Explore the Book - Notes Part 3
Intertestament Period and New Testament
THE INTER-TESTAMENT PERIOD
1. THE POLITICAL ASPECT
2. THE RELIGIOUS ASPECT
3. SCRIBES, PHARISEES, SADDUCEES
4. ESSENES, HERODIANS, ZEALOTS AND JUDEA OF OUR LORD'S DAY
1. THE POLITICAL ASPECT (EXTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS)
The Old Testament canon closed with Malachi at about 397 B.C. The 400
year interval between Malachi and Matthew has been called "the dark
period" of Israel's history in the pre-Christian times, because
throughout it there was neither prophet nor inspired writer. As Psalm
74:9 says, "We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet; neither
is there among us any that knoweth how long."
The condition of the Jews as a nation and race at the beginning of this
400 year period should be clearly borne in mind. Jerusalem 200 years
earlier had been overthrown and the Jewish people carried into the
Babylonian exile (587 B.C.). Then upon Babylon's overthrow by that of
Media-Persia, and Cyrus, the Persian emperor, had issued his famous
decree (536 B.C.) occassioning the return of the Jewish "Remnant" to
Jerusalem and Judea, under Zerubbabel, some 50,000 in all. After many
setbacks, the building of the new temple had been completed (515 B.C.).
Then Ezra the scribe had joined the repatriated "Remnant" at Jerusalem
(458 B.C.) with a much smaller contingent of 2,000 with their families,
and had restored the Law and the ritual. Then in 446 B.C. Nehemiah had
come to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and function as governor. So
there was now again a Jewish state in Judea, though of course under
But the returned "Remnant" was ONLY a remnant. The bulk of the nation
preferred to stay on in Babylonia and Assyria (now under Persian rule),
where they were prospering, and where, from the commencement of the
Media-Persian rule, they were treated more as colonists than as
Naturally it is upon the REMNANT, the repatriated and reconstituted
Jewish community in Judea, that our interest especially fixes, for it is
in them that the continuity of Jewish history, nationally and
politically, is preserved between the Old and New Testaments, i.e. it is
they that are the Jewish NATION, in distinction from the Jews as a
scattered and disintegrated race. The little Jewish nation in Palestine
simply reflects the history of the different empires that successively
secured the mastery of Palestine, with the exception of one short
juncture, namely, the Maccabean revolt, when for a short spell there was
independent government again. We may say that Jewish history during
those four centuries between the Testaments runs in 6 periods: the
Persian, the Greek, the Egyptian, the Syrian, the Maccabean and the
The Persian Period (536-333 B.C.)
This is the 2nd of the Gentile world-empires foretold by Daniel.
Palestine was part of the Syrian satrapy, the Persian rule seems to have
Samaria, the central portion of Israel had been repeopled by the
Assyrian emperor in 721 B.C. with a mongrel people. Later, it was from
this area and people that Nehemiah encountered spiteful opposition when
he came to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And now, long years later, in
the opening stages of the inter-Testament centuries, and toward the end
of the Persian rule, in would appear that the rival WORSHIP of Samaria
(Jn.4:19-22) became established, by the founding of the Samaritan
temple. That event dates the total separation of Jew and Samaritan. The
rival worship was part of a more general rivalry, keen and resentful,
which persisted right on until New Testament times.
The Greek Period (333-323 B.C.)
Here is the 3rd of the Gentile world-empires foretold by Daniel.
Alexander the Great is such a meteoric phenomenon in history that one
cannot but wonder what his total impact on the world would have been had
he not suddenly died at the premature age of 32. Catapulted into
leadership through the assassination of his father when he, Alexander,
was but a youth of 20, he completely transformed the face of the world,
politically, in little more than a decade. He is the "notable horn" in
the "he goat" vision of Daniel 8:1-7.
In his Syrian campaign he marched southward on Jerusalem. Josephus tells
how the high priest Jaddua, in his priestly garments, and heading a
procession of white-robed priests, issued forth to invoke the
conqueror's clemency. Alexander, who is said to have recognized in
Jaddua the fulfillment of a dream, not only spared Jerusalem and offered
sacrifice to Jehovah but also had the prophecies of Daniel read to him
concerning the overthrow of the Persian empire by a king of Grecia; and
thereafter he treated the Jews with marked preferment, according them
full rights of citizenship with the Greeks in his new city, Alexandria,
and in other cities. This in its turn, created decidedly pro-Greek
sympathies among the Jews, and, along with Alexander's spreading of the
Greek language and civilization, had its far reaching repercussions in
the Hellenistic spirit which developed among the Jews and greatly
affected their mental outlook afterward.
The Egyptian Period (323-204 B.C.)
The untimely death of Alexander precipitated an interval of confusion
which resolved itself into a fourfold breakup of his empire under four
generals: Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Cassander and Selenus. These are the four
"notable ones" which take the place of the "great horn" as predicted in
After severe fighting for empire between East and West, Judea now fell
to Ptolemy Soter, along with Egypt. Ptolemy captured Jerusalem on a
Sabbath, which the Jews scrupled to break even in self-defense. For a
time he dealt heavily on the Jews, but afterwards became just as
friendly. His successor, Ptolemy Philadelphus continued his favorable
attitude and in his time the famous Septuagint translation of the Old
Testament Scriptures was made from the Hebrew into the Greek language,
which had now become the language of the civilized world. The Jews were
now so numerous in Egypt and North Africa that such a translation had
become a necessity. It came into general use well before the birth of
our Lord, and made the Scriptures known to many of the Gentiles.
During the humane and sometimes kindly treatment of the first three
Ptolemies the Jews in Judea grew in numbers and wealth, but during the
later part of the Egyptian period they had anything but an enviable
time. Palestine was increasingly becoming a battle ground between Egypt
(Ptolemy) and Syria (the Seleucidae). Situated thus, Palestine was once
again "between the hammer and the anvil." In a big battle at Raphia,
near Gaza, Antiochus the Great was defeated by Ptolemy Philopater.
Philopater at this time alienated the Jews by his rash intention of
entering the Holy of Holies. He was resisted by the high priest, Simon
II, whereupon Philopater, returning to Alexandria, persecuted the Jews,
and even started measures to extirpate them throughout his dominions.
When he died, his successor Ptolemy Epiphanes, was only 5 years old.
Antiochus the Great seized his opportunity and in 204 B.C. invaded
Egypt. Judea and other territories, soon after became annexed to Syria
and passed under the rule of the Seleucidae.
The Ptolemies The Seleucidae
Ptolemy Soter 323-285 Seleucus Nicator 312-280
Ptolemy Philadelphus 285-247 Seleucus Soter 280-261
Ptolemy Euergetes 247-222 Seleucus Theos 261-246
Ptolemy Philopater 222-205 Seleucus Callinicus 246-226
Ptolemy Epiphanes 205-181 Seleucus Ceraunus 226-223
Ptolemy Philometer 181-146 Antiochus the Great 223-187
Ptolemy Physcon 146-117 Seleucus Philopater 187-175
Ptolemy Soter II 117-107 Antiochus Epiphanes 175-163
Ptolemy Alexander I 107- 90 Antiochus Eupater 163-162
Ptolemy Soter II again 89-81 Demetrius Soter 162-150
Ptolemy Alexander II 19 days Alexander Balas 150-146
Ptolemy Dionysus 80-51 Demetrius Nicator 146-144
Ptolemy XII & XIII 51-43 Antiochus Theos 144-142
(with Cleopatra) Usurper, Tryphon 142-137
Egypt subdued by Rome 30 Antiochus Sidetes 137-128
Demetrius II (again) 128-125
Seleucus V 125-124
Antiochus Grypus 124-96
Seleucus Epiphanes 95-93
The Syrian Period (204-165 B.C.)
There are two points of special note about this period. First, it was at
this time that Palestine became sectionized into the 5 provinces which
we find in the New Testament: Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Perea, and
Trachonitis. Second, this Syrian period was the most tragic part of the
inter-Testament era for the Jews of the homeland.
Antiochus the Great was harsh towards the Jews. So was his successor,
Seleucus Philopater. Yet the Jews in Judea were still permitted to live
under their own laws, administered by the high priest and his council as
the nominal rulers. But with the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes a
"reign of terror" befell Jewry.
By this time there had developed in Judea a Greek-minded or Hellenising
party, advocating un-Jewish innovations. They were for relaxing orthodox
observance of Judaism with the national exclusiveness which it entailed,
in favor of Greek liberty of thought and manners and forms of religion.
The wranglings of Nationalists and Hellenists for the control of affairs
caused much bitter contention and even murders.
After several earlier interferences with the temple and priesthood,
Antiochus Epiphanes now used this Jewish factiousness as a provocation
to vent his spleen on them to the full. He wreaked a terrible havoc in
170 B.C. Jerusalem was plundered, the wall torn down, the temple
coarsely desecrated, and the population subjected to monstrous
cruelties. Thousands were massacred. The women and children were sold
into slavery. The temple sacrifices were abolished. The Holy of Holies
was rifled and its costly furniture was carried away. Jewish religion
was banned. Circumcision was prohibited on pain of death. A foreign
governor was appointed, a traitor made high priest, and paganism
forcibly imposed on the people. A commissioner was appointed to pollute
both the temple at Jerusalem and that at Samaria, and to rededicate
them, respectively to Jupiter Olympius and Jupiter Xenius.
All copies of the Law which could be found were either burned or defaced
with idolatrous pictures, and the owners executed. The first book of
Maccabees says that many Jews apostatized, and that some even joined in
the persecution. In 168 B.C. Antiochus caused a sow to be offered on the
altar of sacrifice, and then on the very altar, had a statue erected to
The Maccabean Period (165-63 B.C.)
The revolt and resistance movement was provoked by the sheer excesses of
Antiochus. It was started by an aged priest, Mattathias, and developed
by his son Judas, known as Judas MACCABEUS, from the Hebrew word for
hammer. In defiance of overwhelming odds, the godly faith of Mattathias
and his sons blazed out with glorious brightness and called forth the
willing self-sacrifice of a godly multitude. The devotions of hundreds
of thousands led them to martyrdom.
Antiochus' commissioners, in their circuit of the land wanted to
obliterate Judaism and replace it by the king's state religion.
Mattathias refused compliance, slew Antiochus' commissioner. He and his
five sons then took refuge in the mountains of the wilderness, and many
of the faithful with their families gathered to them. About 1,000 of
them were burned alive in the caves where they took shelter.
Mattathias and his band grew into an army. Judas developed a powerful
guerrilla warfare, and they defeated numerous Syrian armies. Judas then
assumed the offensive. Jerusalem was captured, the temple refurnished,
and on December 25th, the anniversary of its profanation three years
earlier, the orthodox sacrifices were reinstituted (which date the Jews
still observe as the feast of the Dedication Jn.10:22). Antiochus is
said to have died in a state of raving madness.
Antiochus' son invaded Judea with an army of 120,000. The Maccabees
valiantly resisted, but provisions failed. Many of the besieged deserted
through sheer hunger. Judas' numbers grew less and less, until
capitulation seemed inevitable and the cause lost. But just when
zero-point seemed reached, Lysias, the Syrian regent, suddenly heard of
a rival regent at the Syrian capital and induced the young son of
Antiochus, with the Syrian princes, to make peace with Judea on friendly
terms, promising them the restoration of all their religious liberties.
Thus the Maccabean revolt, just as it seemed on the point of being
crushed, was crowned with success!
Judas was later slain in battle against a further Syrian army. Under
Jonathan, the younger brother of Judas Maccabeus, the orthodox party
gained the ascendancy. He also became high priest, thus uniting the
civil and priestly authority in one person, and thus commencing the "Asmonean"
or "Hasmonean" line of high priests (so called from Hashmon,
great-grandfather of the Maccabee brothers).
Upon the murder of Jonathan, his brother Simon assumed leadership. Judea
was freed of all alien troops; and from that time (about 142 B.C.) was
once again under independent Jewish government. Except for one short
lapse, this continued until Judea became a Roman province, in 63 B.C.
Simon was treacherously murdered by a son-in-law who coveted the
Simon's remaining son, the able John Hyrcanus, now became high priest
and remarkably extended the power of Judea. In fact, since the
break-away of the ten tribes after Solomon's reign no Jewish king had
held so spacious an area. With him the Asmonean dynasty (135-63 B.C.) is
usually reckoned as beginning; though perhaps more truly it commenced
with his father Simon, in 140 B.C., when a great assembly at Jerusalem
made the dual office of prince and high priest hereditary in the
Asmonean family. The later rulers of the Asmonean line did not have the
earlier Maccabean qualities. Bitter partisan controversies became
aggravated into recurrent internecine strife and a civil war which was
only terminated by later Roman intervention.
Antipater, father of the Herod who reigned at the time of our Lord's
birth laid siege of Jerusalem. After a siege of three months Pompey took
the city. At that time, with callous disregard, he strode into the Holy
of Holies - an action which at once estranged all loyal Jewish hearts
from the Romans; that was in 63 B.C.
The Roman Period (63 B.C. onwards)
Judea now became a province of the Roman empire. The high priest was
completely deprived of any royal status, and retained priestly function
only. This high priest, John Hyrcanus II, marks the end of the Asmonean
and Maccabean line of high priests.
Antipater appointed Herod (his own son by marriage with Cypros, an
Arabian woman) as governor of Galilee. He was appointed king of the Jews
about 40 B.C. On returning to Judea he sought to ingratiate himself with
the Jews by his marriage with Mariamne, the beautiful granddaughter of
John Hyrcanus, and by making her brother Aristobulus high priest. He
also greatly increased the splendor of Jerusalem, building the elaborate
temple which was the center of Jewish worship in the time of our Lord.
But he was as cruel and sinister as he was able and ambitious. He seems
to have had an almost Satanic determination to obliterate the Asmonean
family. He slew all three of his wife's brothers, even his wife Mariamne,
and later his mother-in-law Alexandra. And still later he murdered his
own sons by Mariamne - Aristobulus and Alexander. This is that "Herod
the Great" who was king when our Lord was born.
2. THE RELIGIOUS ASPECT (INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS)
We cannot read far into the pages of our New Testament without sensing
that great changes have come over Jewry since the last writer of the Old
Testament laid down his pen. There are new sects or parties - Pharisees,
Sadducees, Herodians. There are new institutions - Synagogue, Scribes,
Sanhedrin. Jewry (the people) and Judaism (the religion) are now
practically co-extensive, and each implies the other.
The Babylonian captivity had a profound impact on the Jewish people.
They went into exile with what seemed a hopeless incurable infatuation
for idolatry; they emerged from it what they have remained to this day,
the most monotheistic people in the world, the custodians and
promulgators of belief in the one true God, Jehovah. After the
Babylonian exile the Jewish people are totally and forever converted
from idolatry into convinced worshippers of the one true God.
How shall we account for it? The answer is that it was THE MIRACLE OF
PROPHECY BEING FULFILLED BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES. Away back in the
writings of their own prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, the very happenings
that were now upon them had been clearly foretold. The destruction of
Jerusalem, the exile of Judea's sons and daughters in Babylon, the
sudden overthrow of Babylon, the ensuing edict of Cyrus for the
restoring of the temple at Jerusalem these were all foretold 200 years
And in addition to this, God had put a wonderful witness to Himself in
the very court of Babylon. After the emperor himself, the most renowned
figure of the era was the man DANIEL. Through him, this far-famed Jew,
this man of uncompromising loyalty to Jehovah, such miracles of Divine
wisdom and power had been done as had outclassed all that the arts and
magic of Babylon could do.
Rise and Growth of Judaism
Those 50,000 who returned were the devoutest of the devout. They knew
what they believed, and why they believed it. There were certain
absences which strike the mind. There was NO KING and no throne; the
royal line of David is gone. There is NO TEMPLE; and even though a new
one may be built on the same foundations, it can never take the place of
its incomparable predecessor. And no longer is there any NATIONAL
INDEPENDENCE; they are only there on sufferance as a subject province in
a restricted area covering merely a small part of the former kingdom of
Judah. No throne, no temple, no independence! What is left? Why have
these Jews returned to such ruins and wastes and hardships? Why have
they returned with such devout eagerness? It is because there is still
one thing left which has recently become the most precious and vital
possession in all the world to them: it is the treasure of the sacred
SCRIPTURES. These have now proved themselves beyond doubt to be the
inspired word of the one true God, Jehovah; and they are the articles of
Jehovah's covenant with the people Israel.
But besides this, these Jews now see in their Scriptures, the wonderful
succession of predictions concerning the coming of a Messiah who should
permanently regather and exalt the chosen people, and under whose
glorious reign all the promised blessings of the Abrahamic covenant
should burst into fulfillment. All other predictions have come true, as
these Jews have lived to witness, and so will all these further promises
which tell of this coming Messiah.
Now these two things - this new zeal for the Law (past) and this
Messianic hope (future) - lie at the very root of "Judaism," the system
of the Jewish religion which originated just after the Exile and
developed during the inter-Testament period. The Jewish state, as
restored under the remnant leaders, belongs to a different order of
things from the earlier kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Now there is an
utter aversion to idolatry, and the people as a whole recognize the
immeasurable superiority of Israel's religion to every form of paganism.
There is now an impelling new desire to grasp the truths of the
revelation which has been committed to them as the covenant nation, and
a passion that the nation shall fulfill its vocation as the guardian of
that peerless deposit of Divine truth which will ultimately mean
salvation to the ends of the earth. These 50,000 purpose to fashion the
new Jewish state as the holy people of Jehovah, separated from all
others by the most scrupulous observance to the Law.
As professor John Skinner says, "Under Ezra's auspices, a great
reformation was carried through. The principle of separation from the
heathen was revived and relentlessly enforced by the dissolution of all
mixed marriages. Ezra's efforts were continued by Nehemiah, who had set
himself to render Jerusalem safe from attack by rebuilding the walls.
The Law now became at once the standard of holiness and the symbol of
nationality; and in spite of disintegrating tendencies still at work, it
gained such a hold on the affections of the Jewish people that all
danger of them being absorbed by the surrounding nations was at an end."
Synagogue, Scribes, Oral Law
The local synagogue, in which the Scriptures were read and expounded,
and the order of the scribes, who were the specialists in translating
and expounding those Scriptures, assumed an ever - increasing
importance. Alas, there began to form the elaborate system of
interpretations, amplifications and additional regulations of which the
Judaism of our Lord's time was the result. We know what that finished
product was, and how utterly lacking in vital spirituality our Lord
found it to be. More and more the trend became one of legalistic
literalism and religious externalism. There accumulated around the
Scriptures, and especially that of the Law of Moses, that mass of
comment, interpretation and supplementation which became known as the
Oral Law, and which was handed down with such traditional sanctity that
by the time our Lord was on earth obedience had become transferred from
the Law to the traditional interpretation.
The Talmud remains the revered and largely authoritative encyclopedia of
Jewry to this day. After being handed down orally for generations, it
was gradually committed to writing in its various parts and forms, until
finally, about the end of the 2nd century A.D. it was all compiled by
Rabbi Jehuda into the TALMUD, which is in two main parts: (1) the MISHNA
or Oral Law, and (2) the GEMARA, or commentaries upon the Mishna. This
MISHNA, or Oral Law, with its Halachoth (legal exegesis or
determinations) and its Haggadoth (moral, practical, and often fanciful
In our Lord's time the Oral Law was still mainly oral. We can appreciate
what a formidable obstacle He found it. To contradict it, as He did
(Mat.15:1-9, 23:16-18, 23), was to go against the whole weight of
scholarly opinion, devout conviction, and public sentiment. Moreover, we
can well understand that when, in the sermon on the Mount. our Lord six
times used the formula "Ye have heard that it was SAID ... but I say
unto you ..." He was not putting His "I say unto you" over against the
Old Testament Scriptures, but against maxims of this ORAL or traditional
law. His customary way of referring to the Scriptures themselves was "It
In its earlier stages it certainly restored the Scriptures to their
proper place in the popular mind; and its two most characteristic
institutions - the synagogue and the scribe - were meant to perpetuate
this. It certainly did maintain the regular and systematic public
reading of the Scriptures. It fostered devout regard for the Sabbath,
and it kept aflame the Messianic hope, though not in the earlier and
truer spirit. Its evil lay in that which it SUPERIMPOSED upon the
Scriptures. In the end it resulted in such a hard and ceremonial
religiosity, generally speaking, that when our Lord came the most
formidable obstruction to His gracious mission was the dead-weight of
religious externalism, formalism, and self-effort righteousness by which
Judaism had well near obliterated the spiritual truths of God's Word.
There is not a word about synagogues in the Old Testament, not even in
the latest-written chapters; but as soon as we read on into the four
Gospels we find them everywhere, a synagogue to practically every
occupied locality; and when we read on into the Acts of the Apostles we
find them similarly established everywhere among the many Jewish
communities throughout the Roman empire.
This is good to know, for it was from the synagogue and not from the
temple that the early Christian Church, as organized by the apostles,
took its constitution and main forms of worship. Our Lord Himself
evidently visualized His Church on earth as assuming the synagogal form
when He promised that He would be in the midst wherever two or three
were gathered in His name and when He gave authority to such groups to
exercise discipline (Mat.18:17-20). Furthermore, the titles given by the
New Testament epistles to Christian church office-bearers, i.e. "Elders"
(presbuteroi), "Bishops (episkopoi), "Deacons" (diakonoi), are all
carried over from the synagogue, while never once is the title "Priest"
(hierus) appropriated from the Jewish temple.
The synagogue did not exist BEFORE the Exile; nor anything like it with
its regularly constituted assembly and fixed officials. In Ps.74:8 the
word "mo'adah" translated synagogue, should more literally read "solemn
feasts" or "set seasons." It has nothing to do with a synagogue.
Yet it is equally certain that the synagogue was in being SOON AFTER the
Exile. In Acts 15:21 we find the apostle James saying, "For Moses OF OLD
TIME hath in every city them that preach him, being read IN THE
SYNAGOGUES every Sabbath day." So the synagogues must then have been
several hundred years old.
It seems clear therefore, that the synagogue originated DURING the
Exile. There was no longer a Jewish temple, and they were in a foreign
land, but their captivity in Babylon was not of the sort which
prescribed meetings together for religious purposes. The demand was the
greater because all but the older Jews were now losing their knowledge
of the Hebrew language, and were speaking in the language of Babylonia.
Thus regular gatherings would begin to take shape, for the reading and
the interpreting of the Scriptures. So the synagogue came into being
during the 500 years from the end of the Exile to the time of our Lord.
The basic idea of the synagogue was INSTRUCTION IN THE SCRIPTURES, not
worship, even though an elaborate liturgical service developed later.
Also, since the public reading of the Law had now to be by translation
into the Aramaic tongue which the people had learned in Babylonia
(Neh.8:8), the transition from translation to EXPOSITION and even to
discourses was easy, though no doubt it took place gradually.
That such synagogue discourses were common in our Lord's time is seen in
such references as Matthew 4:23, 9:35; Luke 4:15,44; Acts 13:5,15, 14:1,
17:10, 18:19. These verses also show us that the right to utter
instruction was not confined to those who were the regularly trained and
appointed teachers. The leader of the congregation might invite ANY
suitable person whom he saw present to address the people; and anyone
could offer to do so. Thus we find that our Lord, though not trained in
any of the schools, could everywhere preach and teach in the synagogues.
The great institution of preaching - one entirely unknown to heathenism
- took its rise in the synagogue; and that zeal for the Law, by which
Israel was so strikingly marked from the period of the return from
Babylon to the coming of Christ, was cherished and increased by its
arrangements more than any other agency.
As to its CONSTITUTION, the most important feature of the synagogue was
that it was CONGREGATIONAL, not priestly. Priests were always honored
when present, but they had no special synagogue privileges, their
functions being regarded as belonging especially to the temple, where
their right to perform those functions was hereditary. In the synagogue
the office bearers were not hereditary; they were constituted by
congregational vote or consent.
As to DISCIPLINE, the jurisdiction of the synagogue became very
extensive, which was inevitable in a constitution where the
ecclesiastical and the civil law were one, as in post-exile Jewry.
3. SCRIBES, PHARISEES, AND SADDUCEES
The scribes who meet us in the Gospel narratives were a class of
professional experts in the interpretation and application of the Law
and the other Old Testament Scriptures. Much could be said of their
origin as a class as that of the synagogue. They became a class due to
(1) The people's conversion from idolatry to a passionate faith.
(2) The need for special teachers in their exile.
(3) The change-over from Hebrew, as a spoken language, to Aramaic.
(4) The rise and spread of the synagogue.
(5) The cessation of the living voice of prophecy, and their interest in
the WRITTEN Scriptures.
We may say that the new order of scribes originated with the great and
saintly Ezra, though Ezra must not be associated with the elaborate
deteriorations which developed later. There seems to have become two
leading principles of the scribes: first, the multiplying of oral
traditions; and secondly, the introduction of such a system of
interpretation and exposition of Scripture as utterly destroyed its
meaning. The study of the Scriptures themselves degenerated into an
absorption with mere minutiae, a concentration on supposedly hidden
meanings, fuddling engrossment with the mere "letter" of the Word, until
idolatry of the letter destroyed the very reverence in which it had
originated, the true spiritual instruction became all but extinct. It is
not surprising that the people were arrested by the contrast between the
forthright teaching of Jesus and that of the scribes.
The scribes must be carefully distinguished from the PRIESTS. The
function of the priest related entirely to the official ceremonies and
duties of the temple worship. Of course a priest might devote his time
to the study of the Law and the other Scriptures, thus becoming both a
priest and a scribe, as was Ezra - no doubt many priests did just that.
The scribes must also be distinguished from the PHARISEES. The Pharisees
were an ecclesiastical party, held together by their peculiar aims and
views, whereas the scribes were a body of experts in a scholastic sense.
A man might conceivably be all three - a priest, a Pharisee and a
scribe. The priest related to daily occupation, the Pharisee to
religious conviction, the third to special vocation.
The origin of the Pharisee movement was when Ezra and the addendum
remnant returned in which the first ideal of separation became supreme
again. Separation to Jehovah was the controlling ideal. The
high-priesthood gradually became the coveted office of ambitious
ecclesiastics who thought far more of its political advantages than of
its spiritual responsibilities. This provoked a movement all the more
sharply advocating strict adherence to the God-given national Law and
the original ideals of Judaism.
The scribes, on the contrary, were the zealous champions of the
integrity of the Law, and the upholders of all that was distinct in
Judaism. They were the life and soul of the popular resistance to
paganism, which carried the nation safely through the dangers of the
Greek period, in spite of the apostasy of the chief priests. There was
no healing the rift between the priestly clique and the scribes. It went
on and on, until it eventually crystallized itself into "Sadducees"
It was in the days of John Hyrcanus, that the Pharisees, named as such,
first appear on the scene as an historical movement. The Pharisees were
the spiritual successors of the CHASIDIM, i.e. the "Pious Ones" who had
banded themselves together in a secret league to preserve the Jewish
faith when the maddened Antiochus Epiphanes was trying to stamp it out
by fearful atrocities. The name PHARISEES means "Separatists"; and it is
likely that they were first so labeled by enemies because of their pious
but proud and often petty exclusiveness. Separation was the all
dominating feature and the vital virtue in the Pharisee's concept of
religion, and going with this was a fanatical adherence to the letter of
the Law. Most of those who were scribes by vocation would be Pharisees
A further snare was their easy liability to HYPOCRISY. They rested in
mere OUTWARD compliance; then they masqueraded in an outward profession
of piety while covertly sinning. The mass of the people gave up trying
altogether and were resigned to being hapless sinners. Yet they still
admired the Pharisees as representing something which somehow ought to
be, even though the Pharisees despised them.
Undoubtedly in the Pharisee movement there were many sincere and
aspiring souls, however misguided they may have been. Moreover, it was
such as they who kept the Messianic hope aflame and influential in
inter-Testament Israel, and preached the hope of bodily resurrection for
the faithful when the Messiah should bring in His kingdom.
They could not develop in post-exile Jewry while inspired prophets
continued and represented the theocracy in its noblest form; but in the
inter-Testament period, when the living voice of prophecy had died, the
opposing tendencies increased until eventually, just after the Maccabean
revolt, they emerged by name as "Pharisees" and "Sadducees." It seems
that the name "Sadducees" comes from "Zadokites." Probably when the
high-priesthood passed to the Asmonean house after the Maccabee victory,
the Jewish priesthood group, anxious to retain the prestige and
advantage of such venerated tradition for their aims and policy, should
now stress in a new way that although they loyally supported the
Asmonmean priesthood they were still in reality, the Zadokites.
Professor Skinner says, "The Sadducees seem to have been neither a
religious sect nor a political party, but a social clique. Numerically
they were a much smaller group than the Pharisees, and belonged for the
most part to the wealthy, priestly families who formed the aristocracy
of the nation. With the mass of the people they never had much
influence, and they did not greatly care for it. Their one ambition was
to make themselves indispensable to the reigning prince. They felt that
if Israel was to be made great and prosperous it must be by well filled
treasuries, strong armies, and skillful diplomacy ... To expect a Divine
deliverance merely by making the people holy, they accounted as sheer
and dangerous fatalism."
Yet in their own way they were as jealous for Judaism as the Pharisees.
It was their idea of it which was radically different. They totally
rejected the Oral Law, they were skeptical of the Written Law; for we
are told that they denied the bodily resurrection, and did not believe
in either angels or spirits. The Pharisees and Sadducees provoked each
other into existence and mutual opposition. The very fanaticism of the
Pharisees provoked the skepticism of the Sadducees. The
other-worldliness of the one group irritated the worldly-mindedness of
the other. And so the feud continued. The Pharisees tried to influence
the nation from the people UPWARDS, while the Sadducees tried from the
ruling power DOWNWARDS. We can well understand how intolerable to such a
group were the teachings and character and Messianic claims of our Lord
Jesus. Their hatred is measured by their readiness to consort even with
the detested Pharisees in order to kill Him. It was they that were
directly responsible for His crucifixion (Lk.3:2; Jn.11:49, 18:13-14,24,
Yet, not all the priests were Sadducean, It was a devout priest who led
the Maccabean revolt. It was a righteous priest that the angel Gabriel
announced the coming gift of a son as the Lord's forerunner. A
generation later we find that despite the bitter hostility of the chief
priests, "a great company of the PRIESTS became obedient to the faith
4. ESSENES, HERODIANS, ZEALOTS AND THE JUDEA OF OUR LORD'S DAY
The Essenes withdrew from ordinary human society to haunts of their own
in rural solitudes, where they practiced a monastic kind of life and a
mystical kind of Judaism. They could not mix with the vulgar crowd of
temple-frequenters, who they held, defiled its precincts. They were a
community apart. They kept the Sabbath so rigidly to the letter of the
Law that they could neither kindle a fire nor allow food to be prepared.
They counted it defilement ever to eat food cooked by any but their own
fraternity, and would even have preferred death to it. If they were ever
touched by an uncircumcised person they must at once undergo corporal
cleansing. The motive was good , but the method mistaken. But they were
wrongly out of touch with men. Hence they made no real impact on their
times, nor do they receive mention in the New Testament. Yet they are
significant as showing yet further the hungerings and reactings of the
Jewish people during those inter-Testament centuries.
The Herodians were in no sense a religious cult or union. It was
political; and the leading aim of its adherents was to further the cause
of the Herod government. Many saw in the Herods the one Jewish hope of
separate national continuance; the one alternative to direct heathen
rule. We can imagine how the Pharisees, for instance, must have hated
the Herodians! The two parties were bitterly intolerant of each other,
which makes the consorting of the Pharisees with the Herodians against
our Lord all the more astonishing.
The Zealots were in a drastic way the Jewish nationalist party. They
revolted against the Roman domination, calling upon their countrymen as
the people of God to resist human despotism and to restore completely
the theocratic polity. But the opposition of the Zealots to Rome by
force of arms, gradually degenerated into a pretext for violence even
against their own countrymen. It is probable that Barabbas and his
confederates were Zealots, also the two robbers who were crucified with
our Lord. Maybe the penitent robber, like others, had thought at the
outset that the "kingdom of God" could be brought by force. Watching
Jesus on the cross he suddenly saw differently.
Jewry in our Lord's time
One common military control kept order everywhere with iron hand. At
that time Palestine was in five sub-areas - Judea, Samaria, Galilee,
Perea, Trachonitis. The first Herod, misnamed "Herod the Great," had
reigned over all five; but at his death (about the time of our Lord's
birth) the kingdom had been partitioned to three of his sons. Archelaus
received Judea and Samaria, Herod Antipas received Galilee and Perea,
and to Philip was granted Trachonitis. Ten years later Rome had deprived
Archelaus of Judea and Samaria, and had appointed a procurator known as
"Governor of Judea." . During our Lord's public ministry the 5th of
these procurators was in charge, namely Pontius Pilate. He exercised
supervisory control over all Palestine, and in turn was accountable to
the emperor. The procurator's ordinary residence was not at Jerusalem
but at Caesarea. At such times as the feast of the Passover, when
Jerusalem was crowded, and Jewish nationalist feeling might excite
thoughts of revolt, the procurator took up temporary residence in the
capital - which explains Pilate's presence there when the fracas
occurred which occasioned our Lord's crucifixion.
At that time Herod Antipas ruled as Tetrarch over Galilee and Perea. He
too was at Jerusalem when the clamor of our Lord's crucifixion broke
out. Pilate therefore, on learning that Jesus was of Galilee, sent Him
round to that Herod; but Herod threw back the responsibility on Pilate.
The Pharisees had much influence with the people, and Herod therefore
treated them with a careful forbearance. The power of the Sadducees had
been greatly weakened by Herod's murdering 45 of their leaders early in
his reign, and abolishing the hereditary high priesthood. Both the
Pharisees and the Sadducees shared a hatred of the Herod regime. The
Herodians, Nazi-like, had no scruples against using spy-ring tactics,
and always had a double faced card to play between the Herods and the
Yet in the hour of Israel's deepest degradation, when Herod's kingdom
seemed to mock the aspirations of all faithful Israelites with its
counterfeit semblance of Messianic glory, their eyes beheld the Lord's
Anointed, the true King of the kingdom of God, the Ruler "whose goings
forth were from of old, from everlasting."
Those Jewish sects live again today; they wear up-to-date apparel, and
are busy in modern Christendom. The Essenes stayed away in their
monastic solitudes, and the Zealots in their hilly lurking places. Our
Lord took no message to the former, and asked no help of the latter. The
Pharisees were the old-time RITUALISTS. The Sadducees were the old-time
RATIONALISTS. The Herodians were the old-time SECULARISTS. The mark of
the Pharisee is that he is always ADDING TO the Word of God, the message
of the Gospel; the mark of the Sadducee is that he is always TAKING FROM
it, and the secularist Herodian was heedlessly PASSING BY it. The
Pharisee in his hyper-religiosity, could not content himself that
salvation was by grace alone on God's part, and by faith alone on our
part. The Sadducee cannot believe the miraculous and supernatural. The
Herodian in the name of modern progress would trample under foot the
sacredness of Christian service.
These are the three great enemies of evangelical Christianity today.
Perhaps the sorriest feature of all in the behavior of those long ago
Pharisees, Saducees and Herodians was that, although they hated and
strove against EACH OTHER, they all united in common cause against HIM.
Is there anything more astonishing than to read, even early in our
Lord's ministry, "The Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel
WITH THE HERODIANS against Him, how they might destroy Him" (Mk.3:6)?
