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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

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As I was preparing yesterday’s post on what Anglican priests think of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, a lot more material came to the fore.

Trinity Sunday

As regular readers and churchgoers know, June 12, 2022 was Trinity Sunday.

At the Priory Church of St Bartholomew in London, it was also Confirmation Day for a blessed handful of the congregation.

The Revd Marcus Walker, St Bartholomew’s vicar, is on the right of the photo below. The Bishop of London, the Right Revd Sarah Mulally, is in the centre:

Did you ever wonder why mitres are shaped with a point?

Our vicar told us on Pentecost Sunday — the week before Trinity — that mitres are shaped that way to suggest the tongues of fire that descended on the heads of the faithful on the first Pentecost, signifying the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

It is a pity that the Bishop chose to preach on The Shack in her sermon. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear — no!

Not surprisingly, those preaching on Trinity Sunday dread it because it requires in some measure explaining the holy mystery of the Triune God. It is not unusual for a vicar to assign the sermon to an ordinand — trainee priest — who is a member of his congregation.

St Patrick used a shamrock. However, a Lutheran pastor in the United States uses an egg, which, in some ways, is even better. His sister, whom I cited in my post, wrote on another website (emphases mine below):

He set out 3 small bowls. He cracked an egg, separated the white from the yolk, placed them in 2 of the bowls, and the shell in the third. He then asked the children which was the egg (which of course brought out all kinds of interesting responses). He used this illustration to explain the Trinity. I think even the adults in the congregation were enlightened by his talk. The children certainly learned something that day.

Returning to St Bartholomew’s, Marcus Walker exchanges thoughts with a Catholic in the Twitter below:

Walker is absolutely right.

The Revd Matthew Cashmore is the vicar of St Anselm’s in Hayes, Middlesex, near Heathrow Airport. For centuries, it was a rural area. Now it is very much a part of Greater London. Its growth as an industrial suburb began in the mid-19th century with the arrival of the railway. In the 20th century, it was home to many industries, including player pianos, vinyl records, caravans, food manufacturing and aviation companies. Today, it is known for food, aviation and a number of Heathrow’s hotels.

St Mary the Virgin Church is the oldest house of worship in Hayes, dating back to the 13th century.

St Anselm’s was built in the 20th century but its name references the history of St Mary the Virgin, as Wikipedia explains:

St Anselm’s Church was completed in 1929 to the design of architect Hubert Christian Corlette. Noted designer MacDonald Gill was responsible for the panelled ceiling. The church’s foundation stone was laid on 13 May 1927 by Sir John Eldon Bankes. The east window is by James Powell and Sons of Whitefriars, London. The church was Grade II listed in November 2019.[58] St Anselm’s is so-named because William Rufus (1056 – 1100) sent Archbishop (later Saint) Anselm of Canterbury (c.1033 – 1109) to stay in the manor house of St Mary’s Church, as it was the nearest of the Archbishop’s manors to Windsor, where William Rufus resided.[59][60]

William Rufus was the third son of William the Conqueror.

On to the present day, and Matthew Cashmore, like many other vicars, preached on the mystery of the Trinity. This is an excerpt from St Anselm’s Trinity Sunday pew leaflet:

To try to figure out HOW this trinity of God works. We are human and modern humans attempt to understand the world through the lens of science and ‘reason’.

The issue of course is that creation is rather more complex and difficult than we can understand.

We are not God and we are reaching and trying as hard as we can to understand things that He created and put into place.

It’s just not possible.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t try – that we shouldn’t engage in trying to understand the the universe through science and ‘reason’; but rather to accept that there are things that we can not neatly fit into categories of science that are central to how we exist in the universe.

We are not God.

Sometimes we need to accept that it is wiser to exist and simply appreciate and give thanks for what God has made – and our part in it.

Wise words indeed.

Mission work

I found out about St Anselm’s via a tweet from a vicar whose tweets I posted yesterday.

The Revd Sarah Hancock, from Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, posted the church’s brilliant advert for a Mission Priest:

I can see why they have passed a Resolution. Going into rough pubs is probably not the sort of thing even today’s women priests are up for.

Mission work also appeared in Cashmore’s Trinity Sunday sermon, as he exhorted the congregation to think about ways in which they, too, can bring the Gospel to the unchurched. Excerpts follow:

In the name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.

Today, as I’m sure you’re all aware is Trinity Sunday. It’s a day we call to mind the Holy Trinity and what that means to us today.

Trinity Sunday is an annual reminder of the simple command to live within the love and commandments of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and Jesus tells us how we discern how to do that …

… our faith is a felt faith. It is a faith that exists as much in our hearts and our stomachs as it does in our brains. The moment we forget that we lose the awesome breadth of what God has in store for us – we lose the ability to engage with what Jesus taught us – and we lose sight of what the Holy Spirit wants us to do in this life.

Now, I’m not saying we should leave our brains at the door when we come to church. What I am saying is that academic and intellectual exploration has to work alongside that gut feeling we all experience when we see the work of the Holy Spirit and that gentle warming of our heart we feel when we see the love of Jesus in action.

Our faith is a broad, complex and wonderful thing. It interacts with the world in a myriad of ways and people interact with us – and the faith they see in us – in a myriad of ways

We should be open to all those possibilities

The fact that somebody may want to talk to us about where the Trinity appears in scripture for example, is an opportunity to engage people about their faith. For us to crack open the Bible and talk them through the gospel of John and its rich description of the workings of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. (so I suggest you take your pew sheet home and read around these chapters!)

Or it may be that people want to know what the practical outworking of the Trinity in our day to day lives isor they may want to understand how our love of God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit makes us feel.

We need to be prepared to answer these questions in the real world

There are three things that I think any Christian should be ready to answer in the street.

    • How does God make you feel?
    • How does the Holy Spirit guide your daily life?
    • How has Jesus taught you to live a life more pleasing to God?

These questions form the heart of what we talk about in the world when we bring people to the love of Jesus – and in so doing – to the love of God and the Holy Spirit.

They are true because we experience them across the breadth of our lives and because we see them in scripture – the test of truth …

Our faith is an experienced faith.

It has to be lived out to be understood

When we talk to people about GodWe engage them with the truth of what we have seen, what we have learnt, what we have experienced in our day-to-day life with Jesus.

And we should be more prepared for it.

We should, each morning as we cross ourselves and say the Our Father – think with our brains, feel with our stomach, experience the joy of love in our heart, and ask ourselves – how can I go into the world today and bring somebody to Jesus.

How can we bring people to this church, this place and bring them to baptism – to a relationship that is earth shatteringly life changing with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit?

It is up to each one of us to figure that out. Each one of us will bring a different gift, each one of us will bring different experiences and feelings, each one of us will have engaged with scripture in different ways and each one of us will reach somebody that another person cannot.

Nobody is beyond the love of God the Father, Son & Holy Sprit.

So, go out into the world my brothers and sisters and bring people to baptism, to this place, to a relationship with the Holy Trinity – because the only way to understand the Trinityis to live inside its love.

Amen.

St Anselm’s is a High Anglican church, therefore, it adopts some Catholic practices and pre-Vatican II vestments, such as this fiddleback chasuble in gold and blue:

I wish Fr Matthew all the best with his parish work and finding a Mission Priest.

Those interested in reading or watching more of his sermons can find them here.

I can also recommend the one for Pentecost Sunday, another inspiring call to mission:

Another vicar, the Revd Sam Charles Norton, is also concerned about spreading the Good News in the Church of England. He begins by going back to basics, with the Bible, writings of the early Church Fathers as well as Anglican clergy who helped to develop the Church of England in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was theologically at its best:

He says we have replaced doctrine with culture:

People should visit our churches if only for their beauty, as close to a glimpse of heaven as we have in this life:

Who knows where a church visit might lead?

Trivia

In closing, new members were installed into the Order of the Garter on Monday, June 13. This ceremony takes place every June.

This year, the Bishop of Worcester’s brother was one of the newest members of this ancient Royal order. Tony Blair, unfortunately, was, too.

However, the interesting thing is that both the Bishop of Worcester — the Right Revd John Inge — and his brother, who is a Field Marshal, are the sons of butchers. Let no one say that modest parentage prohibits great achievements:

The Bishop is the Lord High Almoner, in charge of distributing alms to the poor. The office dates from 1103 and is a post in the Royal Households of the United Kingdom.

The last Lord High Almoner who was the son of a butcher was Cardinal Wolsey (1473-1530):

How marvellous to be parents of sons who went into the military and the Church!

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 Sixth Sunday of Easter is on May 22, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

There are two choices for the Gospel. I have chosen the first, which concerns the first Pentecost.

It is as follows (emphases mine):

John 14:23-29

14:23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

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.

14:28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.

14:29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This is part of our Lord’s final teaching to the Apostles following the Last Supper. His discourse began after Judas left. This can be found in the reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C).

Only John’s Gospel has this discourse, which runs from John 13 to John 16, with closing prayers in John 17. These are, in my opinion, the most beautiful chapters of the New Testament. Every time I read them, something new stands out to me.

Let us look at the preceding verses in which Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

That Judas was Jude Thaddeus, the author of the one-page letter, the Book of Jude.

He voiced the confusion that the Twelve had. They still expected Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom whereby Israel would triumph over the Romans.

Undeterred, Jesus replied that those who love Him will obey Him; as such, He and His Father will love them and make their home with them (verse 23).

What a generous promise that is.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

First, My Father will love him; this he had said before (John 14:21; John 14:21), and here repeats it for the confirming of our faith; because it is hard to imagine that the great God should make those the objects of his love that had made themselves vessels of his wrath. Jude wondered that Christ should manifest himself to them; but this answers it, “If my Father love you, why should not I be free with you?” Secondly, We will come unto him, and make our abode with him. This explains the meaning of Christ’s manifesting himself to him, and magnifies the favour. 1. Not only, I will, but, We will, I and the Father, who, in this, are one. See John 14:9; John 14:9. The light and love of God are communicated to man in the light and love of the Redeemer, so that wherever Christ is formed the image of God is stamped. 2. Not only, “I will show myself to him at a distance,” but, “We will come to him, to be near him, to be with him,” such are the powerful influences of divine graces and comforts upon the souls of those that love Christ in sincerity. 3. Not only, “I will give him a transient view of me, or make him a short and running visit,” but, We will take up our abode with him which denotes complacency in him and constancy to him. God will not only love obedient believers, but he will take a pleasure in loving them, will rest in love to them, Zephaniah 3:17. He will be with them as at his home.

