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

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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

2 Thessalonians 3:13-18

13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Benediction

16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s prayer request for his ministry, the threat of evil men with no faith, the constancy of the Lord in protecting His faithful from Satan and the Apostle’s statement of confidence in the Thessalonians’ Christian journey.

As he closes his second of two letters to the congregation, he gives general reminders, particularly about the importance of work (emphases mine):

Warning Against Idleness

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labour we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.[d]

Paul has a message for those in Thessalonica who are hard working and supporting the church: do not weary in doing good (verse 13).

John MacArthur says:

When I first read it, I thought, “Well, what does this have to do with anything?” and then as I thought, I saw it.  “But as for you, brethren” – that’s the rest, those of you that are working, those of you that are having to pay for these people, having to pass out your money and give them food – “the rest of you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”  You see, the potential was they would become so tired of these deadbeats, they’d become so fed up with giving this money and this charity to these lazy people, that they would become very weary of the whole process, and then when somebody came with a real need, they would be indifferent to it So he’s saying, “Look, don’t you grow weary of doing what is really good.”  The assumption is they were weary of taking care of these people who should have been taking care of themselves, and he says don’t let your weariness translate over to weariness in doing what you really should do, doing what is good.  Kalos is the term that’s attached to the verb there.  It means what is perceived by others to be noble, so says Milligan in his lexicon.  What is perceived to be noble.  Do what is noble. 

You go back to the Psalms and you’re going to find out over and over again that we’re to take care of the poor and that when you take care of the poor, God will bless you.  Go back to Proverbs, you’re going to find the same thing.  Go back to Isaiah, go to Luke chapter 14 verses 12 to 14, and what does Jesus say?  When you have a dinner, when you have a reception, don’t invite the wealthy people who are going to reciprocate, invite the blind and the lame and the halt and the maimed and the poor who can never pay you back, and God will pay you back in eternity in the resurrection.  Take care of the poor. 

Matthew Henry’s commentary has a more uplifting message about the verse:

He exhorts those that did well not to be weary in well-doing (v. 13); as if he had said, “Go on and prosper. The Lord is with you while you are with him. See that whatever you do, that is good, you persevere therein. Hold on your way, and hold out to the end. You must never give over, nor tire in your work. It will be time enough to rest when you come to heaven, that everlasting rest which remains for the people of God.

Paul has strong words about those who refuse to obey the content of his letter: the congregation should take note of that person and, effectively, shun them so as to shame him into obedience (verse 14).

Paul really wanted everyone in the congregation to earn their own way. There were cultural reasons why people didn’t work. The Greeks considered work a punishment from the gods. Even though the people Paul wrote about were Christians, old habits die hard. There was also another group who thought that the Second Coming was imminent; therefore, they questioned the need to work when Jesus could be returning at any moment.

MacArthur says that:

they perhaps have been influenced by some of the Jewish background of the scribes who thought that anything other than studying the law was an unworthy way to spend your life.  They surely were affected by the general Greek attitude that work was demeaning and sordid and base and low and belonged only to slaves and not to freemen. 

And they probably had had those predispositions somewhat exaggerated by virtue of the fact that someone had come along and told them that they were already in the day of the Lord and the return of Christ was imminent and there probably wasn’t much use in doing anything other than evangelizing and studying the Word of God.  And so they had given themselves to that happily because of their disdain for work anyway Problem was, at least long term, if you can call several months long term for the Thessalonians in that Paul had dealt with it when he was there.  Several months later, when he wrote them the first letter, he dealt with it, and here he is writing a second letter and dealing with it a third time They didn’t want to work.  It was beneath them. 

MacArthur explains Paul’s reasoning:

Not only does disfellowship, example, survival, and harmony constitute a motive for going to work, but shame.  Look at verse 14.  “If anyone doesn’t obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him so that he may be put to shame.”  If anybody doesn’t obey the instruction in this letter, I’m telling you, they are really obstinate.  He said it over and over again when he was there.  He wrote it a couple of times in the first letter.  He’s now saying it again, and if these people don’t obey this instruction, you take special note of that man.  Mark him out.  Give him serious attention.  Keep on noticing that person.  Keep your eye on that person for the purpose of not associating with him.  Watch him so that you can avoid him.  Stay away from him. 

Withdraw your fellowship, a double compound verb meaning do not get mixed up with.  Put the pressure of isolation.  Only this time, you’re pushing him further.  This continues to be that third step of discipline where you’re isolating him but your isolation is keeping him at a distance.  You take note, you watch the pattern, and you avoid the man in order that he may be put to shame.  Now you’ve gone beyond just his isolation, you’re trying to make him feel shame.  That’s a distasteful word.  Literally in the Greek it means to turn on yourself, to feel what you really are.  Let him see what he really is, a wicked, disobedient, recalcitrant sinner.  Shame him because he won’t work. 

Can you imagine someone saying that today, especially on social media? The Conservative MP Lee Anderson ventured partially into that territory on food banks last year and got hammered for it. He also said that those visiting his local food bank in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, had to sign up for courses on budgeting and cooking in order to continue to use it. He’s been there and done it as a single father, so he knows whereof he speaks, but that didn’t matter. St Paul would have backed him up, that’s for sure.