How intense the hate which made them so lower themselves! And is it not
surprising to read a bit later on, "Then the Pharisees WITH THE
SADDUCEES came tempting Him" (Mat.16:1)? And was there not a grim
strangeness in the way that all three groups closed in TOGETHER upon Him
at the end (Mat.22:15,16,23) in a final, CONCERTED EFFORT to undo Him?
The ritualist will not have Christ and the Gospel in their SIMPLICITY.
The modernist will not have them in their Divine INFALLIBILITY. The
secularist cannot bear them with their "crude" emphasis on salvation
THROUGH THE BLOOD.
The Sanhedrin was the supreme civil and religious tribunal of the Jewish
nation. With that representative body must lie forever the real
responsibility for the crucifying of Israel's Messiah, the incarnate Son
of God. It consisted of 71 members, made up of:
(1) the high priest,
(2) 24 "chief priests" (1Chr.24:4,6)
(3) 24 "elders" who represented the laity,
(4) 22 "scribes" expert interpreters of the Law.
The jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin was acknowledged both by the Jews of
the homeland and those of the diaspora. Its religious jurisdiction was
binding on Jews everywhere.
The Jewish leaders had so shamefully violated the code of their own
Sanhedrin in the unconstitutional condemnation of our Lord Jesus. His
being taken by night before the ex-high priest Annas (Jn.18:13), the
make believe nocturnal trial before Caiaphas in the high priest's palace
(19-27), the sentence and execution without an intervening day, not to
mention many other features, were utterly against the Sanhedrin code of
fair play. And on any showing it was illegal for the Sanhedrin to meet
in the high priest's palace instead of its own council hall, and still
more so for the high priest to usurp the presidency for the occasion!
Perhaps it mitigates these dark doings somewhat to say that this was an
abnormal summons of the assembly and not a statutory meeting - certainly
it is difficult to think that men like Gamaliel and Nicodemus and Joseph
of Arimathea were present; yet many of the members must have been there.
Is there a more tragic verse anywhere in the history of Israel, "Now the
chief priests and elders and ALL THE SANHEDRIN sought FALSE WITNESS
against Jesus, TO PUT HIM TO DEATH"!
THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE OLD
G. Campbell Morgan said, "In the Old Testament we have an interpretation
of human need; and the New Testament is a revelation of Divine supply.
In the Old we have unveilings of the human heart. In the New we have the
unveiling of the heart of God, and the way in which He has answered
humanity's need in Christ.
How unspeakably important it is that we should be enlightened and
inspired, dominated and energized, by the truest, purest and highest
ideas! All our life is either enriched or impoverished, ennobled or
vulgarized, dignified of degraded, blessed or cursed, by the ideas which
govern our minds. Of all books on earth, this is the most wonderful in
its matter and meaning and message. Its pages are alive with an
inexhaustible vitality. There is a glorious moral and spiritual
explosiveness in them which makes new MEN, and shakes whole NATIONS, and
wakes new ERAS, and will yet issue in a new WORLD.
The greatest need of our troubled 20th century is a return to the New
Testament. It goes right to the heart of the human problem - the human
heart. There is today the same heart-need, the same heart-cry; and there
is still the same unchanging, all-sufficient answer given by the New
Testament. That answer is JESUS CHRIST.
THE DOMINANT IDEA - FULFILLMENT!
Dominating all the writings of the New Testament the characteristic
concept is that of FULFILLMENT. Matthew, right at the beginning, sets
the key, and for emphasis strikes the key-note 12 times over with his
"That it might be FULFILLED" (1:22, 2:15,17,23, 4:14, 8:17, 12:17,
13:35, 21:4, 26:56, 27:9,35). Right away, in His first public discourse
of our Lord, he reports as the very crux of it, "I came ... to FULFILL."
But Matthew is not alone in this emphasis. What was the very first word
spoken by our Lord as He commenced His public ministry? According to
Matthew it was, "Thus it becometh us to FULFILL..." (3:15). According to
Mark it was, "The time is FULFILLED, the kingdom of God is at hand"
(1:15). According to Luke it was, "This day is this Scripture FULFILLED
in your ears" (4:21). John, as is usual, contrastively counterpoints the
three synoptics, and instead of giving us our Lord's own first
declaration gives us the reaction of those who first "received" Him -
"We have FOUND!" (1:41, 45). And thereafter, 7 times he reiterates
Matthew's key-note: "That it might be FULFILLED" (12:38; 13:18; 15:25;
So it is, the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old; or to be more
precise, the CHRIST of the New Testament is the fulfillment. He is the
fulfillment of all that the prophets saw, and psalmists sang, and godly
hearts hoped for.
The New Testament is THE ANSWER to the Old. Without it the Old is like a
river which loses itself in the sands. It is revelation without
destination; something is pre-visualized but never post-realized;
promise without fulfillment; preparation without consummation. If the
New Testament is not the answer to the Old, then the Old has never had
an answer, and never can have. But the New Testament IS the answer. It
is THE answer. It is the TRUE, CLEAR, GLORIOUS FULFILLMENT.
THE UNFINISHED SYMPHONY
Try to imagine yourself reading or studying the Old Testament for the
first time. So you read, and of course, the first section you traverse
is the Torah or Law - the Pentateuch. The thing which probably strikes
you most is the prevalence of animal sacrifice. It begins in Genesis 4,
and again in chapter 9, 12, and 22. It presents itself more clearly in
Exodus, until in Leviticus there is an entire organization of
sacrifices, offerings, rites, and ceremonies that somehow point to
realities outside of themselves, yet this is nowhere clearly explained.
However, you read on through the remaining books, hoping to find an
explanation. You travel through the historical books (Joshua to Esther),
the philosophy books (Job to Song of Solomon), and the prophetical books
(Isaiah to Malachi); but although the sacrifices and ceremonies of the
Law are referred to again and again, you come to the end of the Old
Testament without the light you need; and you have a disappointing sense
that the Old Testament is a book of UNEXPLAINED CEREMONIES.
Still you have decided that the Old Testament is just about the most
wonderful book you ever read. So you must read it again, starting at
Genesis. You see the obliteration of the antediluvian civilization, also
God's covenant with Noah that the race should never be flood-destroyed
again. Next you encounter the far-reaching covenant with Abraham in
Genesis 12, 15, 17, 22, renewed later to Isaac and Jacob. Later you see
the 12 tribes freed from Egyptian bondage by Jehovah's outstretched arm,
welded into a nation at Sinai, given a Law and ordinances, and
constituted a theocracy. You watch the covenant people invade and occupy
Canaan; the future is florid with possibilities. But alas, the Book of
Judges follows with its sordid declensions and servitudes. The First
Book of Samuel recounts the change-over from theocracy to monarchy. I
Kings brings disruption of the one kingdom into two. II Kings ends with
both kingdoms swept into exile. In Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther a remnant
returns to Judea; but it is only a remnant. The walls of Jerusalem are
rebuilt, but the Davidic throne is no more. In Judea the Jews are a
minor dependency; outside they are scattered to the four winds. You read
on through the philosophy books, but there is nothing further about them
there; nor is there in the prophets, except in the last little trio,
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, where things are far from well with the
returned remnant. Thus you finish your 2nd reading of the Old Testament
with a sad sigh that it is a book of UNACHIEVED PURPOSES.
You really must read it again, for here surely, the true God is
revealed, as also the way to find Him. You start at Genesis again.
Surely this is the most credible and sublime account of origins ever
penned! You re-peruse Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Surely
this is the most wonderful Law ever given! But your special interest is
now focused on those philosophical books, Job to Solomon's Song, for it
is those that deal with the aching problems of the individual human
heart. In them you will surely find solution! But do you? For although
there are indeed illuminating, penetrating, practical, reassuring
counsels, lessons, and promises; somehow there are no clear or final
solutions to the dire problems of sin and pain and death and the beyond.
You are still left groaning with Job, "Oh that I knew where I might find
HIM!" In the ensuing writings of the prophets you find loftiest ethics
and most startling predictions, but they do not solve your spiritual
quest; and you end your 3rd reading of the Old Testament equally aware
that it is a book of UNAPPEASED LONGINGS.
Yet because of the marvel of Old Testament prophecy, especially prophecy
in the sense of prediction, you persist in reading it through again.
There can be no surviving doubt as to genuineness. Boldly drawn,
time-spanning, markedly detailed foretellings on Egypt, Assyria,
Babylon, and other mighty powers were hazarded and then fulfilled with
such accuracy that any candid investigator must consent, "This is the
seal of the Living God upon these Scriptures." Moreover, the fulfilling
of those prophecies guarantees the similar consummation of the many
others which reach on into a more distant future. The main body of the
Old Testament prophecy speaks as no other known literature about the
future, and garnishes it with the most compensating ultimate
restitution. It all focuses in the idea that SOMEONE IS COMING who will
be God's answer to the cry of the ages. Away back in Genesis 3:15 the
"Seed of the woman" is to bruise the head of the serpent. The promise of
this "Seed" is renewed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in chapters 12, 17,
22, 26, 49. There are traces of it in all the succeeding Old Testament
scrolls, until in Isaiah and his compeers, the stream of Messianic
prophecy reaches flood-fullness. Yet when you reach Malachi again,
although empires have perished, and centuries have filed into antiquity,
and the seers lie in their graves, the Promised One has not come.
"Behold He shall come!" exclaims Malachi, as he too, the last of the
prophets, recedes behind the misty curtain of the past; and you close
the Old Testament realizing that it is a book of UNFULFILLED PROPHECIES.
THE COMPLETED MASTERPIECE
But now, let's say you are introduced to and read the New Testament.
What do you find? You read it over and over, and all the time you are
discovering a book of corresponding fulfillments. In His vicarious death
and atoning self sacrifice, His resurrection and ascension, His present
high-priestly ministry in heaven, and His promised return, you see the
unexplained ceremonies of the Law suddenly flame into new meaning. They
all point to HIM - as for instance the five different kinds of offerings
in Leviticus, the tabernacle ordinances, the annual entering of the high
priest into the Holy of Holies with covenant blood-sprinkling, and his
later re-emerging in his glorious garments to bless His people.
As you read of the Savior's birth, and hear the announcing angel say,
"He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the
Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David..." you
realize that the unachieved purposes of the Old Testament are being
taken up again, and are finding fulfillment in HIM.
As you read His teachings about the love and fatherhood of God; as you
hear Him say, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest"; as you see Him, not only ascending to heaven but
shedding forth the Holy Spirit and thereby coming to indwell the hearts
of His redeemed people - you see the unappeased longings of the Old
Testament philosophy books finding lovely fulfillment.
And as for the unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament, from the
time of His miraculous birth at Bethlehem right on to the climax of His
miraculous ascension from Olivet, He is fulfilling those predictions of
the older dispensation. He proves to be their fulfillment, in His
sinless life and miracle-attested ministry, and most movingly in His
Yes, the Jesus of the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old
Testament ceremony, history, philosophy, and prophecy. In the Old
Testament He is COMING, in the Gospels He HAS COME in visible humanity.
In the Epistles He has come IN by the invisible Holy Spirit. In the
Apocalypse He comes BACK in the glory of world empire.
THE NEW TESTAMENT AS A WHOLE
The 4 Gospels are the very crux of the Bible. All Old Testament
branch-lines converge into one main line JESUS OF NAZARETH. We "change"
here from that which is distinctively Jewish to that which is
distinctively Christian; from the old covenant and dispensation to the
new; from Moses to Christ; from law to grace.
There is an orderly unfolding movement observable in the New Testament.
It has been aptly called "progress of doctrine." Besides design there is
development, besides pattern there is progress.
ORDER OF THE GOSPELS
This "progress of doctrine" shows itself in the four Gospels. Matthew
necessarily leads us, for his specialty is the linking up of the Gospel
with the Hebrew Scriptures, thus introducing the New Testament as the
fulfillment of the Old. "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken,"
is his distinguishing refrain; and he plainly adapts his narrative to
the Jews, of whom, as to the flesh, Christ came.
Correspondingly, Mark's Gospel moves away from the studied Jewish
adaptation of Matthew. There is no genealogy of our Lord's Davidic and
Abrahamic descent. Only twice (as against 12x in Matthew) do we find
"that it might be fulfilled." Our Lord is seen not so much fulfilling
the past as commanding the present. He is the wonder - Worker with power
over both visible and invisible realms. This is the Gospel of action,
and its first intended approach seems to be to the Roman rather than the
Hebrew. It was perfectly adapted to such Roman converts as those in Acts
10, and may well be summarized in Peter's words to them, "God anointed
Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about
doing good, and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil."
Then there is Luke who in the widest sense, presents Him as "the Son of
Man." In Luke the door swings wide open. Here is broadest human
sympathy, universality of outlook, and a Savior so presented as to
engage the Gentile mind at large. The very preface prepares us for this.
The other evangelists, according to Hebrew form, begin without a
dedication, whereas Luke not only prefaces a dedication in Greek fashion
and classic style but dedicates his Gospel to a Gentile convert.
Thereafter, in a way which brings out, as none of the others do, the
common humanity of the perfect Man with all the human family and without
regard to national distinctions or the older demarcation between Jew and
This outward "progress" from Matthew to Luke corresponds with the racial
affinity of the three writers. Matthew, also called "Levi, the son of
Alphaeus," was a Jew, and a near kinsman of our Lord. Mark, or "John
Marcus" (Acts 12:12), was half Jew and half Gentile, hence, presumably,
his name John (Hebrew) and surname Marcus (Greek). Luke, or Lucas, was a
Gentile, as his Greek name, Greek style of writing and Paul's references
to him seem to make certain. And also this outward "progress" of the
Gospel, from Jewish Matthew, through Jew-Gentile Mark, to Gentile Luke
parallels with the three stages of expansion in the Acts of the
Apostles. First the Gospel is preached within the confines of Jewry
(Act.1-7). Then it spreads through Samaria, reaches to the Ethiopian
chancellor, and breaks with Pentecostal effusion on the Gentile (Roman)
household of Cornelius (8-12). Finally, through the missionary travels
of Paul, it is propagated freely and fully to the whole Gentile world
But if, in our three synoptic Gospels, the presentation of the
historical Christ shows these three progressive stages, from its
originating Jewish aspect to its most universal Gentile adaptation, the
4th Gospel is its perfective and protective climax. That which has been
rightly inferred from the reports of the three is now plainly declared
in the review by the fourth; the historical Jesus is the eternal Son. He
who is Israel's Messiah is Himself Jehovah. He who is the world's Savior
is the world's Maker. He not only teaches truth, He is the Truth. He
imparts life because He is the life.
THE BOOK OF THE ACTS
As for doctrinal progress in the Acts, was there ever a more wonderful
unfolding of events and truths going hand-in-hand? We start with the
renewed offer of the "kingdom" to the Jews, and end with the "churches"
planted throughout the lands of the Gentiles; and from beginning to end,
under the control of the now-invisible Lord, the evolution of outward
events is made to register the corresponding evolution of evangelical
doctrine. The Lord who was visible in the Gospels is now invisible, but
at every necessary point there is an unmistakably supernatural
intervention, so that the guiding of the history might be seen as the
sealing of the doctrine.
The Acts must immediately follow the Gospels, for we need to see the now
completed external facts of our Lord's life, death, resurrection and
ascension in their first meaning for the Jews. Equally must the Acts
precede the Christian Church Epistles, for we are thereby prepared to
see the Christ-facts in their fuller meaning for the Church.
Yes, as the story opens, Jesus crucified, risen, ascended, is Israel's
MESSIAH; but more and more as the story unfolds He is the world's
SAVIOR. Yes, all over the earlier pages we find "To the Jew first"; but
more and more legibly, as the later pages are turned, we find "and also
to the Gentile." Yes, wonderful are the outward miracle-signs which fill
the earlier pages, then later decrease; but far more wonderful are the
inward soul-saving truths which go on expanding all the way through.
The Messianic kingdom has now been twice offered and twice rejected. In
the Gospels it was offered through the lips of Christ Himself, but
Israel rejected it and nailed Him to the cross. Now, in the Acts, it is
offered again by the crucified, risen, ascended Jesus, through
Spirit-fired, miracle-attested messengers; and Israel rejects it again.
First the Jews of the homeland finalize THEIR rejection in the martyring
of Stephen. Later, the Jews of the Dispersion, gathered in their
representative thousands at Jerusalem, signalize THEIR rejection in the
attempted lynching of Paul (Act.22).
Yet although Israel, civically and representatively, has now twice
rejected Jesus and the offered kingdom, there are GROUPS of men and
women, both Jews and Gentiles, in Judea and Samaria and throughout the
Roman world, who HAVE believed on Him and who DO own Him as King. What
of THEM? Why, they now become the very crux of the story. As Israel's
refusal crystallizes into hard-set fixity, there generally emerges the
realization that the very failure of Israel is being sovereignly
overruled in the formation of the CHURCH, of which those many scattered
groups of believers are the first units!
There are three words which concentrate for us the meaning of the
Christian life. As I Corinthians 13:13 puts it, "And now abideth faith,
hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." Now the
three principal writers of our New Testament epistles are Paul, Peter
and John, and they come in that order. They all speak about faith and
hope and love, yet each one has an emphasis. First comes Paul, who is
distinctively the apostle of FAITH. Next comes Peter, the apostle of
HOPE. Last comes John the apostle of LOVE. If you change their
positional order, you foil the true spiritual order. Their present
arrangement is designed to indicate the true order of spiritual
Take the nine Christian Church Epistles. The first four emphasize the
Cross; the next three the Church; the last two the Lord's second coming.
Is not that true progress?
Take the nine Hebrew Christian Epistles and their characteristic
emphases. The first two stress "faith" and "works." The next two
emphasize "hope" and "growth." The next four (John and Jude) "love" and
then "contending." Finally the Apocalypse speaks of "overcoming" and
"inheriting." What noble system of progess is here! Look it through
leisurely and see how the spiritual balance is preserved at each forward
step of the progress.
From beginning to end of the New Testament there is a sustained movement
of progress until the thorn-crowned Christ of the Cross is the
glory-crowned King of the new Jerusalem.
Praise we the God of Love,
Whose wonderous thoughts to men
Have been transmitted from above
Through inspiration's pen;
Whose Spirit moved and wrought
Through holy men of old,
And thus to all the ages brought
The Book of worth untold.
THE FOUR GOSPELS COLLECTIVELY
Each contributes a unique aspect, yet all blend in such a fourfold unity
of presentation as only Divine superintendence could have effected. It
is their unity of subject plus their diversity of treatment which makes
them so interesting to the mind, and so satisfying to the heart, in
their portraiture of the historical "Jesus of Nazareth."
A SIGNIFICANT PARALLEL
There is a parallel between the four Gospels and the four "living
creatures" in the opening vision of the prophet Ezekiel. "As for the
likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face
of a lion, on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the
left side; they four also had the face of an eagle" (Ez.1:10). The lion
symbolizes supreme strength, kingship; the man, highest intelligence;
the ox, lowly service; the eagle, heavenliness, mystery, Divinity.
Matthew - the Messiah-King (the Lion)
Mark - Jehovah's Servant (the Ox)
Luke - the Son of Man (the Man)
John - the Son of God (the Eagle)
It needs all four aspects to give the full truth. As Sovereign He comes
to reign and rule. As Servant He comes to serve and suffer. As Son of
Man He comes to share and sympathize. As Son of God He comes to reveal
and redeem. Wonderful fourfold blending - sovereignty and humility;
humanity and Deity!
The lion was the emblem of the tribe of Judah, the royal tribe, that in
which the Davidic dynasty ran. In Matthew our Lord is uniquely "the Lion
of the tribe of Judah," "the Root of David," the "King and Lawgiver."
The opening sentence at once gives the key: "The book of the generation
of Jesus Christ, the Son of DAVID, the Son of ABRAHAM." That beginning
is peculiar to Matthew, as also is the genealogy which immediately
follows it, in which our Lord's human lineage is traced downwards from
Abraham through David. Mark has no such genealogy. Luke travels right
back to Adam. John goes right back into eternity. Each has a beginning
peculiar to itself and in keeping with the special emphasis which is
thereafter maintained throughout. All expositors agree that Matthew is
the Gospel in which, as in no other, our Lord is offering Himself to the
Jews as their Messiah-King, performing His Messianic
miracle-credentials, and uttering the "laws" and the "mysteries" of the
The ox is the emblem of lowly service. Especially among old-time
easterners it represented patient, productive labor. All students of the
Gospels have noticed that Mark is preeminently "the Gospel of action."
No genealogy is prefixed, and there are only the briefest snatches of
our Lord's discourses, where given at all (which alone is why Mark's
story is the shortest of the four). The emphasis right through is on
Christ as the active One, the strong but lowly Servant; and the
characteristic word (which in the Greek occurs 43x) is "straightway."
Equally clear, in Luke it is "the face of a man." There is no obscuring
of His kingship or His Deity, nor is there any obtruding of His
humanity, yet Luke has lifted up the lovely manhood and its human
sympathies in a way which is unmistakably peculiar to this 3rd Gospel.
He begins with noticeably human touches, telling us about the parents
and the birth of that wonder babe, "John the Baptist" (Matthew, Mark,
and John give nothing of this). Then he narrates the birth of Jesus,
telling of the pre-natal journey to Bethlehem, and of the birth in the
outhouse because there was no room in the KATALUMA, or traveler’s
enclosure; and instead of bringing eastern sages to Jerusalem inquiring
"Where is He that is born KING?" he tells how angels sang to local
shepherds, "Unto you is born this day a SAVIOR." Thereafter he tells us
how in His babyhood Jesus was presented in the temple, how when He was
12 He went with His parents to the Passover at Jerusalem; how He
continued with them as an obedient Son; and how He "increased in wisdom
and stature, and in favor with God and man."
All this is found ONLY in Luke. He was a doctor, and perhaps Mary would
feel that she could therefore speak with less reserve to him about our
Lord's birth and childhood. It is not until the latter half of chapter 3
that Luke gives us the genealogy, but in it, having traveled back by a
different route (i.e. by Mary's ancestors) to David, and linking there
with the main line back to Abraham, he pushes right back to Adam, the
There is no human genealogy in John's prologue, but in a few profound
strokes of the pen he has lifted us to a loftier and sublimer height
than any of the other Gospels. What is mere EARTHLY antiquity? To begin
with this wonderful Christ you must go right beyond the first sunrise of
time, into ETERNITY! Before the world had its beginning the Word had His
being. "In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and
the Word was God . . . All things were made by Him; and without Him was
not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the
light of men."
He is not just the "Son of David," or the "Son of Abraham" or the "Son
of Adam" - He is the SON OF GOD. He is the WORD, and therefore
co-eternal with the eternal MIND. But lest as such He should be thought
of as impersonal, He is also the SON, and therefore co-personal with the
FATHER. Albeit, although He is co-eternal and co-personal with the
Father, He is not personally identical with the Father; nay, as the Word
He was "WITH God," and as the Son He is "IN THE BOSOM OF the Father."
Nor is even this all; for, lest He should be thought essentially
subordinate to the Father - as a word is to a thought, or a son to a
father - He is also the LIFE and the LIGHT. He does not merely transmit
the life or reflect the light - He "IS" the life, He "IS" the light. The
life is "IN Him." The light shines "FROM Him."
As the "Light" He REVEALS. As the "Son" He REDEEMS. As the "Life" He
RENEWS. There is no obscuring of the manhood; but the emphasis is on the
Godhead. It is the "eagle" aspect.
Matthew writes with first reference to THE HEBREW mind. Perhaps that
will have been gathered already from his repeated references to the Old
Testament. Mark, the travel companion of Peter, writes with a primary
applicability to THE ROMAN mind, presenting our Lord more pronouncedly
as the mighty Miracle-worker. Luke, the travel-physician of Paul, adapts
his approach with equal appropriateness to THE GREEK mind, more
prominently exhibiting the matchless manhood of the Friend and Savior of
sinners. John, whose writing occupies a unique place, being an
interpretation as well as a record, and composed practically a
generation after the others, writes more particularly for THE CHURCH, to
emphasis the unqualified Deity of our Lord Jesus, but also to set forth
for the whole world of mankind, without racial distinction, the
revelation of Divine "grace and truth" through "the Word become flesh."
It has been truly observed that those three peoples of old - the Jew,
the Greeks, the Romans - represent, as no others, human types which
persist right through our racial history. They represent religion,
culture, and administration (especially legal and commercial). The first
three Gospels spoke then with particular adaptedness to those three, and
they still do, complemented and crowned by John, with his one Divine
"Word" for the whole human world.
SYNOPTICS vs. JOHN
The OUTER facts of His life. The INNER facts of His life.
The HUMAN aspects of His life. The DIVINE aspects of His life.
The PUBLIC discourses (largely). The PRIVATE discourses (largely).
The GALILEAN ministry (mainly). The JUDEAN ministry (mainly).
What is the subject of Christ's preaching? According to Matthew it is
"the kingdom of heaven." According to Luke it is "the kingdom of God."
This expression "the kingdom of God" had its dangers for the Jewish
mind. It occurs in Matthew's writing only 3-4 times. The Hebrew had no
superlatives. To express the superlative it used the word "God." What is
it that is to be described? Is it that magnificent, that exceeding great
city? Then the language calls it the "city of God." Is it the unexcelled
cedars of Lebanon? Then the Hebrew calls them "the cedars of God." Had
Matthew used the expression "the kingdom of God," the Jew would have
been in the way of falling into his favorite error, thinking of the
kingdom only in its outward aspects, as a kingdom of superlative
material magnificence, splendor and wealth - for the Jew! "This is just
what we have been waiting for," he would have said.
On the other hand, what is "the kingdom of heaven" to the Gentile? It is
something which sounds vague and unreal to him. Luke has a different
name therefore. The kingdom that Jesus proclaimed is "the kingdom of
God." Is not that startling? "The kingdom of God," mind you - nothing to
do with any of the paltry, petty deities of polytheistic heathendom, but
the kingdom of the one true Creator-God. Luke lived in a day when
thousands of disillusioned men and women were turning from the
unrealities and stupidities of Greek and Roman polytheism to seek the
true Reality. It was this break-away which accounted for the increasing
proselytizing to the Hebrew faith. It was inspired strategy to announce
this "kingdom of God!" This was the word needed for the Gentile.
It is interesting also, to note the characteristic way in which each of
the four records ends, and the progress of thought that the four endings
exhibit when taken together. Matthew ends with our Lord's RESURRECTION.
Mark goes further, and ends with His ASCENSION. Luke goes still further,
and ends with the promise of THE SPIRIT. John completes the four by
ending with the promise of HIS SECOND COMING. How appropriate that
Matthew, the Gospel of the mighty Messiah-King, should end with the
mighty act of His resurrection, the crowning proof of Messiahship and
Divine power! How perfectly fitting that Mark, the Gospel of the lowly
Servant, should end with the lowly One exalted to the place of honor!
How beautifully in keeping that Luke, the Gospel of the
sympathetic-hearted ideal Man, should end with the promise of the coming
enduement! How fitting a completion that John, the Gospel of the Divine
Son, written with special thought for the Church, should end with the
risen Lord's own promise of His return! Truly, the interwoven design
exhibited by the four "Gospels" makes them a masterpiece of variety in
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW:
THE PROMISED KING ATTESTED YET
REJECTED: SLAIN YET RISEN
Introduction: Genealogy, Nativity, Baptism, Temptation
1. THE DETOUR IN GALILEE (4:12-CH.18)
a) What Jesus Taught - The Tenfold Message 5-7
b) What Jesus Wrought - The Ten "Mighty Works" 8-10
c) What People Thought - The Ten Reactions 11-18
2. THE CLIMAX IN JUDEA (19-28)
a) The Presentation - Jesus Offered as King 19-25
b) The Crucifixion - Jesus Slain as Felon 26-27
c) The Resurrection - Jesus Risen as Savior 28
About Matthew Himself
1. He was a "PUBLICAN," a Jew who had become a taxgatherer for the hated
Romans, which was regarded as deeply dishonorable. Only Matthew has the
self-humbling reminder, "Matthew the publican" and he alone preserves
the stinging words, "The publicans and the harlots" (21:31).
2. He became a disciple of Jesus. Mark and Luke tell that he hospitably
opened "his own house" to our Lord; and he gave a great feast for many
other publicans to hear Jesus; and (a hint of his considerable money)
that "he left all." Not one of these things does Matthew himself
3. He was later appointed an apostle. Matthew and Thomas go together
each time and are given in that order by Mark and Luke, but Matthew puts
Thomas first - another incidental token of humility.
Matthew properly leads our four Gospels. As none of the others, he links
the New with the Old, showing our Lord's fulfilling of the Hebrew
Scriptures. He has more Old Testament quotations and allusions than Mark
and Luke together. Moreover, since Matthew (and only he) writes
primarily for the JEWS, is he not the true leader-in of the NEW, as well
as the obvious link back with the Old? For even the New is "to the Jew
Up to Ch.4:12 all is introductory - and in Judea. After Ch.19:1 all is
culminative - back in Judea. Between the two is the ministry in Galilee,
which occupies the bulk of the book. The silencing of the forerunner's
voice had given solemn signal that the voice of the King Himself should
now speak with full publicity; but there was an awful hostility in
Jerusalem which threatened to abort the predesigned message and ministry
of the King. So, "He departed INTO Galilee" (4:12). After He had
finished His predesigned words and works in Galilee, and the hour had
struck for the decisive presentation of Himself at Jerusalem, "He
departed FROM Galilee" (19:1).
Matthew so clearly demarcates the "into" and the "out of" Galilee, for
it helps us to keep in mind that the whole Galilean ministry was in
reality a kind of DETOUR. Our Lord's objective was Jerusalem, but
circumstances made an immediate approach impractical; and the Galilean
detour became a necessary strategy.
THE MINISTRY IN GALILEE
Matthew is an impressionist rather than particularist. His strategy is
to present meaningful groupings of our Lord's sayings and doings; of the
impacts which He made; and of the reactions thereby provoked. Matthew
thus is the perfect preparation for the other three Gospels.
First, chapters 5-7 is a grouping of our Lord's TEACHINGS; in chapters
8-10 there is a grouping together of our Lord's MIRACLES; and in
chapters 11-18 there is a grouping of the various REACTIONS to our Lord
and His ministry, accompanied with His own counter-reactions or
verdicts. These three groupings seem to run in tens.
The Tenfold Message
1. The Beatitudes 5:3-16 6. Social Discernment 7:1-6
The Subjects of the Kgdm. Censuring, Indiscretion
2. Moral Standards 5:17-48 7. Encouragements 7:7-11
Christ vs. "It was said" Prayer makes it all Practical
3. Religious Motives 6:1-18 8. Summary in a Sentence 7:12
Alms, Prayer, Fasting Such a Life Fulfills Scripture
4. Mammon Worship 6:19-24 9. The Alternatives 7:13-14
Earthiness vs. Godliness Two Ways, Broad vs. Narrow
5. Temporal Cares 6:25-34 10. Final Warnings 7:15-27
Anxiety vs. Trust in God False prophets, profession, foundation
In this part on Jesus teachings, the first three sections concern
virtues, morals and motives. The next three concern things material,
temporal, social. The next three give encouragement, summary,
exhortation. The discourse then closes with three solemn warnings.
The Ten Miracles
1. The Cleansing of the Leper 8:1-4
2. Centurion’s Servant: Palsy 8:5-13
3. Peter's Wife's Mother: Fever 8:14-15
4. The Stilling of the Storm 8:23-27
5. Gergesene Demoniacs Healed 8:28-34
6. The Man Cured of the Palsy 9:1-8
7. The Woman with Hemorrhage 9:18-22
8. The Ruler's Daughter Raised 9:23-26
9. Two Blind Men Given Sight 9:27-31
10. The Dumb Demoniac Healed 9:32-34
In this grouping of the miracles there are two generalizing statements
that Jesus healed "all" and "every" sickness; yet it remains that only
the above noted ten are particularized. There is a representativeness
and completeness about them. The first three miracles heal functional
physical diseases which affect THE WHOLE BODY, i.e. leprosy, palsy,
fever. The next three show our Lord's power in other spheres, i.e. in
the NATURAL realm (the stilling of the storm), in the SPIRIT realm (the
expelling of the demons), in the MORAL realm (thy sins be forgiven
thee). The final four concern local and organic ailments of the body,
i.e. bleeding, blindness, dumbness, and the crowning power-display of
raising the dead.
Take the first trio - with three things that JESUS HIMSELF did or said.
Nothing would startle the Jew like the instantaneous cure of leprosy. So
Matthew puts it first. Yet to crown such a wonder, "Jesus put forth His
hand and TOUCHED him. . ." That Jesus thus touched the loathsome
untouchable made the cure as much a revelation of God-like compassion as
of superhuman power. Next in the healing of the palsied servant of the
Gentile centurion Jesus makes the astonishing statement, "Many shall
come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and
Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the
kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness."
Take the second trio - and three remarkable utterances ABOUT Jesus. The
stilling of the storm evokes the wonder-struck exclamation, "What manner
of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!" Next the
demons in the two Gergesene demoniacs cry out, "Jesus, Son of God! Art
Thou come hither to torment us before the time?" Next, as the palsied
man is cured, the Scribes mutter, "This man blasphemeth," thus provoking
the immensely revealing rejoinder, "The Son of Man hath power on earth
to forgive sins."
Look now at the remaining four - four notable CULMINATIONS. In the
raising of the dead girl to life we see a culmination of faith, even
though she is dead. In that of the hemorrhaging woman, faith that even
to touch the garment of Jesus will bring healing, without even a word
from Himself. In the case of the two blind men faith even amid blindness
and apart from all visible evidence. Finally, in the cure of the dumb
demoniac, the emphasis is thrown on the wicked cynicism of the Pharisees
- a culmination of hostile prejudice and unbelief, for they even dare to
attribute our Lord's gracious cures to complicity with Satan!
The Ten Reactions
1. John the Baptist - Undecided 11:2-15
2. "This Generation" - Unresponsive 11:16-19
3. Galilean Cities - Unrepentant 11:20-30
4. The Pharisees - Unreasonable 12:2,10,14,24,38
5. The Multitudes - Undiscerning 13:13-15
6. Nazarethites - Unbelieving 13:53-58
7. Herod the King - Unintelligent 14:1-13
8. Jerusalem Scribes - Unconciliatory 15:1-20
9. Pharisees, Sadducees - Unrelenting 16:1-12
10. The Twelve Apostles - Glad Recognition 16:13-20
The general reaction at the end of the Galilean ministry may be summed
up in the prefix "un." Later in the climax at Jerusalem, the passive
"UN" was to give place to the active, fateful "anti." It was already
evident while the long-promised kingdom was welcome enough in its
material aspects (i.e. the healing of the sick and the feeding of the
hungry), there was mass unwillingness to accept its ethical and
Going with the ten reactions recorded by Matthew are our Lord's
counter-reactions, which are equally arresting. His reaction to the
undecided John evokes an eye-opening explanation of the forerunner's
prophetic identity and positional significance. His reaction to the
unresponsiveness of "this generation" is sad resignation with the
comment, "But wisdom is justified of her children"; i.e. although there
had not been a worthy response either to ascetic John or to His own
social friendliness, the fault lay in the hearers, not in the approach.
His reaction to the impenitent cities, as collective units, was to
predict judgment, and turn away from them with a new message for the
INDIVIDUAL, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden. . ."