John MacArthur points out that Jesus spoke of the Holy Trinity, in whom we must believe:

Becoming a Christian is being in living union with the triune God at its core That’s what it is.  It is eternal life.

Jesus went on to say that those who do not love Him do not obey Him; those words come not from Him but the Father (verse 24).

Henry says:

First, the stress of duty is laid upon the precept of Christ as our rule, and justly, for that word of Christ which we are to keep is the Father’s word, and his will the Father’s will. Secondly, The stress of our comfort is laid upon the promise of Christ. But forasmuch as, in dependence upon that promise, we must deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and quit all, it concerns us to enquire whether the security be sufficient for us to venture our all upon; and this satisfies us that it is, that the promise is not Christ’s bare word, but the Father’s which sent him, which therefore we may rely upon.

Jesus said these things while He was with the Twelve (verse 25), to dispel any misunderstandings and to make sure they knew what to expect of this divine promise.

Henry tells us:

That what he had said he did not retract nor unsay, but ratify it, or stand to it. What he had spoken he had spoken, and would abide by it.

Jesus told the Apostles that the Father would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to them to teach them everything and to remind them of our Lord’s words (verse 26).

MacArthur explains the essential nature of and belief in the Holy Trinity:

What does it mean to have eternal life?  It means to have the eternal life in you, the eternal life in you, and the eternal life is none other than God Himself, which then leads us to the third member of the Trinity, and we’ll drop down to verse 24:  “Jesus said, ‘If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word.’”

There it is again.  Again, the qualifier:  This is only a promise to those who are lovers of the Lord and demonstrate it by patterns of obedience

... It is correct to say that you are the temple of the living God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit You need to acknowledge that, and you need to acknowledge each person of the Trinity.

Sometimes we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” because that’s the way the Lord taught us to pray.  But on the other side of the cross, we could easily say, “Blessed Father, who dwelled in me.  Blessed Spirit.”  You can communicate with each member of the Trinity – talk to the Son, talk to the Father, talk to the SpiritCommunicate with the triune God.

This is why a regenerated Christian shuns sin. MacArthur cites verses from 1 Corinthians 6 to prove the point:

You want to be characterized by renewal.  You want to live as one who – ” verse 10 “ – is in the image of the One who created him.  You want to live like One recreated by the Creator, chosen by God, holy and beloved – ” verse 12 “ – so you should be characterized by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance forgiveness, and of course, love, the perfect bond of unity.”

Really, it’s who we are that determines how we act, isn’t it?  Who you are is you are the temple of the living God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Do you adorn that reality? Do you let your light so shine before men that they may glorify your Father in heaven?  Do you bring honor to Christ, honor to the Spirit, honor to the Father?  The Trinity is in complete intimate life-giving union with every true Christian.  That powerful reality should be a purifying reality.

Of the gift of the Holy Spirit, MacArthur explains how it benefited the Apostles:

Even the things Jesus said, they didn’t understand “But when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”  What jogged their memories?  What gave them understanding?  The coming of the Holy Spirit It was the Spirit’s coming that enlightened them.  That’s why our Lord said in chapter 16 verse 7: it’s better that I go and the Helper come And He says in verse 12 of 16, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”  You – there’s got to be more than I’ve been able to do for you; it’s going to be better for you when the Spirit comes, because He will teach you all things.

You see it in verse 26.  “He will teach you all things.”  There are things I’ve taught you you don’t understand.  Some of them, you’ll begin to understand after the resurrection.  Some of them, you’ll begin to understand after I rise and explain things to you.  Some of them, you will begin to grasp as the days go on and we talk about the kingdom, and the 40 days before the ascension.  But when it comes to knowing all things that I have desired to reveal to you, that necessitates the coming of the Holy Spirit. 

Now, you may not be thinking about this the way you should be thinking about it.  Because He’s not so much talking about what the Holy Spirit’s going to do in you, as what the Holy Spirit’s going to allow the disciples to do for you.  What do you mean by that?  I mean, this is primarily a promise that the Holy Spirit will enable the apostles and their associates to write the New Testament Okay?  To write the New Testament.  And then, the Lord will give us all the things that He couldn’t say, because the disciples weren’t able to handle it.  That’s what this promise is all about.  That’s what it’s all about.

Jesus says that He will give the Apostles peace, His peace, which is not the same peace that the world gives; therefore, their hearts should not trouble them or be afraid (verse 27).

We have heard so much about peace since the late 1960s that the word has lost its meaning. There are times when I cannot bear hearing about ‘peace’ because it is so empty in its temporal meaning.

However, here, we understand that Christ’s peace is not mankind’s peace.

MacArthur explains:

this is a supernatural peace It belongs only to those who are Christ’s There are four features of this peace that I want you to see in this one verse ...

First of all, the nature of this peace, the nature of peace.  When we’re talking about peace, what are we talking about exactly, specifically?  Well let me say very simply, there are two aspects to this: one is objective and one is subjective What do I mean by that?

An objective peace is that peace which is outside of you.  It is not inside of you; it is not experienced by you; it is outside of you.  It is a transactional peace.  And then that’s the objective peace.  The subjective peace is that peace that is inside of you and it is experiential, and the second is based on the first.

So when we talk about peace, let’s look at verse 27 and see how our Lord gives us the nature of this peace inherent in this statement: “Peace I leave with you.”  This is a deposit; this is a gift.  This is not a command, this is a giftHe is not asking them to find this peace, He is saying, “I’m leaving this peace with you.  I’m depositing this peace.  You will possess this peace.”  It is a reality; it is a gift; it is a transaction.  Our Lord grants them this peace and to all who will follow them in loving and serving Him.

What are we talking about?  What is this peace?  Maybe the best way to start explaining it is to have you turn to Romans 5; Romans, chapter 5.  And here it jumps out of the page at you right away; chapter 5, verse 1.  Based on the work of Christ in the end of chapter 4, Him being delivered over because of our transgressions and raised for our justification, based on His work on the cross, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” okay.

So now we’re talking about peace with God Preposition is very important: peace with God.  We are at peace with God, that is why Paul in Ephesians 6:15 calls the gospel, “The gospel of peace,” because the gospel brings peace between the sinner and God That’s what justification does When God declares you just, when He imputes the righteousness of Christ to you, you are declared righteous.  You are justified by faith in Christ and by the work that He did on the cross.

On the cross, He paid the penalty for your sin, and that frees God to forgive you and impute the righteousness of Christ to you That is a declaration; that is a divine decree; that is not an experience That is not inside of you, it is a transaction that takes place outside of you by a sovereign God.

You are justified by God; that means declared righteous based upon your faith in Jesus Christ; and His righteousness then imputed to you, you stand just before God.  Therefore, we have peace with God.  Every Christian has peace with God, every Christian

Put it another way: forever God is on our side Forever He will never leave us or forsake us.  Forever we will be in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Forever we will possess the very life of God, forever.  That is an external, eternal reality, never to change.  That’s objective peace with God.

But that objective peace also provides for us a subjective peace, an internal peace, an experiential peace; a sense of goodness, trust, contentment, tranquility, confidence, well-being

Now this is not a kind of passive peace; it is not just being willing to endure; it is a lot more than that.  It is not some kind of benign reality.  It is a triumphant peace It is an aggressive peace.  It is a peace that moves out.  It is a conquering peace.

It is a peace that not only protects you from anxiety, and fear, and doubt, and despair; but it is a peace that triumphs over everything with courage, confidence, contentment.  It’s a triumphant peace, and you should be experiencing all of it.  So that’s the kind of peace our Lord is saying: “I leave you this peace.”  First of all, objectively, peace with God; and then subjectively, the peace of God, which is what it’s called Philippians 4 as we will see.  So that’s the kind of peace.

All right, just another feature: the source of peace Back to verse 27: “My peace I give to you, My peace.  Peace I leave you, but it’s My peace.”  That is to say it’s divine, it’s supernatural It comes from heaven; it belongs to Christ; it belongs to God many places in the Bible you will find this statement: “The God of peace, the God of peace.”

Again, this is the essence of the Trinity that dwells in the believer; with the eternal life of the presence of the triune God comes divine peace It was the same peace: “My peace,” He said, that kept Him calm on that Thursday night knowing what was about to happen; knowing that His disciples would scatter, Peter would deny Him; knowing that He would go to the cross, bear sin.  It was the same calm really that he exhibited through His whole life when He was treated with mockery, scorn, hostility, hatred, betrayal, all undeserved.

Where did that peace come from?  Well, essentially, it came from perfect trust in the Father, perfect trust in the Father So just mark it down in your mind: peace is connected to trust It’s connected to trust.  His trust in the Father was so clear and so consummate and so complete that Hebrews 12:2 says, “He went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him,” even though in the going, in the garden, He was sweating blood in the agony.

Henry makes an excellent observation on Christ’s peace versus the world’s peace:

As is the difference between a killing lethargy and a reviving refreshing sleep, such is the difference between Christ’s peace and the world’s.

Jesus told the Apostles that He would be going away and He would come again to them; if they loved Him, they would be rejoicing that He would be going to the Father, because the Father is greater (verse 28).

MacArthur explains that this is because Jesus is all human yet all divine. It is because of His human nature that He spoke those words:

Look at Philippians, chapter 2.  Philippians 2 is the explanation of this.  It says He existed in the morph of God.  He existed as God, but He didn’t regard equality with God, something to be held onto, grasped.  He was willing to give up that face-to-face, full, glorious equality with God, and He emptied Himself, He divested Himself of that and took the form of a slave and was made in the likeness of men.

Again, as to His Godhood, He’s equal to God As to His manhood, He’s inferior, He submitsHe’s found in appearance as a man, humbles Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross But for this reason then, God highly exalted him, bestowed on Him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow of those in heaven and earth, and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.

The name is Lord.  God gives Him the name Lord, takes Him back into heaven to sit on His throne from which He had come They should have rejoiced because Jesus’ humiliation was over He had come all the way down to the depths of humiliation, born in a stable, no place to rest His head during His ministry, suffering hatred, abuse, jeers, crucifixion at the hands of evil men, rejected by His own people, bitter cup was almost ended.  They should have rejoiced.