Henry is gentler, yet no less firm on the censure:

The directions of the apostle are carefully to be observed in our conduct towards disorderly persons. We must be very cautious in church-censures and church-discipline. We must, First, Note that man who is suspected or charged with not obeying the word of God, or walking contrary thereto, that is, we must have sufficient proof of his fault before we proceed further. We must, Secondly, Admonish him in a friendly manner; we must put him in mind of his sin, and of his duty; and this should be done privately (Matt 18 15); then, if he will not hear, we must, Thirdly, Withdraw from him, and not keep company with him, that is, we must avoid familiar converse and society with such, for two reasons, namely, that we may not learn his evil ways; for he who follows vain and idle persons, and keeps company with such, is in danger of becoming like them. Another reason is for the shaming, and so the reforming, of those that offend, that when idle and disorderly persons see how their loose practices are disliked by all wise and good people they may be ashamed of them, and walk more orderly.

Paul says that the shunned person should not be considered an enemy but rather as a brother in need of correction (verse 15).

Henry says there is always hope that such a person can mend his errant ways:

if they be reclaimed and reformed by these censures, they will recover their credit and comfort, and right to church-privileges as brethren.

MacArthur goes further, citing Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

No matter what the sin is, it’s the same things that should motivate.  The threat of losing the fellowship with other believers, the fact that you have not followed the holy example of those who have walked before you, even the issue of survival – because you can die from continued sin, some Corinthians did – and certainly the idea of harmony, you’re disrupting and ripping and tearing the unity of the church, and certainly shame, you should feel guilt and shame, and certainly love should call you back as those who are in the body of Christ and are your brothers and sisters woo you.  And so this is how we deal with any believer in any pattern of sin. 

And if they resist this, then you can treat them like an enemy.  Then you can turn them over to Satan.  Then Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, “I don’t want you to have any fellowship with them, I don’t even want you to eat with them.”  I want you to turn them out totally.  But here, Paul, one more time, for the third time in three steps, is pleading with the church to call them back. 

Paul concludes with his benediction, his prayer of blessing, to the Thessalonians.

He prays that the Lord of peace himself gives the Thessalonians peace at all times, in every way and that the Lord be with them all (verse 16).

MacArthur explains that Paul wants to ensure they know they have to rely on the Triune God, not themselves:

This is the fourth time he has had, what we would call, a prayer wish, a benediction, in which he expresses the desire of his heart.  It’s almost as if he can only go so far and he’s got this uncapped desire to ask God to enable them to do what he says.  And every so often the praying just bursts forth.  He goes a little while in chapter 1 and then prays for God’s enabling, a little while in chapter 2 and prays for God’s enabling, and twice he does it in chapter 3.  You see, he understands that no matter what you know as a Christian, you don’t pull it off on your own You must be aided by the Lord, you must lean on His resources.  And so in this last simple little closing section Paul calls on divine resources.  He calls on personal blessings from the Lord to enable the Thessalonians, and all the rest of us, to respond to what he has taught.  And he really is speaking about four things that we need.  We need the Lord’s peace.  We need the Lord’s strength.  We need the Lord’s truth.  And we need the Lord’s grace.  And all four of them are in those three little verses; the Lord’s peace, strength, truth and grace …

First of all then he prays or wishes for their experience of God’s peace, verse 16, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace.”  The first two words, “now may” mark a transition.  The word “now” is transitional.  He’s moving from command and exhortation to petition and to prayer.  He is now turning to the Lord.  He is expressing not the prayer itself but the wish in his heart that shows up when he prays.  And his wish is for them to experience peace, peace.  He’s asking for what God has already promised, for God has promised His own peace and strength and truth and grace.  It isn’t that he is asking something that God gives reluctantly or not at all.  In fact, prayer really is asking God for what it is His will to give.  Prayer really is lining up with what God has promised to do.  He recognizes that God has promised His people peace and strength and truth and grace.  And he pleads for God to fulfill His promise.  He lines himself up with what God has expressed as His own intention and purpose.  His first request is for that lovely, that most sought after, that most evasive and that most elusive reality called peace.

We hear and read the word ‘peace’ all the time, so much so that it has lost its meaning.

Here Paul writes of an inner peace that only God can give each one of us. He can only give us that peace when we are reconciled to Him as believers through Jesus Christ.

MacArthur says:

We’re talking about a spiritual peace.  And spiritual peace — the true, deep-down peace — is the attitude of the heart and mind that calmly, confidently believes and thus knows that all is well between the soul and God That’s the peace we’re talking about.  It’s that confidence that everything is right between myself and God and He is lovingly in control of my life in time and eternity.  It is the presence of a calm assurance built on the knowledge that my sins are forgiven, God is concerned with my well-being and heaven is ahead.  It’s a deep-down peace. It has nothing to do with what anybody says to you, it has nothing to do with what anybody does to you, or doesn’t do to you, it has nothing to do with any circumstance in life whatsoever.  It is the peace that God gives to His beloved children.  It is their possession and their privilege by right.

This peace is defined for us in several ways in verse 16.  First of all, it is divine.  “Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you peace.”  The Lord of peace is the one who gives it.  He is the one who grants it.  “Himself,” by the way, that pronoun is emphatic in the sentence and it’s emphasizing His personal involvement in this.  “Himself, the Lord of peace, may He give you peace.”  May God, the Lord, personally give it to you because it comes personally from Him.  It is the very essence of His nature.