To the unreasonable Pharisees His reaction is an awesome warning against
perverting the truth too far and perpetrating unpardonable insult to the
Holy Spirit. To the misty-minded multitude it is that henceforth His
kingdom teaching becomes mainly by parable. To His disdaining townsmen
it is a suspension of His mighty works. Toward Herod it is silence and
avoidance. To the Jerusalem scribes it is to charge them with
hypocritically nullifying the very Scriptures of which they were
professedly the custodians. To the Saducees it is a rebuke and refusal.
To the Twelve, who recognize and confess Him, it is, "Blessed!. . .flesh
and blood hath not revealed it. . .and upon this Rock I will build My
After this, until His departure from Galilee, our Lord no more addresses
the public, but devotes instruction to His disciples alone. Already, as
the Galilean detour nears its end, our Lord sees Israel's implicit
rejection of King and kingdom, and announces the coming new
dispensational turning-point: "I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH."
THE CLIMAX IN JUDEA
Chapter 19 begins, "And it came to pass that when Jesus had finished
these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of
JUDEA. . ." Then Matthew's story quite naturally forms itself around
three successive developments:
1. The Presentation 19-25
2. The Crucifixion 26-27
3. The Resurrection 28
By the "Presentation" we mean our Lord's public presentation of Himself
as Israel's Messiah-King. This part of the narrative runs in a fourfold
The Journeying TO the City 19-22
The Entry INTO the City 21:1-17
The Clashes IN the City 21:18-Ch.23
The Discourse on Olivet 24-25
First, in the JOURNEY to the city we are to see that our Lord foreknew
the outcome of His timed appearance at Jerusalem before He ever entered
its gates (20:17-19).
Second, in our Lord's triumphal ENTRY we are meant to see that He
certainly DID THUS offer Himself as Israel's Messiah-King, and that the
Jewish so understood (21:5). He not only accepted from the multitude
their continuous "Hosanna to the Son of David!" but, with flash of regal
indignation in His eyes, cast out the money traffickers from His temple;
and when the chief priests, provoked by the children's hosannas, asked "Hearest
Thou what these say?" He replied, "Yea, have ye never read: Out of the
mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?" Certainly
those Jewish leaders understood. It was no accident that a little later
there was a superscription over His cross, "THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF
Third, in the fateful COLLISIONS which now ensued inside the city
between Jesus and the Jewish sects we are meant to see not only that
THEY had set themselves implacably to reject HIM, but that HE also had
now rejected THEM. The barren fig tree which He cursed was His symbol of
them. From the moment of His entry, see how they contest Him
(21:15,23-27). Herodians, Sadducees, Pharisees concertedly close in upon
Him (22). They are not only answered by Him, they are humiliatingly
silenced (22:46). Oh, tragedy of self-blinded religiosity and outraged
love, that He who commenced His ministry in Galilee with eight "Blesseds"
should have to close it in Jerusalem with those eight "Woes"! The Jewish
leaders could not resist His wisdom, but they DID resist His WITNESS.
And so the broken-hearted royal Redeemer withdrew, with that sob which
was the sudden outgushing of an infinite deep, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent to thee,
how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen
gathereth her chicks under her wings; but you would not! Behold, your
house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see Me
henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of
Fourth, in our Lord's OLIVET PROPHECY of things to come we are meant to
see, before anything else, that it was uttered OUTSIDE the city, by a
Christ who had now withdrawn, and that the predicted happenings were
BECAUSE of His having been rejected.
"Ye shall not see Me henceforth....And Jesus went out....
There shall not be left here one stone upon another....
When shall these things be?...And Jesus answered [i.e. the
Thus did the triumphal end in dark anti climax. Our Lord's attention was
now devoted exclusively to the inner circle of His disciples. The
omniscient foreknowledge which expressed itself in its Olivet discourse
must have been a steady relief to them, for they had doubtless been
staggered by the angry dignity with which He had now deliberately
antagonized the nation's religious leaders and flung the ruling class
away. There is anger but no temper. Calmly, as He sits on the slopes of
Olivet, He tells the ultimate triumph beyond present tragedy and
Among His Own Disciples 24:1-56
Before the Jewish Sanhedrin 24:57-75
Before the Roman Governor 27:1-26
Crucified, Dead and Buried 27:27-66
In the first of these, where our Lord is WITHDRAWN WITH THE TWELVE the
emphasized feature is that He perfectly FORESAW every detail in the new
turn of events. In response to Mary's anointing Him He says, "She hath
done it for My burial." At supper with His disciples He tells them that
it is actually one of themselves who is about to betray Him, and
indicates Judas. He sadly fore-apprises Peter of his denial. And it is
superlatively significant how this foreknowledge now expresses itself as
to the Cross. He links it with the Jewish Passover in such a way as to
imply that He is the NEW Passover (26:2). He links it with Jeremiah
31:31, etc., and designates His blood as "the blood of the NEW
covenant." He links it with the Old Testament prophecies such as Isaiah
53, for His bloodshedding is to be SUBSTITUTIONARY (shed for many), and
PROPITIATORY (for the remission of sins). In the Gethsemane agony the
Father's sovereignty is recognized in it all, and the incarnate Son bows
in sublime yieldedness.
In the second scene, where our Lord is BEFORE THE JEWISH SANHEDRIN, the
big fact is that Jesus was condemned specifically for claiming to be
Israel's Messiah. His baffling silence eventually provoked the high
priest to cry, "I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us
whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God." And the Lord therefore
said, "Thou hast said, moreover I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see
the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the
clouds of heaven." That was all the Sanhedrin wanted. They at once
charged Him with "blasphemy" and declared Him "guilty of death." He was
crucified for that, AND FOR NOTHING ELSE.
In the third scene, where He is before the Roman Governor, we are meant
to note that the Jews handed Him over for claiming to be their Christ,
only they had now given it just that twist that would make it tingle in
Pilate's ears, namely, that Jesus had proclaimed Himself KING of the
Jews. Pilate's first question is, "Art Thou King of the Jews?" The
experienced Pilate soon knew that there was no cause of death in His
prisoner (v.23-24), but the thing which would save his own neck if his
Roman superiors should ask why Jesus was allowed to be crucified was
that He had advertised Himself as "King" of the Jews in opposition to
Caesar: hence Pilate's large written accusation over the Cross, "THIS IS
JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS," which also served as a sarcastic slap-back
at the Jews, whose motive in delivering Jesus, as Pilate well knew, was
And now, that fourth scene, the awe-inspiring, soul-subduing spectacle,
THE CRUCIFIXION. There are two things above all others Matthew would
impress upon us. First as He describes (more fully than Mark, Luke or
John) the accompanying abnormalities - the midday darkness, the
earthquake, the cleaving of the rocks, the disturbed graves, he would
have us exclaim with the startled centurion, "Truly this was the Son of
God!" Second, as he reports the simultaneous rending of the temple veil
in the Holy of Holies, not from human hand from below, but by a Divine
"from the top," not merely part way, but completely, "from the top to
the bottom," he would have us see the profound GODWARD significance of
that Cross. That Sufferer is "the Son of God"; and that Cross has
effected something tremendous between earth and heaven. The
after-details ensure that physical life became extinct, and that the
corpse was really entombed. There could be no bodily re-emergence except
by miraculous resurrection.
The brief account falls into four paragraphs:
The Intervention of the Angel 28:1-7
The Reappearance of the Risen Lord 28:1-10
The Lying Invention of the Jews 28:11-15
The New Outsending of the Eleven 28:16-20
"All authority is given unto Me, in heaven and in earth." But did He not
always have this authority? As God the Son, yes; but not as Jesus, "Son
of Man," "Son of David." Both by plain and veiled intimations the
Scriptures convey that Satan has sustained a peculiar relationship of
authority over the earth. He was not always Satan and Diabolos, but
Lucifer, the "anointed cherub." He is called "the prince of this world."
When He tempted our Lord, saying, "All this power will I give Thee [i.e.
all the kingdoms of the world] for it is delivered unto me," our Lord
did not dispute the claim (He.2:14, Eph.2:2).
But his power is now broken, and his authority is forever taken away.
THAT is the meaning of our Lord's resurrection, and of His words, "All
authority is given unto ME. . ." As the first Adam fell and forfeited
his dominion, so Jesus "the second Adam" overcame by choosing the
Father's will even to that costliest extreme of Calvary, by which He
became not only the Redeemer of Adam's fallen race but the leader of a
new humanity, the tried, tested, proven, all-worthy Executor of the
Divine will, and the resurrection-attested Administrator of the Divine
In our risen Lord's pronouncement at the end of Matthew's Gospel there
is that which was NOT predicted in the Old Testament, and which
transcends all that WAS predicted; for Israel's rejected Christ, who has
now become the world's Savior, is lifted "far above all principality and
power and authority, and every name that is named" and crowned as the
ADMINISTRATOR OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE!
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
The audience of Jesus time understood this phrase without explanation.
It foretold a visible kingdom, with Messiah reigning on the throne of
David, over a reunited Israel and the Gentile nations in world empire.
It was to be visible, Messianic, global - the very antithesis of a
"church", which is by its very name, ECCLESIA, a called-out, exclusive
That promised kingdom was announced by the forerunner, then preached by
our Lord with Messianic credentials. To a people doting on the material
prospects of the long-looked-for kingdom, its MORAL requirements were
unacceptable. The kingdom was rejected and the King crucified. It was
reoffered in the period of the Acts; and so the kingdom is withdrawn.
But the kingdom will be set up when the King returns and the repentant
Israel says, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah!"
From the time of their rejection of Him onwards our Lord would veil His
kingdom teaching somewhat in parables. There was mercy in this, for it
spared the unreceptive hearer from the heavier guilt of further spurning
of plainly stated truth. There was judgment in it too - "From him shall
be taken away even what he hath."
Yet the very parables which were to VEIL the truth from some were to
reveal NEW TRUTH to sincere disciples, for "To him that hath shall be
given." Yes, Jesus was now opening up new truths about the future
aspects of the kingdom, following its rejection by Israel.
The Seven Parables of Matthew Thirteen
First, we must clarify that these do NOT refer to the Church - for the
Church had not yet been even mentioned. Each one of them, except the
first, begins: "The kingdom of heaven is like. . ." That kingdom is NOT
the Church. Nor do they picture Christendom in this present age, as
certain dispensationalists aver. What then is the purport of these
parables? Let their LOCATION be our first guide. They occur in the
section of the narrative which tells of the various reactions to our
Lord's message. Already He has rebuked Galilee's unrepenting cities; and
now in the parable of the sower, He portrays the results of His
preaching among the multitudes. Only a fraction have proven good-soil
hearers. The other six parables are designed to reveal, though in partly
veiled form, certain far-reaching truths hitherto unreleased concerning
the POSTPONEMENT of the kingdom, consequent upon Israel's present
The Wheat and the Tares
The good sower is the "Son of Man." The field is the world. The good
seed are the children of the kingdom. The tares are the children of the
wicked one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is
the end of the age. The reapers are the angels. And the parable ends,
"THEN [i.e. at the end of the age] shall the righteous shine forth as
the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Now this sending forth of angels when the Son of Man returns at the end
of the present age, and the setting up of the kingdom THEN, is found
again and again in the New Testament. Our Lord Himself directly states
it in His Olivet discourse. The kingdom comes "THEN" and not before.
What our Lord did NOT disclose in the parable was that the "THEN" was so
far away, with the present dispensation of grace intervening. THAT could
not very well have been revealed, else the continued offer of the
kingdom to Israel by the Lord and His apostles would have become merely
theatrical, whereas it was thoroughly genuine; the nation's free will
was respected, and events were allowed to take their course accordingly.
It is the Divine foreknowledge which speaks in these parables, divulging
what was to happen in view of Israel's FOREKNOWN behavior. The setting
up of the kingdom was to be postponed.
The idea must be rejected that in this present dispensation the
"children of the kingdom" are one and the same as regenerated Christian
believers. The Spirit born members of our Lord's body and bride are far
more than "children of the kingdom" in the way our Lord meant. When the
kingdom comes, THEY will enter it, not as SUBJECTS only, but to REIGN
WITH Christ (as other Scriptures show).
But let it be settled in our minds that "the kingdom of heaven" has NOT
YET come; nor is it here in any so-called "mystery-form" more or less
identical with Christendom or "the sphere of Christian profession."
Mustard Seed and Leaven
The third and fourth parables, mustard seed and leaven, both illustrate
the present hiddenness but ultimate greatness of the kingdom. Because
Scripture elsewhere uses leaven unfavorably in a symbolic sense, is it
unthinkable that our Lord should here use it in a GOOD sense? Whatever
may be said against leaven, there is no getting over our Lord's own
words, "The kingdom of heaven is LIKE UNTO leaven." In the mustard seed
and leaven - the one buried in the ground yet eventually a great tree,
the other hidden in the meal yet eventually filling the whole, our Lord
surely pictures the then-rejected kingdom as similarly being now hidden,
or removed from view, but at last reappearing in greatness
all-pervading. Instead of some supposed "mystery-form" of the kingdom
now on earth, let it be realized that there is a present suspension, and
that when our Lord returns all these parables will suddenly "come alive"
with new activity again and be seen in their true fulfillment.
Hidden Treasure and Pearl Merchant
In the two short parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl merchant
the kingdom is again represented as hidden, but with the further aspect
that it is nevertheless the supreme "find" to those who are seeking the
best. Instead of publicity and common offer, there is now concealment
and individual discovery; there is "seeking" and "finding," and an
esteeming of the coming kingdom as such treasure that it is worth
selling all else to possess it. We need not be surprised that the
easiest interpretation is the truest, namely, that the "treasure" or
"the pearl of great price" is the "kingdom of heaven," and that the man
that now finds is the sincere seeker who "seeks first the kingdom of God
and His righteousness" and, to quote Paul, "counts all things but loss
for the excellency" of inheriting the coming kingdom.
Like the others, it has its own particular emphasis, which is the final
severance of evil-doers from the upright who inherit the kingdom
Thus there is progress in these seven parables. In the first we are
given the results of our Lord's own preaching up to that time. In the
second the wheat and the tares "grow together UNTIL. . ." In the third
and fourth the mustard seed and leaven tell the present abeyance but
future triumph of the kingdom. In the fifth and sixth the treasure and
the pearl express the supreme worthwhileness of counting all things loss
for that coming kingdom. In the seventh the emptying of the dragnet
shows the doom-filled exclusion of the wicked from the kingdom.
It should be born in mind all through that these seven parables have
their first reference to our Lord's own time on earth, from which time
the kingdom has been "hidden," withdrawn, postponed. The Church age now
intervenes. So far as the kingdom is concerned there is suspension. But
at the end of the PRESENT age these parables will take up again from
where they were interrupted by the present suspension and will have
their FINAL fulfillment. The kingdom shall come. The angels shall
"gather out all things that offend." Then shall the righteous inherit
It is in this light that all the later parables of the kingdom should be
interpreted. The time of their final fulfillment is surely at hand.
The Opening Genealogy
Why that longish genealogy at the beginning? Remember that Matthew wrote
primarily for Jews, who, in keeping with Old Testament prophecy,
expected their Messiah to be born of a certain family. Matthew need not
begin way back with Adam, but he must start with Abraham, the progenitor
of the covenant nation, and then show the descent through David, head of
Judah's royal line in which ran the covenant promise of the coming
Messiah-King. Matthew must show that Jesus was truly Son of Abraham and
Heir of David.
In Matthew's list there is an omission of Jehoiakim between Josiah and
Jeconiah. Between Adam and Christ there are just 60 generations. These
sixty seem to go in six tens, each tenth man being notably significant.
From Adam onwards the first tenth man is NOAH. In his days God sent
destructive judgment on the whole race, and it looked as though Satan
had aborted the Messianic line; but that line is preserved in Noah,
demonstrating the indestructibility of the Divine purpose.
The next tenth man is ABRAHAM, with whom God entered into unconditional
covenant that of his seed should come the Messiah in whom all kindreds
of the earth should be blessed.
The next tenth man is BOAZ, who married beautiful Moabitess Ruth; and
through Gentile Ruth all the Gentile peoples are representatively
incorporated into the Messianic hope.
The next tenth man is UZZIAH. It was "in the year that King Uzziah died"
that Isaiah, greatest of all Israel's writing prophets, "saw the Lord"
[i.e. the Messiah] sitting on the throne that rules all thrones.
The next tenth man is ZERUBBABEL, the Jewish prince who headed the
return of the remnant to Judea after the Babylonian exile. Zerubbabel is
a type of Christ, as the supreme leader of Israel from age-long exile
into Millennial blessing.
Ten generations later, we read, "JOSEPH, the husband of Mary of whom was
born JESUS who is called CHRIST." Each tenth man is typical, prophetic,
anticipative - Christ fulfills all. The number 10 is that of
completeness, and six is the number of man as a sinner. Six complete
cycles of ten: then comes Christ, who is the goal of all generations and
the Savior of sinners. In Him the line ENDS. In Him it NEVER ends. It
perfectly conforms, that He who is God's great SEVEN should immediately
follow those six completed tens, bringing in the new SPIRITUAL
generation, and the kingdom which, although at present withheld, shall
crown the preceding 6,000 years of human history with a seventh great
thousand-year day, the Millennium of Messiah's worldwide empire, with
its exact time-cycle of 10 times 10 times 10 years of peace and glory.
Christ vs. "It was said"
"It was said of old time. . .but I say unto you. . ." Our Lord's usual
mode of quoting the Old Testament is, "It is written," whereas the
Sermon on the Mount has "It was said," indicating reference to the ORAL
Law - six times it occurs in Matthew 5. Our Lord instead of repudiating
them, intensifies them, insisting on an inward and spiritual, as well as
an outward and formal, compliance.
The Wilderness Temptation
Why that wilderness temptation? It was because Christ, as the new
representative Human, must be tested and tried. It is vital to realize
that our Lord was there as MAN. With pious-sounding cunning Satan at
once sought to blur the battle point. "If Thou be the SON OF GOD. .
.command that these stones be made bread." But immediately Jesus brought
the encounter into right focus again by His reply, "It is written, MAN
shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of
the mouth of God."
The first temptation concerned the body, "Command that these stones be
made bread." The second related to the soul, "Cast Thyself down," i.e.
give self-display. The third went right to the spirit, "Fall down and
worship me." The first suggested something reasonable, the second
something questionable, the third something definitely wrong. How often
that is Satan's technique of temptation! - physical, psychical,
spiritual; from that which is reasonable, to that which is questionable,
to that which is damnable. In the first there is the disguise of
sympathy, in the second a veneer of admiration, in the third the mask is
off, all pretense is gone, and the real motive is exposed - "Worship
Three times the sword flashes in our Lord's hand, as He repulses the
tempter with, "It is written." Three times we see the secret of victory
- submission to the Word of God.
The Unpardonable Sin
Startlingly enough, it was addressed to VERY RELIGIOUS persons, the
Pharisees. It is called "BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT."
Blasphemy is speaking in such a way as vilifies or insults or otherwise
outrages God. They were saying, "This fellow casts out demons by
Beelzebub, the prince of the demons." That is, they were ASCRIBING THE
HOLY SPIRIT'S GRACIOUS AND HOLY ACTIVITIES TO THE DEVIL. They DID know
that our Lord's healing miracles were manifestly beneficent intervenings
of GOD; nevertheless, in jealous rebellion against clear light, and to
guard their prestige among the people, they lied to their own
consciences, and outspokenly averred that those gracious works of God
were wrought by Satan!
Our Lord and Peter's Confession
It should also be clearly appreciated that our Lord NEVER gave "the keys
of the Church" to Peter. What our Lord actually said to Peter was, "And
I will give unto thee the keys of THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN." That kingdom
is not the Church, nor will it come until the Church age is over, when
our Lord's mystic body and bride shall have become completed. When the
kingdom comes, as it surely will at His return, the keys of its
administration will be seen by all in the hands of Peter and his
The Man Without a Wedding Garment
Note that it was spoken primarily against the Pharisees (21:45-46,
22:1), to illustrate the "KINGDOM OF HEAVEN." Yes, the kingdom of heaven
which shall yet come, that Millennial "feast" which shall yet provide
peace and plenty for the meek, will include all, yet there will be no
tolerance of wickedness or hypocrisy, i.e. for the man who will not wear
the required "wedding garment." Let it be settled in our minds, this
parable of the royal wedding feast does NOT relate to the Church but to
the "kingdom of heaven" - which was offered, refused, is now withheld,
and is soon to be set up on earth. The man without the wedding garment
is NOT some faulty kind of present-day "believer," but an illustration
of what will happen when that kingdom age of righteousness is brought
in, when our Lord fulfills Isaiah 11:4, and other similar pledges, "But
with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for
the meek of the earth; but with the breath of His lips shall He slay the
Those precious words of the risen Jesus with which Matthew himself
closes, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." Note
the "I am." In the Greek it is the strongest possible form of expression
- "EGO EIMI." Both EGO and EIMI mean "I am"; but the former puts the
emphasis on the "I" while the latter puts it on the "am." Taken together
they are the strongest Greek form to express the name of God as the
great "I AM." That is how the risen Christ here refers to Himself. "Lo,
I AM with you!" But there is a lovely feature in the Greek construction
here which does not reveal itself in our English translation. It reads
"And lo, I with you AM. . . ."
You and I, dear fellow believer, are in between the "I" and the "AM." He
is not only WITH us, He is ALL AROUND US - not only now and then, but
"always," which translated literally, is "all the days" - this day, this
hour, this moment.
GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK:
JESUS, JEHOVAH'S SERVANT, THE MIGHTY WORKER
Foreword - Four Voices Announce Him: (1:1-13)
"Son of God" "The Lord" "One Mightier" "My Son"
1. THE JORDAN - THE MIGHTY WORKS IN GALILEE 1:14-8:30
First message and disciples More mighty works and effects
First mighty works and effects The Twelve endued and sent out
First critics - and replies Herod's idea: the Twelve report
Crowds flock: Twelve chosen Still mightier mighty works
Scribes warned: reply to kin Critics; sighs; final signs
Parables = few "good" hearers Avowal: "Thou art the Christ"
2. THE JOURNEY - THE TRAGIC ENIGMA IN JERUSALEM 8:31-15
Strange new note: the Cross The triumphal entry: Day 1
Transfiguration: Cross again Fig tree: Temple purge: Day 2
Mighty miracle: Cross again Foes: Olivet prophecy: Day 3
Apostles rebuke; counseled Bethany - and betrayal: Day 4
Judea again: sayings, doings Passover-Garden-Trial: Day 5
To Jerusalem: Cross in view Pilate; Cross; Burial: Day 6
Finale - Fourfold triumph (Ch.16)
Risen (1-8), Appearing (9-18), Ascended (19), Working (20)
The Uppermost Purpose
We need only to read Mark two or three times, and his uppermost purpose
captures us. He wants us to see JESUS AT WORK. It is as though he says,
"Look! What Jesus DID proves who He WAS. What He WROUGHT authenticates
what He TAUGHT. The mighty WORKS verify the startling WORDS. Watch Him
at work, and marvel at this supernatural Wonder-worker! THAT will
So, there is no opening genealogy as in Matthew, no introductory account
of what preceded and attended and succeeded the birth of Jesus. Right
away we are at the Jordan, to hear John announce that "One mightier" is
at hand. Forthwith Jesus is on the scene; the miracle ministry begins;
and by eager, graphic strokes Mark reaches in chapter one what Matthew
takes 8 chapters to overtake. He covers in 9 chapters what Matthew
traverses in twice as many. Not that his account is skimpy, for it is
alive with vivid detail; but he focuses on what Jesus DID, and omits
much of what Jesus SAID.
In fact, it is solely the absence of our Lord's discourses which makes
this the shortest of the four Gospels. The whole Sermon on the Mount
belongs (but is omitted) between v.39 and v.40 of the first chapter.
Matthew's long chapter 13 on the kingdom parables has only a shadow
parallel in Mark. Our Lord's commission to the Twelve, which takes all
42 verses of Matthew 10, has a meager 7 verses here; while his
denunciation of Galilee's impenitent cities finds no mention at all. The
long condemnation of scribes and Pharisees which fills Matthew 23 is
without even an echo in Mark; and the Olivet discourse is reduced to a
Yes, Mark is distinctively the Gospel of what Jesus DID. Even the
"kingdom," which filled our Lord's preaching and is named over 50 times
in Matthew, is on our Lord's lips only 14 times in Mark. It is clear as
can be what our evangelist intends: we are meant to look and marvel at
the "mighty WORKS."
There are no designed groupings like Matthew's. That is not Mark's
policy. He wants us to catch the wonder of this Mighty-One IN ACTION.
So, instead of specialized groupings or methodical sectioning, we have a
purposely unhalting SUCCESSION of astonishing doings. Mark is the
camera-man of the four Gospel-writers, giving us shot after shot of
unforgettable scenes. The people are "astonished" at His "doctrine" and
are "amazed" at His "authority." His "fame" spreads "throughout the
region" and is "blazed abroad." Out of sixteen chapters twelve begin
with, "And," indicating the unhalting continuity of the narrative.
In Mark, our Lord Jesus is uniquely transcribed as the SERVANT. Perhaps
the most fascinating phenomenon of all, is the exquisite way in which
the perfect balance is sustained throughout between human servanthood
and Divine lordship. The lordship is on every page, yet everywhere the
Lord is the SERVANT - of the Divine will and of human need; the
authorized and empowered Sent-One, expeditious, swiftly executive,
dominating every situation, yet unobtrusive, compassionate, and in all
things obedient to the supreme will; the lovely inspiration of Paul's
words, "He took upon Himself the form of a SERVANT ... and became
obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
There is a complete absence of any INCARNATION NARRATIVE. There is
nothing which answers to the introductions in the other three Gospels;
no Davidic genealogy; no pointing star; no eastern sages bringing their
gifts and inquiring "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?"; no
angel messengers, as in Luke; no worship of shepherds; nothing about
Bethlehem or Nazareth; no Benedictus of Zachariah; no magnificant of
Mary; no Nunc Dimittis of Simeon; no incident of our Lord's boyhood; no
prologue of His pre-existence, as in John; no clothing of the Eternal
Word in flesh; no emerging of the Eternal Son from the bosom of the
Father. All this is in accord with the SERVANT emphasis.
There is either outright deletion or severe abridgment of OUR LORD'S
DISCOURSES. Yet if Matthew's opening genealogy and narrative record are
left out, with those chapters which consist of sermons or parables Mark
is by far the longer of the two as a chronicle of doings! There is also
a complete absence of INDICTMENTS such as occur in the other Gospels. Is
it not that such best befits the SERVANT aspect of our Lord which Mark
Notice some of the many INCIDENTAL ADDITIONS. "But of that day and that
hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, NEITHER THE
SON, but the Father." It is Mark alone who retains our Lord's insertion
of "neither the Son." Why? Because it is the Servant speaking, "The
servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth."
It is in Mark only that the HANDS of Jesus are so conspicuous. When He
healed Peter's mother-in-law He "took her BY THE HAND." At Bethsaida "He
took the blind man BY THE HAND," and afterwards "put His HANDS upon
him." "After that, He PUT HIS HANDS again upon his eyes." In the healing
of the demoniac son "Jesus took him BY THE HAND, and lifted him up." In
giving hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb man He "PUT HIS FINGERS
into his ears." These are all in Mark only, as also is the surprised
question of the townsfolk, "From whence has this Man these things? and
what wisdom is this which is given unto Him, that even such mighty works
are wrought BY HIS HANDS?" This is yet another contribution to this
SERVANT aspect of our Lord. Are not the hands the very symbol of
It is Mark who lays peculiar stress on our Lord's UNOBTRUSIVENESS. "He
entered into a house, and WOULD HAVE NO MAN KNOW IT, but He could not be
hid." "He took him aside from the multitude." "He led him OUT OF THE
Also in Mark special notice is given to our Lord's WITHDRAWMENTS.
"Rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a
solitary place, and there prayed." "Come ye yourselves apart into a
desert place, and rest awhile ... And they departed into a desert place
by ship privately."
Still further, in Mark our Lord's LOOKS AND FEELINGS are adverted to
more than anywhere else. "He looked round about on them with ANGER,
being GRIEVED for the hardness of their hearts." "He looked round about
to see her who had done this thing." "And looking up to heaven He
SIGHED." "But when He had turned about and LOOKED ON His disciples, He
rebuked Peter." "He MARVELED because of their unbelief." "When Jesus saw
it, He was MUCH DISPLEASED." "Then Jesus, beholding him, LOVED him."
"And He SIGHED DEEPLY in His spirit." All these personal touches are
Mark's alone, as also are others which might be cited. They are all
characteristics which blend into Mark's presentation of our Lord as the
The Title “Lord”
Even the title "Lord" seems intendedly excluded. According to Matthew
and Luke the leper says, "LORD, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean."
In the storm on Galilee the disciples cry, "LORD [or in Luke, `MASTER']
save us; we perish!" At the last supper they ask, "LORD, is it I?" In
each case Mark omits the title. Although "Master" occurs in Mark's
account of the storm, it is not the same Greek word as Luke uses; and
there is the almost rude-sounding complaint (peculiar to Mark's
account), "Carest Thou not that we perish?" - as if it were blameworthy
for the One who was always working ever to be found sleeping!
Although the title "Lord" is addressed to Him between 70-80 times in the
other Gospels, it is NEVER so used in Mark - at least, not before His
resurrection, except in 7:28, where the Syrophoenician woman uses it
more in the sense of "Sir" (in 9:24 the word lacks manuscript authority;
and in 10:51 it is only Rabbi). Not until the very last paragraph does
Mark Himself name Jesus "Lord" - not until the Servant has finished the
work given Him to do on earth and is EXALTED TO THE THRONE IN HEAVEN!
Mark's Signature Word
The word which above all others characterizes Mark is EUTHEOS,
translated as "immediately," "straightway," "forthwith." It is almost
like the author's signature on the busy exploits on the story. The word
occurs 42 times in Mark; only seven in Matthew and but once in Luke.
Mark's memoir of Jesus abound with EUTHEOS. And does not this again
accord with the emphasis on service - prompt, tireless, active,
expeditious service? How markedly the emphasis on our Lord as the
SERVANT is sustained throughout the Gospel of Mark. And, in crowning
endorsement, it closes with the words, "So then after the Lord had
spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right
hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, THE LORD
WORKING WITH THEM, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen."
There are three questions to press in studying a book of Scripture: (1)
What is its main AIM? (2) What is its broad PLAN? (3) What are its chief
TRAITS? And that is the right order. Mark however, forces us to invert
the order. The other three Gospel writers plainly indicate their purpose
(Lk.1:1-4; Jn.20:31; Matthew's "that it might be fulfilled"), but in
Mark it is the TRAITS which guide us to both the AIM and the PLAN. Those
traits, as we have seen, plainly betoken the main aim of portraying
Jesus in His SERVANT aspect.
As the Galilean ministry begins, miracle exploits one after another
break upon us. Chapter 2-3 pursue the march of marvels, showing also the
surprising, unanswerable originality of the benign Miracle-worker's
replies and pronouncements. Specimen parables follow briefly in chapter
4, but are quickly followed by even mightier miracles. Still more
spectacular wonders follow in chapters 6-8. All this in so few chapters,
with such energetic rapidity!
The like had never been witnessed from the foundation of the world. This
is truly the Son of the Blessed! This is indeed the Christ of Israel!
This is at last the King long awaited! The kingdom of heaven has come!
Surely He will now be borne on a sheer flood of enthusiasm to the crown
and scepter which rightly belong to Him in Jerusalem!
But no; suddenly the light dims, the air chills; for at chapter 8:31 we
read with utter surprise:
"And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must SUFFER
many things, and be REJECTED of the elders and of the chief
priests, and scribes, and be KILLED."
To be sure, Matthew and Luke both record the same thing but not with the
same divisive significance as Mark. It is Mark alone who comments, "And
He spake that saying OPENLY." It was the publicity of it, accentuating
the shock of it, which provoked Peter's remonstrance (v.32); but our
Lord's counter-reply was to make it even more public, for Mark adds in
v.34, "And when He had called the PEOPLE, with His disciples also, He
said unto them, `Whosoever will come after Me, let Him deny himself, and
take up his cross, and follow ME.'"
Just when it seems a peak-point is reached, hopes are dashed, and there
comes this abrupt, astonishing transition. Instead of a throne waiting
at the capital, there is a cross! Instead of royal purple, a felon's
death! That such a one as HE should be thus spurned, killed, shamed, and
that SUCH a ministry of mighty works and gracious cures and super-wisdom
should end in such ignominy, is an almost incredible incongruity; it is
the most tragic refusal and enigma of the ages.
Although the disciples were deceived by appearances, and the multitudes
by their own superficiality, the Prophet of Nazareth had seen right
through the seeming to the real. He knew how insubstantial was the
popular clamor; how deeply influential the entrenched enmity of the
Sanhedrin, leaders, scribes; and how unwilling the people were to
respond in HEART to the moral challenge of "the kingdom of God."
About Mark Himself
See him first appear in Acts 12:12. His mother's name, "Mary," indicates
that she was Jewish. He himself had a Jewish forename and a Roman
surname, "John" and "Mark"; so his father may have been a Roman.
In Acts 12:25 Barnabas and Paul show their confidence by taking him on
that first epic missionary journey. Alas, when they reach Perga, on the
frontiers of the great heathen world, his courage fails, and he returns
home. Nearly 20 years slip away. Paul, now a battle-scarred veteran, is
in prison in Rome. In Colossians 4:10 he says, "Aristarchus, my
fellow-prisoner, saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas
(touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you receive
him)." Then Paul adds, "These only are my fellow-workers unto the
kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me." Paul now speaks of
Mark as a "fellow-worker" and a "comfort"! So there is fullest
In Paul's last letter before his martyrdom Mark is mentioned. "Take
Mark, and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the
ministry." Yes, Paul was longing to have Mark by him again! Yes, for
Mark had proved a loyal friend to him before in Rome. Yes, for Mark had
now so proved his courageous devotion to Christ through the years, that
his early default at Perga was utterly erased!
Once again we find mention of Mark, this time by Peter. Turn to I Peter
5:13, "She that is elected with you at Babylon saluteth you, and so doth
Marcus, my son." There are clear evidences that there was a special bond
But what had Mark been doing during all those years between Perga and
his reappearance in Paul's later epistles? Tradition which there is no
reason to distrust tells of his remarkable ministry in Egypt, his
winning many converts, and his founding the first Christian church at
Alexandria. How comfortingly he demonstrates that early failure can be
retrieved, canceled out, expunged, by later loyalty; that poor
beginnings can give place to noble developments; that natural cowardice
can be transformed to martyr-heroism through grace!
They on the heights are not the souls
Who never erred or went astray,
Or reached those high rewarding goals
Along a smooth, flower-bordered way.
Nay, they who stand where first comes dawn
Are those who stumbled - but went on.
There is a tradition, going right back to sub-apostolic days, that this
second Gospel, although attributed to Mark, was in reality, written by
him as the amanuensis of Peter, or else as the translator and
continuator of an original by Peter in Aramaic. My own view is that Mark
was the compiler-translator of records already written by Peter in
The First-Intended Readers
It soon becomes plain that the writer has GENTILES in mind. If he had
been writing for Jews, would he have used words such as in chapter 7:3,
"For the PHARISEES, and all the JEWS, except THEY wash their hands oft,
eat not, holding the tradition of the elders"? Would he have explained
that the "preparation" was "the day before the Sabbath" (15:42)? - or
that the Mount of Olives was "over against the temple" (13:3)? - or that
the disciples of John and of the Pharisees "used to fast" (2:18)?