They should have rejoiced that He was going to the Father from whom He had come The garb of lowliness is about to fall from His shoulders, and to love Him would be to rejoice for Him So first of all, they should rejoice because His person will be dignified Secondly, His truth will be documented What’s going to happen is going to validate what He has been saying.  This is very powerful.

Henry has a practical application for us:

Many that love Christ, let their love run out in a wrong channel; they think if they love him they must be continually in pain because of him; whereas those that love him should dwell at ease in him, should rejoice in Christ Jesus.

Jesus said that He told them these things before they happened so that when they did take place the Apostles would believe (verse 29).

Henry explains that verse:

Christ told his disciples of his death, though he knew it would both puzzle them and grieve them, because it would afterwards redound to the confirmation of their faith in two things:– 1. That he who foretold these things had a divine prescience, and knew beforehand what day would bring forth. When St. Paul was going to Jerusalem, he knew not the things that did abide him there, but Christ did. 2. That the things foretold were according to the divine purpose and designation, not sudden resolves, but the counterparts of an eternal counsel. Let them therefore not be troubled at that which would be for the confirmation of their faith, and so would redound to their real benefit; for the trial of our faith is very precious, though it cost us present heaviness, through manifold temptations, 1 Peter 1:6.

These are the final verses of John 14, after which they leave the room where the Last Supper took place. Note that Jesus says that Satan has no power over Him, even in death:

30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

“Come now; let us leave.

MacArthur says that Jesus had to tell the Apostles what would happen to Him even if they did not understand why. If He hadn’t said anything about His death and resurrection, they would have scattered, never to gather together again:

Look, could you imagine if He had never told them He was going to die, never told them all the details, and it came to pass; they would have been scattered, never to be recovered They would have been useless.  But all of a sudden, as these things began to unfold – the death, the resurrection – they began to remember that He had said these things specifically, and they were regathered and reconstituted, even before the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2.

They’re all together in the temple.  They’re meeting together in the temple.  They’re meeting with the Lord.  They’re learning about the kingdom in the 40 days of His time on earth before His ascension, and they’re taking it all in They’re listening to Him.  And I’m sure during those times, He was affirming all that He had said that had been historically validated with more to come.

What was to come?  The coming of the Holy Spirit which He promised.  What was to come?  Persecution which He promised.  That would all come.  And every time something happened, it validated Him as the Messiah, the Son of God.  And that’s what empowered them to give their lives to preach the gospel.  That’s why they turned the world upside-down because they knew who He was.  If He hadn’t told them any of these things before they happened, they would have wondered how this all happened and who really was He.

He said He would die; He did.  He said He would be lifted up in death; he was.  He said He would rise; He did.  He said He would ascend to the Father; He did.  He said He would send the Holy Spirit; He did.  He said He would give supernatural life; He did.  Everything He said He would do He did He said they would be persecuted; they were.  Every prophecy, every promise, every pledge, fulfilled in exact precision, documenting His word.

Christ knows that the message has to go forth, the message of the gospel has to be preached There has to be a book of Acts to record and chronicle what happened.  They have to go to preach the gospel and they’re not going to do that unless they believe it, unless they really hold to it with solid conviction.  They have to have confidence, and that can happen only if they believe His word

In closing, Ascension Day is Thursday, May 26. May 28 is the final Sunday in Eastertide for 2022. Pentecost Sunday is June 5 this year.

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 and crossThe 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 3:1-6

By Faith, or by Works of the Law?

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh? Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s relating of the public rebuke he had to give to the Apostle Peter in Antioch for shunning the Gentile converts in favour of Judaizers who had infiltrated the congregation. Antioch was one of the Galatian churches.

In today’s passage, he is taking the Galatians to task for believing the highly erroneous message from these Judaizers that they need to be circumcised in order to be Christians.

John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

What caused him to write this letter is false teachers had come into that area, and apparently gone from church to church proclaiming a false gospel. Paul is profoundly exercised over this. This is very early in his ministry, very early in his writings. He knows immediately, even though the churches are truly established, they are genuine believers, and they have had the influence of this great apostle – they are subject to false teaching. They will be assaulted, they will be attacked, and in some cases, they will fall victim to false teachers. And that is exactly what happened in Galatia.

So Paul writes this letter to deal with what’s going on in these Galatian churches. In the first two chapters, he defends his apostolic authority as the one called by Christ, taught by Christ, and sent by Christ. So he is the one they are to listen to, and not the false teachers who come from the kingdom of darkness, even though they profess to be Christians.

So the first two chapters deal with his apostolic authority. And then in chapters 3 and 4 he clarifies the truth of the gospel. That’s where we are now in chapters 3 and 4. He goes to the very careful, thoughtful defense of the true gospel of grace alone.

Now what the false teachers basically were saying was: grace was not enough, the cross is not enough, the Holy Spirit is not enough. “What God has wrought among you is not enough. You cannot enter the kingdom of God, you cannot enter heaven unless you are circumcised and adhere to the law of Moses.”

This was a convoluted, adulterated, corrupted gospel. They were adding works to grace and works to faith. Paul is so exercised about this that there is not at the beginning of this letter any commendation.

Paul calls the Galatians ‘foolish’ and asks who has ‘bewitched’ them, saying that they personally learned — from him — that Jesus was publicly crucified (verse 1).

One could easily write an essay on this verse alone, there is that much content to analyse.

Matthew Henry says of their spiritual foolishness:

He reproves them, and the reproof is very close and warm: he calls them foolish Galatians,Galatians 3:1; Galatians 3:1. Though as Christians they were Wisdom’s children, yet as corrupt Christians they were foolish children.

MacArthur says:

This is a powerful portion of Scripture. It is powerful because Paul embraces the Trinity – the Son, the Spirit, and the Father – and essentially says, “By foolishly being bewitched by a false gospel, or a false addition to the gospel, you have called into question the work of the Son and the Spirit and the Father.” In other words, “You have assaulted heaven at its heights.” This is an all-out attack on the Triune God.

The use of ‘bewitched’ is a singular one. It appears nowhere else in the New Testament.

MacArthur tells us:

This is the only place it is used. Is Paul saying that these Galatian believers were bewitched? Absolutely

There’s never a question in this letter about the spiritual condition of the Galatians; they are believers. Initially when the apostle Paul came, they received the gospel that he preached, they fully embraced it. Now they have become bewitched: true believers bewitched

Maybe you never thought about the fact that believers, true believers, can be bewitched. But every warning in the New Testament, every warning about false teachers and false doctrine is an assumption that believers can be bewitched. Every command to hold to the truth, guard the truth, rightly handle the word of truth is also based on the assumption of our susceptibility to bewitching. Yes, believers can be seduced into believing lies about the gospel.

Now the bewitching doesn’t come when someone says, “I don’t believe in God, and I don’t believe in the Bible. I don’t believe in Christ. I don’t believe in the gospel of grace. I don’t believe in the cross. I don’t believe in the resurrection.” That’s not bewitching; that’s not seductive – that’s obvious to us. The bewitching comes from those who acknowledge the gospel, accept the gospel, and then add works to the gospel

All those warnings, all those commands to faithfulness assume that we can become bewitched. And I would just go so far as to say, most churches in our society are bewitched. Most church leaders are bewitched. At the core, they may believe the true gospel, but they have allowed so many things to be added to the gospel or to corrupt the gospel that they are bewitched.

This isn’t just a problem in the pew. It is a problem in the pew, because it’s a problem in the pulpit. All too common for Christian leaders and pastors in places of great influence to become themselves bewitched about the gospel, even the gospel that saved them. The duty of the pastor is to guard the truth, is to preach the truth, is to fight for the truth, contend for the truth, and to protect his flock from the bewitching errors. We have to assume that bewitching. And it reaches high levels. You can’t even walk into a Christian bookstore and trust everything you find there. There are many bewitching things there.

There are indeed. I do not go into Christian bookstores for that very reason.

A little over a decade ago, I saw a lot of talk on Christian blogs about a book that touted living according to Leviticus. Many people commenting on it said it was wonderful and that their families felt purer for living according to Mosaic law whilst attending church regularly on Sundays.

That is a real life example of becoming bewitched by false teaching. Paul would have been appalled, yet it would have been familiar to him.

Thinking of that book and of these Judaizers, I can just imagine that they probably told the Galatians, ‘But if you just add these ceremonial laws to your life, you’ll be a much better, purer Christian’.

Wrong!

MacArthur tells us about the word ‘bewitched’ in Greek:

It’s from the Greek verb baskain. That in itself isn’t important, except that it’s the only time it’s ever used in the New Testament. Paul went for a word that isn’t used anywhere else. He never uses it anywhere else. He’s going outside of his normal vocabulary to find a word to describe this in a unique way. Never used anywhere else in the New Testament; and it’s always used in a bad sense.

What does it mean in the Greek language outside the Bible? The word meant “to charm,” “to fascinate,” but “to fascinate or charm in a misleading way.” Always has a bad connotation. It meant “to seek to do harm to someone by lies or deception or false promises.” It is even related to magic spells and sorcery, and the evil eye, and demonic power.

It’s a very, very serious word, and the Holy Spirit only used it once to describe not what’s happening to nonbelievers, but what has happened to believers. It’s as if they have been bewitched, not by sorcery, not by magic spells, but by false doctrine.

In the churches that Paul planted, false teachers came in after he left. We saw this in 1 and 2 Corinthians. The same thing also happened in Ephesus.

Satan is behind the bewitching, although he uses agents in the form of false teachers.

MacArthur says:

Now Satan only has two approaches, only two approaches. We see them in Matthew 13 in the words of our Lord. He can, first of all, snatch the gospel seed before it can go into the ground and be productive. And we see that in our Lord’s parable of the soils. Satan comes and snatches the seed away before anybody can understand it. That’s corrupting the gospel on the front end.

The second thing that Satan does is once the gospel has taken root and believers begin to grow and flourish, then Satan’s second approach is to sow tares among the wheat: false believers in a false gospel alongside true believers. And that is corrupting the gospel on the back end. He corrupts it on the front end by snatching it away, often through lack of understanding. He comes back, corrupting it on the back end by bringing into the church corrupt messages that produce corrupt tares among the wheat.