To say it simply, peace is an attribute of God I don’t know if you think of it that way, you think of God being characterized by attributes of grace, and mercy and justice and righteousness and wisdom and truth and omnipotence and immutability and eternality and whatever. But do you ever think of God as being characteristically peace?  He is peace.  Whatever it is that He gives us He has and He is.  God is love, we don’t argue about that.  And God is also peace.  He has no lack of perfect peace in His being.  God is at all times at perfect peace.  There’s no stress.  God is never stressed.  God is never in anxiety. God never worries, God never doubts, and God never fears. God is never at discord with Himself.  He is never at cross purposes, it’s never so that He can’t make up His mind.  He is never troubled.  He is never indecisive.  He is never unclear.  He is never unsure.  He is never threatened.

God lives in perfect calm, God lives in perfect tranquility, God lives in perfect contentment.  Why?  Because He’s in charge of everything and He can operate everything perfectly according to His own will exactly the way He wants it all the time.  There is nothing in the entire universe that goes on that He doesn’t know about and there is nothing in the entire universe that can withstand His purposes.  He knows there are no surprises for His omniscience.  There are no unknowns to His omnipresence.  There are no changes, no doubts, no fears.  Even His wrath is clear, controlled, calm, and confident.  There are no threats to His omnipotence.  There is no possible sin that can stain His holiness. There is no sinner who can appear before Him who is beyond His grace.  There is no threat to His immutable plan.  There is no guilt in His mind. There is no shame in His mind. There is no regret in His mind for He has never done anything, said anything, or thought anything that He would in any way change.

He enjoys perfect and eternal harmony within Himself.  He therefore is peace.  And here He is called “the Lord of peace,” the Lord of the peace, literally, the definite article is there.  The peace, not the kind the world has, but the real peace, the divine kind.  He is peace, He is the source of peace.  And what Paul wants is that the Lord of peace would give His kind of peace.  If you look at the Trinity you find that it’s clear in Scripture that every member of the Trinity is peace and gives peace.  First Thessalonians 5:23 says, “The God of peace,” so does Romans 15:33, Romans 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Philippians 4:9, and Hebrews 13:20, a common name for God, the God of peace.  He is the author of peace.  First Corinthians 14:33 says, “He is not the author of confusion but of peace.”  He is peace, the originator, the source and the author of it.

The second member of the Trinity, the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ is here called “the Lord of peace.”  Interestingly enough at the end of 1 Thessalonians Paul refers to the God of peace, here to the Lord of peace, both the first and second member of the trinity equally being God, equally being Lord, equally being the source of peace Ephesians 2:14 says, “Christ who is our peace.”  He is called in Scripture “the prince of peace.”  He is peace.  He is the source of peace.  Colossians 1:20, He has made peace.

Also the Holy Spirit is the source of peace. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.  Romans 14:17 says the kingdom is peace in the Holy Spirit.

So, God is peace.  It is that divine peace possessed by the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — that Paul wants us to have, that well-being that is deep-down settled and confident that all is well with God.

Divine peace is a free gift from God, one that He bestows on the truly faithful:

… we learn that it’s not only divine but it is a gift.  “Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you peace.”  The word “grant” is the verb to give.  It speaks of a gift.  It is a sovereign gracious gift from the Trinity, bestowed on those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a gift from God.

In Psalm 85, a wonderful verse, verse 8, you might not read this verse and think about it, but in Psalm 85:8 I read it to you because it ought to be kept in mind. “I will hear what God the Lord will say, for He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones.”  God grants peace to those who belong to Him.

This is so much a part of the New Testament.  Start at Romans some time and read it in the first chapter of each of the letters: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon, go into 2 John, and as you read you’ll find in all of those epistles peace, peace, peace given to God’s people.  Sometimes it says grace and peace.  Peace is a gift from the Lord.  It is given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ and an example of that, you remember, in John 20 as he walked in the upper room to meet His disciples He said, “Peace be unto you,” in verse 19.  In verse 21 He said, “Peace be unto you,” and again in verse 26, “Peace be unto you.”  He was the giver of peace.  It’s as if the Father authored peace, the Son purchased peace, and then gives it to us now in this age through His Holy Spirit

There’s a third element in what he says and that is that this peace is not only divine and a gift but it is always available.  “May the Lord of peace Himself continually give you peace.”  By throwing the word “continually” in there, he is affirming that it is constantly available.  This is not presumptuous as if God can only give it intermittently. He knows it’s always available.  And he says, “I want God to give it to you all the time.”

Henry addresses the second half of verse 16, about the Lord’s presence:

That the presence of God might be with them: The Lord be with you all. We need nothing more to make us safe and happy, nor can we desire any thing better for ourselves and our friends, than to have God’s gracious presence with us and them. This will be a guide and guard in every way that we may go, and our comfort in every condition we may be in. It is the presence of God that makes heaven to be heaven, and this will make this earth to be like heaven. No matter where we are if God be with us, nor who is absent if God be with us, nor who is absent if God be present with us.

So that the Thessalonians know the letter is authentic, Paul writes his greeting in his own handwriting (verse 17). He would have dictated the rest of his letter to someone else to write.