Just as much as Matthew is for the Jews, Luke is for the Gentiles.
Somehow, those Palestine non-Jewish proselytes to Judaism and converts
to Christianity seem to belong between outright Jews and outright
Gentiles; and that is where John Mark seems to fit too, if as seems
likely he was of both Jewish and Roman parenthood. He would have a
dominant interest in those Palestine Gentiles, Romans, proselytes,
Christians; and an aptitude to write the kind of record best adapted to
them. This incidentally, would account for the numerous Latinized
expressions in Mark's Gospel. Matthew must come first - "to the Jew
first" - being the obvious first link-up of the New Testament with the
Old. And Luke must come third - "also to the Gentile" - because Mark is
the BETWEEN Gospel for Gentile-Jews, i.e. those who were Gentiles by
birth and Jews by faith; and because it was specially adapted to that
transition period when the Gospel was moving out from Jewish
exclusiveness, as in Matthew, to a racial outlook, as in Luke.
Rich Spiritual Values
We have been saying that Mark's is the Gospel of Jesus as Jehovah's
Servant, the PERFECT Servant. Let us not forget that He is to us the
PATTERN Servant, the ideal Example of service, Whom we are to follow.
Notice chapter 1:9-12.
1) A Preliminary Separation - Our Lord's baptism was His initial,
deliberate separation of Himself to His public Messianic ministry. This
separation was two-fold (a) a separation FROM His former kind of life,
(b) a separation TO His new ministry of teaching and healing; and utter
separation to God. That is also the first prerequisite for US.
2) A Preliminary Anointing - Our Lord (a) saw something, i.e. "the
heavens opened"; (b) felt something - "the Spirit descending upon Him."
That also is the second prerequisite for us. We must know the "heavens
opened" to our praying, and the enduement with power from on high.
3) A Preliminary Assuring - Our Lord at Jordan received a preliminary
assuring (a) as to sonship - "Thou art My beloved Son", (b) as to
character - "in whom I am well pleased." That is the third prerequisite
for us. We need the inwrought assurance of the Holy Spirit, and motives
well-pleasing to God.
4) A Preliminary Testing - There are two things to note about this
preliminary tempting of our Lord; (a) It was Divinely sanctioned, i.e.
"The Spirit driveth Him"; (b) it was real temptation - "of Satan."
Strange though it may seem, even the entirely separated,
Spirit-anointed, Heaven-attested Servant must undergo this preliminary
testing, to settle it whether He will go only and utterly God's way - or
man's. The question of all questions for the Christian is, "Am I really
willing to yield myself here and now to Christ for His will alone to be
done through my life?
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE: BEHOLD, THE MAN
1. "GOOD TIDINGS" - A SAVIOR (1:5-4:13)
In the days of Herod Thirty years later
Two annunciations Baptism of Jesus by John
Two elect mothers Genealogy of Jesus by Mary
Two wonder sons Onset of Jesus by Satan
2. "IN THE SPIRIT" - GALILEE (4:14-9:50)
Miracles, sayings before Peter's Confession; Cross foretold
Teaching, miracles after Jesus transfigured; Cross foretold
Multiplied operations; the Demoniac son cured; Cross foretold
Twelve sent out
3. "HE SET HIS FACE" - JERUSALEM (9:51-18:44)
The earlier weeks The last few days
Messengers sent on; answers Galilee; dropsy cured; sayings
Pharisees warned; rebukes Samaria; lepers cured; sayings
Covetous reproved; woman Jericho; blind; Zacchaeus; sayings
Jesus urged away; Lament Jerusalem; ascent; Lament over them
4. "THIS IS THE HEIR - KILL HIM" (19:45-23)
Before the arrest After the arrest
Jesus vs. priest, scribe, Jesus before high priest and council
Jesus foretells the future; Jesus before Pilate; Herod; mocked
Last Passover; Gethsemane; Jesus sentenced, crucified, buried
Matthew's genealogy uses the word "begat" right down the list until
"Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary." So, clearly, Matthew's
genealogy is that of Joseph, who, besides being (only) legally the
father of our Lord, was of Davidic descent. Luke's genealogy does not
use "begat." It begins, "And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty
years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph which was the
son of Heli ..." Joseph was not the offspring of Heli, but of Jacob (as
shown by Matthew's begat), but he had become the son of Heli in another
and very real Jewish sense by his marriage to Mary. In old-time Jewish
genealogies, when a link in the chain of descent was carried on through
a woman, her husband's name was inserted instead of her own, and he
thereby became something more than a son-in-law, and was called "the son
of..." Undoubtedly, in Luke we are given Mary's lineage. Both our Lord's
parents were of Davidic descent.
"Behold the Man"
In Matthew He is Israel's King. In Mark He is Jehovah's Servant. In
Luke, behold the MAN, the perfect MAN. In Matthew we have significant
GROUPINGS. In Mark we have successive SNAP-SHOTS. In Luke we have a
beautifully told STORY.
In this story the first feature that detains us is Luke's NATIVITY
NARRATIVE. It has no parallel in the other Gospels. Mark and John tell
nothing at all about our Lord's advent at Bethlehem. Matthew does, but
although he supplies data untouched by Luke, he does not describe, as
Luke does, the birth, babyhood and boyhood; and his account is only a
quarter the length of Luke's.
Then comes Luke's report of our Lord's MINISTRY IN GALILEE, noticeably
shorter than either Matthew's or Mark's, and followed by a further
peculiarity, the long chronicle of our Lord's JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM. In
contrast with only two chapters in Matthew and one in Mark, it extends
through no less than TEN chapters in Luke, thereby forming the longest
part of the story (9:51-19:44). There can be no doubt that all these
chapters belong to that last journey. Seven times the writer inserts
comments which imply it:
"He steadfastly set His face TO GO TO JERUSALEM."
"He went through the cities and villages, teaching and journeying TOWARD
"And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem."
"Behold, we go up to Jerusalem.
In neither Matthew nor Mark is there any parallel to this slow,
protracted trek to Jerusalem. It has been called "The Great Insertion."
Whereas the Gospels by Matthew and Mark are each in two clear parts -
the ministry in Galilee, and the climax in Judea - Luke's memoir runs in
four unmistakable movements:
1. The nativity, boyhood, manhood 1:5-4:13
2. The itineratings in Galilee 4:14-9:50
3. The journey up to Jerusalem 9:51-9:44
4. The final tragedy and triumph 19:45-24
The Characteristic Aspect
Luke is peculiarly concerned with the human nature, the MANHOOD of our
Lord, so he must needs tell us more particularly about the wonderful
birth, babyhood and boyhood; Matthew's briefer account from the
standpoint of how the birth fulfills prophecy. Matthew and Luke each
give a long genealogy. The first important thing with Matthew is to
establish our Lord's Davidic lineage, whereas Luke's first concern is
the real human birth and the growth through boyhood to the perfect
Fragmentary Galilee Chapters
It is his special interest in our Lord's manhood which explains also why
Luke's rendering of our Lord's Galilean ministry (4:14-9:50) is so much
shorter than in Matthew or Mark; and why he gives such a long, leisurely
diary of the winding journey to Jerusalem.
Whereas the emphasis in Matthew is on what Jesus SAID, and in Mark on
what Jesus DID, here in Luke it is rather on JESUS HIMSELF. See how the
marvelous ministry of message and miracle begins, with Jesus in the
synagogue at Nazareth (recorded ONLY by Luke), and with emphasis at once
on the manhood of Jesus Himself:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon ME, because He hath anointed
ME to preach the Gospel to the poor... And the eyes of all in
the synagogue were FASTENED ON HIM... This day is this
Scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare witness and
wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His
mouth. And they said, `Is not this Joseph's son?'"
See how in chapter 5, after the miraculous draught of fishes (again
recorded ONLY by Luke), Peter suddenly discerns the awful holiness of
that wonderful manhood and prostrates himself before Jesus crying out,
"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
See how in chapter 7, (recorded ONLY by Luke), as the widowed mother
weeps her way out through the gate of Nain to bury her only son, the
compassionate sympathy at once wells up in the tender-hearted Son of
Mary as He says to her, "Weep not," and restores her loved one to life.
See how again in chapter 7 (recorded ONLY by Luke), the "woman which was
a sinner," perceiving in that perfect manhood not only utter purity but
a human understanding and compassion for which her desolate heart had
ached, bathed His feet with her tears. All these instances are peculiar
to Luke, and they serve to introduce this emphasis on the HUMAN.
Journal of Jerusalem Journey
The extended narration of our Lord's journey to Jerusalem also has few
miracles and little discourse. This exhibits from different angles, and
under different lights, and in different attitudes, the mind and heart
of THAT MATCHLESS MAN.
In eleven chapters we have preserved for us a collection of a priceless
treasury of sayings unrecorded by any of the other Gospel writers; no
less than thirty or more.
Anger of John and James rebuked 9:51-56
Plough simile to would-be follower 9:61-61
The seventy sent ahead of Him 10:1-12
Return and report of the seventy 10:17-20
Parable of the good Samaritan 10:25-37
The cumbered Martha corrected 10:38-42
Parable of importunate friend 11:5-10
Parable of presuming rich fool 12:13-21
Reply about those slain by Pilate 13:1-5
Parable of the fruitless fig tree 13:6-9
Woman loosed from her infirmity 13:10-17
Reply to Pharisees concerning Herod 13:31-33
Sabbath cure of man with dropsy 14:1-6
Parable about guests and inviters 14:7-14
Parable of the great supper 14:15-24
Simile: intending tower-builder 14:28-30
Further simile: war-making king 14:31-33
Trio parable (2) the lost coin 15:8-10
Trio parable (3) the wayward son 15:11-32
Parable of the unjust steward 16:1-15
Account of rich man and Lazarus 16:19-31
Illustration: master and servant 17:7-10
The healing of the ten lepers 17:11-19
Reply concerning kingdom of God 17:20-21
Parable of unrighteous judge 18:1-8
Parable of Pharisee and publican 18:9-14
Jericho: conversion of Zaccheus 19:1-10
Parable of pounds and servants 19:11-27
The Savior weeps over Jerusalem 19:41-44
All these bear on the HUMAN NATURE of our Lord. Think what human
feeling, sympathy, largeness, compassion breathes through the parables
of the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the Pharisee and the publican,
Most of the memorable sayings and practically all the parables are
REPLIES. Also, these chapters break into two almost equal sections - the
one ending with our Lord's FIRST lament over Jerusalem (13:34-35) the
other with His SECOND lament (19:41-44).
The Aspective Emphasis
It has a VERY HUMAN BEGINNING. Right away we are in the hearts and homes
and hopes of simple-living, godly, likable folk, "neighbors and
cousins," shepherds, Simeon, Anna. There is a tarrying at the unusual
cradle, to see the Babe in those humble swaddling wraps. Whereas Matthew
at once concerns himself with the GENEALOGY, and Mark eagerly starts
with the public MINISTRY, Luke lingers over the NATIVITY - the human
birth, babyhood and boyhood of the "holy Child." This emphasis on the
human is the master-key which unlocks this Gospel.
Here alone we find, "Blessed is the fruit of thy WOMB." Here alone we
read of the "Babe"; the circumcision of the MALE; the twelve year old
LAD. Here alone we read that "the Child GREW", and that He "increased in
WISDOM and in STATURE"; and that at His baptism He was "about THIRTY
YEARS of age."
From the birth to the baptism it is the human which has the emphasis.
Luke has no star signalizing the birth of a King, no eastern sages
bringing rich homage to the infant Majesty; no inquiry from royal Herod.
But there is the anxiety of an expectant young mother far from home, the
ordeal of first childbirth in an outhouse or grotto, and the hurried
expedient of a fodder-rack as a baby crib. At the Jordan baptism, thirty
years later, there is no announcement by John, "The kingdom...is at
hand!" Instead, John comes preaching "the baptism of repentance for the
remission of sins."
Pass to Luke's records of the grown manhood. He alone tells how the
Galilean ministry began at Nazareth; and it is at once a decidedly human
touch that the little town is denoted, "Nazareth, where He had been
BROUGHT UP." Here alone His first synagogue address appears, laying all
the emphasis from the outset on that SPIRIT - ANOINTED MANHOOD. Here
alone we see Jesus emotionally broken into tearful LAMENTING over the
city (13:34; 19:41); KNEELING DOWN in prayer (22:41); being STRENGTHENED
by an angel (22:43); agonizing so sorely that His SWEAT was "as drops of
blood"; and yielding up His spirit on the cross, "Father, into Thy hands
I commend MY SPIRIT. Here alone we find Him verifying His
resurrection-body to the Eleven, by asking them to "handle" Him; by
partaking of the "broiled fish" and "honeycomb"; and by EATING IT
"BEFORE THEM" - all in His lovely eagerness to show that He was still
humanly ONE with them.
THREEFOLD INTERPLAY OF EMPHASIS
All the way through this third Gospel there is a THREEFOLD INTERPLAY of
this emphasis on the human. (1) Certain traits of our Lord's humanity
are shown prominently IN HIMSELF. (2) These, in turn, re-emphasize
themselves through HIS TEACHING. (3) The very NARRATIVE with which Luke
surrounds our Lord enhances the emphasis.
Human Dependence on Prayer
Here alone we learn that when Jesus was endued by the Holy Spirit at the
Jordan He was "praying"; in His wilderness withdrawings from throngings
He "prayed"; that before He chose the Twelve He solitarily "continued
all night in prayer"; that before He asked, "Whom say ye that I am?" He
was "alone praying"; at His transfiguration He had climbed the mountain
"to pray"; He was transfigured "as He prayed"; before He gave the Lord's
prayer He Himself was "praying"; He assured Peter, "I have prayed for
thee..."; in Gethsemane He "prayed more earnestly"; and on the Cross His
first and last utterances are prayers.
See now how it reappears in His TEACHING. Only in Luke do we have the
parable of the midnight appeal, teaching IMPORTUNITY in prayer; the
parable of the judge and the widow, teaching CONSTANCY in prayer; the
parable of the Pharisee and the publican, teaching HUMILITY in prayer.
See also how Luke's accompanying NARRATIVE enhances this emphasis. Only
in Luke do we find, "And the whole multitude of the people were PRAYING
without"; the angel's word, "Fear not, Zacharias; for thy PRAYER is
heard"; Anna serving God "with fastings AND PRAYERS night and day"; "Why
do the disciples of John fast often and MAKE PRAYERS?"; the request,
"Lord teach us to PRAY"; and that "men ought ALWAYS TO PRAY and not to
faint." Many have called this the Gospel of prayer!
Human need of the Holy Spirit
He is named more in Luke than in Matthew and Mark together, and even
more than in John. In the others gospels the virgin birth is stated as
fact, but here there is a highly significant pre-conceptive description,
with singular accent on the activity of the Spirit.
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the
Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy being
which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
Only Luke says, "And Jesus, being FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, returned from
Jordan." Only Luke adds, "And Jesus returned IN THE POWER OF THE
SPIRIT." Also peculiar to Luke is, "In that hour Jesus EXULTED IN THE
HOLY SPIRIT" (10:21).
Even more, that Spirit-begotten manhood needed the ENDUING of the Holy
Spirit for spiritual victory and service. Our Lord became incarnate to
be One of us - like us, with us, for us, as the new Adam, the new
representative Man, the new Champion of the race. It would have been no
MORAL victory for the incarnate Son of God to overwhelm Satan by some
sudden release of Divine power. Our Lord was tempted as MAN. He overcame
as MAN. In all such connection His Divine power was in abeyance. He
overcame in His dependent, prayerful, Spirit-endued MANHOOD! This means
that our OWN human nature may now be endued by that same Holy Spirit for
similar victory and service.
Now this emphasis on the Holy Spirit reappears in our Lord's TEACHING.
Only Luke prefixes our Lord's prelude-manifesto at Nazareth; "The SPIRIT
OF THE LORD is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the glad
tidings." Note the featuristic difference between Matthew 7:11 and Luke
11:13. Luke has, "How much more shall your heavenly Father give THE HOLY
SPIRIT?" Luke alone records our Lord's striking allusion to the Holy
Spirit as "the finger of God" (11:20); and closes his Gospel with the
Savior's parting promise, "Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon
you; but tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with POWER FROM ON
The very narrative has the same impress. At the beginning the angel
preannounces John, "He shall be filled with THE HOLY SPIRIT." Next
Elizabeth was filled with THE HOLY SPIRIT; again Zacharias was filled
with the HOLY SPIRIT. A little later the HOLY SPIRIT comes upon Simeon,
to whom it had been "revealed to him by THE HOLY SPIRIT..." And he came
BY THE SPIRIT into the temple. All this prepares us for a distinctive
emphasis. At the beginning the Holy Spirit is the "power of the Highest"
and right at the end He is the promised "power from on high."
The note of unconfined goodwill towards those outside the pale of Jewry
is struck early, in the nativity chapters. While Matthew's report is
exclusively Jewish, Luke at once overflows to the Gentiles.
The suddenly inspired Zacharias alludes to an Isaiah prophecy on the
GENTILES when he says, "The Dayspring from on high hath visited us, to
give light TO THEM THAT SIT IN DARKNESS AND IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH."
When the eager angels troop down into the night sky, the message is,
"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be TO ALL
PEOPLE" - connecting our Lord's human incarnation with the whole race.
While all three synoptists link John the Baptist with "The voice of one
crying in the wilderness," Luke alone continues with "And ALL FLESH
shall see the salvation of God."
Now in our Lord's TEACHINGS how different is the uniform "headline" of
our Lord's parables. In Matthew there are sixteen major parables, and
twelve of them begin, "The kingdom of heaven is like." There are twenty
in Luke, and eighteen begin with, "There was a certain MAN" or some
similar general headline.
In Luke's accompanying NARRATIVE we see first that his Gospel is
addressed to a GENTILE, the most excellent Theophilus. When he gives our
Lord's genealogy he travels way back beyond all Hebrew confines to Adam,
the only other man who ever had a completely racial significance, and
who, like our Lord, had no father but God. Luke alone records comments
about the GENTILE widow of Sidon, and the GENTILE Syrian, Naaman. Luke
alone adds the appealing detail that the GENTILE centurion’s servant was
"dear unto him" (7:2,5). In the account of sending out the Twelve he
noticeably omits the words preserved by Matthew "Go not into the way of
the Gentiles." Luke alone tells how James and John wanted to call down
fire on certain inhospitable SAMARITANS, and how Jesus rebuked them. He
alone tells of the ten lepers who were cleansed, and of the one, a
SAMARITAN, who ran back to give thanks. He alone preserves for us;
"Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the GENTILES, until the times of the
GENTILES be fulfilled. All these references bring out the distinctive,
wide human outreach of this third Gospel.
From the first, that sublime manhood is associated with poverty. His
parents were so poor that when they dedicated Him in the temple they
could bring only an offering of two birds instead of the regulation
At the very outset of His ministry Jesus announces Himself as "anointed
to preach good tidings to the POOR." The beatitudes preserved by Luke
address the actual PHYSICAL poverty and hunger and tears. Next, in
chapter 14, we find Jesus saying, "When thou makest a feast, call the
POOR, the LAME, the BLIND" and a little later, "Go out quickly into the
streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the POOR, the MAIMED,
the HALT, and the BLIND." A bit further on we find the story of Lazarus
and Dives. How the poor must have listened to such stories. Still
further we find Zacchaeus, converted and exclaiming, "Behold, Lord, the
half of my goods I give to the POOR!"
Now see how Luke's accompanying NARRATIVE completes these. When Mary
sings her Magnificant, "He hath regarded the LOW ESTATE of His
handmaiden. Later she adds, "He hath put down the mighty from their
seats, and exalted them of LOW DEGREE. And yet again, "He hath filled
the HUNGRY with good things." Luke alone tells us that as our dear Lord
travels around, He was dependent, in His human poverty, on grateful
women who "ministered unto Him of their substance." And it is Luke alone
who shows us again and again, our Lord sitting at other men's tables for
His sustenance (5:29, 7:36, 10:38-42, 11:37, 14:1, 19:5) - "as POOR yet
making many rich."
Notice how markedly the human sympathies of our Lord appear in Luke's
Gospel. Here is given prominence to WOMEN. From the beginning prominence
is given to Elizabeth, Mary and Anna.
It appears all through our Lord's TEACHINGS. In Luke alone we find Jesus
absolving the penitent "WOMAN which was a sinner"; sympathetically
pacifying a "certain WOMAN" by His unforgettable "Martha, Martha, thou
art careful and troubled about many things"; here alone He heals "the
WOMAN which had an infirmity eighteen years," and then confounds the
criticizing Sabbatarian bigots. In Luke alone we meet the WOMAN having
ten pieces of silver; and here alone we see Jesus turning about, on the
via Dolorosa, to say, "Weep not for Me, DAUGHTERS of Jerusalem."
Luke's own NARRATIVE completes all this. He alone tells us about John's
mother, Elizabeth; and of Anna the prophetess; of the "certain women who
ministered of their substance"; of Martha's complaint, and Mary's
sitting at Jesus feet; of the certain woman in the company who called
out, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee!"; and of the many "women,
which also bewailed as they followed Jesus to the cross." WOMEN are
mentioned in Luke more than in any of the other three Gospels, and
widows more than in the other three combined.
Note also the sympathy with PARENTAL FEELING. All the Gospels relate the
healing of Jairus' daughter, but Luke alone tells us that she was his
"ONLY daughter." All record the healing of the demoniac son after our
Lord's transfiguration, but only in Luke do we find "for he is mine ONLY
child." And when Luke shows us that Nain widow weeping behind the
pallbearers, he explains that the premature casualty was the "ONLY son
of his mother." These and other like touches indicate a sympathetic
entering into the sorrows and feelings of other humans.
Finally, mark the compassionate outreaching toward OUTCASTS. Our sinless
Lord, the "despised and rejected," knew the feelings of the outcast.
Here only we have the PUBLICAN, standing "afar off" saying, "God be
merciful to me, a sinner." Here only we have the "woman in the city
which was a SINNER." Here alone we find publicans visiting John's
baptism, and drawing near to Jesus. Here alone we read, "This man
receiveth SINNERS." Here alone we have the parable of the prodigal son,
and we find at Calvery, the penitent "robber" to whom Jesus said,
"Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." Yes,
this is the Gospel of outcasts! This is the large - hearted humanity,
sympathy, compassion of that perfect Man who is the ideal become actual.
And it is all with a big vital purpose - our SALVATION. It is in Luke
only, that we come across the word "Savior" (1:47, 2:11). Here only we
find the word "salvation" (6x), and here that we find the lovely word "evangelizo"
(10x) which occurs only once in the other Gospels. Only in Luke do we
find "Thy faith hath saved thee" (7:50, 8:48). Luke alone uses the word
"grace" eight times, and here for the first time in the New Testament we
meet the word "redemption." Right at the beginning the herald angel
announces "To all people ... a SAVIOR!" Right at the end, the risen
Savior tells that "repentance and REMISSION OF SINS should be preached
in His Name AMONG ALL NATIONS. That Savior is our Kinsman, "bone of our
bone, and flesh of our flesh," in all things "made like unto His
brethren"; in all points "tempted like as we are"; overcoming by the
Holy Spirit; even on the Cross praying, "Father, forgive them"; and
leaving us the perfect pattern for ALL human living.
THE GREAT THEME
Part One: His Perfect Humanity
Luke shows us the threefold perfection of that wonderful Man. First he
tells us about the PHYSICAL, i.e. the birth. Then about the boyhood and
the MENTAL development. Then the Jordan baptism and the voice from
heaven which attested His MORAL AND SPIRITUAL perfection when He was
thirty, "Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." That
threefold human perfection of Jesus may be called His NATURAL
perfection. It was an indispensable prerequisite; but even that perfect
natural manhood needed a special spiritual anointing.
Is then that perfect Man now ready? No, besides that anointing with the
Spirit there must now be temptation by Satan. There can be no big
spiritual blessing from God without there being the inevitable testing
afterward. It is the Holy Spirit's opportunity of showing what He can be
to us. We tend to forget that all the while Jesus was being tempted He
was still "full of the Holy Spirit," and that the joy of victory must
have been almost as glorious as the joy of the filling itself, through
which the victory was achieved.
Part Two: The Galilee Ministry
See how it begins, "And Jesus returned IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT into
Galilee." Ah, now we shall see immediate response, delight, success!
Here is the sanctified, Spirit-filled, victorious Servant of God. Like
the ripe corn bending before the wind, the souls of His hearers will bow
before His words. But is that what we find? No, the very opposite! "And
all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled
with wrath; and rose up and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto
the brow of the hill, whereon there city was built, that they might cast
Him down headlong."
Think of it, the first experience of the Spirit-filled Minister, a
deadly rebuff! All the way through, opposition by the RELIGIOUS! - and
in the end a cross! Think of it, They could not resist His WISDOM, but
they did resist His WITNESS. Yet although they rejected His love, and
resisted His word, they could not destroy His joy, nor His influence;
for His cross became His throne, and from His grave He brought "life and
immortality to light through the Gospel." His crucifiers are dead; but
Jesus lives on in millions of hearts forever.
Part Three: The Jerusalem Journey
"And it came to pass that when the time was come that He should be
received up, He STEADFASTLY SET HIS FACE TO GO TO JERUSALEM." At the
beginning of His ministry He was already perfect; but the perfect
instrument had now become perfected through trial and service. Is not
that, then, enough? No, He who is perfect in HimSELF and perfected in
SERVICE must be perfected "through SUFFERING!" Does not that, also,
speak to you and me? Does it not suggest that the greatest contribution
we can make for God and man is not busy service but sacrifice?
Certainly, in the present scheme of things, the deepest fellowship with
God seems always to come that way. Again and again sacrifice is not an
alternative to service, but the highest form of it. Turn your eyes and
ears to Jesus as He travels that Jerusalem way. Even apart from
astonishing miracles and unforgettable parables, His incidental
conversation and behavior are eloquent. On the way He is continually
straightening out the wrong ideas of others; shaming hypocrisy and
softening prejudice; steadying excitement and calming impatience;
bearing with things and folks far below the level of His own life;
gently correcting and kindly instructing; but never once Himself
impatient or discomposed. See His frankness and bravery in rebuke, where
it was needed. See how He visits not only the "cities" but the
"villages" - for every soul in the meanest group of dwellings is
precious to Him as that of a King. See how again and again He overleaps
national conceit and racial barrier. Yet He who had no fears had TEARS,
for He was in a world of pride and hatred and twisted motives. See Him
twice weeping over the city.
Part Four: The Calvary Sacrifice
See the exemplary Man amid the deep, awful doings which culminated at
Calvary; the murderous coalition of religious men with Satan against
Him; the serpent-venom in the betrayer's kiss; the panic-struck break up
of the apostles; the denial and blasphemy of Peter; the fiendish
hypocrisy of the Sanhedrin; the sarcastic mockery of Herod and the
groveling cowardice of Pilate; Gethsemane, with its first breaking of
that direst storm which ever shuddered over a soul; Calvary, where the
floodgates of bitter waters were opened full upon Him, and the billows
of unknowable anguish whelmed Him, and the horror of the deep darkness
enveloped Him. What now are His reactions? Amid the first, sudden
intensity of the storm as it breaks upon Him in Gethsemane, there is
complete abandon to the will of God, "Nevertheless, NOT MY WILL, BUT
THINE BE DONE." When His crucifiers drive the cutting iron through His
hands and feet, and prop Him up, pinioned there in public shame and
torture, His first word is, "Father, forgive them."
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: THE WORD BECAME FLESH
1. THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS TO THE JEWS (1-12)
First "signs" witness and CONTACTS (1-4)
Further "signs" witness and CONFLICTS (5-10)
Final "sign" witness and CLEAVAGE (11-12)
2. THE PRIVATE MINISTRY OF JESUS TO "HIS OWN" (13-17)
Presage of His own departure (13-14:15)
Promise of the coming Spirit (14:16-16)
Prayer for them to God the Father (17)
3. THE PASCHAL CLIMAX: TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH (18-20)
Apprehension and persecution (18-19:15)
Crucifixion and entombment (19:16-42)
Resurrection and reappearance (20-21)
"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the
bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." The Greek verb form "exegesato"
from which comes our English word exegesis, means that in the visible
Jesus the invisible God is BROUGHT FORTH to view. The very HEART of the
Eternal is lovingly manifested for the only begotten Son comes even from
"the BOSOM of the Father."
John's reason for writing is, "That ye might BELIEVE that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through
His Name." The reader is directly challenged, and must choose - to
receive and be saved, or to reject and perish forever.
This fourth Gospel is a COMPLETIVE NECESSITY. The earlier three are a
PRESENTATION of Jesus; this fourth is an INTERPRETATION of who He is.
The other three show us Jesus outwardly, this fourth interprets Him
inwardly. The other three emphasize the human aspects, this fourth
unveils the DIVINE. The other three concern themselves mainly with our
Lord's public discourses; this fourth gives larger place to His PRIVATE
conversations, His verbal conflicts with the Jews, and His closer
teachings in seclusion to His inner disciples. The other three with His
Galilean ministry, this fourth is almost wholly devoted to His JUDAEAN
ministry. The other three begin with a human genealogy and the
fulfillment of Jewish prophecy; John begins with a direct Divine
revelation of that which was altogether pre-mundane and eternal.
There is no account of our Lord's birth, baptism, temptation,
transfiguration, or His ascension.
Matthew 20 16
Mark 18 5
Luke 20 20
John 8 1 (10:6)
Jesus' seashore "Follow Me," recorded by the synoptics, came later, and
was a call to "full-time" service with Him. They had not only met Jesus
earlier, at John the Baptist's gatherings along the winding Jordan
valley, but had companied with Him both in Judea and in Galilee
(1:40-47). All four Gospels make the Jordan baptism the starting point
of public action, but prior to that He had done miracles (2:11, 4:45).
The Galilean mission, on which the synoptists concentrate, did not begin
until John the Baptism was imprisoned (Mat.4:12,17; Mk.1:14; Jn.3:24).
INCEPTIVE JUDEAN MINISTRY
Our Lord was not baptized in Galilee (Mt.3:13). The synoptists all tell
us that straightway after His baptism our Lord underwent His lonely
temptation, which also was in the "wilderness" of Judea, and that after
the temptation He RETURNED to Galilee. The forerunner's words in John
1:15, 26, 32-33 were spoken after the temptation, forty days after His
We know that all this preceded the Galilean ministry because "John [the
Baptist] was not yet cast into prison" (3:24). Chapter 4 tells us that
Jesus returned yet again to Galilee, because His home was still there.
Also in chapter 4, He "must needs go through Samaria" and afterwards He
performs His second miracle at Cana, i.e. the healing of the paralytic
at the pool of Bethesda. All these things, which are peculiar to John's
Gospel, preceed the Galilee preachings. And in Ch.4:1 we read that
"Jesus made and baptized MORE DISCIPLES THAN JOHN." This must have taken
time. Being ill received in the capital, He turned to the
less-prejudiced country people.
THE GALILEAN MINISTRY
Everything through chapter five preceded the Galilean ministry. We know
this for three reasons: (1) Our Lord's use of the past tense when
referring to John the Baptist (v.35) indicates the John's imprisonment
had now taken place. (2) Chapter 6:1 tells us that our Lord now went to
Galilee again. (3) John now records the feeding of the 5,000, which was
in Galilee and near the end of the itineraries there. This miracle
there, followed by that of our Lord's walking on the sea, is John's one
and only extract from our Lord's Galilean tour.
THE FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS OF JOHN ALL FIT between Matthew 4:11 and 4:12,
Mark 1:13 and 14, Luke 4:13 and 14. And MOST ALL THE GALILEAN MINISTRY
fits between John chapter 5 and 6. And between John 10:21 and 22 we have
a THREE-MONTHS BREAK, JESUS RETURNS TO GALILEE, WHICH HE NOW FINALLY
LEAVES. This final departure from Galilee also appears in Matthew 19:1,
Mark 10:1, and Luke's long account 9:51-19:44. His next visit to
Jerusalem after THAT was for the triumphal entry and the crucifixion. So
His final visit TO and exit FROM Galilee must certainly have occurred
between John 10:21 and 22. Those wonderful extra chapters in Luke belong
to the thronged journeying through Galilee and Samaria and Perea (the
region east of the Jordan) to the border of Judea. Luke joins up again
with Matthew and Mark (Lk.18:15) at the point where Jesus is about to
cross the Jordan for Jericho and thence up to His triumphal entry into
Jerusalem. Now it was from THERE, Perea, along the Jordan border of
Judea, that our Lord made those two short visits to Jerusalem and
Bethany, which JOHN records, i.e. the December feast of Dedication
(10:22-39) and the raising of Lazarus (11:1-46).
Order and length of our Lord's Ministry
1. CONTACTS IN JUDEA (4 - 5 months)
Jordan baptism & temptation Mt.3:1-4; Mk.1:4-13; Lk.3-4
At Jordan again; meets Andrew John 1:19-42
Return to Galilee; Cana and John 1:43-2:12
At Jerusalem for the Passover; John 2:13-3:21
Interval of teaching, baptizing John 3:22-36
in Judea, near Jordan
Galilee again; Sychar woman; John 4:1-54
second Cana miracle
At Jerusalem feast; Bethesda John 5:1-47
cure; Jews oppose
2. CIRCUIT OF GALILEE (about 1 year and 10 months)
The three synoptic accounts of Mt.4:12-18; Mk.1:14-9; Lk.4:14-9:50.
the Galilean ministry
Short break-to Jerusalem for John 7:2-10:21
feast of Tabernacles
Slow, final exit-journey from Luke 9:51-18:14
Halt in Perea, visit to Jerusalem John 10:22-39
feast of Dedication
Perea again, whence up to Bethany John 10:40-11:54
to raise Lazarus
From "city called Ephraim" up Mt.19:1-21:11; Mk:10:1-11:11
to triumphal entry Lk.18:15-19:24; Jn.11:54-12:19
3. CLIMAX AT JERUSALEM (about one week)
Clashes with Jewish leaders in Mt.21:12-23; Mk.11-12; Lk. 19:45-21:4
Prophetic forecast on the Mount Mt.24-25; Mk.13; Lk.21:5-38
At Bethany: the anointing by Mt.26; Mk.14; Jn.12
Last Passover: Discourse to the Mt.26; Mk.14; Lk.22; Jn.13-17
Gethsemane; the arrest; Peter's Ditto and John 18
Arraignment, crucifixion, and Mt.27; Mk.15; Lk.23; John 18:28-19
In John's Gospel we are at once struck by the different way of saying
and seeing things from that of Matthew, Mark or Luke. In Matthew we have
impressionist groupings; in Mark a rapid succession of camera shots; in
Luke a beautifully unfolding story. Here, in John, everything subserves
the developing of certain RECURRENT IDEAS. There is one which is
center-most, ETERNAL LIFE BY BELIEVING ON JESUS AS THE SON OF GOD AND
SAVIOR OF MEN.
The first of these chapter groups is occupied with the miraculous
"signs" which our Lord gave, of which John here records seven,
culminating with the raising of Lazarus from death. Note how the early
CONTACTS quickly develop into later CONFLICTS, and then issue in utter
CLEAVAGE. The second group mainly concerns our Lord's wonderful new
disclosures about the coming PARACLETE. The final chapters are the awful
yet glorious outcome of the whole.