That’s what had happened in Galatia. The Word had come and gone into the soil. The seed had brought about life; that life was flourishing and growing. Satan shows up in the form of Jews from Jerusalem who come to demand that if you’re going to be saved and forgiven and into the kingdom of God and brought to heaven, you must maintain the Mosaic law and circumcision. This was sowing lies, and therefore, liars and tares among the wheat.

MacArthur gives us two televisual examples of bewitching:

It’s a bewitching that comes about because people want popularity, because they want acceptance. If you can go on Oprah, as one self-confessed evangelical did, and Oprah says to you, “Do I, or does a person have to believe in Jesus Christ to enter heaven?” and you say, “No,” you have been bewitched.

Larry King said to me one day, “I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay. When I die I’m going to be okay.” I said, “Really. Why do you say that?” He said, “Because a well-known evangelist told me, because I’m Jewish God’s going to take special care of me.” Who bewitched him?

MacArthur says the state of being bewitched comes from a weakness in the heart and the mind:

It’s not just mental inability. It’s the sinful heart, neglect of the truth. It’s a mind issue, but it’s a heart issue. The mind is not applied, carefully examining the truth, because the heart is not diligently devoted to that truth. Paul says, “You’re foolish, and you have become bewitched.”

Turning to the second half of the verse, about how Paul (principally) presented Christ and the Crucifixion to the Galatians, MacArthur explains what the Apostle meant:

“This was openly declared to you. I preached the gospel to you, and you embraced me like I was an angel. You embraced me as if I was Christ Himself. It isn’t that you just could hear in your imagination the ringing of the hammers as He was nailed to the cross; it isn’t that you could just hear the cries of the mocking crowd, or the cries of Jesus from the cross, or in your mind’s eye, you could see the blood and sweat running down His body; it isn’t just that you saw the physical reality of His death. It was that you understood that it was a substitutionary sacrifice for you. You understood the significance of His death. You understood that He was dying in your place, that your sins were imputed to Him, so that His righteousness could be imputed to you. You understood the gospel of salvation. I preached Christ to you, fully to you, crucified to you, and therefore, risen again. And the reality was you believed, you believed. And miraculously you were transformed. And all those churches in Galatia are a result of the preaching of the gospel of a crucified Christ.

Now how can you, when you have seen Jesus Christ publicly portrayed crucified, go back to the Law? Are you saying that the cross was unnecessary and you must save yourself, or are you saying that the cross was insufficient, or that the death of Christ was a partial provision, and you have to make up the rest by your works? If you are saying that, you are blaspheming the Christ of the cross. But that’s what a works system does. When it requires something from you, then it’s not all of Christ. You have assaulted Christ.”

On that point, Paul asks the Galatians if they received the Holy Spirit through a works-based law or by hearing with faith (verse 2).

Henry offers this analysis:

He appeals to the experiences they had had of the working of the Spirit upon their souls (Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:2); he puts them in mind that, upon their becoming Christians, they had received the Spirit, that many of them at least had been made partakers not only of the sanctifying influences, but of the miraculous gifts, of the Holy Spirit, which were eminent proofs of the truth of the Christian religion and the several doctrines of it, and especially of this, that justification is by Christ only, and not by the works of the law, which was one of the peculiar and fundamental principles of it. To convince them of the folly of their departing from this doctrine, he desires to know how they came by these gifts and graces: Was it by the works of the law, that is, the preaching of the necessity of these in order to justification? This they could not say, for that doctrine had not then been preached to them, nor had they, as Gentiles, any pretence to justification in that way. Or was it by the hearing of faith, that is, the preaching of the doctrine of faith in Christ as the only way of justification? This, if they would say the truth, they were obliged to own, and therefore must be very unreasonable if they should reject a doctrine of the good effects of which they had had such experience. Note, (1.) It is usually by the ministry of the gospel that the Spirit is communicated to persons. And, (2.) Those are very unwise who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage.

Paul calls the Galatians ‘foolish’ again, asking that, having the Spirit’s work active in them they now think that they can be perfected by the flesh (verse 3), i.e. via circumcision and other ceremonial rituals of the Old Covenant.

MacArthur explains that there is sometimes another false teaching which appears in the Church, a Gnostic one proclaiming that one has to have a special insight in order to receive the Holy Spirit:

That is another bewitching lie that floats around, that you can be a Christian without the Holy Spirit until you attain some level of spirituality. Every believer has the Holy Spirit. So the work of Christ was a finished work, not requiring anything from the Law; and the coming of the Holy Spirit was a complete work, not requiring anything from the Law either. He came by faith.

“Are you so foolish?” – verse 3 – “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” In other words, “Is the work of Christ only partial and you have to add the important part? And is the presence of the Holy Spirit only partial and you have to add the important part; and in both cases, the important part is something your flesh produces? See this for what it is: Christ’s work is complete, the Holy Spirit’s presence is complete, the Law adds nothing to the work of Christ, the Law adds nothing to the work of the Holy Spirit.”

The word ‘suffer’ in verse 4 is better translated as ‘experience’. Paul asks if they experienced all that they did in their Christian conversion in vain, if indeed it was in vain (verse 4).

MacArthur reinterprets the verse as follows:

Did you suffer or better, “experience” – “so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”

Was that experience in vain? Was it for nothing? And now somehow, was that some kind of false feeling, an illusion, something that never really happened until you get circumcised, and keep the rituals and the ceremonies? What could Judaizers or what could anybody else add to Christ’s work on the cross? Answer – What? – nothing. Don’t be bewitched.

So far, Paul has discussed Christ and the Holy Spirit.

He then brings in God the Father — completing his references to the Holy Trinity — by asking if He, meaning God, supplies them with the presence of the Holy Spirit and the miracles among them by works of the law or by faith (verse 5).

MacArthur offers this analysis:

This is talking about the Father. How do you know that? Because in Luke 11:13, in John 14:16 and 26, twice, Jesus says, “When I go, the Father will send the Spirit.” So he says in verse 5, “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit” – that’s the Father. The Father is the one who provides you with the Spirit; He is one of the gifts of the Father. And, by the way, the word “provides,” epichorge, root word chorge, means “bountifully,” “abundantly,” “super abundantly,” “lavishly.”

“So then, are you saying that the Father who lavishly provided you with the Spirit and works miracles among you,” – perhaps the apostolic miracles, but perhaps even more significantly, the miracle of regeneration done by God “are you saying that He does that by the works of the Law because you’ve earned it? Did God save you because of something you did? Did God come and miraculously transform you because of something you did, or simply by the hearing with faith?”

And we know the answer to this: The Son did a complete work on your behalf, the Spirit did a complete work on your behalf, and the Father did a complete work on your behalf. Nothing is left out. You didn’t receive salvation or the Holy Spirit or regeneration by anything you did, it was the full and perfect work of Christ, the full and perfect work of the Spirit, the full and perfect work of the Father.

“You’ve experienced that. You’ve experienced power of the gospel in your life. You’ve experienced the power of the Spirit in your life. You’ve experienced the power of the Father in your life. You’ve been living in that trinitarian power. And now all of a sudden, these bewitching Jews show up and tell you that all of this is inadequate.” That is a blasphemous assault on the Triune God. It diminishes the work of Christ on the cross, the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer, and the work of the Father in the miracle of regeneration. The whole Trinity and all that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have to offer you is yours by faith and faith alone. “You foolish Galatians. Are you so bewitched?” “You are,” says Paul to the Colossians, “complete in Him.”

Then Paul brings in Abraham, saying that our father in faith believed in God’s promises to him during his lifetime and now, even beyond the grave, countless generations later; God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness (verse 6).

Henry expands on our inheritance from Abraham, as God promised:

Abraham believed God, and that was accounted to him for righteousness (Galatians 3:6; Galatians 3:6); that is, his faith fastened upon the word and promise of God, and upon his believing he was owned and accepted of God as a righteous man: as on this account he is represented as the father of the faithful, so the apostle would have us to know that those who are of faith are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:7), not according to the flesh, but according to the promise; and, consequently, that they are justified in the same way that he was. Abraham was justified by faith, and so are they.

Paul has more to follow on Abraham. We’ll look at what he has to say next week.

Next time — Galatians 3:7-9

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

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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

2 Corinthians 13:5-10, 14

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post looked at Paul’s threat to impose church discipline on the Corinthians upon his return to them.

In today’s verses, Paul expresses his deep concern for their spiritual wellbeing.

John MacArthur breaks today’s verses down by theme (emphases mine):

We remember that, in verses 20 and 21, at the end of chapter 12, he expressed the concern for repentance; that the church be dealing with sin by repentance. And then, in chapter 13, verses 1 and 2, discipline; that where there was a lack of repentance, the church would act to express discipline on that sin. Thirdly, the issue of authority came up, in verses 3 and 4. He was concerned that the people recognize that Christ was the Lord of the church, and that His authority was coming to them through the apostolic testimony; through the preaching of the gospel by the apostle.

He is concerned, then, for the repentance of the church, the discipline of the church, and the authority over the church. Down in verses 7 and 8, the issue is obedience. He is concerned about the obedience of the church; that they would respond obediently to the truth. And then, in verses 9 and 10, he is concerned about the maturity of the church. He says at the end of verse 9, “that you be made complete” or mature. And so, repentance, discipline, authority, obedience, and maturity occupy the pastor’s heart, as he is concerned about the spiritual well-being of the church.

Paul urges the Corinthians to test themselves to see whether they are in the faith and understand that Jesus Christ lives in them, unless they fail to meet the test (verse 5).

Matthew Henry says that passing the test would indicate that Paul was indeed a true apostle, having brought them to Christianity:

Examine yourselves, c. Hereby he intimates that, if they could prove their own Christianity, this would be a proof of his apostleship for if they were in the faith, if Jesus Christ was in them, this was a proof that Christ spoke in him, because it was by his ministry that they did believe. He had been not only an instructor, but a father to them. He had begotten them again by the gospel of Christ.

Referring to himself in the first person plural, Paul says that he hopes he has not failed the test of being a true apostle (verse 6), a jibe at the false teachers who had denounced him so vehemently.

Paul says that his own integrity is secondary to their own spiritual wellbeing; he prays for them that they live in righteousness, even though he appears weak (verse 7), meaning to the world, especially to the false teachers.