MacArthur explains that false teachers sometimes sent not only the Thessalonians but also other of Paul’s congregations counterfeit letters:

Back in chapter 2, look at verse 2 for a moment.  Somebody had come along and told them some lies .. And they lied to them about the Day of the Lord.  This was a false teacher.  But in order to make his lies believable, the middle of verse 2 says, he had “a letter as if from us,” to the effect that the Day of the Lord has come In other words, to be believable, the false teacher said, “I’ve got a letter from Paul,” and he was waving around this thing, “this is my letter from Paul.”  And Paul realized he had to deal with this. And I guess he hadn’t really faced this before.  But when he wrote the first epistle it probably came to his attention that people were, one, not accepting it as from him That became a reality soon and is still a reality today.  You still have people today who want to deny that Paul wrote his letters.  But there were…there are those people who would say, “Nah, nah, that’s not from Paul, we don’t accept that as authoritative.”  If they didn’t like what it said they wouldn’t accept it as authoritative.

Well, Paul hadn’t…hadn’t really faced that until he wrote a letter.  So he wrote 1 Thessalonians and now he becomes very much aware that people are going to deny his authorship. Secondly, they’re going to forge letters that aren’t written by him as if they were and therefore they’re going to take truth away from the church and they’re going to add lies to the church and confuse the church.  Well he’s so burdened that they get the truth that what he says to them at the end of this letter is to seal the fact that this is indeed his own letter, he has written it.  He says, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.” He’s dictated the letter, as was his custom.  And he comes to the very end and he takes the pen away from his amanuensis or his secretary and with his own hands he says, “I am writing this greeting with my own hand and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter.”  From now on, every single letter that comes from me is going to have something I have personally written with my own hand at the end, and then he adds, “This is the way I write.”  You can tell whether it’s authentic because it’s going to have my writing, which is inimitable.  We still do that.  We authenticate documents today by a signature.

And what is he saying?  He’s saying I am very concerned that you have the truth of God.  There’s a lot more to come.  I mean, you’ve got two letters. You’re going to be exposed before this deal is over to more of them from me, to some from John, to some from Peter, to some from Jude, to one from James.  And you need to know all of that is the truth of God.  I don’t want any doubt about mine and so I’m going to sign off every time like this.  The only time he deviates from that in the future is in the book of Philemon which apparently, according to Philemon 19, he wrote all in his own handwriting and didn’t dictate it in any part.  And perhaps Galatians, according to chapter 6 verse 11, he may have written the whole of the letter to the Galatians as well.  But always his own inimitable handwriting was there because he was so consumed with the fact that God’s people needed to have the revealed truth and not be confused about what was authentic He was the inspired instrument of truth and God wanted His people to have truth.  And Paul could say with John, he had no greater joy than to see his children walk in the truth.  He wanted them to have the truth.  He knew they needed it.  And so he throws in this which also expresses his wish for them to have the truth and to know it is the truth.

He was very concerned about that.  In Romans chapter 9 and verse 1, “I am telling the truth,” he says.  In 1 Timothy chapter 2 and verse 7, “And for this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle, I am telling the truth, I am not lying.”  And why does he say that?  Well, because there were people who were denying him.  In chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians verse 10, “As the truth of Christ is in me,” and he goes on.  He was concerned about people knowing he spoke the truth.  God is a God of truth, He is the only true God, He is the God who cannot lie.  And Christ is His incarnate truth.  And the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.  And the Word is the body of truth. Thy Word is truth, John 17:17.  God wants us to have His truth.  He’s given us the indwelling Spirit of truth who is the anointing, who leads us into all truth so that we need not be taught by any human source.  So Paul says, I wish you truth, and I don’t want you to be confused about it.

Paul ends by praying that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them all (verse 18).

MacArthur discusses grace:

What is grace?  God’s goodness, God’s benevolence given to those who don’t deserve it.  God’s goodness, God’s benevolence given to those who don’t deserve it.  It is grace decreed by God given to us through Christ.  Grace and truth, it says, came through Jesus Christ.  The grace of God has appeared, Paul said to Titus.  It has appeared through the work of Christ.  It comes to us as the Spirit of God brings saving grace.  And once we become a Christian then there is enabling grace.  And that’s what he’s praying about, the enabling grace, grace for endurance, grace that is sufficient, as 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, for every serious trial.  Grace for service, the kind Paul talked about in 1 Timothy 1, when he says as explicitly as it could be said, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me because He considered me faithful, putting me into the service, (or into the ministry) even though I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor and it was the grace of our Lord that did it.”

Grace for service, grace for endurance, grace for growth spiritually, grow in grace, 2 Peter 3:18.  Grace for love and grace for humility and grace for sacrifice and grace for generosity.  All of those things typified by the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.  In fact, they summed it up.  They summed it up.  They were examples, Paul said, of the surpassing grace of God which is in you.  He wants God’s grace.  There…God’s enabling grace to take them through their trials, to make them effective in ministry, to cause them to grow, to strengthen their love and their humility and their sacrifice and their generosity that they would be overwhelmed with this grace.

It’s available.  There’s no limit to it.  And again, the conditions to receive it are: trusting God, obeying His Word, enduring His refining process, doing good, walking in the Spirit, living your Christianity from the heart, living by the Word of God and praying.  As we are what we ought to be, God infuses us with His peace and His strength and His truth and His grace.

Anyone who wants to know how to live in a godly manner can read the reflections from MacArthur and Henry in my exegesis on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), a long read, granted, but one that explains those eight tenets thoroughly. Jesus gave us the blueprint. It is up to us to live by it, with the help of divine grace.

