we are to worship the Lord our God and serve only Him (verse 8).

Henry says:

Such a temptation as this was not to be reasoned with, but immediately refused; it was presently knocked on the head with one word, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God; and not only so, but him only, him and no other. And therefore Christ will not worship Satan, nor, when he has the kingdoms of the world delivered to him by his Father, as he expects shortly to have, will he suffer any remains of the worship of the devil to continue in them. No, it shall be perfectly rooted out and abolished, wherever his gospel comes. He will make no composition with him. Polytheism and idolatry must go down, as Christ’s kingdom gets up. Men must be turned from the power of Satan unto God, from the worship of devils to the worship of the only living and true God.

Satan then launched his final unsuccessful temptation. Wanting to be kingmaker, he took Jesus to Jerusalem, which MacArthur says would have been possible supernaturally, placed him on the pinnacle of the temple and commanded Him to throw Himself off of it, since if He were the Son of God (verse 9), it is written that God would command His angels to protect Jesus (verse 10), as they would not allow Him to dash His foot against a stone (verse 11).

MacArthur describes the setting:

There is a point on the temple mount in Jerusalem that is the dizzying height. You know, if you have any kind of fear of heights, you don’t want to go near this corner. It’s the southeast corner. The temple mount, of course, is a massive, massive patio kind of thing, a massive place where today is the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque of Omar, as it’s called, two great Muslim places. And up at the north end of it is where they believe the original temple was, and it’s surrounded by a wall and it sits up on what is really Mount Moriah, Moriah where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. And so it’s been flattened out and you ascend it long stairs from the southern side. Those gates, by the way, and the stairs there are the very ones Jesus went in and out of the temple of in His lifetime. So it’s a remarkable place. I’ve preached on those very steps.

But on the southeast corner there is a corner of the temple ground that sinks down into the valley, the Kedron valley where the Kedron stream goes through and it is a dead straight drop of 450 feet to the ground. Tradition, Eusebius, tells us that the brother of our Lord, James, who was the leader of the Jerusalem Council, was thrown to his death from that corner. They threw his… They threw him alive off that 450-foot edge.

As for Satan’s quoting Scripture, Henry points out the deception therein:

It is true, God has promised the protection of angels, to encourage us to trust him, not to tempt him; as far as the promise of God’s presence with us, so far the promise of the angels’ ministration goes, but no further: “They shall keep thee when thou goest on the ground, where thy way lies, but not if thou wilt presume to fly in the air.”

Once more, Jesus quoted Scripture: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ (verse 12).

Henry explains the verse and the context:

Christ quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, where it is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God, by desiring a sign for the proof of divine revelation, when he has already given that which is sufficient; for so Israel did, when they tempted God in the wilderness, saying, He gave us water out of the rock; but can he give flesh also?

Then the devil departed, until an opportune time (verse 13).

The ‘opportune time’ refers to Judas’s betrayal (Luke 22:53). Jesus said to the Jewish hierarchy — led by Judas — at His arrest at the Mount of Olives:

53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

In closing, MacArthur quotes John Milton and says that the theology in Paradise Regained is spot on:

Now in John Milton’s famous Paradise Regained, the author expresses the purpose of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and he does so in the following words, as though spoken by God, His Father.  Milton writes as if God is speaking, “But first I mean to exercise Him in the wilderness.  There He shall first lay down the rudiments of His great warfare, ere I send Him forth to conquer sin and death, the two grand foes, by humiliation and strong suffering,” end quote.

Well, the…the wisdom of John Milton is obviously legendary and Milton had it right.  When he penned those words it was God sending forth His Son for His exercise in the wilderness in which He would defeat the devil and then demonstrate there the power for the great warfare in which He would on the cross conquer sin and at the grave conquer death.  If Jesus would triumph in the wilderness, then He would triumph at Calvary and He would triumph in the garden.  He would triumph at the cross and triumph at the tomb.  And if Jesus could conquer Satan, then we can be assured of that triumph and that there will be paradise regained

So you see, what happens here in the temptation is a foretaste of what is to come through all of the great events of the life and ministry of the King, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. We believe that He will conquer in the future because He conquered in the past, and this is where it all began. It’s as if the…the guarantee of His future conquerings was established in the event of His temptation in the wilderness when Satan came and hit him with the full fury of his best assaults. And Jesus withstood them all triumphantly.

May everyone reading this have a blessed Sunday.

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