MacArthur says that it is a gentle, motherly verse:

Now here Paul in verse 7 identifies himself as like a mother … There are a number of characteristics surrounding the picture of a mother. He talks about being gentle, being affectionate, being sacrificial, being loving, laboring, toiling night and day as mothers do in the rearing of their precious children … As pastors, we are like mothers in the sense that we are to come to our people as gentle, affectionate, sacrificial, loving, laboring, toiling night and day on their behalf

MacArthur explains what Paul meant by praying for the Corinthians:

So you get the picture as you’ve gone through this book that Paul’s reputation was an issue here, that the people needed to know he was genuine, and this is crucial feature throughout this entire epistle. That fact makes this passage quite remarkable, because notice what he says: “We pray to God,” verse 7, “that you do no wrong, not that we ourselves may appear approved but that you may do what is right even though we should appear unapproved.” Listen to this, as important, as crucial, as essential as his reputation was to his ministry and to people trusting him and believing what he said came from God, as critical as that was, he would set that aside in favor of their obedience. He was preeminently not about himself being approved but about their obedience, that they would not do what is wrong but would do what is right. A man’s reputation is crucial. Paul’s was crucial; it was important that people know he spoke the truth and spoke for God. And no man wants his reputation unfairly maligned. And Paul was concerned that the church know he was a real apostle. He wasn’t so concerned about the world but the church. But even more than that, he was concerned about their spiritual wellbeing. And if it had to mean that he would not be approved, he would rather have them do what is right and obey than to have some personal approval for himself.

Then Paul picks up the pace a bit, threatening church discipline, by saying that he cannot punish what is done in truth but can punish what goes against it (verse 8).

MacArthur elaborates, giving us the Greek word for ‘truth’:

First of all, the truth used twice in the verse, alētheia, refers to the blessed revelation of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ from justification through sanctification to glorification. The whole of God’s revelation, the message that comes from God, the Scriptures. If you’re obeying the truth, we can do nothing against that, so we can’t put on some big authoritative display is what he’s saying. If you’re doing what is right, if you’re obeying the truth of God’s Word, then I can’t come in with some kind of confident, confrontive show of authority and punishment. Well he would do it if he needed to. In the letter that he wrote the 1 Corinthian letter, he really went after the man who was having an affair with his father’s wife in 1 Corinthians 5 and told the church to throw him out … I mean if needed, he could act. But if they were all obedient and they were all living the truth of the Word of God, then he could do nothing. By nothing he simply means there would be no display of authority. There would be no discipline, no punishment. But on the other hand, he could act for the truth in behalf of the truth; in other words, to rejoice in its being honored by the Corinthians. That was his passion.

Paul goes on to say that he is happy when he is weak, meaning that Christ works through him, and the congregation is strong in a spiritual sense; he prays for their restoration as a unified, holy body of Christians (verse 9).

MacArthur says:

The desire of his heart was to come and find his people obedient so that he would not have to go against them but could line up alongside of them, and together they would be for the truth. And he would gladly appear weak if his children were strong. 

Verse 9: “For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong.” Paul had learned that in weakness he became strong. Back in chapter 12, verse 9, he said, “I boast about my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” At the end of verse 10, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” He had learned that when he set pride aside and became humble and accepted weakness and had disdain for his human abilities that he became an instrument of great power in the hands of God. He didn’t need to gain some strength, some human reputation. He needed rather to be weak. He had learned that weakness is the path to power, so he says, “We rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you’re strong. I’m happy to appear weak to the world if you’re strong.” And the fact is if they were strong, that would be a verification of his true apostleship because he was the source of the truth that made them strong

“This we also pray for, that you be made complete.” Now there are a lot of different words I thought about, but I really think integrity grips the issue here. Let me tell you why. It comes from a mathematical term integer, which means one; an integer is one. That’s a whole, it’s a unit. It’s an undivided element or reality. And he’s saying, “I just want you to be whole.” We hear a lot about wholeness today, holistic, wholeness. It is that idea, but it’s the Greek word katartizo. The verb basically means to put in place or to put in order. And its usage got really fills up its meaning. It was used to refer to restoring something that was broken. For example, reducing a fracture, taking something that was broken and doing the reduction necessary to put it back together. It was used of something that was out of joint, whether it was a dislocation talking about it anatomically. Where there was a dislocation, something was placed back into location, it was katartizo; it was put back in its appropriate place. It was used also of reconciling people, where there was some kind of breach or some kind of dislocation in relationships and people were reconciled. It means to put back into wholeness, to bring into wholeness, and that is what integrity is. Integrity is wholeness. That’s why the word comes from integer, which means one. It’s when everything in your life connects. It’s when your thoughts and your words, your belief system, and your actions all are in perfect harmony.

He reminds them that he can still be harsh with them and says that they should repent so that he can continue to build them up rather than tear them down through church discipline (verse 10).

MacArthur says that Paul sums up the whole book in that one verse:

Well, Paul concludes then this letter, really the main body of the letter, with one sentence. Verse 10, and this is a one-sentence summary of the epistle. One-sentence summary: “For this reason I am writing these things,” – these things means the whole 13 chapters – “For this reason I’m writing these things. While absent,” – remember now, he’s not there with them – “I’m writing while absent, in order that when present,” – and he’s coming, he says that in chapter 12, verse 14, chapter 13, verse 1, he’s coming for a third time – “that when present I may not use severity.” The word severity is sharpness, a sword. “I’m writing these things while I’m absent in order that when I am present I may not use severity. I really don’t want to come there and have to take out a sword. I really am writing these things now so that you can get things in order so that when I get there I don’t have to use severity. And that in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up. I would rather come and take the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and use it, rather than tearing down.” He will tear down, and by the way, that’s another warning just thrown in there at the end: “If I have to tear down, I will.” The word is “destroy” in the Greek. “But the authority which the Lord gave me he gave me for building up. That’s why he gave it to me. He gave me the authority he gave me to edify, to strengthen, to build you up. I really don’t want to come and destroy. I don’t want to come and tear down, so that’s why I’m writing. I’m writing these things while I’m absent so that when I come there I don’t have to use severity because you will have already dealt with these issues. And then I can just take the authority the Lord has given me through the truth of his Word and I can use it to build you up. And I won’t have to spend my time tearing down the false things that have been erected. Better a letter,” he says. “Better to be rebuked in this letter so that in my third visit it can be different than the second visit, which was so sad and so painful.” So he’s finally pleading, “Please, folks, please deal with these issues so when I come it can be a time of building up.”

The following verses are in the Lectionary:

11 Finally, brothers,[a] rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another,[b] agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

All that remains is for Paul’s benediction — an invocation of blessing — asking for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit to rest upon the Corinthians (verse 14).

That benediction is commonplace as a closing blessing in Catholic and Anglican Communion worship, because it mentions each Person in the Holy Trinity.

MacArthur explains:

To pronounce a benediction – that comes from the Latin word benedictus – it means literally to pronounce a blessing on someone; to invoke a blessing. Paul wanted for his church that they would get everything in order; perfection. He wanted that they would have deep and expressive love; affection. And he wanted that they would have blessing coming from heaven in a flood; benediction.

And he knew that if they were obedient, and if they were faithful, they would know the benediction of God, they would know the blessing of God. This is a full benediction, by the way. This is a magnificent benediction. It’s worthy of a – of a lot more attention than I’m able to give it … but you need to grasp this benediction, because of its importance. It is the most complete benediction Paul gave to end any letter. And typically, he gave benedictions in his letters.

He gave one at the end of Romans. He – he gave a couple at the end of Romans. He gave one at the beginning of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. And here, at the end of 2 Corinthians, though, he gives a comprehensive benediction, and I – I want to point out two things about this benediction – though there are many things we could talk about – two main things. First of all, it is a trinitarian benediction, and as such, it strikes at the very heart of the – of the Christian faith.

It is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is the love of God, it is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; each member of the trinity is there. This is a trinitarian benediction. It is not a formally constructed doctrine of the trinity. It is not a systematic structure of the doctrine of the trinity. It is almost un-self-conscience. It’s almost as if Paul isn’t planning to teach the trinity, but it just sort of flows out of him, because when you talk about redemption, these are the three you talk about. And you know when you’ve read that, nobody’s been left out, and there’s nobody else to conclude – to include.

Nobody’s been slighted. The Lord Jesus is there, God is there, the Holy Spirit’s there, that’s it. It’s an almost self-conscience simplicity that’s so beautiful about this. And there’s also an obvious equality here. There is – there’s no – there’s no difference laid out. There’s no subordination laid out here. This is clearly a trinitarian statement. The Lord Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit, are the essential persons that make up the one true God. This is the doctrine of the trinity.

MacArthur emphasises that all true Christians believe in the Triune God, one in three Persons, a divine mystery:

Any denial of the doctrine of the trinity creates a non-existent false god, and is a form of idolatry. If you deny that the Holy Spirit is God, then you have a false god. If you deny that Jesus is God, you have a false god. That is idolatry. If you deny that the Father is God, you have a false god. Anything less than the doctrine of the trinity is creating a non-existent false god, and that is as much idolatry as if you carved out a totem pole and worshiped it. God is God when God is understood as trinity.

Of course, after all these months of reading about 2 Corinthians, we want to know how the story ended.

MacArthur has the answer. He believes the congregation did what Paul told them to do before his third visit:

Did they listen? Did they respond? Did they clean up their church? Did they deal with the false teachers? Did they welcome him when he came? Did he come? Yes, he came. It’s recorded in Acts 20, verses 2 and 3; he came on the third visit. And there is no specific statement made anywhere in the New Testament that says this is how the Corinthians acted when he got there. We don’t have that explicit a statement, but there are some evidences that when he got there it was a positive meeting. There are some evidences that the church read this letter, responded to this letter and turned back to Paul totally so that his third visit was joyful and that it was a time for building up, which was his passion, not having to tear down. How do we know that? I’ll give you four reasons.