Henry has a beautiful prayer at the end of his commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3:

Let us be thankful that we have the canon of scripture complete, and by the wonderful and special care of divine Providence preserved pure and uncorrupt through so many successive ages, and not dare to add to it, nor diminish from it. Let us believe the divine original of the sacred scriptures, and conform our faith and practice to this our sufficient and only rule, which is able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Amen.

This concludes my study of 2 Thessalonians.

Next week, I will begin a study of 1 Timothy, along with an introduction to its content and purpose.

Next time — 1 Timothy 1:1-2

The First Sunday after Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord, is January 8, 2023.

Readings for Year A can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Matthew 3:13-17

3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.

3:14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

3:15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

3:16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.

3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Today’s verses describe the beginning of our Lord’s ministry.

Matthew Henry’s commentary provides the context:

The fulness of time was come that Christ should enter upon his prophetical office; and he chooses to do it, not at Jerusalem (though it is probable that he went thither at the three yearly feasts, as others did), but there where John was baptizing; for to him resorted those who waited for the consolation of Israel, to whom alone he would be welcome. John the Baptist was six months older than our Saviour, and it is supposed that he began to preach and baptize about six months before Christ appeared; so long he was employed in preparing his way, in the region round about Jordan; and more was done towards it in these six months than had been done in several ages before.

Henry has a practical application for us:

Christ’s coming from Galilee to Jordan, to be baptized, teaches us not the shrink from pain and toil, that we may have an opportunity of drawing nigh to God in ordinance. We should be willing to go far, rather than come short of communion with God. Those who will find must seek.

John MacArthur says there is proof that Jesus was 30 years old at the time:

We know that Jesus began His ministry when He was 30.  We know that because Luke 3:23 tells us that. 

MacArthur reminds us that the intention of Matthew’s Gospel is to prove to the Jews, beginning with His lineage, that Jesus is the Messiah and the King of kings. This was another pivotal moment for the Apostle to record:

We come to the last paragraph in the 3rd chapter of Matthew Matthew presents the Lord Jesus Christ as King.  That’s Matthew’s particular approach.  He wants the world to know that Christ is the promised King, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the King of kings, and Lord of lords John’s major message is that Jesus is God; and in every paragraph almost in the entire gospel of John, John points up something of the deity of Christ.

Well, in almost every paragraph of Matthew, Matthew is dealing with the kingly nature of Christ, and no different as we come to the end of the third chapter, for here we find the commissioning of the King Matthew doesn’t say it in those terms, but that is precisely what occurs.  In the majesty of the moment, Matthew does manage to capture in all of its fullness.  There’s something strikingly majestic about this text.  All of the anticipation of the previous texts seems to come to fulfillment here, because, as we come to Matthew 3:13, we read the words, “Then cometh Jesus.”  And really, for the first time, the Lord Jesus appears upon the stage Up until this time it has been preparatory.  Matthew has been commenting on various elements in the beginnings of Jesus: His birth, the things surrounding His birth, His forerunner, etc.  But now, finally, Jesus steps onto the stage.  Jesus takes the place of prominence.

The anticipation that has been building since the beginning of this record is now fulfilled.  In chapter 1, verses 1 to 17, we saw the ancestry of the King In chapter 1, verses 18 to 25, we saw the arrival of the King, His birth.  In chapter 2, verses 1 to 12, we saw the adoration of the King, the worship given to Him by the magi In chapter 2, verses 13 to 23, we saw the attestation to the King That is, He is attested to be the King by the fulfillment of specific prophecy. And in chapter 3, verses 1 to 12, we saw the announcer of the King, John the Baptist And now, finally, after all of that, we come in chapter 3, verses 13 to 17 the arrival of the King If you wanna add another one, the anointing of the King.

This is, as it were, His coronation.  This is His commissioning, the beginning of His ministry.  It’s a rich and a blessed section of Scripture.  The King comes out of 30 years of seclusion, 30 years of obscurity, 30 years of being hidden, as it were, finally to manifest Himself to the world.  John the Baptist, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, has made ready the path.  The way is prepared.  The path is straight, and from the quiet seclusion of Nazareth, the Lord Jesus comes to inaugurate His work, to assume His office, and He is commissioned.  He is crowned, as it were, in a very wonderful way right here …

Now, I want us to see three aspects to the commissioning of Jesus Christ First, the baptism of the Son.  Second, the anointing of the Spirit.  Thirdly, the word of the Father, and you will notice that all the Trinity is involved – the baptism of the Son, the anointing of the Spirit, and the word of the Father This is a very important passage for instruction on the Trinity, because all of them are here synonymously, all acting at the very same time; and if you’re looking for a passage in which to find the Trinity, this is as good as any.

Thirty years of peaceful preparation, thirty years of being in Nazareth, now comes to an end.  That is all buried, and the King comes for the storm and the stress of the unique work that God has commissioned Him to do.

Matthew says that ‘then’ Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him (verse 13).

MacArthur says there is no more detail on what ‘then’ denotes:

Now, you notice the verse begins with “then.”  This is very vague.  Doesn’t tell us much of anything.  We don’t know when the “then” was other than the fact that the “then” hooks us up with the time of the ministry of John the Baptist. 

Our Lord was among other people at this time. He did not request a private audience with his cousin:

… in Luke chapter 3 and verse 21, a parallel passage.  The Word of God says, “Now when all the people were being baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized.”  Now Luke then tells us that Jesus came when all the other people were coming.  This was no private audience with John.  This was no little, intimate tête-à-tête.  This was no secret commissioning.  Jesus just came along with everybody else, and we will see the absolute significance of that in a little while.