So far as the spiritual message of John's Gospel is concerned, the key
verse is undoubtedly 1:12. Notice how these three center-lines run with
parallel persistence and increasing sharpness right through the
1. "His own received Him not"
2. "But as many as received Him"
3. "To them He gave power to become"
THE EIGHT MIRACLES
1. The turning of the water into wine (2)
2. The healing of the nobleman's son (4)
3. The curing of the Bethesda paralytic (5)
4. The feeding of the five thousand (6)
5. The walking over the sea of Galilee (6)
6. The giving of sight to the blind man (9)
7. The raising of Lazarus from death (11)
8. The miraculous draught of fishes (21)
There are three features about John's eight sign-miracles which should
be noted: (a) he numbers the first two, so there is SEQUENCE; (b) there
is no duplication as in the synoptists, so there is careful SELECTION;
(c) there is an over-all purpose (20:11), so there is SPECIALTY.
Also there is one unifying idea traceable through them all, namely that
of TRANSFORMATION. Passing through them we find transformation from
sadness to gladness, from disease to health, from paralysis to energy,
from hunger to fullness, from agitation to tranquillity, from darkness
to light, from death to life, from frustration and failure to copious
success. These eight supernatural transformations provide not only
evidential "signs" of our Lord's Deity, but striking illustrations of
that transforming "power to become" which operates in "as many as
As Many as Received Him
Our Lord's private interviews with individuals or small groups has often
been noted as a unique feature of this fourth Gospel.
1. Peter, Nathaniel, etc. (1:35-51)
2. The ruler Nicodemus (3:1-21)
3. The Sychar woman (4:6-26)
4. The man born blind (9:35-41)
5. Martha and Mary at Bethany (11)
6. The eleven apostles (13-14)
7. Mary Magdalene (20:1-18)
8. The apostle Peter (21:15-23)
These eight exemplify "as many as received Him." The first, with Peter,
sets the note "power to become." The emphasis is on what Jesus said to
Simon and Nathaniel, "Thou art ... thou shalt be." "Thou shalt see
greater things than these."
Then in the interviews which follow we see illustrated how that new
life-power operates in "as many as received Him." With Nicodemus we see
that its operation begins with a being "born anew." With the Sychar
woman it becomes an inner spring of life and satisfaction. With the man
born blind it is an inward as well as an outward eye opening to see
Jesus as "the Son of God." With the Bethany sisters it is an energy
which, in answer to faith, conquers the seemingly impossible. In the
lengthy and touching conversation with the Eleven we learn that the
executive of this new power-life is the Divine Paraclete. Next in the
pathetic yet thrilling interview with Mary Magdalene, we see how it
brings individual manifestation of the risen Lord to His loved ones,
transforming heart-break into joy-break. Finally, in the epilogue
interview with Peter, we see it bringing restoration and new commission
to ministry for the Savior.
"As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the
children of God, even to them that believe on His name." Yes, that is
the central spiritual message running through this Gospel according to
A Remarkable Parallel
The old-time Tabernacle was furnished with SEVEN most significant
objects. The true order of approach to God is one and the same, whether
in the old dispensation or the new. John leads us, in exactly the same
order as those seven articles of the Tabernacle furniture, to the great
spiritual realities which they typify.
He begins by leading us to the (1) BRAZEN ALTAR OF SACRIFICE - atonement
is through sacrifice, that of Christ. "Behold the Lamb of God, which
taketh away the sin of the world." Then in chapter 3 he has us at the
(2) BRAZEN LAVER OF CLEANSING - spiritual renewal, that of regeneration
by the Holy Spirit. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he
cannot enter the kingdom of God."
Next in chapters 4-6 he takes us to the (3) TABLE OF SHOWBREAD -
spiritual sustenance, Christ as the Living Bread of His people, of which
if a man eat, he shall live forever. Next in chapters 8-9, John takes us
to the (4) GOLDEN CANDLESTAND - spiritual illumination, Christ the
Light, especially of His people; and the man born blind is given sight
as a living illustration.
Then in chapters 14-16 we find ourselves at the (5) GOLDEN ALTAR OF
INCENSE - acceptable supplication. Here we learn to pray prayers in the
Name of Jesus, which become as fragrant incense when perfumed by the
breathing of that Name which, above all others, is dear to the heart of
God. Next, in that sublime seventeenth chapter of intercessory prayer we
hear the words of our Great High Priest. We are taken through the "veil"
into the very Holy of Holies, we are permitted a glimpse into His
high-priestly ministry of intercession which He exercises for us in the
presence of God.
Then in the heart-subduing climax of Calvary, we see in chapters 18-19,
how He is also the very (6) ARK OF THE COVENANT - signifying Christ is
our covenant access, and (7) THE MERCY SEAT - speaking of our acceptance
with God in Christ because of the blood of His own vicarious
Self-offering. Chapter 20, the resurrection chapter follows, in which
our risen Lord announces our new covenant relationship with God, "I
ascend unto My Father and YOUR Father; unto My God and YOUR God."
Finally He discloses the reality which corresponds with that unutterably
holy SHEKINAH presence. In the evening of that day of resurrection, "He
breathed on them, and said unto them `RECEIVE YE THE HOLY SPIRIT'." Yes,
that is the shekinah of the Christian experience.
In the prologue there are four designations of our Lord which at once
capture attention: (1) the WORD, (2) the LIFE, (3) the LIGHT, (4) the
SON. The first and last declare His relationship with God the Father,
the middle two indicate function towards us human creatures.
Our Lord is the WORD, i.e. the EXPRESSION of God, not only towards man,
not only from premundane antiquity, but before all the creation;
fundamentally, eternally, indivisibly. He was not merely from the
beginning, He already was "in the beginning." He was not only "with
God", He "was God." As a word may be distinguished from the thought
which it expresses (for the two are not identical), so can the Second
Person of the Godhead be distinguished from the First. Yet as there
simply cannot be a word apart from the thought behind it, so also "God"
and the "Word" cannot be conceived of as ever having existed without
each other. They are distinguishable but inseparable.
Our Lord is also the SON. The concept of Logos in relation to Theos is
warmed into that of the Son in relation to the Father. The Logos is
simply "with God", but the Son is "in the bosom" of the Father. There is
a reciprocal fellowship of love immanent in the Deity; and it is one of
the ultimates, eternal as God, for there cannot be eternal fatherhood
without eternal sonship.
These two metaphors, the "Word" and the "Son," supplement and protect
each other from erroneous conceptions of our Lord. To think of Him only
as the eternal "Word" might suggest merely an impersonal quality or
faculty in God. To think of Him only as the "Son" might falsely limit us
to the concept of a personal yet created being.
Next, in relation to us human beings, He is the LIFE and the LIGHT. From
Him all creature life derives, both physical and psychical. From Him
irradiates all true illumination, both intellectual and spiritual. Also
these two designations the "Life" and the "Light" correspond with the
"Word" and the "Son." As the Word He is the expresser, the revealer, the
illuminator, the Light. As the Son He is the personal executive,
quickener, imparter, the Life. And paralleling with these are the two
words, "grace" and "truth." The incarnate One is "full of grace and
truth" i.e. full of grace to redeem MAN, and full of truth to reveal
GOD. He is the God-man Revealer-Redeemer.
Oh, this all-transcendent Savior of ours! Why, in this first chapter
alone there are eight glorious titles which belong to Him absolutely and
exclusively: the Word, the Life, the Light, the Son, the Lamb, the
Messiah, the King, the Son of Man.
Eternal Life through Believing
John gives his practical purpose as "That ye might BELIEVE that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have LIFE"
(20:31). That word "believe" occurs in its several forms 98 times; the
words "life" and "live" 55 times. When we pick out the principal
references to eternal life we discover an unmistakable PROGRESS OF
1:4 The soul is to give LIGHT
3:14 The life imparted to us by faith is ETERNAL
3:36 This eternal life is our PRESENT POSSESSION
4:14 This present possession is an INWARD SATISFACTION
5:24 This eternal life gives EXEMPTION FROM JUDGMENT
6:40 This life includes the promise of IMMORTALITY OF THE BODY
10:27 This gives the strongest assurance of ETERNAL PRESERVATION
11:25 All its possessors share this AGE-END TRANSFIGURATION
17:24 This life is to be consummated in HEAVENLY GLORIFICATION
Incarnate Word: The Only Begotten Son
This presentation of Jesus as the incarnate Word and the only-begotten
Son is the center-glory of John's Gospel. Twenty-three times we find our
Lord's meaningful "I AM," and from them we can pick seven tremendous
metaphors expressive of His saving relationship toward mankind:
"I AM the Bread of Life"
"I AM the Light of the World"
"I AM the Door of the Sheep"
"I AM the Good Shepherd"
"I AM the Resurrection and the Life"
"I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life"
"I AM the True Vine"
In the Greek "I AM" is EGO EIMI. Both EGO and EIMI mean "I am" but the
former emphasizes "I" and the latter "am." Thus, EGO EIMI expresses
personal being in the strongest possible way. It is the Greek expression
for the Divine Name "I AM." It is first seen in the Old Testament in
Exodus 3 where God reveals Himself to Moses. In answer to Moses'
question "What is Your Name?" the Lord answered, "I AM THAT I AM."
In John chapter 5 we see Jesus claiming equality with God in seven
1. Equal in working (v.19)
2. Equal in knowing (v.20)
3. Equal in resurrecting (v.21,28-29)
4. Equal in judging (v.22,27)
5. Equal in honor (v.23)
6. Equal in regenerating (v.24-25)
7. Equal in self-existence (v.26)
Full of Grace and Truth
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld
His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father)
full of grace and truth" (1:14).
"And of His fullness have we all received" (1:18).
This "fullness" is another of John's recurrent emphases. The fullness is
EMBODIED that it might be IMPARTED. Two lines run through the succeeding
chapters: (1) fullness of grace to RESTORE (His WORKS), (2) fullness of
truth to REVEAL (His WORDS).
This is at once a Scriptural refutation of the so-called "KENOSIS"
theory which would have us believe that our Lord "emptied Himself"
(Phil.2:7) practically to the degree of ordinary human fallibility.
Instead of an "emptying" down to our merely human level, there is a
supernatural FULLNESS. The "kenosis" or self-emptying, has to do only
with "form" (morphe) or expression, not essence (v.6-7). When our Lord
"emptied Himself" (ekenosen) for the purpose of incarnation He separated
Himself from the PRE-incarnate expression of Himself, i.e. from "THE
GLORY" which He had with the Father "BEFORE THE WORLD WAS". We cannot
understand the mystery of that profound transition in which He disrobed
Himself of that pre-cosmic "glory," but we can understand that He
neither did nor could detach Himself from what He eternally IS. Over
against "kenosis," there is a Divine "PLEROMA" - One who is "the
fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col.2:9). See it in every miracle-
"full of grace." Hear it in every message- "full of truth." Follow it
right through, and you will appreciate John's words as never before -
"We beheld HIS GLORY."
Let us glance back retrospectively:
Matthew The promised One is here; see His credentials.
Mark This is how He worked; see His power.
Luke This is what He was like; see His nature.
John This is who He really is; see His Godhead.
Oh, this wonderful Savior! How we ought to prize Him, love Him, extol
Him, witness to Him, and long for that day of days when we shall see
Him! For all our need He is the "fullness" of supply. The fullness is
embodied in HIM that it may be imparted to US. "Of His fullness have all
we received." Let us keep on receiving, for He came that we "might have
life ... more abundantly."
And let us keep on serving Him. His parting words at the end of John's
Gospel have given us the three vital qualifications for this. First, "Lovest
thou Me?"; second, "Feed My lambs ... Tend My sheep"; third, "Follow
Me." Yes, they are the three essentials - a deep LOVE for Him, a sense
of His COMMISSION to us, and a devoted FOLLOWING of Him, with our eyes
ever on that lovely prospect of which He Himself speaks, in the very
last sentence of John's Gospel:
"TILL I COME."
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - RENEWED OFFER OF THE KINGDOM TO THE JEWS
Apostles prepared and commissioned (1)
1. RENEWED OFFER TO JEWS OF THE HOME-LAND (2-12)
2 - Miracle - Witness - Response
3-4 Miracle - Witness - Opposition
5 - Miracle - Witness - Opposition
6-7 Miracle - Witness - Opposition
First crisis point: Outrage against Stephen (7)
1. Final trial of nation at the capital
2. Official Jewish rejection of the kingdom
3. First outward movement of evangelism
4. Transference to new center - Antioch
The outward movement: Key cities and persons
8 - Samaria - Ethiopian Chancellor
9 - Damascus - Saul the future Paul
10 - Cesarea - Cornelius the Gentile
11 - Antioch - Gentile Inclusion
12 - Jerusalem - Herod judged as head of nation
2. RENEWED OFFER TO JEWS OF THE DISPERSION (13-28)
13-14 First Pauline missionary excursion
15 Second Pauline missionary excursion
18 Third Pauline missionary excursion, General Jewish reaction -
Second crisis point: Outcry against Paul (22)
1. Climax of Jewish hatred against Paul
2. Culminating "No" by Jews of Dispersion
3. This causes witness to key persons
4. Leads to Paul’s final witness at Rome
The further witnessing before key persons
23 - Paul witnesses before the Sanhedrin
24 - Paul witnesses before Governor Felix
25 - Paul witnesses before Governor Festus
26 - Paul witnesses before King Agrippa
27 - Paul goes to Rome: final witness there
Third crisis point: Outgoing to Gentiles (28)
"Be it known therefore unto you that the
salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles,
and that they will hear it (28:28)."
Covering a period of 30 years, it is an unresolved suspense period. A
second offer of the Kingdom of Heaven,' and of Jesus as Messiah-King,
was being made to Israel. It can be affirmed with almost categorical
finality that the author was Luke, and it was completed about the year
63 A.D. at Rome; that is about the end of Paul's two years imprisonment
The key thought in the Acts is that of WITNESS TO CHRIST, "Ye shall
receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall
be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria,
and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (1:8). In chapters 2-7 the
witness is borne in Jerusalem; in chapters 8-12 it is borne in all Judea
and Samaria. Finally, in chapter 13 to the end of the book it is borne
to the "uttermost part of the earth." As for its plan, this book of the
Acts is in two parts.
Part I (1-12) Part II (13-28)
Jerusalem the center Antioch the center
Peter the chief figure Paul the chief figure
Reaching out to Samaria Reaching out to Rome
Word rejected by Jews of Homeland Word rejected by Jews of Dispertion
Peter imprisoned Paul imprisoned
Judgment on Herod Judgment on Jews
There is a parallel between Peter in the first part and Paul in the
second which seems to be more than merely coincidental.
First sermon (2) First sermon (13)
Lame man healed (3) Lame man healed (14)
Simon the sorcerer (8) Elymas the sorcerer (13)
Influence of shadow (5) Influence of handkerchief (19)
Laying on of hands (8) Laying on of hands (19)
Peter worshipped (10) Paul worshipped (14)
Tabitha raised (9) Eutychus raised (20)
Peter imprisoned (12) Paul imprisoned (28)
WHAT WAS THE APOSTOLIC WITNESS?
What was the NATURE AND CONTENT of the apostolic witness to our Lord
Jesus Christ? What was uppermost in the thoughts of our Lord those final
40 days of His ministry on earth. It tells us in v.3 "He showed Himself
alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them
forty days, and speaking of THE THINGS PERTAINING TO THE KINGDOM OF
GOD." Language could not be plainer. During those 40 days the supreme
and engrossing subject of conversation was "the kingdom of God." This
evoked a quite natural question on the part of the apostles, which says,
"Lord, wilt Thou at this time RESTORE AGAIN THE KINGDOM TO ISRAEL?" Yet,
strangely enough, most writers on the Acts fail to see this. Confounding
"the kingdom of God" with the "Church" (and thus spiritualizing it, to
say nothing of divorcing it from Old Testament prophecy) they charge the
apostles with incorrigible unintelligence and self-centered ambitions.
What was it then, the apostles were commissioned to preach by the risen
Christ? Clearly, it was something to do with "the kingdom of God," for
that was THE subject of consideration during the 40 days. They were to
witness to Him (1) as being indeed the Messiah-King of Israel, the
crucified but now risen Deliverer of His people, the predestined King of
the long promised "kingdom of heaven"; and (2) as the personal Savior,
from the guilt and power and eternal penalty of sin, of all who believe
on Him, through His atoning death and resurrection. They were to present
the offer of the King and the kingdom, just as the Lord Himself had done
up to the time of His crucifixion; only now there was a wonderful new
factor in the message - that of the cross, the atonement for "the sin of
the world," and the good news of personal salvation by faith on the Lord
Jesus, the Christ of Israel and now the Savior of the world. Whatever
other meanings may inhere in the Acts of the Apostles, the book is
THE RENEWED OFFER OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN TO THE NATION ISRAEL.
Specimen Apostolic Preachings
This renewed offer of the kingdom to Israel is the key to all the
recorded proclamations of the apostles to the nation at and after
Pentecost. Peter's great sermon on the day of Pentecost (2:14-40) is
addressed especially to the men of Israel (v.14,22,36). Next note, the
Pentecostal effusion is said to be in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. Does
it refer to the Church? No, but rather the nation Israel and in
particular, the Messianic kingdom. Next, Peter charges home the
responsibility for the crucifixion of the Messiah upon the nation
Israel, reminding them of the "miracles and signs and wonders" which He
had done among them. At this point, Peter breaks forth in the new
message of the resurrection and exaltation of the crucified Jesus,
showing it to be the fulfillment of Messianic prediction. Peter gives
the crowning proof not only that this Jesus is indeed the Messiah, but
that He is, in the unique and transcendent sense, the very Son of God.
And then he finally adds, "For the promise [that of Joel], and the
kingdom promise of Old Testament prophecy in general] is UNTO YOU AND
YOUR CHILDREN, and [afterward] to all that are afar off [Gentiles], as
many as the Lord our God shall call."
As for Peter's 2nd public address (3:12-26), there are two striking
things about it. First, the admission that there was ignorance in the
crucifying of Jesus; and second, the promise that the Lord Jesus would
return THEN, if the people of Israel repented and received Him. The
"times of RESTORATION" to which Peter here referred come without delay,
along with our Lord's return, if Israel would repent and receive. The
apostles themselves had been thinking of this same "restoration" when
they asked, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time RESTORE the kingdom to
Israel?" The Old Testament prophets repeatedly foretell a restoration of
dispersed Israel to the covenant land; a restoration of the theocracy
under the coming Messiah; and a restoration to full privileges under the
finally realized provisions of the Abrahamic covenant.
THREE PIVOTAL EVENTS - There are three pivotal events in the Acts - they
1. OUTRAGE AGAINST STEPHEN
In the outrage against Stephen, it will be seen in each of the earlier
chapters of the Acts we have first miracle then witness. The miracles
are meant to prepare the way for the message. They were the supernatural
evidences, in accordance with Old Testament prophecies such as Joel's,
that the long-promised kingdom was really here in its beginnings, in its
incipient stage; and the message was that if the nation, welcoming these
evidences, repented and accepted the renewed offer of the Lord Jesus
Christ, then Christ would return, and the kingdom be brought in fully.
What is more, in these early chapters we see that in each case, after
miracle and message, there is immediate opposition by the Jewish
Now all this is brought to a head in the outrage against Stephen. First,
in the miracles, message and martyrdom of Stephen we have the FINAL
TRIAL AND INDICTMENT OF THE NATION. More than a few readers, perhaps
have wondered just what is the special point of Stephen's long address
to the Sanhedrin.
To begin with, his review was an indictment. It was meant to show how,
again and again, right through the national history, Israel had rejected
the witness of God's Spirit, until at length, under the influence of
their perverted leaders, the people had gone to the ugly extreme of
murdering the Messiah Himself. Stephen's sorrowful purpose is to charge
home intelligent and conscious guilt for the heinous dual sin, first of
crucifying the Son of God, and now of resisting still further the
graciously renewed witness of the Divine Spirit. On the cross Christ had
said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; and Peter
had made allowance for this in his words to the crowd, "I know that in
ignorance ye did it." But now ignorance may be pleaded no longer - the
situation shall now be so clarified that the Jewish leaders will at once
be seen to be acting in the full realization of what they are doing. No
longer shall the words, "They know not what they do" be a covering for
them. Wonders have been wrought. Witness has been given. Offer has been
made. They have seen and heard and understood - and have resisted.
Certainly the miracles had been unmistakable and unanswerable. The
leaders themselves had been forced to admit it. We see both their
admission and their attitude to it in chapters 4:16-17 & 5:12,17-18.
Their jealous rage and opposition would stop at nothing. Their knowing
and willful resistance of the Holy Spirit was more and more uncloaked
until its evil face was finally unmasked at the trial of Stephen: "Ye
stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, YE DO ALWAYS RESIST
THE HOLY GHOST." The nation was tried and found guilty.
Second, the martyrdom of Stephen marked the OFFICIAL JEWISH REJECTION OF
THE RENEWED OFFER OF THE KINGDOM. In these early chapters of the Acts
there are two words used to describe the supernatural works wrought by
the apostles - "signs" and "wonders." The apostolic miracles were
"signs" that the kingdom, in offer, had indeed drawn near again in the
renewed message through the lips of the apostles. As to their nature,
these signs were "wonders," works so obviously supernatural as to make
it quite certain that God Himself was at work among the people. The
stoning of Stephen was the signal for a general uprising against the
believers. Chapter 8:1 says, "And at that time there was a great
persecution against the assembly which was at Jerusalem; and they were
all scattered abroad." Tradition tells us that over 2,000 were put to
death in the Stephenic outbreak.
Third, the martyrdom of Stephen precipitated the FIRST OUTWARD MOVEMENT
OF EVANGELISM FROM THE JEWISH CAPITAL. "They that were scattered abroad
went everywhere preaching the word."
Fourth, the outbreak against Stephen occasioned THE TRANSFERENCE TO A
NEW CENTER, Antioch. From this point Antioch begins to take the lead in
the Acts. Jerusalem still retains nominal leadership; it is still the
center for authoritative decision and pronouncement, for the Twelve
still remain there. There is still the uniqueness of the Judean capital
arising from its sacred associations; and it remains for all time the
history cradle for the new faith; yet IN STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE it is
Antioch which now comes to the fore.
2. THE OUTCRY AGAINST PAUL
As in the first part of the book, the martyrdom of Stephen is the
focus-point, the climax of what precedes it and the cause of what
follows, so here in this second half of the book the impassioned
outburst of Jewish hostility described in chapter 22. It was not enough
that the good news of the kingdom should be proclaimed only in the
homeland. Hence the second part is taken up with the witness of the
kingdom to the Jews of the Dispersion, and to the "uttermost part of the
earth." Here again we see strict adherence to the order, "the Jew first"
and then "also to the Gentile."
First Missionary Journey
What was the message which the two apostles preached on this first
missionary expedition? "And when they had preached THE GOSPEL to that
city, and had discipled many, they returned again to Lystra, and to
Iconium and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and
exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much
tribulation enter into THE KINGDOM OF GOD" (14:21-22). The message was
that of Jesus as Messiah-King and personal Savior.
Thus we see that the Jews were more and more closing the door against
the apostolic witness, and that at the same time the "door of faith" was
being opened to the Gentiles (14:27). From the opening visit to Cyprus,
it would seem as though the two evangelists had intended to go
exclusively to the Jews. In Antioch and Iconium they are forced to
recognize that they cannot go exclusively to the Jews, though they still
go to the Jews primarily (13:46). When we see them as fugitives in
Lyconia they had been fairly driven out to the Gentiles! On returning to
their home base, they "rehearsed all that God had done with them, and
how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." They could bear
no glad report of Jewish repentance and receptiveness. The one bright
relief was this opening of the door to the Gentiles. A great transition
was taking place. More and more we see those other words assuming
prominence, "And also the Gentiles."
Second Missionary Journey
Place Method and Message Reaction and Result
Phillipi To Jew 1st 1) Promised Unrecorded, On to
Messiah, a Lydia won Thessalonica
Thessalonica " Sinbearer Some accept: Flight to Berea
Berea " 2) Messiah is Many accept: Flight to
Jesus, crucified opposition Athens
Athens " but risen No Jewish Out to the
Corinth " 3) Jesus now Bitter "Henceforth to
offered as King, opposition the Gentiles"
Ephesus " Messiah, Not recorded Back to home
Savior. till later, base at Antioch
Jewish opposition seems to have reached a high-water mark in Corinth. In
connection with this we have Paul's last recorded word before returning
to home base, "From henceforth I will go UNTO THE GENTILES."
Third Missionary Journey
The method was again "to the Jew first." The message was "the kingdom of
God." The reaction was largely unbelief and opposition on the part of
the Jews. When Paul returns to Jerusalem after his 3rd missionary tour
what does his report consist of? "He declared particularly what things
God had wrought AMONG THE GENTILES by his ministry" (21:19). It is of
momentous significance, especially in the light of what now follows in
Paul was at Jerusalem on the occasion of the annual Pentecost. There
were present therefore at the Jewish capital Jews from all over the
world, just as there had been when, some 27 years earlier, the Holy
Spirit was first outpoured on the apostolic band, and when Peter had
declared to the "devout men OUT OF EVERY NATION UNDER HEAVEN." The Jews
of the Dispersion are well represented by the many who have come from
the various parts of the Roman world to be present in Jerusalem for the
celebration. Paul is now only too well known to them as a result of his
three evangelistic expeditions. They are now about to utter their
fierce, final repudiation of him and his message. Mark well that it is
"the Jews WHICH WERE FROM ASIA" (21:27) who drag Paul into prominence
and instigate the riot against him. And as Paul was delivering his
speech there was a frantic outburst and a violent stampede at his words,
"AND HE [JESUS] SAID UNTO ME: DEPART, FOR I WILL
SEND THEE FAR HENCE UNTO THE GENTILES."
It was the representatives of the Jews of the Dispersion, united with
the unbelieving Jews of the homeland, uttering their loud and final
rejection of Jesus as their Christ and of the message of salvation to
the Gentiles. This latter was intolerable to them. It infuriated and
maddened them in their conceited bigotry. They would not themselves
receive the kingdom, but they were determined that no semblance of
privilege should be accorded to the Gentiles.
3. THE OUTGOING TO THE GENTILES
The final crisis-point in this book of the Acts is reached in chapter
28. Jewish leaders came to him for an interview, "And when they had
appointed him a day, there came many to him, into his lodging; to whom
he expounded and testified THE KINGDOM OF GOD, persuading them
concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets,
from morning to evening." Even after the apostles discouraging
experiences in Judea and throughout the empire, his approach is still
"to the Jew first", and only afterward "also to the Gentile"; and the
subject of his testimony is still "the kingdom." Then immediately
following this, the final crisis point of the book is reached in the
"BE IT KNOWN THEREFORE UNTO YOU, THAT THE SALVATION OF GOD
IS SENT UNTO THE GENTILES AND THAT THEY SHALL HEAR IT." v.28
This book of Acts has reached its tragic goal, and fulfilled its
intended purpose. The renewed offer of the kingdom of heaven to Israel
has been made over a period of 30 years, first to the Jews of the
homeland, then to the Jews of the Dispersion throughout the Roman world.
THE JEWS HAVE SAID "NO" TO THE RENEWED OFFER OF JESUS AS ISRAEL'S CHRIST
AND KING AND SAVIOR. THE "KINGDOM" IS NOW TO BE WITHDRAWN AND HELD IN
ABEYANCE. FOR THIS PRESENT AGE THE NATION ISRAEL IS TO BE SET ASIDE AS
GOD'S REPRESENTATIVE PEOPLE ON EARTH, AND A FAR-SURPASSING GOSPEL OF
WORLD-EMBRACING DIVINE GRACE IS TO BE MADE KNOWN AMONG ALL THE NATIONS
OF THE GENTILES.
It is only when we turn and read on through the Epistles that we find
revealed to us the deeper movement of Divine purpose which was operating
underneath and concurrently with the renewed rejection of Jesus and the
kingdom by the Jews. Just as the awful deed of Calvary had been Divinely
foreknown and overruled - indeed inasmuch as the crucifixion of the
nation's Messiah had been sublimated into the atoning self-sacrifice of
the world's Savior - so also this further failure of the Jewish people
had been Divinely anticipated and overruled. Under the sovereign
operation of God these groups of believers scattered throughout the
Roman world now became seen and known, through inspired eyes and pens,
as the first assemblies of those blood-redeemed, Spirit-born human
beings who constitute the spiritual CHURCH, the mystic body and bride
and temple of the eternal Son.
Out from the ashes of Jewish unbelief there rises up this wonderful new
spiritual building, the Church, of which these little groups are the
first expression. Lo, an elect bride for the heavenly Isaac! A spiritual
temple for the glorified Lord! A mystic body for Him who is "Head over
all things"! A new age breaks. The kingdom twice refused by unbelieving
Israel is now for the first time being held over; but the purpose of God
moves on unthwarted. We stress the fact again, that only in the light of
the Epistles do we perceive this deeper significance in these newly
formed assemblies of believers scattered throughout the Roman world, as
recorded in the Acts.
Also this book of the Acts is a CONTINUATION. Luke's opening words are,
"The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus BEGAN
both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up..." The
Acts is no mere chronicle of witness to an absent Christ. His ascension
did not rob His followers of His presence. The lovely paradox is that He
was never so really WITH them as after He had LEFT them. All the way
through Acts Jesus is chief Actor, even MORE present now because
physically invisible. This is the wonder epic of what the crucified,
risen, ascended Jesus Himself CONTINUED to do by His Spirit through His
ADDENDUM: OUR LORD'S RETURN
If we rightly read the Scriptures, the second coming of Christ to this
earth is not, so to speak an event fixed by calendar for a certain date,
but rather an event which is CONTINGENT UPON certain other events. If
the "day and hour" had been a date-fixture revealed to any man, how
could a bona fide offer have been made to the Jews, as we have in the
Acts. We can see why, when the disciples asked, "Lord, wilt Thou at this
time restore again the kingdom to Israel?", He replied, "It is not for
you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His
own power." To have known the day in advance would have been to know
Israel's reaction before ever the renewed offer of the kingdom was made.
"Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world," and
it is in the light of His perfect foreknowledge that He preadapts and
prearranges and predetermines. Thus, while He never leaves His ultimate
purposes at the mercy of human uncertainty, in the outworking of things
to the predetermined end He recognizes the free-will of man all through,
and prearranges according to His foreknowledge of what man will do. Thus
it is that events are allowed in the main to take their natural course,
while at the same time God foreknows and overrules all to the
fulfillment of His ultimate purpose.
This has a bearing upon THE EPISTLES. The period covered by the Acts was
a suspense period. So long as the kingdom was being re-offered to the
nation the return of the Lord could have happened without any delay upon
fulfillment of the conditions. The offer was real; the promise was true;
the crucified but ascended Son of Man was indeed "standing at the right
hand of God," ready to descend again in kingdom blessing. Would Israel
respond, repent, receive? That was the suspense point. Now it is in
those epistles which were written during this suspense-period of the
Acts, when there was still hope of Israel's repentance, that we find the
seeming imminence of the Lord's return. Of those epistles, the earliest
were 1 & 2 Thessalonians (53 A.D.). Corinthians, Galatians and Romans
were written 4-5 years later, when Jewish antipathy was becoming more
firmly crystallized, but when to assemblies of believers all over the
Roman world the hope of Christ's return was still that which filled the
immediate horizon. Yet when we turn over to Ephesians, Philippians,
Colossians, Timothy and Titus, however there is a noticeable new
emphasis. The grand prospect of the Lord's return is still there, and
still as bright; but there is not the same sense of impendence. A great
new conception swings into commanding prominence, taking the precedence
for the time being, and claiming the soul's wonder - that is, the CHURCH
as the mystic body and bride and temple of the eternal Son. THESE
epistles were not written until 64 A.D. (or possibly later), after the
culminating pronouncement of Acts 28:28.
Yet despite their imminence, these two second advent letters to the
Thessalonians preserve a kind of sensitive poise between an encouraged
expectancy on the one hand and a careful indefiniteness as to time on
Is there not a real sense, also in which it is STILL CONTINGENT UPON AN
EVENT? It is no longer contingent upon Israel's response to the
apostolic message, nor has it been so since the hour of that solemn,
final pronouncement. No, THAT contingency has forever passed. Yet it
certainly seems as though the promised coming is now, in some real
sense, made contingent upon a further historical development. Romans
11:25 says, "For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this
mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits; that a hardening in part
hath befallen Israel, UNTIL THE FULLNESS OF THE GENTILES BE COME IN."
How then is the "fullness" of the Gentiles to be completed? Is it not by
our own co-operation? In this same passage Paul asks, "How shall they
call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe
in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a
But there is another New Testament reference - II Peter 3:11-12:
"LOOKING FOR AND HASTENING THE DAY OF GOD." So there it is, WE may
hasten that day! How? By striving, as Paul did, to bring in "the
fullness of the Gentiles"! That great "day" in some mysterious but real
sense, has been made again contingent. Let us not be slow to believe and
blameworthy as were the Jews, but rather as Paul says
"BE DILIGENT" II Peter 3:14.
ROMANS - THE GOSPEL, THE POWER OF GOD TO SALVATION
1:1 - 8:39 = DOCTRINAL: HOW THE GOSPEL SAVES THE SINNER
9:1 - 11:29 = NATIONAL: HOW THE GOSPEL RELATES TO ISRAEL
12:1 - 16:27 = PRACTICAL: HOW THE GOSPEL BEARS ON CONDUCT
What irony that the church to which this epistle was sent has erred most
grievously from it. It stands first among these 'Church' epistles
because the Holy Spirit designed it so, to be first ingested.
HOW THE GOSPEL SAVES THE SINNER
1:1 - 3:20 = Gentile & Jewish Guilt
3:21 - 5:11 = Gospel's Answer for Sins
5:12 - 8:39 = Gospel's Answer for Sin
Present righteousness and final salvation through Christ by faith is the
theme of Romans. There are two aspects: the judicial and the dynamic.
Man needs a new 'standing' before God, judicial righteousness,
justification by the cross, where Christ our Substitute died FOR sins;
and secondly identification, where Christ our Representative died TO
sin, a new 'power' which can make a practical righteousness by the
Spirit. This is God's good news. To obey God's good news, is simply to
believe it. Paul is not establishing what is now called 'the Christian
religion'. Utter uncompromising, abandonment of hope in man is the first
prerequisite to understanding or preaching the gospel. If God asks of us
to abandon all hope in man, can He, who thoroughly knows man, retain any
expectations of him?
Romans is a 'court book.' God, who had judged all guilty under sin,
gladly declares righteous and safe those who trust Him. Contrariwise,
those who reject His mercy and grace are visited by the same Judge, even
God, with wrath. Both the wrath in the one case, and the grace in the
other, proceed from God's personal feeling, it is the Judge Himself who
has been wronged. The Greek word for wrath is used 12x in this book. And
shall God, in that Day, refuse to remember the agonies of His Son on the
cross? Shall He change that holy hatred of sin, wherein He forsook
Christ and spared Him not? If the blood of Jesus, God's Son, cleanses
sinners `from all sin'; then no sin has been left unjudged at the cross,
and no sins will be unjudged upon the lost, at the Great White Throne.