Reason number one, during his third visit, as I said recorded in Acts 20, verses 2 and 3, he was there three months, three months. Three months probably would have been too short a time to deal with issues if they’d been extremely serious. It was just long enough for some sweet fellowship. But during those three months, he wrote the book of Romans so that the book of Romans becomes a window on Paul’s attitude while he’s at Corinth during the third visit. Perhaps it was the winter of 56 or early into the year 57 A.D., and it was there in Corinth that he wrote Romans. Romans contains some personal notes, as you well know in chapter 15 and 16, but there are no concerns expressed by Paul for his present condition. No negative concerns are expressed at all, which leads us to believe that he was in a very happy and joyful and satisfying time in Corinth. He makes no reference to anything negative whatsoever. Knowing his passion for that church, he would have been hard-pressed not to have expressed some serious issue.

Secondly, when Paul was writing from Corinth chapter 15 and verse 24, Paul says to the Romans, “Here’s my plan. I’m writing you because I want to go to Spain and I want to see you in passing and be helped on my way there by you.” In other words, here was his plan: He wanted to take the Gospel to Spain. He’s in Corinth, that’s in Macedonia. West of Macedonia is Italy and Rome. Further west of course is Spain, as far as you can go on the continent of Europe. He wanted to get the Gospel to Spain, and his plan was I’m going to come to Rome and I want you to outfit me. I want you to help me give me the resources I need. Outfit me to go with the Gospel to Spain. Now he was seemed in a very hurry to do that, and it’s very unlikely that he would’ve had a brief stay like this in Corinth in a hurry getting on to Rome to get on to Spain if he had some serious issues to deal with in the Corinthian church. If that Corinthian church was not in order, it’s unlikely that Paul would’ve been in a hurry to leave. He had invested so much in that church, but the very fact that he was really in his Spirit on the move when he wrote Romans is indicative of the fact that things were well in Corinth.

Thirdly, in Romans also chapter 15, verses 26 and 27, it says, and this is a very important note, Macedonia and Achaia, and remember Corinth was in Macedonia; Macedonia was the province of Greece as we know it and Achaia as well. Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem; yes, they were pleased to do so. Now that indicates that the Corinthians finished giving their money for the poor saints of Jerusalem. Remember in chapters 8 and 9 Paul was trying to get them to finish the collection of money to take to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Well, here he says when writing the Romans from Corinth on his third visit that they were pleased to make a contribution. He says they were pleased in verse 26; he says they were pleased in verse 27. Indication that there was a very pleasing relationship between Paul and the people. The people in Jerusalem he says in verse 27 are indebted to them because they have shared with them in this way. “Therefore, when I have finished this,” verse 28, “and put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. And I know,” – look at verse 29 – “when I come, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” I think he was just engulfed in blessing. They responded in every way, I believe. They responded to the offering, to the poor saints. They embraced Paul. He sat down with a clear mind and a deep, deep devotion to the Gospel and penned this massive glorious tone, the book of Romans, while he was there. I think the environment was as good as we could have imagined it would be. And the fact that they would give their money to the poor saints and to Paul who was the man collecting the offering indicates their attitude toward him.

Finally and fourthly, the acceptance of this letter by the Corinthian church and its inclusion in the New Testament is indicative of the fact that they responded appropriately. If they had received the letter and rejected it, it would have been hard to have them accept it as the Word of the living God. They would have then been rejecting God. But when they did receive it, they were affirming that it was the Word of God. It found its way there by into the New Testament canon. Its very introduction into the canon of Scripture, its acceptance as the Word of God certainly indicates a good response. And furthermore, because it was the Word of God, had the Corinthians not responded well, probably everybody else in the churches of the ancient world would have severely ganged up on them at that point. It is an indication I think of the fact that the Word of God is powerful and it accomplishes its purpose. Isaiah 55, it doesn’t return void, it accomplishes the purpose God desires it to accomplish, and I believe it did in that church in Corinth.

Next week, I will begin a study of the Book of Galatians.

Next time — Galatians 2:1-5

The First Sunday after Epiphany, also called the Baptism of the Lord, is January 9, 2022.

The readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,

3:16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

3:17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,

3:22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

I wrote an exegesis on Luke 3 last year for the Third Sunday of Advent. That post covers verses 15 through 17.

Verse 18, also included in that post, reads:

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Here are verses 19 and 20, which give the sad outcome for John the Baptist’s ministry. This is a parenthetical insert. Herod the tetrarch had invited him on a few occasions to talk to him privately:

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.

Verses 21 and 22 follow on from verse 18. They are in a new section of Luke 3 entitled ‘The Baptism and Genealogy of Jesus’.

When all the people were being baptised, as the New International Version puts it, Jesus was also baptised and prayed, at which point Heaven opened up (verse 21).

Note that Jesus was the last to be baptised, waiting for the others.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Christ would be baptized last, among the common people, and in the rear of them; thus he humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation, as one of the least, nay, as less than the least. He saw what multitudes were hereby prepared to receive him, and then he appeared.

Henry said that, when Jesus prayed after His baptism, it was not the same prayer that the people had made. They prayed for repentance and forgiveness of sin. He prayed that He would receive His Father’s favour:

He did not confess sin, as others did, for he had none to confess; but he prayed, as others did, for he would thus keep up communion with his Father. Note, The inward and spiritual grace of which sacraments are the outward and visible signs must be fetched in by prayer; and therefore prayer must always accompany them. We have reason to think that Christ now prayed for this manifestation of God’s favour to him which immediately followed; he prayed for the discovery of his Father’s favour to him, and the descent of the Spirit. What was promised to Christ, he must obtain by prayerAsk of me and I will give thee, c. Thus he would put an honour upon prayer, would tie us to it, and encourage us in it.

Furthermore, Henry says that our Lord’s prayer at that time reopened Heaven for our benefit:

Thus was there opened to Christ, and by him to usa new and living way into the holiest sin had shut up heaven, but Christ’s prayer opened it again. Prayer is an ordinance that opens heaven: Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

John MacArthur tells us that our Lord’s baptism was the only time that the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist, his cousin, actually intersected:

… there was a two- or three-day, probably three days, when Jesus…day one, was baptized by John; day two was marked out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; and then on the third day, came to where John was.  That would be the only time in their lives when they were actually together John went on ministering six months longer before he was imprisoned and then was imprisoned up to a year Jesus’ ministry, of course, went on as well So for six months at least their ministries went along together, but they were in two different locations and they didn’t meet So here you have just the one brief time when they met And Jesus came for the purpose of being baptized 

Until Heaven opened, Jesus was just someone in the crowd awaiting his turn for baptism:

That was His objective and what was to happen there was critical.  Putting Jesus into the water wouldn’t necessary signify anything.  John was doing that with masses and masses of people.  In fact, it tells us in verse 21, “It came about when all the people were baptized that Jesus also was baptized.”  He was one among many just being baptized there.  There was nothing to single Him out. Unless there was some divine intervention to identify Him, no one watching would know that this was any other than just another Jew coming down wanting to prepare himself for the Messiah by repenting of his sins and going through this baptism of repentance.

And so, when Jesus was baptized, all heaven broke loose because this was not just another baptism.

The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove; His Father’s voice came from Heaven saying, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’ (verse 22).

MacArthur explains the Greek text and the significance of our Lord’s baptism:

This was a singular event to launch the ministry of the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world What John [Luke?] is focusing on in verses 21 and 22 is the voice that comes out of heaven.  When you study the Greek language, you learn its grammar, its construction.  And what you have here in the Greek construction is a main clause at the end of verse 22, “A voice came out of heaven, ‘Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.'”  Here is God, out of heaven proclaiming Jesus as His Son, the Son of the Most High God, as Gabriel had said He was, Immanuel, God with us.  And the Father is also proclaiming His perfection saying He is well pleased with everything about Him.

That is the main clause of these two verses and everything else is subordinate to that.  What you have here are three infinitive clauses.  In the Greek language, some of you who know Greek and even remember your English grammar will remember the words “infinitive” and “participle.”  Infinitives and participles are verb forms that modify a main verb. They’re subordinate, and that’s what you have.  The focus of what Luke writes is the last statement, the statement of the Father that this is My Son. Everything else subordinates that It was a time when people were being baptized, that Jesus was baptized and He was praying and heaven opened and the Holy Spirit came down, and all of that culminated in the voice coming out of heaven which is the main emphasis.  So it is the divine testimony of the Father to the Son that Luke is interested in.

And it’s interesting to me that Luke doesn’t give us any details about the baptism He doesn’t give us anything in terms of meaning of the descent of the Holy Spirit. He just says the Holy Spirit descended in a form that was visible like a dove But he does give us the very word of the Father which is the main issue.

So, thirty years of perfect, sinless growth and maturing are over with Thirty years in which Jesus has increased in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man, as chapter 1 verse 52 says All the preparation is past and now He is ready to begin His ministry So He leaves Nazareth and takes the sixty-seventy-mile hike down from Nazareth to Judea and out to the Jordan river where John is because there He is to be baptized.

MacArthur says that we should not be too concerned about the brevity of Luke’s account:

The Holy Spirit inspired Luke only to say just a brief amount because Matthew wrote about this event, Mark wrote about this event, and so did John So we have four gospels to deal with and we can weave the accounts together and get a full understanding.

MacArthur warns us about falling into the heresy of ‘oneness’, which denies the Trinity, the Triune God that appears in Luke’s account:

One footnote before we look actually at the text, just a big picture footnote.  In these two verses we have the Trinity.  We have the Son being baptized We have the Holy Spirit descending And we have the Father speaking out of heaven All three are present Here is one of the great trinitarian texts of the New Testament There is the Father’s presence, the Spirit’s presence and the Son’s presence, and here is the key word, simultaneously.  And that is very important because there is a heresy that’s been around for a long, long timeIt’s ancient name is “Sebelianism.”  It’s… Another name that was used… It was used to refer to it in the past is “Modalism.”  It is the idea, it is the heresy that God is one God who sometimes appears as the Father, sometimes appears as the Son, and sometimes appears as the Spirit, that He has different modes, but He is not three in one simultaneously, He is not eternally three persons, He is eternally one person who puts on different masks at different times.

This… This ancient heresy has been dealt with through the years, time and time and time again, but has reached a point of popularity today because it is part of what is known as the “United Pentecostal Church,” which is a “oneness” church, which denies the eternal Trinity Now if you do not have an eternal Trinity, you have the wrong God If you have the wrong God, you have the wrong Jesus and the wrong gospel This is a sweeping heresy because it is a fountainhead heresy that literally pollutes all the rest of theology You cannot have Modalism in this event because you have the Son being baptized, the Spirit descending, and the Father speaking simultaneously.  This is one of the many passages that hits the “oneness” view with a death blow.