MacArthur also points out the verb ‘came’, which is ‘cometh’ in his translation:

You’ll notice that he uses the word “cometh.”  Very interesting word, paraginomai.  It is a word that has multiple meaning potential, but it is a word that is used specifically in many places to refer to making a public appearance It was a word used sometimes to speak of the arrival of a teacher, somebody who was to take a public, a significant place in public vision or the public eye.  In fact, it is the same verb used in verse 1, “In those days came John the Baptist.”  It seems to be used, then, at least in some cases, for the initiation of a public ministry. And so, in that sense, this text is saying, “Then Jesus, initiating His public ministry, came from Galilee.”  And, by the way, Mark 1:9 adds, “From Nazareth in Galilee” …

He came unto John, specifically, His cousin and His forerunner; and here it’s kind of a, like a relay race John is about to pass the baton to Christ.  This is the phasing out of the ministry of John and the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus would have walked quite a distance:

We don’t really know exactly where on the Jordan River John was, but it could’ve been as much as a 60-mile walk for the Lord to get there; and, at this time, He’s coming alone Just beginning His ministry.  Nothing really has taken place at all.  He steps out of the obscurity of Nazareth, walks maybe as much as 60 miles, makes His public appearance, initiating His ministry.

John ‘would have prevented’ — wanted to prevent — Him from doing so, saying that he was the one to be baptised by Him, not the other way around (verse 14).

MacArthur thinks it is possible that the two cousins would have met at some point when they were children:

Now, perhaps Jesus and John knew each other.  I know they knew about each other.  I know Jesus knew about John, the forerunner, ’cause He was omniscient I know John knew about Jesus, because they were cousins You say, “Well, how does that, how does that prove that John knew about Him?”  Well, for many reasons.  Perhaps when they were babies they may have played together.  Perhaps when they were little children, they may have spent time together.  Then John went his way into the wilderness, and Jesus remained in the seclusion of Nazareth.  John staying for his lifetime in that wilderness area.  Perhaps they never met again, but I’m quite confident that John knew that Jesus was the Messiah.  There’s several things that help me to understand that.  One is that Elizabeth called Jesus Lord; and if she, John the Baptist’s mother, believed He was Lord, there’s no question in my mind that she would’ve passed that on to her son. And the very fact that he is instantly recognizing Jesus here and recognizes Him for who He is is another indication that, indeed, he knew. 

John rightly points out that he himself is human and therefore prone to sin. Therefore, the Lord should be baptising him.

John’s was a baptism of repentance, and he did not grant it to all who approached him.

MacArthur reminds us:

John’s treatment of Jesus is the very opposite of the way he treated the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  Verse 7, they came to be baptized, and “When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come for baptism, he said to them, ‘O generation of vipers, who’s warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits befitting repentance.’

Now, listen, he refused to baptize the Pharisees and the Sadducees because they weren’t repentant.  You see that?  He refused to baptize them because they were impenitent.  They were sinful.  Here, he refuses to baptize Jesus because He is sinless and has nothing to repent of. And so the whole idea makes no sense to him.  He who towered above the Pharisees and the Sadducees – who thought they towered above everybody – finds himself bowed in deepest humility before Jesus.

Jesus answered John saying, ‘Let it be so now’, in order for righteousness to be properly fulfilled; then John consented (verse 15).

MacArthur explores the verse:

It was a baptism of sinners, and John was, in effect, saying, “If You do this, You’re just saying one thing, Lord, and I don’t know how You can possibly say it when You’re sinless.”  John is saying, “If You enter my baptism, You enter it on these terms, and that’s it.”  Well, what’s the answer?

Well, let Jesus give it Himself, in verse 15.  By the way, these are the first recorded words of Jesus since He was 12 years old and spoke to His mother and told her He had to be about – What? “His Father’s business.”  This is the first time He’s said anything other than that in all of Holy Scripture since His incarnation, and they are words with royal dignity and humility.  Verse 15, “And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.’  Then he consented to him … 

Now, Jesus does not deny that He is a superior and John is an inferior. He does not deny that John needs also to be baptized, because John is a sinner.  He does not deny that John needs repentance.  He does not deny that He doesn’t need it; but He says, “There’s a special reason, John, and permit it to be so now.”  This is an idiom.  “I know it’s unusual, but let it go this time.  Allow it now.  Yield to Me this time.  It’s unusual, but it’s necessary.”

Why?  “For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.”  The phrase “thus it becometh us” means “it is proper for us to do this.”  “This is okay, John.  This is right to do, even though I have no sin, and even though you’re a sinner, even though it is a baptism of sinners, it is a baptism of repentance.  We’ve gotta do it.”  And notice the “us.”  “For thus it becometh us.”  “We both have a part.  You must do this to Me, and I must have it done.”  Why?  “To fulfill all righteousness.”

Now, here’s the key.  “To fulfill all righteousness.”  Does it mean that Jesus wants to do everything that’s righteous?  Yes.  That Jesus wants to do all the righteous good deeds?  Yes.  That whatever good work there is, Jesus will do?  Yes.  Is baptism such a good work?  Yes.  Then perhaps Jesus is simply identifying with it as an act of righteousness.  It was repentant sinners who came to that water.  It was righteous men and women who came to that water; and is Jesus simply identifying with all the various acts of righteousness, all the various acts of godliness and holiness?  Well, certainly, in His life He did that.