There is no wrath upon believers, and there is nothing but wrath for
unbelievers. God's definition of sin is not transgression of law, but
refusal to be controlled - self will (lawlessness). Regarding sin, there
are three judgment days: 1) of the human RACE, in Eden, 2) of human SIN
at the cross, and 3) of human REBELS, at the Great White Throne.
The Jews have a double conviction, they are not only sinners, but
transgressors of the very Law they boasted in. They are brought in and
are silent while God their Judge announces - astonishing thing! - that
He has Himself already dealt with the world's sin upon a sin offering,
Jesus, His Son. Keeping the Law is NOT God's way of salvation or of
blessing. God's way with man has always been that of faith. For law was
not given to a heavenly company, but an earthly nation. God, acting in
righteousness, reckons righteous the ungodly man who trusts Him, because
He places him in the full value of the infinite work of Christ on the
cross, and transfers Him into Christ Risen, who becomes his
righteousness. They having deserted all trust in themselves, they've
transferred their faith and hope to Christ alone. In Christ we have
complete deliverance from our former place in Adam. We have died with
Christ and have no connection at all with Adam's responsibility to
furnish a righteousness before God's tribunal.
Our relationship now to God is that of standing in the same acceptance
as Christ; as we have the same Spirit of sonship. Justification is God's
reckoning a man righteous who has no righteousness (ungodly), because
God is operating wholly upon another basis, even the work of Christ. A
believer's history ended at the cross, and is now wholly in a new
creation. The righteousness of God is not put "upon" any one. It is not
something bestowed upon us, but rather a Divine reckoning about us. It
is God accounting a man (even as he is, "ungodly") righteous in His
sight. Righteousness is a court word. Justification, or accounting
righteous, is God's reckoning to one who believes. The word never means
to make one righteous or holy, but to account one righteous.
Justification is not a change wrought by God in us, but a change of our
relation to God. We are justified freely, gratuitously - without a cause
in us, its cause is in God. Even as condemnation is not the infusion of
a habit of wickedness into him that is condemned, but the passing of a
sentence upon a man with respect to his wickedness; so justification is
not the change of a person from inherent unrighteousness by the infusion
of a principle of grace, but a sentential declaration of him to be
When Abraham believed God, he did the one thing a man can do without
doing anything. Abraham believed in his heart that God told the truth.
There was no effort here. His faith was not an act, but an attitude.
Even Divine ordinances like circumcision have nothing to do with
righteousness. It is not the Gentile who must come to the Jew's
circumcision for salvation, it is the Jew who must come to a Gentile
faith, such faith as Abraham had long before he was circumcised. God saw
that one day He would make Abraham as righteous in glory as He in the
past day reckoned him in grace. In God's great kindness, He desires that
all the seed of Abraham, Jewish and Gentile believers, might have
security. Now if you introduce man's works you introduce an element of
insecurity and uncertainty.
In Ch.6 we see the second part of Christ's work - our identification
with His death. The old man was crucified with Christ, and all that
belonged to "man in the flesh" was ended before God there on Christ's
cross. The old man represents all we were federally
in Adam. The flesh however, we find to be that manifestation of sin in
our members with which we are in conscious inward conflict, against
which only the Holy Spirit indwelling us effectively wars. The `body of
sin' refers to our bodies, yet unredeemed, and yet undelivered from
sin's rule. Justified from sin is not sinless perfection, but something
utterly different and infinitely beyond that! It does not refer to an
experience of deliverance from sin, but a 'passing beyond’, in death
with Christ at the cross, the sphere where the former relationship to
sin existed! We are justified, accounted wholly righteous, with respect
to the thing sin itself! We are heavenly. Our old relationship to sin is
over forever - justified from it. The question is one of relationship,
not expiation. He wanted to get at what we were, not just what we had
done. To reckon ourselves dead to sin while conscious of sin in our
members, is faith indeed. Walking by the Spirit, who indwells us, takes
for us today the place that observing the Law had with Israel (internal
A new believer finds the joy of justification, but then later to find an
evil nature, of which he had never become really conscious. The Lord
permits this experience of the moral hideousness of our old self, and
our powerlessness though regenerate, to deliver ourselves from the law
of sin in our members. We are dependent on the Holy Spirit as our only
spiritual power, just as on Christ as our only righteousness!
The Spirit now becomes the element in which the believer lives - in the
Spirit - like water to the fish, or air to the bird, vital, supplying,
protecting. Our bodies though now dead as regards any emotion toward
God, will be one day given life by His Spirit (8:11). Not only will the
saints behold Christ's glory, but beholding, they will share that glory,
and be glorified with Him. God has left our bodies as the link with the
`groaning' creation. Thus the Christian becomes the true connection of
groaning creation with God! He is redeemed, heavenly; but his body is
unredeemed, earthly. As absolutely as righteousness is "not of works,"
so neither is election! God's elect, those who have believed, find
themselves borne upon the irresistible tide of this Divine affection
which "is in Christ," out into an eternity of bliss. God has given you
an unheard of place, to be IN CHRIST, one with Him before God forever,
loved as Christ is loved, seen in all the perfection and beauty of
Christ Himself, glorified with Him, associated with Him as companions,
that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Those whose humble
faith has received the abundance of grace and of the gift of
righteousness; these shall reign as kings forever.
HOW THE GOSPEL RELATES TO ISRAEL
9 = Does Not Annul God's Purpose with Israel
10 = It Fulfills the Promise to Israel
11 = Confirms the Prospect Before Israel
If Gentiles are now accepted, justified, given sonship and promise, on
equal footing with the Jews, what about Israel's special covenant
relationship with God? The present bypassing of Israel nationally is not
inconsistent with the divine promises, because Israel's present sin and
blindness nationally is overruled in blessing to both Jews and Gentiles
as individuals and because `all Israel shall yet be saved' at a
postponed climax, inasmuch as the `gifts and calling of God are
This section is about God's dealings with men and nations historically
and dispensationally, and is NOT about individual salvation and destiny
beyond the grave. God foreknows everything that every man will do; but
He does not predetermine everything that they do. Because He knows, He
anticipates and overrules their deeds to the fulfilling of His further
God's chosen nation is absolute and eternal. God's salvation promises
were lodged in Abraham; His kingdom promises in David. `The promises'
pertain nationally to Israel, and to no other nation as such. The gospel
is not a promise, but the announcement of a fact to be believed; it is
not preached to nations as such, but to individuals. Jews and Gentiles
come individually, upon believing, into a "heavenly" inheritance. God
has not been unfaithful to His promises, but rather in Israel's own
Scriptures He foretold of their temporary rejection, and the salvation
of the Gentiles and the great future blessing to come upon Israel in
God's sovereign mercy. For the Divine statement concerning His own
election, and His providence that carries out that election, is very
plainly NOT OF WORKS but of Himself, who gives the creature his calling.
The favor of God to the children of promise (those whom He has given to
Christ) is not procured by their response to God's grace, but
contrariwise, their response to God's grace is because they have been
given to Christ. But you will not dare say to God in that day, "I could
not come because I was not of the elect"; for that will not be true. The
reason you refused to come, will be found to be your `love of sin', not
your non-election! God says, "Whosoever will," and the door is open to
ALL, absolutely ALL. God means "Whosoever"; and that is the word for
you, sinner; and not election, which is God's business, not yours. If
God did not elect, none would be saved. And men are not lost because
they are hardened; they are hardened because they are lost. All that is
of salvation is to be credited to God, all that is of damnation is to be
credited to man, they fitted themselves for destruction. The Lord
Jehovah is bringing Israel out from the nations, and cutting off the
rebels among them - the rebels against the national Divine calling as a
separate nation to Jehovah. The Jews will have no national friend or
refuge whatever, except Palestine, and Jehovah will enter into judgment
with them and do a quick work. At that time the remnant will be saved,
the majority having been slain in the great tribulation.
The Law was given to the nation Israel ONLY. It was a temporary
ministration ONLY, to reveal sin. Christ having come, the day of Law is
over (He.7:18). Their is now no distinction for the Jew - no difference
in sinnership or availability of salvation. In Acts 28 God through Paul
closed the door to the national offer of the gospel to the Jews, and
they at present have no special place with God, but in a future day they
God never refers to the Church as a people or nation (I Pet.2:9), but
saints. Israel is His people, His nation. The church is not earthly, nor
national, nor Jewish; but a new body, and altogether heavenly. Every
saved Israelite becomes a partaker of the heavenly calling, abandoning
all Israelitish hopes. They as a nation won't believe until they see Him
at His coming, for they must see to believe. The present saved remnant
is a part of the Church. The rest of Israel has been temporarily cut
off, and one day Gentiledom will be cut off (the Gentile nations having
been put into the place of Divine blessing where Israel once stood). The
warnings here are addressed not to brethren in Christ, but as being of
the Gentiles. Gentiles will be cut off from their place of Divine
privilege which they now have, and Israel will be restored to that
privileged place. Israel will be honored as the center and spring of
Divine blessing on earth; the Gentiles again becoming subordinate to
Israel, and having again to go up to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah. The
Church, the fullness of the Gentiles, will of course have been
translated to heaven before this order of things comes in. Two thirds of
the nation shall be cut off and die, the third part will be left -
refined as silver and tried as gold. God does not make Israelites out of
Gentiles! He had a secret purpose kept from all the ages - of giving to
His Son a bride composed of Jewish and Gentile believers who should be
received as merely guilty sinners, on purely grace grounds; and should
have the highest calling of any creature - to be MEMBERS OF CHRIST
HIMSELF, a thing never promised to Israel. And so all Israel shall be
saved, for the salvation of national Israel was impossible, except on
purely grace lines. Christ's second coming will include 1) the Rapture
of the Church, 2) the Judgment of the nations and 3) the Deliverance of
Israel. The hope of Israel is not heaven, but rather THE LAND forever,
and Jehovah dwelling with them in majesty; and complete and eternal
deliverance there from all their enemies and from all their own
iniquities. He comes to earth for the deliverance of Israel. It shall no
longer be a conditional covenant as that of Sinai, but one of grace. Of
course, both the Remnant and those of the nations who bow in real
worship during the Millennium, will share spiritual life in Christ, for
then will Pentecost be completely fulfilled. But it is not until the new
heaven and the new earth, that even that nation will be fully on new
creation ground, such as the Church, members of Christ. To emphasize
that Ch.9-11 do not teach that the Church as such has succeeded the Jews
in the place of blessing; but do show that Gentiledom has received the
place of privilege and opportunity, and consequently of responsibility,
that Israel once had.
HOW THE GOSPEL BEARS ON CONDUCT
12 = Christian Life as to Social Aspects
13 = Christian Life as to Civil Aspects
14-15 = Christian Life as to Mutual Aspects
We are first instructed in justification, and then identification, all
this before the call to consecration (12:1-2). The new man being a new
creation in Christ, all the graces and beauties of Christ belong to us;
just as before, the evil we inherited from the first Adam was ours,
because we were federally connected with him. This new man is not Christ
personally, any more than the old man was Adam personally. However we
sustained such a relation to Adam that the old man was ours, as much as
by nature we were Adam's children. So since we are in Christ, the new
man belongs to us - being the sum total of the marvelous Divine graces
and dispositions created for, and to be realized in, the believer in
union with Christ. Note that believers HAVE 'put off' the old man, but
are here told to 'put him away' - be not influenced by him. We are to
enter into the will of Another, to be transformed into the image of
Christ. We are the body of Christ. "Body" here is not an illustration,
but an actuality. To be transformed into giving without any secret
reluctance, serving with joyfulness of spirit, kind, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another. To love with infinite fervency, showing
hospitality, paying back no wrongs. Love and not righteousness, is the
active principle of Christianity. And lo, one loving, has wrought
righteousness. Thus only those not under law show its fullness.
Here is our sphere of freedom, instead of being told what one must or
must not do, he is freely exhorted to assure his own mind and heart
fully, and walk as Christ's free man. Even the sabbatical obligation to
keep any day, whether seventh or first, was not recognized in apostolic
times. That He might rule over us all, and we be not lords of each
other; or of the faith of others. No place is left for `religious
fussing.' There must not only be knowledge of Christian freedom, but
heart and conscience persuasion. But the conscience cannot be commanded,
it must be persuaded. The words here (Ro.14:17) are not righteousness in
Christ - referring to our standing; but righteousness in the Holy Spirit
referring to our WALK. The kingdom of God is altogether in the Holy
Spirit. This leaves forms and ceremonies, days and seasons, and foods
absolutely out. Such things are not Christian, they are Jewish or pagan
God had a sovereign purpose to take certain creatures INTO HIS OWN
GLORY, to share in that Glory. And He desired also that these should
know Him in His nature as Love, and be with Him, before Him, in that
blissful atmosphere of pure love, forever. These happy creatures were
not to be taken from among the elect angels, holy and blessed beings
that they are. This is the mystery (16:25). Certain were to be brought,
in Christ, into the Divine glory! They are to be manifested with Him in
glory at His appearing. But that would be because they had entered into
a glory never before given creatures. It was not given to angels, but to
blood-bought sinners as MEMBERS OF CHRIST! Nor was such a union proposed
to earthly Israel.
JESUS CHRIST MADE UNTO US WISDOM
1. REPROOF - CONCERNING SCHISMS (1-6)
(The Corinthians were factiously glorying in men 1:12)
Ch.1 Man-exalting schisms (v.10-17) wrong because salvation
by the Cross sets aside man's wisdom altogether (v.18-31)
Ch.2 Man-exalting schisms wrong because the true wisdom
imparted by the Spirit, not by man (v.5-13)
Ch.3 Man-exalting schisms wrong because human teachers are
4 only stewards: power is of God (3:5,6,21; 4:1)
Ch.5 Such "gloryings" (v.2) a mockery (v.6) while flagrant
6 evils are condoned - incest, law suits, impurity!
2. REPLIES - CONCERNING PROBLEMS (7-15)
(The Corinthians had written Paul about problems 7:1)
Ch.7 Reply concerning marriage and celibacy.
Ch.8 Reply regarding meats. The principle (8); Paul's example
9,10 (9); Scripture warning (10); the Issue (10:23-11:1)
Ch.11 Reply on sex propriety in the assembly (v.2-16) and
general behavior at the Lord's table (v.17-34)
Ch.12 Reply regarding spiritual gifts. Dispensed by the Spirit
13,14 (12); poor without love (13); prophecy the best (14).
Ch.15 Reply concerning resurrection of the saints.
Relation to Christ's (v.1-19); the prospect (v.20-34);
the body (v.35-49); the "mystery" (v.50-58)
In the first trio of the Christian Church Epistles (Romans through
Galatians) the emphasis is on Christ and the Cross. In Romans we find
DOCTRINE, in Corinthians REPROOF, in Galatians CORRECTION. Reproof
always has to do with wrong practice. Correction always has to do with
wrong doctrine. The Romans epistle sets the NORM. The Corinthian
epistles expose FAULT. The Galatian epistle counters ERROR.
Just as there is something solidly satisfying about the way things are
doctrinally STATED in Romans, there is something thrillingly stirring
about the way they are RELATED in Corinthians. In Romans evangelical
truth is stated as doctrine to be learned and received. In Corinthians
it is rather seen as truth already taught and departed from. In Romans
we have the NORM; in Corinthians the SUB-norm; in Galatians the AB-norm.
In this first Corinthian epistle there is reproof for divisions,
envyings, contentions (1-4); unjudged sin (5); selfish litigation
between Christian and Christian (6); inconsiderate liberties in doubtful
practices (8); querulous querying of Paul's apostleship (9); errors in
the use of spiritual gifts (14); wrong attitudes toward the coming
Clearly chapter 7 indicates a new direction. It begins, "Now concerning
the things WHEREOF YE WROTE ME ..." So from this point Paul is answering
written questions. Three well known members of the Corinthian church had
traveled to Ephesus, where Paul was laboring at the time, and from where
he wrote his reply to Corinth (16:8-9). They were Stephanas, Fortunatus,
and Achaicus (v.17-18).
Human Leaders and Labels
Here we have four full chapters regretting and reproving
denominationalism. Unmistakably Paul keeps human leaders and teachers at
the lowly level which alone is proper. In 3:5 they are but "servants;"
it is the Lord who "gives to every man." In v.6 they are but
"farm-hands"; it is God the "gives the growth." In v.10-15 they are
"builders"; but Jesus is the "foundation." In 4:1 they are merely
"subordinates"; while Christ is the Director; they are only "stewards";
the real treasure is "of God."
What wickedness it is today, the way that soundly evangelical preachers
criticize each other! God save us from being mere men-pleasers! God save
us from being carried away by congregational applause, or from being
jealous of another's gifts! It is worst of all when they are put on such
pedestals that Paul and Apollos and Peter are played off against each
other; yet this is usually what develops from infatuation with the
human. Let even the simplest among us learn not to lean unwisely on
human leaders. They are meant to be learned from, not leaned on!
Let the ideal of every Christian evangelist and teacher be that
preaching and practice shall maintain an equally high level. In this
Paul is an illustrious example. See his exemplary:
1. Loyalty in message, method and motive, 2:1-5
2. Soundness in founding and building, 3:10-23
3. Fidelity as a trustee of saving truth, 4:1-6
4. Endurance of tribulations for Christ, 4:9-16
5. Considerateness of weaker brethren, 6:12; 8:13
6. Foregoing of proper rights and dues, 9:12-18
7. Self-denial for the saving of souls, 9:19-23
8. Self-discipline in body and behavior, 9:27; 10:33
9. Self-restraint in public assemblies, 14:18-20
10. Self-abnegation and active gratitude, 15:9-10
Paul the Pattern Preacher
There are two crises through which we must each pass, in one way or
another, if we would be powerful and prevailing preachers. The first
crisis is INTELLECTUAL, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not
with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony
of God; for I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus
Christ, and Him crucified." Why did Paul renounce oratory and philosophy
just at the place where they might have seemed most useful? It was
because he was declaring "the testimony of GOD." Either the Gospel is or
is not a testimony of GOD. If it is, then to enhance it (supposedly) by
display of human art or learning is like holding a candle aloft to help
the sun. Notice Paul's word "I determined."
Second is the SPIRITUAL crisis, "And I was with you in weakness, and in
fear, and in much trembling; and my speech and my preaching was not with
persuasive words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and
of power." So it is not enough even to have the MESSAGE right - with all
display excluded and Jesus supreme; the METHOD must be right as well.
The Christ of Calvary must be preached in the power of Pentecost. No
matter how true the sermon or how earnest the speaker, there is no
spiritual effect in the hearer except by the Holy Spirit. Paul had come
through both these crises - the intellectual and the spiritual. The one
message was Christ crucified, the one power was the Holy Spirit. And
what was the motive behind it all? It was, "That your faith should not
stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
The Gospel and its Ministry
Paul gives us its five-fold course:
1. ITS FOOLISHNESS TO THE WORLDLY-WISE (1:18-31)
Foolishness of message (v.18-25)
Foolishness of advocates (v.19-31)
2. ITS OPERATION IN PREACHER AND HEARER (2:1-16)
Power through the preacher (v.1-8)
Revelation in the hearer (v.9-16)
3. ITS TEACHERS AND THE LOCAL ASSEMBLY (3:1-23)
Are fellow-workers for God (v.5-15)
Are gifts to the assembly (v.16-23)
4. ITS MINISTERS AS RESPONSIBLE TO GOD (4:1-21)
The true will be vindicated (v.1-7)
Some make costly sacrifice (v.8-21)
5. ITS DEMAND OF SANCTITY IN BELIEVERS (5-6)
The assembly must expel impurity (5)
No defrauding! No unchastity! (6)
Paul readily admits the seeming foolishness of the MESSAGE. The center
point is the CROSS, which to human pride (Greek) and prejudice (Jew) is
"foolishness." They are foolishness because of their very simplicity;
because they are equally free to the unlearned as to the highly
sophisticated; because they abase self-righteous merit-works, thus
offending religious pride; and because a shameful cross is such a sign
of helpless weakness that it seems impossible for it to be the organ of
Equally "foolishness" to the worldly-wise are the Gospel PERSONNEL. "God
hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; the
weak things to confound the mighty; and base things, and things that are
despised, yea, the things which are not, to bring to nought things that
are." Such are the five ranks of the Gospel army: the foolish, the weak,
the base, the despised, the non-entities! This is not because God has no
other choice. He prefers these; for thus all human boasting is excluded,
and all the glory is Christ's. The "fools" are the first rank. Paul
gladly became one (2:2, 4:10), though naturally brilliant. The "weak"
are the second rank. Have you been thinking you are too weak for
Christian service and witness? You are just the recruit for this army!
Step in here, behind the "fools" - who are such fools that they are not
ashamed to be in the front rank! Or, if you are not good enough for this
second rank, fall in with the "base" or the "despised" or the
"nobodies"! What! Is this the laughable army which is ordered up to
charge and break the enemy line? And is the cross their only weapon?
Yes! for hidden within their contemptible exterior is the all-victorious
presence of Christ and the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit.
Note in chapter 3 how factions frustrate the full operation of the
truth. Observe also that true Christian evangelists and teachers are but
SERVANTS of the Lord and His church (v.5-7); they are CO-WORKERS with
God, not competitors (v.8-11); their work will be FINALLY TESTED, and
either rewarded or exposed as reprobate (v.12-17); they are therefore
not to be factiously gloried in, for all are THE CHURCH'S POSSESSION,
not its possessors (v.18-23).
Someone is sure to ask about Paul's words in chapter 5:5, "To deliver
such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit
may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
This verse is the direct grammatical continuation of the words "I have
judged" in v.3. Paul was not asking THEM to judge but simply to carry
out what he himself, an inspired apostle, had judged. The apostles were
a group of authoritatively inspired men in a category all by themselves,
required for a special season. They were no more intended to have
"successors" than the now completed New Testament writings were meant to
have apocryphal additions. They were uniquely authorized teachers with a
conferred authority strictly peculiar to themselves. What Paul the
apostle could do by that invested authority
and supernatural insight, we cannot.
Furthermore, it was the BODY which was to be handed over - and for a
mercifully corrective purpose, namely, "that the SPIRIT may be saved,"
i.e. savingly disciplined through physical chastisement. The Greek word
here translated as "destroyed" nowhere means annihilation. Chapters 5
and 6 emphasis that the Gospel of Christ tolerates absolutely no
compromise with what is immoral or unworthy. Corinth was not an easy
place in which to learn such lessons.
Corinth the Corrupt
The city had an infamous notoriety. Here vise was raised into a
religion; and the "idolaters" of Corinth are fitly set between
"fornicators" and "adulterers" (6:9). From the filthiest slough of sin
Paul's converts at Corinth were extracted (6:9-11). Not even at Antioch
had he seen the condition of the Gentile world - its pride and power,
its fancied wisdom, its utter depravity - displayed so vividly. Those
converts must learn right away that the Gospel will not tolerate
compromise. There must be a clean break. The Holy Spirit is grieved and
thwarted in the assembly where sin is allowed a footing. "The temple of
God is holy, which temple ye are."
Chapter 7:6 should read, "But this I say by way of CONCESSION ..." that
is, he leaves the DETAILS of their lives, whether married or unmarried,
to their individual consciences as Christians and will not COMMAND them
this way or that.
In v.10 he says, "And unto the married I command, yet not I, BUT THE
LORD ..." Two verses later he adds, "but to the rest speak I, NOT the
Lord." He simply means that in the first case the rule for MARRIED
persons had been uttered by our Lord Himself (Mat.5:31-32, 19:5-9;
Mk.10:11; Lk.16:18), whereas in the latter case, i.e. Christian spouses
whose partners were still heathen, no such word had been spoken. A
similar instance occurs in v.25. Obviously there were many such
incidents which our Lord could not touch upon but for which He made
provision in the sending of the Holy Spirit who should afterward guide
This whole passage must be read in light of v.26, "This is good for THE
PRESENT DISTRESS." The apostle had doubtless warned them of trouble
ahead. The first of the awful anti-Christian persecutions under Nero was
almost on them. In this 7th chapter then, we must be careful to
distinguish between the temporary and the permanent, between the local
and the general. ALL the apostle's counsels here are SYMPATHETIC in view
of the "immanent distress," but SOME of them belong to the circumstances
of a place and a time now gone.
Chapters 8-10 belong together and are a reply to the inquiry of the
Corinthians concerning the permissibility of eating meats which had been
offered to idols. In fact, all the different reply-sections are marked
off by the word "Now."
7:1 "NOW concerning the things ..." (wedlock)
8:1 "NOW concerning things offered unto idols ..."
11:2 "NOW I praise you, brethren ..." (ordinances)
12:1 "NOW concerning spiritual gifts ..."
15:1 "NOW I declare to you ..." (resurrection)
16:1 "NOW concerning the collection ..."
This matter of meats offered to idols involves the whole question of
CHRISTIAN LIBERTY in things doubtful and the next-door subject of
It was a problem for the Gentile Christians, as well as the Jews. Much
of the meats in their markets was the leftover of animals killed as
sacrifices. So much was this so that it was generally impractical to
distinguish with certainty between offered and non-offered meats. If
then, it was wrong to buy the former, now mixed up with all the other
meat stocks of the markets, a complicated problem indeed was created.
Besides the problem in buying for one's own family, what about social
meats with friends or relatives who were not Christians and who served
meats which had perhaps been first offered to idols? What's more, the
first Christian synod in Jerusalem a few years earlier had issued the
resolution, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay
upon you [Gentiles] no greater burden than these necessary things: That
you abstain from MEATS OFFERED TO IDOLS ..."
Paul handles the question with obvious sympathy, sincerity and wisdom.
While he assumes the Christian RIGHT, he also guards this liberty from
ABUSE, lest it should become a stumbling-block to weaker believers who,
having been idolaters all their lives hitherto, had not yet managed
sufficiently to break free from their mental association of meats with
idols (v.7-9). Paul enunciates the basic principle, "Wherefore, if what
I eat stumbles my brother, I will not eat flesh while the age lasts, so
that I do not cause my brother to stumble." Instead of a superior
"I-know-better-than-you" attitude, which puffs up one's own self, LOVE
triumphs in sympathetic considerateness and helps to build up the weaker
brother or sister in the faith.
Five times in these 3 chapters the principle of considerateness for the
weaker brother finds expression (8:9,13, 9:19-23, 10:24,29). It purifies
and simplifies and unifies and amplifies and glorifies life!
Note 10:24, "They which run in the stadium run all, but only one
receiveth the prize. So run that YE may win." It might seem to suggest
an each-for-himself competitiveness rather than considerateness for the
weaker brother. But no - the pronoun "ye" is plural. "So run that YE ALL
Woman: The Lord's Table
Let us learn once and for all, from this 11th chapter, (v.5) that women
certainly did "prophesy" (i.e. preach and teach under impulse of the
Holy Spirit) in that church of the first days. The words, "EVERY woman
praying or prophesying" indicate that it was general. In this passage
Paul's concern is solely that what they WEAR in thus taking public part
should conform to the preservation of true womanly dignity. The very
"authority" which she was to wear on her head (some form of head-dress
then in vogue as the proper thing), other than being meant to advertise
inferiority and subjection, was that which protected her RIGHT to speak.
To refer to it as a "veil" is not warranted by the context, though even
the veil worn by women in some eastern parts can tell us the meaning of
the head-dress to which Paul refers. Professor Ramsey says, "The
teaching of 1 Corinthians 11:10 is that the wearing of the veil was the
woman's sign of authority in the church at Corinth to pray and
But then, what about 14:34-37, "Let your women keep silence in the
churches"? Well, is it thinkable that Paul could so soon and so
seriously contradict himself? Remember, he is here answering questions
which the Corinthians had asked him by letter. Why had they raised the
matter? In the early church there was a Judaising party agitating to
graft rites and rules of Judaism upon the Christian faith. They held the
usual Judaistic view of woman; and it is to THEIR STATEMENTS that Paul
is replying in I Corinthians 14. The component sentences of v.34-35 are
all from the Oral Law, Paul quotes them to REPUDIATE them. That is why
he adds. "What! Did the word of God come from YOU? Or did it come only
to YOU?" Would they set THAT teaching above his own? "If any man think
himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the
things which I write unto you are the COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD."
His handling of the HUSBAND'S HEADSHIP is as masterly as it is commonly
misunderstood. He does not teach that the man is the head of the woman,
but that the HUSBAND is the head of the WIFE - for that is what is meant
by the words "man" and "woman" in v.3. The headship is matrimonial, but
not in nature; for this he adds v.11.
With these three chapters, let us duly observe the following factors:
1) This short tract of Scripture is the only place in all the epistles,
from Romans to Revelation, where the gift of tongues is mentioned -
which indicates its RELATIVE value!
2) The only church to which Paul has to say "Ye are yet carnal" and
"babes in Christ" is that which was making much ado about these more
demonstrative gifts - which means that speaking in tongues can go with a
POOR SPIRITUAL CONDITION!
3) Each time in his three lists of gifts (12:8-10, 27-28, 29-30) Paul
puts speaking in tongues right at the end - which points to its LESSER
IMPORTANCE among the gifts.
4) Chapter 12:8-10, 30 show that "tongues" are NOT MEANT FOR ALL.
5) In the passage where Paul particularly deals with speaking in tongues
(14:1-28) it is notable that every single mention either compares it
unfavorably with "prophecy" (speaking to edification in one's own
tongue) or attaches a cautionary word!
6) To the hankerers after speaking in tongues he says, “Brethren, be not
children" (v.20). Even when he agrees that it is for a "sign" to
unbelievers (v.22) he warns of its impotency (v.21). In verse after
verse he shows that it is of little or no benefit in the assembly. His
highest commendation is merely a negative one, where, at the very end of
the section, he concludes, "Wherefore, brethren, COVET to prophesy; and
do not FORBID to speak with tongues" (v.40).
"Concerning Spiritual Gifts"
1. THE SPIRIT DIVIDES THEM AS HE WILL (12)
Diversity of gifts but one Spirit (v.4-11)
Diversity of members but one body (v.12-27)
Diversity of service but one church (v.28-31)
2. THEY ARE VALUELESS WITHOUT LOVE (13)
The utter necessity of love (v.1-3)
The moral excellency of love (v.4-7)
The abiding supremacy of love (v.8-13)
3. THE GREATEST OF THEM IS PROPHECY (14)
It most edifies the church (v.1-22)
It most convinces outsiders (v.23-28)
Its use should be orderly (v.29-40)
The Resurrection Chapter
At the end of this engrossing epistle, the longest chapter of all is
devoted to the subject of the coming resurrection. It is, in fact, the
longest passage on the subject in the Bible, and may be well called the
church's resurrection Magnificat.
First, notice that Paul's Gospel begins with the CROSS (v.3-4). It is
not Christ the perfect Example, merely, but a crucified Christ who alone
is the SAVIOR.
Second, v.35-42 show us that there is no PHYSIOLOGICAL DIFFICULTY about
the resurrection. What comes up is not the actual seed, yet it is
something inseparably related to the seed which was buried. Our
resurrection bodies will be similar in structure, but NOT IDENTICAL IN
TEXTURE with these mortal bodies which we now possess. Neither burial
nor cremation, neither severance of limbs nor complete disintegration of
parts can present any problem to the all-knowing, almighty Lord who will
then clothe His redeemed people with their resurrection bodies.
Third, mark the 7 transition-features of that coming resurrection:
It is sown: It is raised:
1. In "corruption" In "incorruption"
2. In "dishonor" In "honor"
3. In "weakness" In "power"
4. A "physical" body A "pneumatical" body
5. An "earthly" body A "heavenly" body
6. A "flesh and blood" body A "changed" body
7. A "mortal" body An "immortal" body
Fourth, notice the two "alls" in v.51. The second of the two surely cuts
out the idea of a partial rapture. We believe that in this coming
consummation ALL the blood-bought, Spirit-born members of Christ will
have their part.
CHRIST OUR COMFORT AMID TRIAL
1. PAUL'S ACCOUNT OF HIS MINISTRY 1-5
(Explanation: Paul the Minister)
As to motive 1-2
As to the message 3-4
2. PAUL'S APPEAL TO HIS CONVERTS 6-9
(Exhortation: Paul the Father)
Concerning things spiritual 6-7
Concerning things material 8-9
3. PAUL'S ANSWER TO HIS CRITICS 10-13
(Vindication: Paul the Apostle)
The critics and their pretensions
The apostle and his credentials
Paul's rebuke of Peter at Antioch was a momentous epoch in apostolic
history. The whole future of Christianity was involved in it. Single as
he stood, Paul resisted the entire force and weight of Jewish opinion.
His remonstrance convicted Peter of "dissimulation," and recalled him to
his own better principles. But the error of the Jewish apostle, so
openly committed and so well calculated to encourage the legalistic
party, could not fail to have disastrous consequences.
They proceeded now to carry the war into the enemy's country. They made
their way to the Pauline churches, where doubtless they found
sympathizers amongst their countrymen; and they brought into play all
the arts they could command to undermine the authority of the Gentile
apostle, to poison the minds of his converts, and to graft the
principles of their own Judaism upon the faith that Gentile believers
had received from his lips. Added to all his other dangers and trials,
the apostle was now "in perils among false brethren."
While others of Paul's epistles may be more profound, this one contains
more human passion than any other of his letters. As we have seen,
Paul's earlier letter to Corinth was written at Ephesus (I Co.16:8). He
wrote this further letter presumably from Philippi.
Paul's Hour of Darkness
His valued helper, Titus, was to have met him at Troas, with an
anxiously awaited report on developments at Corinth, but he did not turn
up (2:13), which accentuated the apostle's concern. Disappointment,
apprehensiveness, and physical illness now swooped in concerted attack
upon Paul to make this perhaps the darkest hour in his costly struggle
for the propagation and preservation of the true Gospel. "When we were
come into Macedonia," he writes, "our flesh had no rest, but we were
troubled on every side. Without were fightings; within were fears"
(7:5). As G.G. Findlay says, "Corinth appeared to be in full revolt
against him. Galatia was falling away to `another Gospel.' He had
narrowly escaped from the enraged populace of Ephesus - `wild beasts'
with whom he had long been fighting, and at whose mercy he had left his
flock in that turbulent city."
The apostle's own comment is, "We were pressed out of measure, above
strength, insomuch that we spared even of life." He had been at death's
door. His life and work, to all appearance, were coming to an end, and
under circumstances of the most ominous nature. Together with his life,
the fate of his mission and of Gentile Christianity trembled in the
balance. Never had he felt himself so helpless, so beaten down and
discomfited, as on that melancholy journey from Ephesus to Macedonia,
and while he lay sick on his sick-bed (perhaps at Philippi), not knowing
whether Titus or the messenger of death would reach him first.
The Report of Titus
Titus did eventually reach Paul in Macedonia (7:6). There had been an
upsurge of grief, and a flaming out of new zeal, and a new expression of
affection for Paul. So consoled the poorly apostle that he purposed to
dictate this further letter and send it by the hand of Titus, who should
return to Corinth and finish the good work which he had started there.
But, there were darker aspects of the situation at Corinth. His
opponents hinted at his cowardice in not coming; his vacillation and
insincerity in challenging him; the fact that he had no letters of
commendation from Jerusalem; his dubious position as regards the Law.
They insinuated doubts about his perfect honesty. They charged him with
underhand guile, the fraudulent or self-interested designs with regard
to the collection. They even ventured to hint at their doubt as to his
perfect sanity. It became a duty and a necessity, however distasteful,
to defend himself. The word "boasting" occurs no less than 29 times.