In fact, a good way to look at the text is to just take it from the viewpoint of the three persons of the Trinity.  Let’s begin with the Son.  With the Son the baptism, with the Spirit the anointing, with the Father the testimony …

The Son, first of all, verse 21 ... “It came about when all the people were baptized that Jesus also was baptized and while He was praying heaven was opened.”

Now it came about, and then all the infinitive modifying statements, that the Father affirmed or confirmed the identity of Jesus as His Son, the Son of the Most High, the anointed Messiah, Savior of the world

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

Bible and crossThe 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 (see links below).

Romans 15:22-29

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected,[a] I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing[b] of Christ.

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Last week’s post covered Paul’s last teaching in the Book of Romans: the pleasure in the fulfilment of the obligation he had in bringing Gentiles to the Church.

He says that this is why he has not been able to visit the church in Rome sooner; his obligations were elsewhere in other lands (verse 22). And, as he had told the Romans 15:14, they were good and knowledgeable enough to teach each other and build each other up in faith.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the Christians in Rome felt a similar heartfelt desire for Paul to visit them (emphases mine):

It should seem that Paul’s company was very much desired at Rome. He was a man that had as many friends and as many enemies as most men ever had: he passed through evil report and good report. No doubt they had heard much of him at Rome, and longed to see him. Should the apostle of the Gentiles be a stranger at Rome, the metropolis of the Gentile world? Why as to this he excuses it that he had not come yet, he promises to come shortly, and gives a good reason why he could not come now.

Furthermore, he had no desire to visit the great monuments, structures or great thinkers in the heart of the Roman Empire. He wanted to meet his brothers and sisters in faith, humble as they all were, Paul included. Paul was but a humble tent-maker.

Henry elaborates:

He assures them that he had a great desire to see them; not to see Rome, though it was now in its greatest pomp and splendour, nor to see the emperor’s court, nor to converse with the philosophers and learned men that were then at Rome, though such conversation must needs be very desirable to so great a scholar as Paul was, but to come unto you (Romans 15:3), a company of poor despised saints in Rome, hated of the world, but loving God, and beloved of him. These were the men that Paul was ambitious of an acquaintance with at Rome; they were the excellent ones in whom he delighted, Psalms 16:3. And he had a special desire to see them, because of the great character they had in all the churches for faith and holiness; they were men that excelled in virtue, and therefore Paul was so desirous to come to them.

Paul knew that his desires were dependent upon God’s will:

This desire Paul had had for many years, and yet could never compass it. The providence of God wisely overrules the purposes and desires of men. God’s dearest servants are not always gratified in every thing that they have a mind to. Yet all that delight in God have the desire of their heart fulfilled (Psalms 37:4), though all the desires in their heart be not humoured.

That is a difficult lesson to grasp. We feel it these days in our troubled times, whether it be the heavy weight of the coronavirus pandemic on our lives, the seemingly endless protests or the US presidential election in November. We all want a measure of relief from any or all of those. And, yes, it seems as if the will of Providence has a bearing on any relief of all of those. We must pray for patience and, as Paul and the other Apostles wrote so often, endure.

It is not an easy yoke to bear.

Let us look where Paul had travelled by that time. Whereas Jesus stayed within the nucleus of the Jews, His Father’s people, in order to let them know He was the Messiah, Paul made an incredible three-mission journey all over Asia Minor and what we know as Greece to bring the Gospel to the people, including the Gentiles.

John MacArthur discusses this:

He went all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and that’s in excess of a thousand miles, maybe as much as 1,400 miles if you drew a line. He covered a lot of territory, but you might be interested to know that all three of his missionary tours – he took three missionary journeys – all three of his missionary tours basically covered the same area. He kept going back and strengthening, going back and strengthening. Each time he’d go back, he’d extend it a little further. He’d go back again, extend it a little further; go back again, extend it a little further – strengthening and extending, strengthening and extending. And finally, the reason he got as far as he did was because of his imprisonment, really, which took him all the way to Rome. But he had great precision in terms of his ministry from the very beginning.

If you go back to the ninth chapter of Acts, you’re going to find in verse 6 he says, trembling and with tremendous fear because he’s just been knocked to the dirt on the way to Damascus, and now he’s blind – and trembling and with great fear, he says, “Lord, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do? Give me direction. Give me some orders.”

And the Lord said to him, “Arise, get up, go to the city and you’ll find out.” And he went into the city, and that’s when he met Ananias, who was God’s instrument. And in verse 15, “The Lord said to him, ‘Go your way. Ananias, you can leave him; he’s a chosen vessel to me, and here’s his calling: to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.’” So, he had a very specific calling. And he had a great sense of that calling.

… from chapter 22 of Acts … chapter 22, verse 21 – “And He reciting his testimony, ‘Depart! For I will send thee far from here unto the Gentiles.’He had this sense of mission that was very precise. In the chapter in which he gives his testimony later in the book of Acts, that being chapter 26, in verse 15 he says – reciting his testimony, he says on the Damascus Road, “I said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’

“He said, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, stand on your feet; I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of these things which you have seen, of those things in which I will appear to you; delivering you from the people, from the Gentiles unto whom now I send you. And here’s your mission, to pen the eyes of the Gentiles, turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God” – that is an evangelism ministry – “that they may receive forgiveness of sins, inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in Me.’”

So, he had great sense of precision and direction from God in his ministry. He articulates this back in the twentieth chapter of Acts in a discussion with the Ephesian elders at Miletus. And he is very, very committed to the task that God has given him. Particularly I want you to notice verse 22. He says, “I’m going to Jerusalem, even though I’m bound in my spirit” – my spirit is captive to this mission – “I don’t know what’s going to fall on me there; I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says, “except the Holy Spirit keeps telling me in every single city that I’m going to get put in chains and I’m going to be afflicted. So, I know it’s going to be difficult, but I’m going; I’m moving; I’m on my way.” Why? “Because none of these outward physical circumstances move me for the simple reason that I do not count my life dear unto myself. I’m not concerned with my own self-preservation. The only thing I want to do is finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, which is to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

“And now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. But I can testify to you this day that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not failed to declare to you all the counsel of God.” In other words, “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve always done, and that is to do exactly what God called me to do.”

In Colossians 1, he reiterates the fact that God had made him a minister, and God had set him in motion. In Galatians chapter 2, verse 7 and verse 8, you get the same impression, that he was sent to the Gentiles and the testimony of Scripture is that he was mighty in his ministry to the Gentiles. So, Paul knew precision.

The Church has never had a greater church planter.

Paul readily acknowledged that his work was done in the regions that he had visited (verse 23) — some more than once — therefore, it was time to move on to the furthest reach of the Empire, Spain, via Rome, where he hoped to meet the church members there (verse 24). He hoped that they would give him further resolve to travel on to what he thought would be his final destination in evangelising for Christ. Historians record that he was martyred with Peter in Rome.

Paul had ‘hope’ he would meet the Christians residing in Rome. He knew from past experience not to take anything for granted. The Holy Trinity ordains so much in our lives.

MacArthur reminds us of Acts 16 and the Holy Spirit’s intervention:

… let’s look at chapter 16 for a moment and get a view of how providence may work. In Acts 16, verse 6, “And when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia” – this is Paul and his traveling companions – “they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.” Now, how did he do that? How did the Holy Spirit forbid them? It doesn’t say. It doesn’t say it was miraculous. It doesn’t say they heard a voice out of heaven. Somehow the Holy Spirit didn’t allow them to go to Asia. So, “They came to Mysia and attempted to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit wouldn’t allow that either.” How did that happen? We don’t know. “And so, they passed by Mysia and came to Troas. And there a vision appeared to Paul,” and he knew what the Spirit wanted. The direction was go over across the water to Macedonia, and that was the Macedonian call. But here is God ordering the circumstances to bring about His own will.

There Paul met the purple fabric merchant Lydia — the first convert in Europe — and was later imprisoned for a short while.

Henry points out:

Observe how doubtfully he speaks: I trust to see you: not, “I am resolved I will,” but, “I hope I shall.” We must purpose all our purposes and make all our promises in like manner with a submission to the divine providence; not boasting ourselves of to-morrow, because we know not what a day may bring forth, Proverbs 27:1,Jam+4:13-15.

As has been so often said, ‘Life is what happens when you make other plans’.

If you think that was merely about Paul, MacArthur has a personal anecdote to tell about his ministry and his marriage in 1985, when he gave this sermon. He knew the way to San Jose — just as in the old song — but he could not get there because of bad weather.

The rapidity of airport check-in back then will bring tears to the eyes of those of us old enough to remember:

I was supposed to fly to San Jose a week ago, to speak to a youth rally at Mount Herman on a Friday night – the Friday night after Thanksgiving. And so, my son, Matt, took me by the airport and dropped me off because it was only ten minutes till the flight, and I was just going to go in and get on the plane and leave. And he took off, and I walked in, and there was a sign that said, “San Jose flight cancelled.” That was the only flight, at that time, that was cancelled, though the weather got bad in the north, I guess, and they began to cancel a whole lot of flights.

So, I’m standing there, realizing that there are people coming from all over every place to this rally to hear me speak, and I’m supposed to be flying in. And somebody, at that time, is already on their way to the airport because it’s about a 55-minute flight. There’s nothing I can do, and I don’t even have a ride home. So, there I am.

And in the providence of God, they were having a sale in the shop, and I bought my wife’s birthday present, which was really providential at 50 percent off. If you ask her, she’ll show it to you after the service tonight; she’s wearing it. But that was providential, as God would have it, because it’s something she needed greatly; she lost the last one I got her. But anyway, we won’t go into that. I’m digging a hole for myself; you’ll have to help me out. No.

So, anyway, I’m standing there in the airport, and I called, and we tried everything we could possibly conceive to get me to San Jose. There was a flight leaving later, but it was overbooked, and there was a long standby waiting list, and it would get me there not in time to drive all the way down anyway.

And so, we were trying to get a hold of people and so forth and so on, and there was nothing I could do. So, I went home – and everyone said, “Why are you here?” – which was a little bit of a surprise. We had a wonderful evening and a wonderful day. And the Lord, perhaps, provided that day for my family.