Henry says that Jesus followed all religious precepts, and baptism was no different. Furthermore, by being baptised, He set a divine ordinance that we should follow. Baptism is a sacrament in the Church:

Our Lord Jesus looked upon it as a thing well becoming him, to fulfil all righteousness, that is (as Dr. Whitby explains it), to own every divine institution, and to show his readiness to comply with all God’s righteous precepts. Thus it becomes him to justify God, and approve his wisdom, in sending John to prepare his way by the baptism of repentance. Thus it becomes us to countenance and encourage every thing that is good, by pattern as well as precept. Christ often mentioned John and his baptism with honour, which that he might do the better, he was himself baptized. Thus Jesus began first to do, and then to teach; and his ministers must take the same method. Thus Christ filled up the righteousness of the ceremonial law, which consisted in divers washings; thus he recommended the gospel-ordinance of baptism to his church, put honour upon it, and showed what virtue he designed to put into it. It became Christ to submit to John’s washing with water, because it was a divine appointment; but it became him to oppose the Pharisees’ washing with water, because it was a human invention and imposition; and he justified his disciples in refusing to comply with it.

As for John’s consent:

The same modesty which made him at first decline the honour Christ offered him, now made him do the service Christ enjoined him. Note, No pretence of humility must make us decline our duty.

When Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God — the Holy Spirit — descending like a dove and alighting on Him (verse 16).

Henry explains our Lord’s baptism, which was short and at the water’s edge, because He was and is without sin:

Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water. Others that were baptized staid to confess their sins (v. 6); but Christ, having no sins to confess, went up immediately out of the water; so we read it, but not right: for it is apo tou hydatosfrom the water; from the brink of the river, to which he went down to be washed with water, that is, to have his head or face washed (John 13 9); for here is no mention of the putting off, or putting on, of his clothes, which circumstance would not have omitted, if he had been baptized naked. He went up straightway, as one that entered upon his work with the utmost cheerfulness and resolution; he would lose no time. How was he straitened till it was accomplished!

MacArthur, on the other hand, thinks that Jesus had a full immersion baptism.

I agree with Henry. Jesus had no need of a full immerson baptism because of His sinless nature.

However, this is what MacArthur says:

Baptidzo – well, before we look at the word, the context helps us, and so does the concept.  Now, listen, if John the Baptist had a baptism that symbolized conversion — the word “repent” means “conversion” — if it symbolized a transformation, if it symbolized a purification, a washing of sin, it would seem to me that immersion is the only proper picture.  It isn’t just a little dribble on the top.  It’s a cleansing.  It’s a washing, so the very significance of the baptism of John points to immersion.  Further, if Jesus was using this as a symbol of His death and resurrection, that also points to – What? – immersion.  Trickling water on someone’s head does not fit the symbolism of dying, being buried, and rising again as immersion does.  Further, it says, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water.”  Whatever kind of baptism this was, He had to go into the river to get it.  Certainly not necessary for sprinkling or pouring.

Now, I would add that verse 6 says, backing up, “They were baptized by him in the Jordan.”  “In the Jordan.”  Now John was baptizing in the Jordan River.  The word en, e-n in the Greek, is translated “in,” is used often interchangeably with the word eis, which means “into,” and I won’t take the time to show you all the parallel passages. But the two words are used interchangeably, and when they are used interchangeably for the same incident, “into” is the stronger word.  We take “in” to mean “into,” and in other accounts of the baptisms of John, we find the word “into.” And if the word “in” here is used and elsewhere “into” is used, we would take “into” as the strong word, and this word then would have the meaning of “into.”  Now, maybe you’re “out of it” listening to that.  Maybe that wasn’t too clear, but that’s the truth anyway.

And I’ll tell you something interesting.  It says in John chapter 3, verse 23, “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.”  Now, there’s no reason to be concerned about where there’s the most water if you’re sprinkling.  “There was much water there” – water that could be used for immersion.  And in the 8th chapter of Acts, and verse 38, “And Philip and the eunuch went down into the water.  Both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.”

So it seems to me that the references, and, by the way, there is no reference to sprinkling anywhere in the entire New Testament.  The only word we ever have in reference to baptism is baptidzo By the way, Old Testament proselyte baptism was always immersion.  Read Leviticus 14, verses 8 and 9.  So you have the Old Testament standard of immersion.  You have the idea of “into” — the preposition used frequently in reference to it.  You have the concept that much water was there.  They went down into the river.  They came out of the river.  You have the picture of death and resurrection.  You have the idea that this is a transformation that is symbolized.  All of this seems to point to immersion. 