The Shifted Battle-Center
The first epistle deplores FOUR factions, and deals prominently with the
Apollos party (that of personal admiration rather than doctrine). In
this second epistle it is the Petrine party who are the much bigger
danger. In chapter 2:6, "Sufficient to such a man is this censure by the
MAJORITY"; and the very word emphasizes the presence of a hostile
MINORITY, who doubtless dissented on the ground of Paul's supposed lack
of real apostolic authority. This Petrine schism was becoming more
determined in its hostility to Paul as it developed its Judaistic
tendencies; and a point was now reached where a still-unsettled majority
was imperiled by this strong, impressive minority.
They proposed that compared with themselves he was inferior, despite his
pretensions (10:12-15); and what he preached was a poor edition of the
Gospel (11:4); and the Corinthian church was a poor - grade church in so
far as it was Pauline (11:7-9; 12:13). He was not truly an apostle
(11:5; 12:11-12). He did not have the qualifications or credentials
which THEY (from Jerusalem) could boast (11:22-8). Even in his refusing
financial support there was a hidden simulation and an admission of
They were dignified enough to take all the material benefit they could
extract (11:20)! They were the Gospel aristocracy indeed, but as
"ministers of Christ" what had they been prepared to suffer? (11:22-23).
They aimed at nothing short of his deposition from the apostleship and
at bringing the churches founded by Paul under the direction of
Jerusalem. The more deadly hurt was that under the cover of the PERSONAL
there was an insinuating perversion of the DOCTRINAL. In the words of
chapter 11:3-4, "ANOTHER Jesus...ANOTHER spirit...ANOTHER Gospel" were
being speciously substituted for "the simplicity that is in Christ."
To begin with, Paul is giving an ACCOUNT OF HIS MINISTRY, and in such a
way as to clear himself against cruel misrepresentations. He is laying
bare the genuineness of his MOTIVE (1-2), and defending the genuineness
of his MESSAGE (3-5). Secondly, Paul launches out on an APPEAL TO HIS
CONVERTS at Corinth in SPIRITUAL things (6-7), and the MATERIAL (8-9).
Thirdly, Paul gives his all-out ANSWER TO HIS CRITICS; in all of which
he hits at their PRETENSIONS, and shows his own CREDENTIALS.
The Two Covenants and Ministries
The key to this passage is 3:6, "God hath made us sufficient as
ministers of a new covenant." Thereupon follows a 7-point contrast
between the "ministration" of the Law and that of GRACE.
1. The "letter" engraved on stones vs. that of the Spirit.
2. A ministration of DEATH vs. that of LIFE.
3. One of CONDEMNATION vs. that of RIGHTEOUSNESS.
4. One was TRANSITORY the new is PERMANENT "that which remaineth."
5. The old gathers round the face of MOSES, the new shines from the face
6. The symbol of the old was a VEIL, that of the new is a MIRROR.
7. The old could not change HEART-HARDNESS, the new changes us "into the
image of the Lord."
Running through these contrasts we find the "veil" mentioned again and
again. The symbol of the old ministry is a "veil" hiding the face of
MOSES. The symbol of the new is a "mirror" reflecting the face of JESUS
Now in this passage Moses' veil has four remarkable significances.
First, it is a sign of TRANSITORINESS (v.13). The usual idea is that
Moses wore that veil because the shining from his face was too bright
for the Israelites to look upon, but here Paul says that he wore it so
that they should not see its PASSING AWAY! Second, the veil becomes a
symbol of JEWISH UNBELIEF (v.14). The end of v.14 should read "Which
covenant (not veil) is done away in Christ." The old covenant IS done
away; but alas, the blinding veil remains. Third, and tragic beyond
words, Moses' veil becomes a figure of SATANIC DECEPTION (4:5). Here the
veil is over the millions of unconverted, unregenerate, unsaved souls in
Christendom, and is in the hand of Satan! That is why preaching is not
enough, there must be wrestling in prayer. Fourth, Moses' veil, by very
contrast, sets off the very transforming GLORY-LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL, "But
we all, with unveiled face, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the
Lord, are transformed into the same image" (3:18). What a
transformation! The receivers become reflectors of the glory and
knowledge which saves! God shines IN that we may shine OUT.
Treasure in Earthen Vessels
Yes, what a message! Yet the writer is just up from a sick bed, and
cannot help thinking how frail is the poor, earthen vessel which conveys
such treasure, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels" (4:7).
Paul's inward crisis and bodily sickness left a deep mark on his
thinking and subsequent ministry. Up till now the PAROUSIA had been
expected as imminent, but now an extended vista is seen stretching
ahead, which affects all the apostle's future teaching.
The various relations of the Gospel, and of the church, and of the
individual Christian, to domestic and civil and other earthly concerns
are discussed in suchwise as they could not have been while Paul lived
in the daily expectation of our Lord's return.
The Heart of Pauline Theology
Paul completes this first part of his epistle by unveiling that which
lay at the very heart of his ministry and message. It occupies chapter
5:14-21, "One died for all ... and rose again. Wherefore, henceforth
know we no man after the flesh." If the One died for all, then all must
be of equal fundamental value. We need to see humanity in the light of
that cross. The cross levels all yet preserves each. It dignifies even
while it humbles. When we see our human species in the light of Calvary,
each member is a SOUL made in the image of God, and worth redeeming even
though it costs the blood and passion of Heaven's incarnate Son.
"We know no man after the flesh." Why? Because "If One died for all,
THEN ALL DIED." In His incarnation Christ became identified with the
Adam creation. In Him the old order is positionally done away. When He
died, ALL men died in the judicial reckoning of God; for the death
penalty already overhanging the sinful Adamic creation was then
executed. God now deals with the race on a new basis. It swings round a
new Center-Man. Everything is now determined in relation to HIM. What
matter whether a man be rich or poor or anything else? The vital thing
is his relation to Christ. That is the deciding factor by which men are
either saved or lost.
"We know no man after the flesh." We no longer even know Christ Himself
in that way. We know Him now, not in the weakness of the flesh, but in
the limitless dimensions of His resurrection and the new creation! A
merely historic Christ can be but the object of MEMORY; whereas the
risen Lord of the new creation is the object of FAITH and the
communicator of spiritual LIFE.
The Apostle Paul Autobiographically
Here Paul is forced to "boast" about himself. We refer to just one of
his such "boastings" - his "thorn in the flesh" (12:1-10). The chapter
begins, "Fourteen years ago...caught up to paradise... abundance of
revelations...Lest I should be exalted above measure... a thorn in the
flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me..." The Greek word translated
"thorn" comes from a verb which means to impale or crucify. Paul's thorn
was not the sort with which we prick a finger. It was a STAKE on which
so to speak, he was transfixed, even as his Lord had been transfixed to
that beam and crossbar on Golgotha. Even more, as Paul was pinioned to
this stake there was an ANGEL of Satan continually buffeting him.
Weymouth translates it, "Lest I should be over-elated there has been
sent to me, like the agony of an impalement, Satan's angel dealing blow
What depth of agony here - and dragging on for 14 years up to the time
of Paul's writing! Three times he had pleaded with the Lord that He
would end it, but the reply had been otherwise; so it seemed as if the
inward crucifixion must continue to life's end!
Well, what can Paul do about it? Shall he complain to Christ that He is
cruelly unfair? Shall he give up the unequal struggle, and escape to
restful retirement? His own reply is, "He said unto me: My grace is
sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in [thy] weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather GLORY IN MY INFIRMITIES THAT THE
POWER OF CHRIST MAY REST UPON ME."
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you ALL."
How small in size, how big in meaning is that little word "all," here!
Hundreds of those long-ago Achaian believers owed their salvation to
Paul, though some of them had later criticized him cruelly. His
benediction includes them all. Yes, "with you ALL" - even with those who
had spoken most bitterly against him. God give us a like spirit!
This benediction is in reality a PRAYER. But prayer is to be offered to
God alone. Why then is it offered to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy
Spirit equally with God the Father? If they are not equally God, why are
They also and equally invoked in such a prayer? How strange for an
inspired apostle to pray to a mere creature, and an impersonal influence
along with the one true God!
If Christ be but exalted man or angel, how strange for Paul to solicit
the "grace" of that man or angel as on the same level with the "love" of
God Himself! And he even give the Son priority of mention. How strange
that in such a considered and deliberate farewell-prayer Paul should
place the name of mere man or even angel before that of the eternal God!
And how strange, if Christ be a mere creature, that Paul should here
pray to Him as having the God-like prerogative of conferring spiritual
qualities! Yes, it is indeed very strange, if Christ be not "very God of
And if the Holy Spirit is merely an effluence or attribute, how strange
that Paul should pray to such an impersonal concept in abstraction from
the living Deity Himself, in and of whom are ALL such attributes and
emanations! How COULD prayer be prayed to an attribute or influence? Yet
here, in this benediction, the Holy Spirit is not only prayed to, but
presumably is expected, as an intelligent, self-acting agent, to impart
blessing distinct from that which the Father and the Lord Jesus confer.
There is the same distinction here indicated as that which exists
between Christ and the Father.
GALATIANS: LIBERATION THROUGH THE GOSPEL
1. THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE GOSPEL (1-2)
Genuine as to its origin (1)
Genuine as to its nature (2)
2. THE SUPERIORITY OF THE GOSPEL (3-4)
In the new relation it effects (3)
In the privileges it releases (4)
3. THE TRUE LIBERTY OF THE GOSPEL (5-6)
Love-service ends law-bondage (5:1-15)
The Spirit ends flesh-bondage (5:16-6)
This Galatian epistle completes the first group of the nine "Church"
epistles, which we have called the EVANGELICAL epistles. Read Romans to
be GROUNDED in Christian doctrine; read Corinthians to be GUIDED in
Christian practice; and read Galatians to be GUARDED against deceptive
Paul's Visits to Galatia
It is generally agreed, from Paul's words in 4:13, "I preached the
Gospel unto you the first (or former) time" - that he had visited
Galatia twice before he wrote there. The Book of the Acts corresponds
with this. We are there told (16:6) that Paul went to Galatia on his
second missionary tour; and that he paid a second visit there during his
third missionary tour, some three years later (18:23). His earlier visit
was occasioned through bodily illness. "Ye know that BECAUSE OF AN
INFIRMITY OF THE FLESH I preached unto you the FIRST TIME" (4:13). It
was to this sickness that the Galatians owed their knowledge of the
Gospel. How God overrules seeming setbacks! And despite this bodily
sickness and disfigurement, the Galatians had welcomed him with a warmth
and responsiveness which were remarkable.
But Paul's second visit had been far less reassuring to him. He had
sensed a changed atmosphere. He had detected unhealthy symptoms among
the Galatian believers which caused him uneasiness. He asks, "Am I
become your enemy because of my speaking the truth to you?" (4:16).
The Galatian Error
Paul writes, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who
called you by the grace of Christ, for ANOTHER (heteros = another of a
different kind) gospel; which is really not ANOTHER (allos = another of
the same kind); only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to
distort the Gospel of Christ." In reality these troublers of the
Galatians were not giving them merely "another gospel of the same kind,"
with supposedly superior features; they were twisting the ONE AND ONLY
"Gospel of Christ," and reversing its meaning into something which it
never meant at all.
"I marvel that you are so quickly deserting Him that called you into the
GRACE OF CHRIST, unto a different gospel." They were erring from the
ABSOLUTELY DISTINCTIVE doctrine of the one true Gospel, that the eternal
salvation of the soul is altogether of Divine GRACE in Christ, apart
from religious observances and human merit-works of every kind. They
were overlaying the simplicity and spirituality of the Gospel with
Judaistic observances; and indeed it would seem that a fairly thorough
conformity to the Law of Moses was becoming insisted on among them
(4:21). It was not that the Gospel was being directly denied; but their
minds were becoming inoculated with legalistic and ritualistic ideas
which destroyed its vital doctrines.
The mischief-makers in Galatia appear to have been a group of Galatian
believers themselves (6:13). But it also seems that the movement had
originated from outside interference. "O foolish Galatians, WHO DID
BEWITCH YOU?" (3:1). "Ye [all of you] were running well; WHO DID HINDER
To Paul the issue was as vivid as it was absolutely vital - the very
Cross of Christ itself was imperiled by this plausible legalism of the
Judaisers; for "IF RIGHTEOUSNESS COMES BY THE LAW, THEN CHRIST DIED IN
Fourteen years after his 1st visit to Jerusalem he had gone there again
to authenticate the genuineness of the Gospel; and there had been
thorough concurrence between himself and the other apostles. So complete
had been their agreement and mutual understanding as regards the central
doctrine of salvation solely and wholly by GRACE, that when Peter and
others, on a later occasion at Antioch, had lapsed into Judaistic
behavior Paul had been able to rebuke him on the very basis of that
common understanding (2:11-21); so that the circumstantial difference
between them had really been turned into another evidence of the
UNDERLYING AGREEMENT which existed as to the true nature of the Gospel.
In chapters 3-4 Paul is showing the SUPERIORITY of the Gospel over
Judaism; of "the Spirit" over "the flesh", of "faith" over "works", of
being "justified" over being held by law, of being "blessed" over being
"cursed", of the "promise" in Abraham over the commandment through
Moses, of maturity over tutelage, of sonship over bondmanship, of
"adoption" (adult status and privilege) over legal infancy, with its
inability to inherit, of liberty over bondage. What superiority indeed
is all this! And what strange folly to lapse into legalism again!
So the emphasis in the 3rd chapter is on SONSHIP. It was by FAITH that
the Holy Spirit had been received; and that was the unarguable evidence
of sonship. "Ye are all SONS OF GOD through faith in Christ Jesus ... If
ye are Christ's, then are ye ABRAHAM'S SEED" (v.26, 29). Here the Gospel
demonstrates the superior new RELATIONSHIP into which it brings us. In
chapter 4 the emphasis is on the PRIVILEGES of this sonship. Paul now
stresses that to be a son is also to be an HEIR. Two words here sum up
the believer's sonship privileges - "adoption" and "inheritance."
Adoption refers to adult sonship, to the coming of legal age, and the
privileges which it confers. The public attestation of the sonship of
believers is yet to be (Rom.8:18-23), but already we enter into the
privileges of adult sonship in a spiritual sense, "God hath sent forth
the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father; so that thou
art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir
through God" (v.6-7). Paul is amazed that the Galatians could listen to
a "different" Gospel which would cheat them of these privileges.
Chapters 5-6 concern our liberty in Christ in its practical application
to life and conduct. First, in 5:1-15 it is the liberty of a
LOVE-SERVICE instead of a law-bondage. Second, this liberty of the
Gospel is the liberty of "THE SPIRIT" in the place of bondage to "the
The key running through this Galatians epistle is LIBERATION THROUGH THE
GOSPEL. The word liberty in different forms (i.e. free) comes some 10
times in the epistle. "STAND FAST, THEREFORE IN THE LIBERTY WHEREWITH
CHRIST HATH LIBERATED US."
From first to last faith is the condition of salvation, and the Cross
the all sufficient ground of it. From first to last it is faith apart
from works, grace apart from merit, Christ apart from Moses, and the
Cross apart from ordinances. This Galatians epistle is Paul's most
impassioned defense of the true Gospel. His supreme purpose, in his own
words is, "THAT THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL MIGHT CONTINUE WITH YOU" (2:5).
The Galatian epistle was written to groups of believers scattered
through a rural area, in which most of the people were agricultural
workers, as many were slaves. In keeping with the mentality and
circumstances of the Galatians, Paul uses language and metaphors which
are especially appropriate to them. There were four kinds of "bearing"
with which the Galatians were familiar above all else.
FRUIT BEARING: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
BURDEN BEARING: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the
law of Christ" 6:2
SEED BEARING: "Whatsoever a man soweth ... Let us not grow weary
in well-doing, for we shall reap..." 6:7, 9
BRAND BEARING: "I bear in my body the marks [brands] of the Lord
In making contact with souls for Christ, we should stand on their own
ground with them, as far as possible, talking to them in terms which are
familiar and appropriate to them. Paul was a master of this art. But, of
course, the great lesson to take to heart is that we ourselves are to be
fruit-bearers, burden-bearers, seed-bearers, and brand-bearers for our
dear Lord's sake.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Paul speaks of the graces which the Holy Spirit produces in the life of
the consecrated believer. He calls them the "fruit" of the Spirit. There
are nine virtues enumerated. These nine go in three groups of three
each. The first three - "love, joy, peace" - are states which I
experience in my own heart; i.e. they directly concern MYSELF. The next
three - "longsuffering, gentleness, goodness" - are dispositions which I
am to reveal toward others; i.e. they look out toward MY NEIGHBOR. The
third three - "faith, meekness, self-control" - are attitudes which I am
to maintain as the very essentials to godliness; they have special
reference toward God. So these three trios respectively express the
Christian life as concerns myself, my neighbor, and my Maker; or in
other words, the first three look INWARD, the next three look OUTWARD,
and the third three look UPWARD.
These three trios cover all the relationships of life. They tell us that
a life under the control of the Holy Spirit is one of full-orbed beauty.
They indicate, also, that the true beauty of the Christian life consists
in qualities of the heart rather than outward doings. They stress the
fact that what we ARE determines the value of what we DO. Only the Holy
Spirit can produce these qualities in the heart and life. There are
close imitations; but in reality this love-life can only be a product of
the indwelling and sanctifying Spirit. Nor ought we to miss the comfort
of the truth that these inward, outward, and upward attitudes of the
heart are spoken of as "fruit", i.e. they come by growth, not merely
self-effort. Moreover, fruit comes gradually. Here is hope for some of
us who have to lament many failures in the past and much weakness in the
present. Christian virtues are "fruit"; they are growth from an inward
life, and this growth is progressive. Would we know in experience this
"fruit of the Spirit"? Then the secret is UTTER MONOPOLY OF THE HEART by
Here, the first-mentioned of the three virtues is the foundation of the
other two. So, first comes "love"; then comes "joy," which is love
EXULTING, and then comes "peace," which is love REPOSING. Take the
second trio; the first-mentioned is the foundation of the other two. So,
first comes "longsuffering"; then comes "gentleness," which is
longsuffering in its PASSIVE expression; and then comes "goodness,"
which is longsuffering in its ACTIVE expression. Take the third trio.
Again the first-mentioned is the foundation of the following two. So,
first comes "faith"; then comes "meekness," which is the expression of
faith TOWARD GOD; and then comes "self-control," which is the expression
of faith IN THE LIFE.
Note the two admonitions concerning the LIBERTY of the Gospel, both
necessary and each balancing the other. We are to hold it fast and never
let it go (6:1), yet to use it in love and never to abuse it (6:13).
Note the two admonitions concerning our Christian "walk", to walk
carefully in our demeanor, settled habits and general conduct (5:16),
and to "keep step" (a military term) in all the details of our life we
are to keep step with the Holy Spirit!
"From henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the brands
of the Lord Jesus." There were five classes of persons who were branded:
1) SLAVES, as a mark of ownership; 2) SOLDIERS, as a mark of allegiance;
3) DEVOTEES, as a mark of consecration; 4) CRIMINALS, as a mark of
exposure; 5) and the ABHORRED, as a mark of reproach. The "marks" of the
Lord Jesus in the body of Paul were all these five in one! And what were
they? They are seen in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Paul had been battered
and bruised in ways which could not but leave permanent memorials in his
poor body. Could he, for instance, have undergone that stoning at Lystra,
after which he was dragged outside the city and left for dead, without
bearing life-long effects? We do not know whether the five Jewish
whippings would leave any abiding marks; but the three floggings by the
Roman soldiers would plow lines which would remain for life. And besides
these, there were those more barbarous violences which he suffered by
the brutality of the mobs, the ambush of enemies, and the assaults of
But why does the apostle mention these brands at the end of his Galatian
letter? One reason is indicated by the fact that the "I" is emphatic: "I
bear in my body the brands of the Lord Jesus." Paul here draws a
contrast between himself and the Judaising teachers who were subverting
the Galatian believers. These men were mouthing great pretensions; but
did THEY bear the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus in their persons as did
Paul? No, like most shouters, they were shirkers. They were swell
preachers but poor sufferers. They were fine platform figures, but they
had a profound regard for the safety of their own skin.
A second reason why Paul mentions these brand-marks here is found on his
emphasis on the fact that they are "the brand-marks of THE LORD JESUS."
He is drawing a contrast between the marks of Jesus, and the mark of
Moses (circumcision - see v.12-15). Circumcision speaks of servitude to
a legal system. "The marks of the Lord Jesus" are those of a glad, free,
voluntary self-sacrificing service.
A third reason of these brand-marks is found in the words, "From
henceforth let no man trouble me." There is something of touching
appeal, seeing that he has now suffered so much for the sake of his
message. And what do these brand-marks of Paul say to ourselves? Let us
never be ashamed of bearing suffering or reproach for Jesus sake.
EPHESIANS : OUR HEAVENLY POSITION IN CHRIST
1. OUR WEALTH IN CHRIST 1-3
Praise for spiritual possession 1:3-14
Prayer for spiritual perception 1:15-23
Our new condition in Christ 2:1-10
Our new relation in Christ 2:11-22
Revealing of the Divine mystery 3:1-12
Receiving of the Divine fullness 3:13-21
2. OUR WALK IN CHRIST 4-6
As regards the Church corporately 4:1-16
As regards believers individually 4:17-5:2
As regards sensual-living outsiders 5:3-21
As regards special relationships 5:22-6:9
As regards Satanic spirit-powers 6:10-20
The Galatian and Roman epistles emphasis the truths of personal
Christianity; the very thought of justification is dominant in them.
These later epistles emphasis a yet grander concept, that of the Holy
Universal Church. The central idea is of Christ the Head, and the whole
collective Church as His body. He is conceived not solely or mainly as
the Savior of each individual soul, but rather as "gathering up" all
humanity, or even all created being, "in Himself."
The first half of this epistle is DOCTRINAL, the second half is
PRACTICAL. In both parts the apostle has hung the key, so to speak,
right in front of the door which is to be unlocked, for the key verse in
both parts is the first verse. The opening verse after the salutation
reads, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath
BLESSED US WITH ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES IN
CHRIST." Then in part 2, which describes the believers true walk in
Christ, the opening verse reads, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,
beseech you that ye WALK WORTHY OF THE VOCATION WHEREWITH YOU ARE
OUR WEALTH IN CHRIST
Here we see something of the wonderful, spiritual, heavenly, eternal
riches which are ours, through grace, in our Lord Jesus Christ. We pick
out six tremendous items in Paul's praise for spiritual possession.
1. Pre-mundane Election - "He hath CHOSEN us in Him before the
foundation of the earth, that we should be holy and without blame before
Him in love." Think of it - chosen OUT OF the world, ONCE FOR ALL, to be
God's OWN as a peculiar treasure! And we were chosen before the earth
was! And we were chosen to be holy, not because we were holy, but to be
holy. Note also that the holiness to which we are called here and now is
"without blame before Him in love." We cannot yet have faultless powers,
but we may have blameless motives, if our hearts are filled with His
2. Predestination - "Having PREDESTINED us to the adoption of sons by
Jesus Christ to Himself." Already we are the "sons of God" by a new
birth, though as such the world does not know us; but at the reappearing
of Christ in glory the "adoption" or public attestation of our sonship
will be given, and we shall enter upon its full privileges and heavenly
3. Redemption - "In whom we have REDEMPTION through His blood." He
bought us, oh, at what cost to Himself! To "redeem" is to buy back, to
release by ransom. We have been "redeemed from the curse of the Law,"
from the death penalty due to our guilt. We have been "bought with a
price" from the slavery of inherited bondage through hereditary
depravity. We are now HIS, by costliest payment, even "through His
4. Revelation - "He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and
prudence, having MADE KNOWN UNTO US THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL..." What a
revelation! Well may we long for that inexpressible daybreak!
5. Inheritance - "In whom also we have obtained an INHERITANCE, being
predestined according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after
the counsel of His own will." Never was such an endowment heard of
before! It is those two little words "in whom" which give it such
limitless significance. It is "in Him" who is Heir to the whole universe
that we have OUR inheritance! And note that we are "PREDESTINED" to it
by "Him who worketh ALL things after the counsel of HIS OWN WILL"; so
that not all the powers of darkness can overthrow the Divine purpose or
rob us of our inheritance!
6. Sealing by the Spirit - "After ye believed, ye were sealed with
that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance
until the redemption of the purchased possession." So first the
inheritance is made sure to God's elect, and then the elect are sealed
secure for the inheritance. The two predominant ideas in sealing are
ownership and security. We are HIS, and we are SAFE. Many seals have
been broken as was Pilate's, but who shall break THIS one?
PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION
It is a prayer that we may "KNOW"; and there are three things which Paul
prays we may know: (1) what is the hope of His calling; (2) the riches
of His inheritance in the saints; (3) the exceeding greatness of His
power toward us who believe.
The Hope of the Divine Calling
Careful examination of the many places where the word "calling" appears
in our New Testament shows that it means the effectual work of God's
grace in our hearts by which we were brought into saving union with the
Son of God. It refers to our CONVERSION. "Election" and "predestination"
refer to what was in the mind of God way back in eternity, but this word
"called" refers to something which happened since we ourselves were
born, something that has taken place in our own experience.
But what is this "HOPE" of His calling? The word carries our minds away
into the future. There is a prize, an ultimate fulfillment of our
heavenly calling. A collation of the New Testament references reveals
that there are four superlative prospects in it: (1) resurrection and
immortality, (2) joint-reign with Christ in His coming kingdom, (3)
eternal inheritance in heaven, (4) perfect transformation into the image
of Christ. This fourfold hope centers in Christ and will burst into
fulfillment at His return. What a hope! It baffles the imagination and
overwhelms the mind. It thrills and yet humbles the heart. It sanctifies
the life. It prostrates us before God in adoring gratitude.
God's Inheritance in the Saints
Paul's prayer that we may "know" now moves on to "the riches of the
glory of HIS [God's] inheritance in the saints." Does this seem rather
staggering? Does it seem surpassingly strange that the infinite One
should find an inheritance in US?
at are the greatest values in God's universe? Are they stars or souls?
The biggest of the stars is blind. It can be seen but cannot see. It can
be weighed and analyzed, but it cannot know or feel. It may be admired,
but it cannot love. What are the most immense stellar systems compared
with a soul which has the capacity for God, for holiness and fellowship
and worship and service and adoration and love? And are there any
intelligent beings throughout the universe who can mean more to God by
way of gratitude, adoration, love and fellowship, than those whom He has
redeemed by the precious blood of His own Son, whom He has sanctified
and glorified and lifted up into the highest of all intimacies with
Himself? Oh, what adoring gratitude, what fellowship of worshipping LOVE
will God inherit in the saints through the coming ages!
The Divine Power toward Us
But still further Paul prays that we may "know" what is "the exceeding
greatness of His power toward us who believe." Notice carefully that the
gauge of this power is "according to" what God did in Christ. Then
observe that this power did not only raise Christ from the dead; there
are three things altogether: (1) resurrection, (2) transformation, (3)
exaltation. It is in the three together that we see the full display of
this mighty power. First God raised that dead body to life again. Then
He further showed it by transubstantiating it into one of super-mundane
superiority. Then, having fitted that resurrected body for heavenly as
well as earthly habitation, He lifted it away from the earth, through
the terrestrial air-space, through the stellar spaces, to that place
that Solomon calls "the heaven of heavens," and Paul calls "the third
heaven," and our Lord calls the "Father's house," that place, whatever
and wherever it is, in which the presence of God is localized as nowhere
else in the universe. And God did all this over against all the
exhausted weight of Satanic opposition and resistance, against the full
combine of "principality and power and might and dominion" (v.21). THAT
is the New Testament standard of God's "power toward us who believe."
In chapter 2 Paul shows us the operation of that power in believers -
quickening us, raising us, and making us to "sit together in heavenly
places," sharing our Lord's victory over all the power of the enemy. But
how far removed it seems from the actual experience of most Christians!
Well, that is just why Paul prays that we might "KNOW" these things.
They must be known by a SPIRITUAL KNOWING; and it is the special
function of the Holy Spirit to make them luminously significant within
us, so that we inwardly see them and live in the power of them.
OUR NEW CONDITION IN CHRIST
Our Past Our Present
Spiritual Death Quickened
Subjection to Satan Raised
Flesh-bound affections In the heavenlies
Under Divine Condemnation Objects of superlative favor
Verses 4-10 express what we now are through our saving union with
Christ. Our new condition in set forth in four particulars which stand
out in marked contrast over against the four unhappy characteristics of
our former life apart from Christ.
QUICKENED - Over against "dead in trespasses and sins" we now have:
"Even when we were dead in sins, He hath QUICKENED us together with
Christ." It is a marvel of Divine POWER, for when our condition was such
who COULD have done it but God? And it is a marvel of Divine GRACE, who
WOULD have done it but God? This is the first operation of God's power
toward us, a renewal to spiritual aliveness in Christ.
RAISED - Over against subjection to Satan we now read that God has
"RAISED US UP TOGETHER" with Christ. Our Lord Jesus Himself was not
merely quickened; He was "RAISED" and visibly brought forth from the
grave, which demonstrated His victory over Satan and His entrance upon a
higher form of life. So also, we are not only given new life; we are
freed from bondage! We are raised with One who has Satan beneath His
IN THE HEAVENLIES - Over against flesh-bound affections we now find:
"And made us to SIT TOGETHER IN HEAVENLY PLACES, IN CHRIST JESUS." Our
eyes are opened to heavenly realities, and our minds moved by heavenly
desires, and our hearts satisfied with heavenly joys. That is where we
are NOW in the sense of spiritual privilege. We ought to be living there
daily in spiritual experience.
OBJECTS OF SUPERLATIVE FAVOR - Over against "children of wrath" we now
find: "That in the ages to come, He [God] might show the exceeding
riches of His grace in His KINDNESS TOWARD US through Christ Jesus."
What language - "exceeding riches of grace" ... "ages to come"! Who
shall even sense the plethora of pure blessedness which the words pledge
to us? No wonder Paul twice in this passage exclaims: "By grace are you
saved!" and emphasizes it by: "Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Divine grace, not human merit, must have all the praise.
OUR NEW RELATION IN CHRIST
Just as v.1-10 draw a contrast between our new CONDITION in Christ and
what we were before, so these further v.11-22 draw a contrast between
our new RELATION in Christ and what it was before.
At that time ye were... (11-12) - Five things are here said of our past:
(1) at that time we were "WITHOUT CHRIST," having no title right as
Gentiles to the Messianic expectations of Israel; (2) we were "ALIENS
from the commonwealth of Israel," having no part or lot in the
inheritance of the chosen people; (3) we were "STRANGERS from the
covenants of [the] promise," having no share by birth in the provisions
of the covenant with Israel; (4) we had "NO HOPE," for apart from this
Messiah-Savior there was no hope either for man in general or men as
individuals; and (5) we were "WITHOUT GOD in the world," being without
the true knowledge of God.
But now in Christ Jesus... (13-18) - The "But now" marks a break. This
section shows how the situation has been completely transformed by the
Calvary work of our Lord Jesus. The five big barriers between Jew and
Gentile have been swept away: (1) He has destroyed DISTANCE, for in v.13
the "far off are made NIGH"; (2) He has destroyed DISUNION, for in v.14
"He is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and Gentile] ONE"; (3) He has
destroyed DIVISION, for in v.15 down goes the "middle wall of
partition"; (4) He has destroyed DISSENSION, for in v.15 He has
"abolished the enmity ... so making PEACE"; (5) He has destroyed all
DISTINCTION, for as v.15 again says, He makes "of the two [Jew and
Gentile] ONE NEW MAN."
Now therefore ye are... (19-22) - Here the contrast between what we were
and what we now are is consummated; and our new relationship is set
forth in five striking particulars. First, we are all "fellow-citizens"
of the one heavenly city (v.19). Second, we are all members of the one
heavenly household (v.19). Third, we are all built on the one
imperishable foundation (v.20). Forth, we are all living stones in the
one spiritual building (v.21). Fifth, we are all indwelt by the one
renewing Spirit (v.22). What a salvation it is which has brought us from
such plight to such privilege, from such poverty to such riches, from
such shame to such honor, from ruin to such glory!
THE REVEALING OF THE DIVINE MYSTERY
This third chapter brings the doctrinal part of Efesians to its climax.
There is not a profounder passage in the Bible. Here we view the topmost
peaks and sound the deepmost depths. The first part of the chapter is
all about the REVEALING OF THE DIVINE MYSTERY. What is the "mystery" (or
previously hidden Divine secret) which is now divulged? "The mystery hid
in God" was the Divine purpose to make of Jew and Gentile a wholly new
thing - `the Church which is His [Christ's] body,' formed by the baptism
with the Holy Spirit and in which the earthly distinction of Jew and
Gentile disappears. The revelation of this mystery, which was foretold
but not explained by Christ (Mt.16:18), was committed to Paul. In his
writings alone we find the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the
To put it more fully, the "mystery" or revealed secret is that Christ,
instead of immediately taking over the "kingdom" when He came to this
earth, should, after His rejection, crucifixion and resurrection,
completely disappear from this earthly scene, should be exalted in
heaven to the right hand of God, high over every power and sphere,
should be given the administration of the entire universe both now and
in the age to come (not merely the throne of David and the kingdom under
the whole heaven as promised in the O.T.); and that during the present
age an elect people, the Church, should be gathered out, irrespective of
nationality - an elect people who should be brought collectively into
such an intimate union of life and love and eternal glory with Him as
can only be expressed by saying that the Church is His "body" (life),
and His "bride" (love), and His "temple" (glory)! Such is the mystery of
THE RECEIVING OF THE DIVINE FULLNESS
The prayer in chapter 1 was that we might "KNOW." This prayer in chapter
3 is that we might "HAVE," and it's threefold: (1) that we may be
"strengthened with power by His Spirit"; (2) that we may be "rooted and
grounded in love"; and (3) that we may be "filled with all the fullness
The climax of the prayer is: "That ye might be FILLED WITH ALL THE
FULLNESS OF GOD." Christ is the fullness (1:22, Col.1:19, 2:9). "[God]
put all things under HIS [Christ's] feet, and gave HIM to be head over
all things to the Church which is His body, even HIM who is the fullness
of Him that filleth all in all." To be "filled with all the fullness of
God" is to be filled with Christ. "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of
the Godhead bodily; and ye are FILLED FULL in Him."
The preposition "with" should be "unto." We are to be "filled UNTO" - a
certain point indicated by the little word "all" which follows and
signifies entirety or completeness. So, it is not a question as to
whether these poor little selves of ours can hold all the fullness of
God; the reference is simply to our CAPACITY TO HOLD. We are to be
filled "unto" our utmost capacity - completely possessed, pervaded,
permeated by Him who is "the fullness of God." What a prayer! This is
entire sanctification in its highest, purest, richest, deepest aspect -
utter absorption of and into the love-life of Christ. Oh, that we may
more fully prove it in our own experience!
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly
above all that we ask or think, according to the power
that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church,
by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, age without end."
Our Walk in Christ
This second half of the epistle answers like an echo to the first. The
doctrines in part one now echo back on us in exhortations to
corresponding PRACTICE. In passage after passage this ethical rebound
meets us; and it is highly profitable to match up the counterparts. For
instance, in part one we are told doctrinally of the "good WORKS which
God hath before ordained that we should WALK in them" (2:10); and now in
part two, we are told in detail what the walk and works are. In chapter
1:13 we are taught doctrinally that the Holy Spirit SEALS believers; and
now, in 4:30 we are exhorted, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby
ye are sealed."