But anyway, I went through the next couple of days and a couple of days later, a young man came up to me and said, “By the way, you didn’t get to San Jose, did you?”

And I said, “No. How did you know?”

He said, “I was there in anticipation of hearing you speak.” But he said, “I want to set your heart at ease.” He said, “Another person was there also who had come to hear you speak, who was speaking there in the area over the weekend, and when he walked in the back door, they informed him that he had been elected to take your place. And so, without any preparation, he got up and spoke. And I want you to know that that was of God because the message he gave was directly to my heart, and the Spirit of God used it to change my life. So,” he said, “I just want you to know that the Lord is in control.”

Well, I was really thankful to hear that. I mean I don’t believe for a minute that I’m necessary to what God wants to do, and it’s just as wonderful not to be somewhere as it is to be there if the Lord’s God something else in mind. But that’s how God works providence.

Yet, MacArthur cautions us about leaving planning aside, the ‘let go and let God’ theory, which was only beginning to become an idea when he preached his sermon. No. We must be prepared:

Trusting in the providence of God is no excuse for a lack of planning, or a lack of purpose, or a lack of direction, or a lack of goals. There are those people who want to sit back and say, “Well, we’re just going to let the Holy Spirit lead.” That’s a poor excuse for laziness. Let me tell you something; I believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit, but effective ministry just doesn’t happen without very careful planning and strategizing. “Man makes his plans” – Proverbs 16 says – “but God directs his steps.” But man makes his plans. I mean we spend a lot of time around here planning. Things happen because we plan.

So, Paul reveals his plan. Look at it in verse 23. Now he says, “But now, having no more place in these parts” – that is to say, “I have evangelized this far; I’ve evangelized from Jerusalem to Illyricum and there’s no sense in staying around. The church is growing. There are others who can carry on the ministry. There are elders ordained in the various places; the work will go on. There are no more regions where Christ is not at least named in this area. I have” – as verse 19 says – “fully preached the gospel of Christ all around about Jerusalem to Illyricum.”

“And since this is thoroughly covered” – and I love that idea; he wasn’t going to move on till he’d done the work where he was – great principle, if I can say it to you that are in seminary, learn it and learn it well: thoroughness before breadth, depth before breadth; it is not the breadth of a ministry, it is the depth of a ministry; not how much ground did you cover, but how fully did you cover the ground you covered; not how far did you reach, and not how many, but how complete and how effective.

Paul then draws himself back to his circumstances at the time and tells the Romans that he is taking charitable contributions to the church in Jerusalem (verse 25) from the Gentile Christians in Macedonia and Achaia (verse 26). The people there were much wealthier there than the converts in Jerusalem. 

Note that Paul never collected funds for himself but for the faithful elsewhere. He never forgot the various churches that he either planted (e.g. Asia Minor) or visited (Jerusalem).

Therefore, Paul’s call was to Jerusalem at that point, not Rome, regardless of his heart’s desire.

MacArthur explains that there was a great famine in the region around Jerusalem at the time. Think coronavirus — loss of work and food. Perhaps we are not hungry, but many are suffering because of this political drama. It is milder than Jerusalem’s crisis and worth putting into perspective when one reads the following:

if you read in the book of Acts carefully you will find that there was a great famine. It’s recorded in chapter 11 and into chapter 12. There was a great famine in Jerusalem. And because of the influx into the city of these Christians, because of the presence of those that were saved on the day of Pentecost and never went home, because of the hatred of many Jews toward Jesus and His followers which generated persecution and dispossession of homes and the loss of jobs and even imprisonment — they were throwing them in to prison in Acts chapter 8, they were breathing out threatening and slaughter against them — so the Christians had a very difficult time in earning a living.

Many of them couldn’t get a job. Many of the fathers of the homes were put in prison and so, there was nothing to supply for the wife and children. There was a great need because of the poverty there. And so, in light of that need the apostle Paul had arranged for a collection. He had arranged to take an offering and take it back to the poor saints.

Paul says that the people from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia were rightfully happy to donate to the converts in Jerusalem, because they shared mutually not only in spiritual blessings coming from a belief in Christ as Saviour but also in the material blessings that a united church of believers brings (verse 27).

MacArthur tells us that Paul brought with him to Jerusalem the leaders of those churches to demonstrate Christian unity:

when he went back with the money he also took representatives of all those churches so when he came back to Jerusalem finally – finally, he not only had a large amount of money for the poor but he had representatives from all the Gentile churches there with the money. And you have to understand that with Paul it wasn’t just a question of the money, it wasn’t simply making a certain contribution for the poor among the saints or, literally, the poor of the saints who were at Jerusalem.

It was a way to conciliate two factions in the church. You had a Jewish church in Jerusalem, you had a Gentile church in the rest of the world and everybody at that time knew Jew and Gentile had very little relationship. And so, in an act that was not only meant to relieve some distress by virtue of the money but also to demonstrate the unity of the church, Paul was committed to taking this money, along with the Gentile representatives who gave it, so that there might be conciliation.

MacArthur also explains the meaning of the word ‘contribution’ in Greek:

The word “contribution,” by the way, a very important word, verse 26, the word is koinōnia. It is the word for fellowship. It is the word for fellowship. And sharing money is so essential a part of fellowship that three times in referring to this collection Paul uses the word koinōnia. Romans 15:26 right here, 2 Corinthians 8:4, 2 Corinthians 9:14, he calls the collection fellowship, common sharing. This is to be the priority. Now listen, I believe that Paul in his mind knew that, ultimately, the evangelization of the world would be hard pressed to succeed unless there was unity in the church. And he was committed to the strengthening of the base church, that it might be strong and have its needs met before he went out to reach the world. Very important.

In older translations, e.g. the King James Version, ‘contribution’ is translated as ‘fruit’, which has even more significance. A contribution seems abstract. Fruit seems more tangible.

Henry has more:

He calls the alms fruit, for it is one of the fruits of righteousness; it sprang from a root of grace in the givers, and redounded to the benefit and comfort of the receivers. And his sealing it intimates his great care about it, that what was given might be kept entire, and not embezzled, but disposed of according to the design of the givers. Paul was very solicitous to approve himself faithful in the management of this matter: an excellent pattern for ministers to write after, that the ministry may in nothing be blamed.

In verse 28, Paul is more determined than ever to evangelise Spain, travelling by Rome: ‘I will leave for Spain by way of you’ (verse 28).

Regardless of the outcome of his desires, Paul knew that God would bless him one way or another (verse 29).

MacArthur tells us:

Verse 29, “I’m sure,” – he says – “when I come to you I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” Now what an assurance that is.

He says I’m going to come in spiritual prosperity. When I come to you I’m going to come with blessing. In spite of difficulties, in spite of trials, I’m going to come in blessing. By the way, that last phrase “of the gospel” is not in the better manuscripts and so the verse would read, “I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” I know when I come to you I’m going to be blessed.

You say, “Well how did he know that?” Because that’s the way it always was with him. Some people — mark this — by virtue of an obedient spiritual life always live in the place of blessing. No matter what negative circumstance they may have, they enjoy the blessing of God. He has enjoyed the fullness of the things of Christ throughout his ministry so he says, and I love this. “I am” – look at it, verse 29 – “I am sure.” I am sure …

You say, “How does he know that? How has he enjoyed the fullness of the things of Christ?” Because of obedience, because of obedience. Now he says, notice again verse 29, “I’m sure that when I come to you,” — Now he didn’t know whether he was going to come and the fact that he said that doesn’t mean it necessarily had to come to pass. The fact that he was coming is not inspired, the fact that he thought he might come is inspired. He was planning to come, whether he came or not. But he said, – “When I do come” – obviously within the will of God – “I know one thing, I’ll be blessed.”

I mean, that’s the way to live, isn’t it? To me, that’s the only way to live. To be able to say, “Well I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow but I know one thing, I’ll be blessed. I don’t know where I’ll be a couple of years from now, but I know one thing, I’ll be in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” How can you promise yourself that? Because the key to that is an obedient life. Now that is true positive thinking, not the cheap substitute we hear about today.

True positive thinking says, “I live in submission to Christ, I live in obedience to His Word so I know wherever I am I’ll enjoy the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” Marvelous way to live. By the way, as it turned out, he did get to Rome. That’s right, only he got there as a prisoner. But this still came true. He got there as a prisoner, and even as a prisoner he wrote the Philippians. And in writing to the Philippians, chapter 1, he talks about the difficulties, chains, and some people are criticizing him and so forth and so on.

Wow. These two commentaries took my breath away. Paul, although not one of the original Twelve, was no less an Apostle than any of them (bar Judas, of course).

I know that many of my readers are aware of Paul’s importance. Yet, in a historical context, his ministry is brought to life for others amongst us.

Those of us who are Gentiles have so much for which to be grateful, thanks to Paul’s ministry, guided by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.

Next time — Romans 15:30-32

Trinity SundayWhat follows are the readings for Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Image credit: GodAndScience.org

I have a few posts which explain the importance of Trinity Sunday and the holy mystery of the Triune God:

On Trinity Sunday

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday — an Anglican analysis of its importance

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Wisdom speaks to us through God’s divine revelation (first four verses) and through Christ Jesus (verses 22-31).

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

8:1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?

8:2 On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;

8:3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

8:4 “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.

8:22 The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.

8:23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

8:24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

8:25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth–

8:26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.

8:27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

8:28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,

8:29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

8:30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,

8:31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

Psalm

The Psalm reflects on the greatness and glory of God, to whom we owe all honour and praise.

Psalm 8

8:1 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

8:2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

8:3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

8:4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

8:5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

8:6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,

8:7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

8:8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

8:9 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Epistle

Paul discusses our justification by faith through grace and the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.

Romans 5:1-5

5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Gospel

Following on from previous Eastertide readings in Year C, this is another passage from Jesus’s final teachings at the Last Supper, once Judas had left. John 14 through John 17 are among my favourite chapters in the Bible. I wrote about the following verses a few years ago:

Trinity Sunday 2016: May 22 (John 16:12-15, Year C)

John 16:12-15

16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Sundays after this one are referred to as being ‘after Pentecost’ or ‘after Trinity’. Where used, the celebrant’s vestment colour will be green until the first Sunday of Advent.

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