Henry discusses the significance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, a bird much referenced in the Bible. ‘Canticles’ in the next paragraph refers to the Song of Solomon:

He descended on him like a dove; whether it was a real, living dove, or, as was usual in visions, the representation or similitude of a dove, is uncertain. If there must be a bodily shape (Luke 3 22), it must not be that of a man, for the being seen in fashion as a man was peculiar to the second person: none therefore was more fit than the shape of one of the fowls of heaven (heaven being now opened), and of all fowl none was so significant as the dove. [1.] The Spirit of Christ is a dove-like spirit; not like a silly dove, without heart (Hos 7 11), but like an innocent dove, without gall. The Spirit descended, not in the shape of an eagle, which is, though a royal bird, yet a bird of prey, but in the shape of a dove, than which no creature is more harmless and inoffensive. Such was the Spirit of Christ: He shall not strive, nor cry; such must Christians be, harmless as doves. The dove is remarkable for her eyes; we find that both the eyes of Christ (Cant 5 12), and the eyes of the church (Cant 1 15; 4 1), are compared to doves’ eyes, for they have the same spirit. The dove mourns much (Isa 38 14). Christ wept oft; and penitent souls are compared to doves of the valleys. [2.] The dove was the only fowl that was offered in sacrifice (Lev 1 14), and Christ by the Spirit, the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God. [3.] The tidings of the decrease of Noah’s flood were brought by a dove, with an olive-leaf in her mouth; fitly therefore are the glad tidings of peace with God brought by the Spirit as a dove. It speaks God’s good will towards men; that his thoughts towards us are thoughts of good, and not evil. By the voice of the turtle[dove] heard in our land (Cant 2 12), the Chaldee paraphrase understands, the voice of the Holy Spirit. That God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, is a joyful message, which comes to us upon the wing, the wings of a dove.

Henry looks at the purpose of the Holy Spirit in our Lord’s ministry:

He saw the Spirit of God descended, and lighted on him. In the beginning of the old world, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Gen 1 2), hovered as a bird upon the nest. So here, in the beginning of this new world, Christ, as God, needed not to receive the Holy Ghost, but it was foretold that the Spirit of the Lord should rest upon him (Isa 11 2; 61 1), and here he did so; for, [1.] He was to be a Prophet; and prophets always spoke by the Spirit of God, who came upon them. Christ was to execute the prophetic office, not by his divine nature (says Dr. Whitby), but by the … Holy Spirit. [2.] He was to be the Head of the church; and the Spirit descended upon him, by him to be derived to all believers, in his gifts, graces, and comforts. The ointment on the head ran down to the skirts; Christ received gifts for men, that he might give gifts to men.

A voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’ (verse 17).

Henry says that this was the sign that God was reconciling mankind unto Himself through His Son Jesus:

See here how God owns our Lord Jesus; This is my beloved Son. Observe, [1.] The relation he stood in to him; He is my Son. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, by eternal generation, as he was begotten of the Father before all the worlds (Col 1 15; Heb 1 3); and by supernatural conception; he was therefore called the Son of God, because he was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost (Luke 1 35); yet this is not all; he is the Son of God by special designation to the work and office of the world’s Redeemer. He was sanctified and sealed, and sent upon that errand, brought up with the Father for it (Prov 8 30), appointed to it; I will make him my First-born, Ps 89 27. [2.] The affection the Father had for him; He is my beloved Son; his dear Son, the Son of his love (Col 1 13); he has lain in his bosom from all eternity (John 1 18), had been always his delight (Prov 8 30), but particularly as Mediator, and in undertaking the work of man’s salvation, he was his beloved Son. He is my Elect, in whom my soul delights. See Isa 42 1. Because he consented to the covenant of redemption, and delighted to do that will of God, therefore the Father loved him. John 10 17; 3 35. Behold, then, behold, and wonder, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that he should deliver up him that was the Son of his love, to suffer and die for those that were the generation of his wrath; nay, and that he therefore loved him, because he laid down his life for the sheep! Now know we that he loved us, seeing he has not withheld his Son, his only Son, his Isaac whom he loved, but gave him to be a sacrifice for our sin.

Returning to Matthew’s theme of Christ’s Kingship, MacArthur says:

His divine nature needed no special gift.  It needed no strengthening; but, you see, there were two parts that we need to understand here that were taking place in terms of His humanness.  One, He was being anointed for service; and two, He was being granted strength in His humanness.  The Spirit came to anoint Him for kingly service.

Isaiah 61:1, listen to this: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek.  He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” – etc. – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  He has anointed me to preach.”  The Spirit of God came upon Him in His humanness to empower Him to preach, to anoint Him as the Prophet of God.  In Acts 10:38, the writer says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit.”

You notice that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth.”  That’s His human identification.  So His humanness was anointed He was inaugurated into His kingly office.  He was empowered for ministry.  His humanness needed to be strengthened.  Do you know that?  He grew weary.  He grew thirsty.  He grew tired.  He grew hungry.  His humanness needed strengthening, so the Spirit of God descended to announce, “This is the King.  This is the Anointed,” and to strengthen Him in His humanness for His ministry

And, finally, there was one other part to His commission – the word of the Father Verse 17, “And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'”  Now, listen, there’s one thing about a sacrifice Whenever a sacrifice is offered to God, it has to be the right one True?  Without spot, without blemish, and that is precisely what God is saying.  “This One, who identifies with sinners, this One who is to be the dove of sacrifice.  I say in Him I am well pleased.  I accept Him as the sacrifice.”  Great statement …

And so, beloved, what do we see in the commission here?  He is chosen to be a king, but His, but His throne is gonna be a cross.  He’s chosen to be a king, but He’s gonna die, a sin offering.  And so He is commissioned.  By baptism, He identifies with sinners and pictures His death.  By being anointed with the Spirit, He is empowered to minister a ministry that ultimately will make Him a sacrifice.  The dove of sacrifice.  And by the Father’s word, He is said to be the worthy sacrifice.  What an introduction.  What a beginning.  What a ministry was His.

May everyone reading this enjoy a blessed Sunday.

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.

———————————————————————————————

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

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.

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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.

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http://martinscriblerus.com/

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