Another feature which is sure to catch the eye is that after WEALTH in
the first three chapters, and WALK in the ensuing chapters, the end bit
is about spiritual WAR. "We wrestle ... against principalities." Do you
think Satan is going to let such wealth and walk go uncontested? Nay,
there is a need to wrestle. The center - point of the struggle, and of
prevailing, is PRAYER. "Praying always ... and sticking at it with
Notice also those verses referring to the believer's walk. "Walk worthy
of the vocation..." "Walk in love." Walk as children of light." "See
that you walk circumspectly."
Pick out the twelve references of the Holy Spirit, noting that all those
in part one tell us what the Holy Spirit is and does toward the
believer, while all those in part two tell us what we are to be and do
Last but not least, there are the wonderful passages which unfold to us
the mystery of the true, spiritual CHURCH. Follow them through to their
climax in chapter 5:25-33. See the three tenses of our Lord's love-work
for the Church: (past) "Christ loved the Church"; (present) "That He
might sanctify it"; (future) "That He might present it to Himself ..."
PHILIPPIANS: THE MIND OF CHRIST
SALUTATION: "GRACE BE UNTO YOU" 1:1-2
PAUL'S CONCERN FOR THE PHILIPPIANS 1:3-26
EXHORTATION: EXAMPLE OF CHRIST 1:27-2:16
EXAMPLE OF TIMOTHY 2:19-24
EXAMPLE OF EPAPHRAS 2:25-30
EXHORTATION: EXAMPLE OF PAUL 3:1-4:9
THE PHILIPPIAN'S CONCERN FOR PAUL 4:10-20
SALUTATION: "GRACE BE WITH YOU" 4:21-23
In its social setup Philippi was a kind of Rome in miniature. Its
inhabitants called themselves Romans (Acts 16:21). Few Jews lived at
Philippi, doubtless because it was a "military colony" rather than a
"mercantile city." That is why there was no synagogue, but only the
"prayer place," outside the walls, by the river Gangites (Acts 16:13).
The first Christian Church at Philippi has an interest all its own. The
first convert in Europe was an Asiatic woman from Thiatira, and was then
visiting Philippi as a seller of crimson fabrics. Paul's only-recorded
miracle, at Philippi, was upon another female, the expelling of a demon
from a slave-girl. The rescued young fortune-teller, and
commercial-traveler Lydia, along with any of those riverside women who
believed, and the Roman jailer converted in the midnight earthquake,
were the first potential of that church which soon afterwards became the
dearest to Paul of all his children in the faith.
See his references to them in this epistle. His relationship with them
had never been hurt by distrusts and defaults like those of other
groups. "From the first day until now" their fellowship with him in his
mighty enterprise had been undeviating, cooperative, sympathetic. They
had made his labors and afflictions their own, sending sustenance to him
at different places. They were the first, so it seems, to seize the
privilege of supporting Paul in his apostolic labors. The church at
Philippi was already an organized society (two orders of ministry are
mentioned by name, i.e. "overseers" and "deacons."
We ourselves are convinced that it was written from Rome. The references
to the praetorium in v.1:13, and the reference to "Caesar's household"
in v.4:22 indicates Rome; as also does the account of the "preaching"
(1:14-18) and Paul's expectation of a speedy release (1:19, 2:24).
Learning of Paul's imprisonment, they had sent Epaphroditus, who may
well have been their chief pastor, to convey their gifts to him, with
assurances of their unchanged love and pledges of prayer (4:18). In
sending Epaphroditus back he takes occasion to send this epistle with
The Epistle Itself
This short epistle is simply a letter of Christian appreciation and
exhortation. The faults which it corrects were, fortunately only
incipient rather than developed - strife, vainglory, wrong self-esteem,
disunity, murmurings, disputings - all of which are very human
besetments. Paul knows how hard the lessons are; the Philippians need
more than precept; they need a high, constraining example.
The Fourfold Christ
Here is a wonderful fourfold presentation of Christ in relation to the
experience of the individual believer. Once this fourfold Christ of
Philippians is seen, the little epistle gleams with altogether new
luster - it becomes a gem precious beyond all words.
We find a key verse, expressing a key idea in each chapter. In the first
chapter the key thought is expressed in verse 21, "To me to live is
Christ." Everything in this first chapter centers in the thought that
Christ is the believer's LIFE.
In the second chapter the key thought is expressed in verse 5, "Let this
mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." The whole of this second
chapter gathers round the thought that Christ is the believer's MIND.
In the third chapter the key thought is expressed in verse 10, "That I
may know Him." Here everything centers in the truth that Christ is the
In the fourth chapter the key thought is the enabling power of Christ,
as expressed in verse 13, "I can do all things through Christ which
strengtheneth me." In this chapter the apostle's thought is gathered up
in the truth that Christ is the believer's STRENGTH.
If Christ be truly our life, as in chapter 1, His life will express
itself in and through our mental activity, as in chapter 2. Then, the
mind being thus suffused with His life, the desires will become more and
more toward Christ as the perfect ideal, the sum of objective perfection
and subjective satisfaction, the supreme goal of desire, as in chapter
3; while finally, as in chapter 4, Christ Himself is the strength by
which the ideal becomes the actual, and by which the objective reality
becomes subjectively realized in experience. In these four Philippian
chapters, we therefore observe clear progress and completeness.
Chapter I: Christ our Life
In this chapter we find seven remarkable expressions of the truth that
Christ is the believer's true life. Verse 8 tells us that the
Christ-filled believer has the FEELINGS OF CHRIST - "I long after you in
the very affections of Christ." Christ's heart had, as it were, become
Paul's, and was beating anew in the apostle's bosom. As Dean Alford
says, "The great love with which He loved us lives and yearns in all who
are vitally united to Him."
Second, the believer has THE SAME INTERESTS AS CHRIST - "The things
which happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the
Gospel ... Christ is preached, and therein I do rejoice."
Third, the very SPIRIT OF CHRIST is imparted to the believer (v.19). "I
know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the
supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." As in human nature, the spirit is
the inmost and deepest, so the "supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ"
implies the imparting of His inmost life, His own motives and aims
becoming ours! Christ Himself becomes the believer's SUPREME CONCERN. As
a man will give up friends, wealth and all things rather than life
itself, because life is the supreme possession, so, because Christ is
the very LIFE of the believer, He will be the supreme possession and
concern (v.20). Christ is UNSPEAKABLY DEAR. He becomes the object of
longing desire. Read verse 23, "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a
desire [a strong desire or longing] to depart and to be with Christ
which is far better."
If Christ is the believer's life, this will clearly DETERMINE CONDUCT.
"Let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ" (v.27). If
Christ be our life, He will express Himself in the way we live.
Finally, it follows that if Christ is our life, suffusing the heart and
revealing Himself through the whole of our activity, this will greatly
affect THE ATTITUDE OF OTHERS TOWARD US; for the kind of life we live
inevitably determines the reaction of those around us - whether friendly
or hostile. This is what we find in v.27-30, where we read of
"adversaries" and or "suffering" for Christ's sake.
Chapter 2:Christ our Mind
Christ is the believer's MIND - the true mind within his mind. In verses
1-2 we find Paul's EXHORTATION to the believer to have the mind of
Christ, "If there be therefore any EXHORTATION in Christ, if any comfort
of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender emotions and
compassions, fulfill ye my joy that ye be LIKE-MINDED [i.e. with HIM],
having the same love [as HIS], being of one accord, of one mind [with
Second, in verses 3-4 Paul shows the true EXHIBITION of the mind of
Christ through the believer. These two verses simply run on from v.1-2
as the natural exhibition of the Christ-mind, thus, "...nothing being
done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting
other better than himself, not looking each of you to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others." Such is the natural, inevitable
expression of the mind of Christ through the believer in whom His life
is not obstructed.
In verses 5-8 Paul gives an EXPOSITION of the mind of Christ. Here we
see our Lord's self-humbling. God ... man ... slave ... criminal! In
time or eternity, on earth or throughout the universe, this is the
supreme expression of self-sacrificing otherism. Here is the supreme
example. "Let THIS mind be in YOU." "So, then, my beloved, even as YE
have always obeyed [i.e. have become obedient to God as Christ became
so], work out [as Christ worked out by obedience] your OWN salvation [in
the sense of similar final vindication] with fear and trembling; for
[while YOU are working it OUT] it is GOD which worketh IN you, both to
will and to work His good pleasure [as He willed and worked out His good
pleasure in Christ]. Do all things without murmuring [against God] and
disputings [with men], that ye may be blameless [before God] and
harmless [among men] the SONS OF GOD [as Christ in the supreme sense was
the Son of God]."
Finally, in verses 19-30 Paul gives an EXEMPLIFICATION of
Christ-mindedness in Timothy and Epaphroditus.
Chapter 3: Christ our Goal
"That I may know Him." Christ is the goal of all our faith and love and
hope. See how the chapter begins with a renunciation of all other
glorying but in Him, "We glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence
in the flesh." In v.5-6 he lists the things which had been His former
glory, and which he had once for all renounced at his conversion to the
Lord Jesus Christ.
In outward ground of confidence no man could surpass Paul. And now,
looking back he writes - using the past tense - "What things were gains
to me, those I COUNTED loss for Christ."
Those things however, were far from being the only things which Paul
renounced for His Lord's sake. His renunciation increased as time
elapsed, until now, at the time of his writing, he says - using now the
present tense - "I count ALL things but loss for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Now, why all this renunciation? Here
is the answer, "That I may gain CHRIST."
So Paul puts down loss after loss on the one side, while on the other
there is but the one solitary item - "CHRIST JESUS MY LORD." He has
parted with the things dear to him as life itself. But now he has found
more than all he has lost, and thrills to know that, having given up so
much, he is the more fully Christ's, and Christ is the more fully his
own. How true it is that those who give up most for Christ love Him most
dearly and possess Him most satisfyingly! Mark the focal passage in this
chapter, with its recurrent expression "that I may":
"That I may gain .............." (v.8)
"That I may know .........." (v.10)
"That I may attain ..........." (v.11)
"That I may apprehend ..." (v.12)
The recurrence of this expression shows the outreaching of the apostle's
soul towards the great goal on which his desire was eagerly set. The
whole of the man is gathered up in this one all-absorbing quest; and the
focus-point of all is in the words of v.10, "THAT I MAY KNOW HIM."
Christ Himself is the supreme object of the believer's desire, the true
goal of our whole life and being. See how in this third chapter Christ
is the believer's goal in a threefold way:
The goal of our FAITH - v.9
The goal of our LOVE - v.10
The goal of our HOPE - v.11-14
He is the goal of our faith for a heavenly RIGHTEOUSNESS. He is the goal
of our love for a heavenly FELLOWSHIP. He is the goal of our hope for a
Chapter 4: Christ our Strength
Here the prevailing emphasis is that Christ is the believer's STRENGTH,
as in v.13, "I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST WHICH STRENGTHENETH ME."
This short final section rightly begins at v.5, "Let your forbearance be
known unto all men (however much they persecute you) for "THE LORD IS AT
HAND" (i.e. with you to strengthen you).
Next we find, "In nothing be anxious." Does it seem beyond realization?
Well, in answer to prayerfulness even "the peace of God shall garrison
your hearts and minds THROUGH CHRIST JESUS."
Crowningly, in v.13, we have, "I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST WHICH
STRENGTHENETH ME." Strictly, the word "do" does not occur in the Greek.
The verb "ischuo" means, "I am able", but whether it means able to BE,
or to BEAR, or to DO, or to DARE, must be decided by the context. Ferrar
Fenton perfectly hits the sense in translating it, "I am equal to
anything ..." As Weymouth renders it, "I have strength for anything ..."
See now the secret: "THROUGH CHRIST." The Greek preposition is "in"
which expresses our oneness with Christ even more than our English
translation "through." It is when we are most truly living IN HIM that
we can most fully realize Himself in and through US. Note that the word
"strengtheneth" is in the present tense, indicating a continuing inward
replenishment moment by moment and hour by hour, unseen by human eyes
but sustaining indeed in the secret consciousness of the believer.
Here then, in chapter 4 is Christ the Christian's secret of quiet
forbearance (v.5), confident tranquillity (v.6-7) and victorious
enablement for "all things" (v.12-13).
Such are the four chapters of Philippians. And such is the wonderful
fourfold Christ who is ours - always and evermore sufficient! They who
trust Him wholly find Him never failing. If we really let Him, He will
change every plaintive "I can't" into a gladsome "I can!" What a
triumphant little document this Philippian epistle is! Chains are
clanking on the writer's wrists and ankles, but he makes them sound like
bells of heaven! In the very first paragraph he speaks of "grace,"
"peace," "joy," "love," "glory," "praise"! And the bells ring right
through all four chapters until they give a triumphant final peal in the
last paragraph, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His
riches in glory by Christ Jesus." What more need be said after THAT? All
that is needed is a doxology; and that is just what Paul adds,
"NOW UNTO OUR GOD AND FATHER BE GLORY
UNTO THE AGES OF THE AGES. AMEN."
COLOSSIANS: CHRIST THE FULLNESS OF GOD TO US
INTRODUCTORY THANKSGIVING 1:1-8
OPENING PRAYER FOR FULLNESS & WORTHY WALK 1:9-14
1. DOCTRINAL - "THAT YE MAY BE FILLED" (1-2)
Christ the fullness of God in the creation 1:15-18
Christ the fullness of God in redemption 1:19-23
Christ the fullness of God in the Church 1:24-2:7
Christ the fullness of God versus heresy 2:8-23
2. PRACTICAL - "THAT YE WALK WORTHY" (3-4)
The new life - and believers individually 3:1-11
The new life - and believers reciprocally 3:12-17
The new life - and domestic relationships 3:18-21
The new life - and employment obligations 3:22-4:1
The new life - and "them that are without" 4:1-6
PERSONAL ADDENDA 4:7-18
Colossians is the end epistle of the middle trio, that is, it is the
epistle with correction of doctrine, the doctrine of "Christ and the
Church" which was spelled out in the book of Ephesians. We need to see
cardinal evangelical doctrine sharply silhouetted against its specious
counterfeit. This middle trio of epistles, Ephesians, Philippians,
Colossians, belong together in DATE as well as in aspect, that of Paul's
first imprisonment at Rome. Ephesians set forth the glorious MYSTERY,
even "the Church which is His body." Christ is the Head, the Church is
the body, individual believers are members of His body, and therefore
members one of another. The incipient fault at Philippi was
disjointedness of the MEMBERS. The incipient Gnosticism at Colosse was a
"not holding the HEAD," which was a default far more serious.
City and Church of the Colossians
Colosse was a city in the province of Asia Minor, in the valley of the
river Lycus. It was noted for their manufacture of dies, especially
crimson, and their pasturage for sheep and the resultant trade in wool.
At that time in history the city was in decline. Not long afterward, the
city became finally disintegrated in a violent earthquake which shook
Paul never visited Colosse, but had only heard about their faith and
love. But the prime evangelist to Colosse had been a certain Epaphras
(1:7), who was himself a Colossian (4:12), and who seems to have carried
the witness to Laodicea and Hieropolis as well (4:13). Presumably he had
been converted while visiting Ephesus. Thereafter he had carried on his
testimony under Paul's guidance, and had proved faithful ever since in
his message and ministering. It is probable that the new church at
Colosse first met in the house of Philemon, for it was to Colosse that
Paul returned Philemon's runaway slave Onesimus (4:9); and the little
epistle to Philemon speaks of the "church in thy house". Paul has
nothing but grateful endorsements for the teaching and labors of
Now however, about six years later, Epaphras has traveled to Rome to
visit Paul in his imprisonment. He has to confess anxiously that certain
heresies, evidently in eloquence and influence, had appeared among them,
propagating a specious and deceptively attractive false doctrine
(2:8-23) which was gravely endangering the fellowship. Paul at once
enters into this apprehensiveness of his loyal Epaphras, and sends back
this "Epistle to the Colossians" by the hand of Tychicus (4:7).
The Error of the Colossians
A peculiar form of heresy, singularly compounded of Jewish ritualism and
Oriental mysticism - two elements as hard to blend in the foundation of
a system as the heterogeneous iron and clay on which the image in
Nebuchadnezzar's dream stood unstably - had appeared among them, and
though at present confined to a few, was being vigorously preached. The
characteristic Eastern dogma, was that matter is evil. For if matter be
the source of all evil, then the fountain of each man's sin is to be
found, not in his own perverted will, but in his body, and the cure of
it is to be reached, not by faith which plants a new life in a sinful
spirit, but simply by ascetic mortification of the flesh.
They miss the Christ who is the One and only but all-sufficient
incarnate manifestation of the Creator; in whom alone is effected true
union of the Divine Spirit with the material creation; the one God-man
who spans the gulf between a holy God and sinful man, laying His hand on
both, so that there is neither need nor place for a "misty crowd of
angelic beings or shadowy abstractions" to graduate the measureless vast
across which His incarnation "flings its single solid arch." The Christ
whose coming in flesh and blood has dignified the human body into a
temple of the Highest, and whose mighty work of reconciliation on the
Cross excludes all further need either for "ascetic mortification" or
The Letter to Colosse
The first two of its four chapters are doctrinal; Paul is combating the
semi-Judaistic mysticism and asceticism. Its dominant theme is the
fullness and pre-eminence of Christ, and the full completeness of
Christian believers in Him, as against the mysticisms and asceticisms
enjoined by the philosophies and traditions of men.
In chapter 1:9 he prays that they "may be FILLED" with spiritual
knowledge - which is his subject in the first half of the epistle. In
verse 10 he prays that they might "WALK WORTHILY" of the Lord - which is
the subject of the second half. However superior the heretical theosophy
and Judaism and asceticism may have seemed outwardly, its actual effect
was to depose Christ from His solitary all-supremacy and all-sufficiency
as Lord and Savior.
The Person of Christ
In chapter 1:15-18 Paul gives his glorious full-length portrait of the
REAL Christ who became our Savior.
1. "The visible form of the invisible God."
2. "The Prior-Heir of all creation."
3. "In Him the universe was created."
4. "He IS before the universe."
5. "In Him the universe coheres."
6. "The Head of the body, the Church."
7. "The Firstborn from among the dead."
Where are His equals or rivals? Why, all the others were made BY Him and
FOR Him - "thrones, angelic lords, celestial powers and rulers"! Who
else could even PRETEND this absolute sovereignty over the whole
The Fullness, the Cross, the Mystery
This seven-fold identification of the true Christ is followed up by
three simply tremendous aspects of His person, passion and purpose.
Verse 19 says, "For in Him THE WHOLE FULLNESS of the Godhead was pleased
to dwell." There is no vague distribution of it among numberless shadowy
spirit-beings such as the new mystics were presuming to have discerned
by their secret insight! This wonderful Christ is the concentrated
Pleroma, the infinite Plenipotentiary!
Next in verse 20, "And having made peace through the blood of His cross,
by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself ... whether things on the
earth or THINGS IN THE HEAVENS." So His Cross has both a cosmic and a
UNIVERSAL comprehensiveness! Why then toy about with recondite notions
of secretly finding some mysterious peace through prying into the unseen
realm of spirits?
Next, see v.24-27, "His body ... the Church ... the mystery which hath
been hid from ages and generations, but is now made manifest to His
saints ... the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles,
which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." What were all the petty
"mysteries" of the new theosophisers compared with this glorious mystery
which spans all the ages?
First, the "fullness" of Christ comprehends the whole Godhead. Second,
the "Cross" of Christ comprehends the whole universe. Third, the
"mystery" of Christ comprehends all the ages. See now the wonderful
seven-fold salvation the FATHER has effected for us through this
incomparable One, "the Son of His love":
1. INHERITANCE - "Partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light"
2. DELIVERANCE - "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness"
3. TRANSLATION - "Translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love"
4. REDEMPTION - "In whom we have redemption through His blood" (v.14).
5. FORGIVENESS - "Even the forgiveness of sins" (v.14).
6. RECONCILIATION - "And you hath He reconciled" (v.21).
7. TRANSFIGURATION - "To present you holy and unblameable in His sight"
The Doctrine of Fullness
The core of this Colossian letter is its doctrine of the PLEROMA or
fullness. There are two sides to it, the Divine and the human. The two
great truths we are meant to learn are: (1) all the fullness of God is
in Christ; (2) all the fullness of Christ is for us.
The Gnostic bewitchers at Colosse were insinuating that their own new
inner knowledge added completion to the Gospel: (a) a fullness or
completion to the truth as it is in Christ; (b) a completive inner
knowing of Divine realities; (c) a superior "wisdom" or "spiritual
Chapter 1:19 says, "It was the good pleasure [i.e. of God the Father]
that in Him ALL the fullness should dwell." In chapter 2:3 we read, "In
whom [Christ as the mystery of God] are ALL the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge HIDDEN." In chapter 2:9, "In Him dwelleth ALL the fullness of
the Godhead BODILY." In the first of these three statements the
"fullness" dwells in Him as the qualification for all - sufficient
Saviorhood. In the second it is "hidden" in Him that we may have the
intellectual pleasure of ever-growing search and new discovery. In the
third it resides in Him "bodily" that it may come to us spiritually
through the Divine-human love and Spirit of One whom we can see and know
and trust and love and lay hold of as JESUS.
And now comes the statement "In Him dwelleth all the FULLNESS of the
Godhead bodily; and ye are FILLED FULL in Him." That is the one final
reply which was needed. If He is the very fullness of the Godhead
bodily, then nothing can be added to Him; and if the believer is in
"Him," what can be added which the believer doesn't already possess in
If ye then be risen with Christ
As our analysis indicates, the second part of this epistle is practical.
Such is always the order of teaching in the New Testament - doctrine
first, then practice. How you live is always determined by what you
believe. Doctrine is the basis of practice.
Paul characteristically begins by lifting up Christ again as the highest
of all inspirations to sanctity of conduct: "If ye then be risen with
Christ, seek the things which are ABOVE ... mortify your members ON
EARTH." Notice the three tenses of the believers union with Christ:
Past - "If ye then were RAISED with Christ."
Present - "Your life IS HID with Christ in God."
Future - "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you
also appear WITH HIM IN GLORY."
Going with these three tenses are two admonitions: "Seek those things
which are above"; "set your mind on things above, not on things on the
earth." Oh, that we increasingly become heavenly minded in the sense of
prayerful, practical Christlike godliness - until we appear with Him in
FIRST THESSALONIANS: CHRIST OUR HOPE
LOOKING BACK: HOW THEY WERE SAVED (1 - 3)
(A) EXEMPLARY CONVERSION (1)
Knew Gospel power(5), examples(6-7), witnesses(8-10)
(B) EXEMPLARY EVANGELISM (2)
In motive(1-6), conduct(7-12), message(13-16)
(C) EXEMPLARY AFTER-CARE (3)
Concern(1-5), follow-up(6-8), fervent prayer(9-13)
LOOKING ON: HOW THEY SHOULD LIVE (4 - 5)
(A) CONDUCT AND CALLING (4:1-12)
In the light of the Father's will
(B) COMFORT AND CHALLENGE (4:13-5:11)
In prospect of the Lord's return
(C) CONCORD AND CONSTANCY (5:12-28)
In keeping with Christian fellowship
The apostle wrote to these people because he could not go again to see
them. As the mission field spread to Europe it included two continents.
From this time it was impossible for him to superintend the churches he
had founded, without the aid of messengers and letters. It is generally
agreed that the two epistles to the Thessalonians were the earliest
written of Paul's epistles. Most probably they were written from Corinth
in A.D. 53 (Act.17:1-16, 18:1-5). The occasion of Paul's writing the
first of these two little epistles is given in chapter 3:6. His brief
but wonderfully fruitful visit to Thessalonica had been abruptly aborted
by violent opposition from unbelieving Jews who set the whole city in an
uproar, charging Paul and his attendants with sedition because they
preached "another king, one Jesus" (Act.17:7). Paul had been compelled
to flee, and had gone to Berea, only to be pursued by Thessalonian Jews,
and obliged to move on again, this time to Athens. From there, and with
a heart of longing solicitude for his beloved Thessalonian converts, he
had sent Timothy to Thessalonica to inquire concerning their well-being
and to confirm them in their faith. Timothy had returned to Paul (now in
Corinth) a little later with a most disheartening report (3:6),
whereupon Paul wrote his first letter to them.
1st and 2nd Thessalonians a Culmination
The two epistles naturally link themselves together, as they are alike
in their main subject, which is the second coming of Christ. As we've
mentioned previously the nine Christian Church epistles consist of a
quartet with its emphasis on THE CROSS, of a trio with its emphasis on
THE CHURCH, and a pair with its emphasis on THE COMING. In the first
four FAITH looks back and is strengthened, in the middle three LOVE
looks up to the heavenly Bridegroom and is deepened, and in the final
two HOPE looks on to the consummation and is brightened.
This threefold order is the Holy Spirit's way of indicating the order in
which we are to instruct Christian truth. The sinner's first need is
neither the doctrine of the Church nor that of the second advent, but
the Christ of Calvary, as in the four evangelical epistles. Next we are
to show how individual salvation through Christ the Savior introduces
the blood-bought, Spirit-regenerated believer into a wonderful
fellowship, an indissoluble spiritual oneness with all other true
believers, in heaven and on earth, who in their totality compose the
body and bride and temple of God's eternal Son. Then we are to crown the
instruction by pointing on to the sublime climax when the glorious Lord
shall return for His completed Church, and the resurrected saints,
translated into His likeness, shall together be "forever with the Lord."
Here in Thessalonians this wonderful prospect of the Lord's return is
elucidated in relation to His Church as nowhere else in the New
There is a pleasing, straightforward orderliness about the epistle. Our
English version breaks it into five short chapters, each of which ends
with a reference to the Lord's return. This tells us at once that
everything here is being viewed in the light of that coming climax. We
find that although everything is thus viewed futuristically, the first
three chapters are REMINISCENT. Then in chapter four Paul turns from
looking backward to looking forward. His subject is then
The Glorious Hope
As Paul opens the first letter to his beloved Thessalonians he is
"remembering without ceasing" their "work of faith, and labor of love,
and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ."
Verse 3 Verse 9, 10
"Your work of faith." "Ye turned to God from idols."
"And labor of love." "To serve the living and true God."
"And patience of hope." "And to wait for His Son from heaven."
This comparison also confirms that the letter was sent to a church
mainly Gentile, in which most of the converts had been only recently won
from idolatry. Although strong in enthusiasm, it was young in
experience. It is a significant fact, all in itself, that to such a
church, and to such young converts, Paul unhesitatingly unfolded the
splendid truth of our Lord's future coming and kingdom.
Our Lord DID refer to a second and VISIBLE coming to this earth for His
John 14:3 I Thessalonians 4:16, 17
"I will come again." "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven"
"And receive you unto "Then we...shall be caught up...to meet the
Myself" Lord in the air."
"That where I am, there "And so shall we ever be with the Lord."
you may be also."
Just as this Thessalonian passage flashes backward on John 14:3, so
there is a passage in Matthew 24:30-31 which flashes forward upon this
same passage, lighting it up by comparison and deciding whether it is a
"SECRET rapture" of the Church or not.
"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven;
and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they
shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven,
with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels
with a great sound [lit. voice] of a trumpet, and they shall
gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end
of heaven to the other."
These words, spoken by our Lord Himself, pre-describe a return which in
the most glorious, overawing and spectacular sense is VISIBLE AND
PUBLIC. See the passages side by side.
Matthew 24 I Thessalonians 4
"They shall see the Son "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven.”
of Man coming."
"His ANGELS, with a "With the VOICE of the archANGEL."
"With a great TRUMPET." "With the TRUMPET of God."
"They shall GATHER TOGETHER "Caught up TOGETHER with them."
"In the CLOUDS of heaven." "In the CLOUDS to meet the Lord."
Mark well the parallels here - angels, voice, trumpet, congregating,
clouds. All are agreed that Matthew 24 teaches the splendid outward,
public coming. Of course there are details in the Thessalonian paragraph
which do not appear in Matthew 24, simply because our Lord could not
divulge such Church doctrine beforehand (Jn.14:12-13); and in any case
no one passage has a monopoly of all the details about any given topic.
Note again the three arresting features in this Thessalonian passage:
"shout" - "voice" - "trumpet." Each has its special relevance. The
"shout" is given by "the Lord." The "voice" is that of the "archangel."
The "trumpet" is the "trumpet of God." The Lord's shout is His
resurrection-call to the CHURCH (only once elsewhere do we read of His
giving a shout, i.e. John 11 where He raises Lazarus). The archangel is
Michael (Scripture reveals many angels, but only the one archangel) who
has special connection with ISRAEL (Dan.10:21, 12:1). The trumpet has to
do with judgment, and that relates to the NATIONS (Rev.8). Thus the
"shout," the "voice," the "trumpet" have reference respectively to the
Church, bringing resurrection, to Israel, which effects regathering, and
to the nations, the trumpet sounds for judgment. Such a dramatic,
stupendous, Divine interruption of history utterly baffles imagination.
It will end the present age, and introduce our Lord's millennial empire
over the nations. Here in I Thessalonians however, it is the Lord's
coming in relation to the CHURCH which is especially in view. Oh, what a
precious hope and peerless prospect it is! Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
PATIENT WAITING, WATCHING, WORKING
COMFORT - FROM THE HOPE OF CHRIST'S RETURN (1)
The consolation of it in the present (1:3-7)
The compensation by it in the future (1:8-12)
CAUTION - ON THE TIME OF CHRIST'S RETURN (2)
The when and the how of the coming (2:1-12)
The why and the how of the waiting (2:13-17)
COMMAND - IN THE LIGHT OF CHRIST'S RETURN (3)
Basis of command: appeal, confidence (3:1-5)
Nature of command: must work as we wait (3:6-15)
It is generally agreed that this second letter to the Thessalonians was
written within a few months of the first, while Paul was still at
Corinth. Certain evils mentioned in the first letter had further
developed by the second. There were those who presumed to declare that
"the day of the Lord" was "at hand" or even then "present"; and there is
a hint that some spurious letter or message, purporting to come from
Paul himself had found its way among them, by which they had been
"shaken in mind." The agitation which had resulted was showing rather
fanatical tendencies in some.
Assuming that the Lord's return was almost immediately upon them, they
were leaving their employment, thus bringing the burden of their
maintenance on the fellowship. It was surprising, that such misguided
ones were falling prey to the temptation to become "busy bodies", and
that thus the peace of the Christian brotherhood was being impaired. The
gentler and more guarded reproof of the first letter, therefore now
gives place to sterner words.
But we must not overstate that side of things, for there was far more on
the other side of the scale, calling for overflowing gratitude and
praise to God. Speaking of the Thessalonian assembly in the main, their
faith was "growing exceedingly," their mutual love "abounded," their
"faith and patience" amid persecutions was an example to the Lord's
people everywhere. This second letter is one of exultation, explanation
The contents of this little epistle fall into clear order and division.
In chapter 1 the great hope of the Lord's second coming is set before
the Thessalonians as their great CONSOLATION amid the tribulations which
they were having to endure for Christ's sake. Next, in chapter 2 the
apostle furnishes them with authoritative CORRECTION concerning the time
and the way of Christ's return. Finally, in chapter 3 there is the
apostle's COUNTERACTION of practical error concerning present duty in
the waiting time till Christ returns. In this final chapter the word
"command" occurs four times (v.4, 6, 10, 12), and the section ends with,
"And if any man OBEY not our word in this epistle, note that man."
The Second Chapter
The first plain intention is that the "man of sin" is one individual
PERSON - not a system, nor a succession of men.
The second thing which stands out plainly is that "the day of the Lord"
does not come until two things happen: (1) the "apostasy," and (2) the
revealing of the "man of sin."
The third thing that stands out unmistakably are references to the
"coming" and the "day" which here mean most definitely the STILL FUTURE
return of our Lord.
Also, there is a RESTRAINT UPON SATAN in this present age (v.6). Thank
God the devil cannot do just as he likes; the strong man's house has
been spoiled by the Stronger! What this sin-cursed world would have been
like by now if Jesus had not come, and if Satan were not so greatly
restrained in consequence, imagination cannot picture.
During the Millennium, Satan will be completely bound, out of action,
and in the abyss of Hades, but during the end-epoch of this present age
and restraint upon him is to be relaxed; and then, "Woe to the
inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto
you, having great wrath because he knoweth that he hath but a short
time" (Rev.12:12). It is then that he will fling off all disguise, and
appear as the morally ugly archfiend that he really is, no longer going
about only as "an angel of light" cunningly seeking whom he may deceive
(II Co.11:14), but "as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I
Pet.5:8)! It is then that he will appear as "the beast out of the sea"
and the "other beast out of the earth," which latter is the "man" whose
number is 666 (Rev.13). He will enter and possess this human being in a
way never known before, and with wide powers he will exercise an awful
tyranny over millions - first deceiving and then enslaving them.
But why should this have to happen? It is because this is the only way
that Christ-rejecting men and nations will learn. They shall be allowed
a final and culminating lesson in which to learn by bitterest experience
what is the ultimate alternative to the grace and government of "our God
and His Christ." But just as it looks as though 666 is to dominate all
flesh, God's great SEVEN, the glorious Prince and Savior, shall suddenly
appear in flaming splendor from the skies, and shall utterly consume
"that wicked one" with the breath of His mouth!
I TIMOTHY: A CHARGE, GUARD THE DEPOSIT
Preliminary explanation (1:1-17)
The "Charge" introduced (1:18-20)
1. THE ASSEMBLY AND ITS CONDUCT (2-3)
(a) CONCERNING ORDER (2)
The men and public prayer (1-8)
The women and public mien (9-15)
(b) CONCERNING OFFICE (3)
Qualifications of elders (1-7)
Qualifications of deacons (8-14)
2. THE MINISTER AND HIS CONDUCT (4-6)
(a) TO THE ASSEMBLY IN GENERAL (4)
A "good minister" in faithful teaching (1-11)
A "good minister" in exemplary living (12-16)
(b) TOWARD PARTICULAR CLASSES (5-6)
Older and younger (1-2), widows (3-6)
Elders (17-25), servants (6:1-8), rich (9-19)
Timothy was pastor of the Christian "assembly" at Ephesus (1:3). That he
was a comparatively young man is made clear by expressions in both
letters to him. The two letters are a "charge" from Paul to Timothy. The
charge is that Timothy shall "guard" something which Paul is committing
to him. Paul calls it the "deposit." Paul says, "I know Whom I have
believed, and am persuaded that He is able to guard THE DEPOSIT until
that day" (2Ti.1:12). The deposit is a trust which CHRIST had committed
to Paul. Paul's two letters to Timothy, written in the knowledge that
soon he himself must pass beyond, are a charge that the younger man
shall bravely and faithfully "guard" the sacred "deposit" in the days to
come. Paul specifically states the nature of the deposit in I Timothy
1:11 as "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to
Looking particularly at the FIRST of these two epistles we soon see that
its over-all subject is the local "church" or "assembly" of Christian
believers and the pastor-in-charge.
The first seventeen verses in chapter 1 give a preliminary explanation
why the letter has been written, and end with a doxology, "Now unto the
King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory
forever and ever, Amen." In the remaining three verses (18-20), with a
touch of solemn formality, the great apostle introduces his "charge" to
The "charge" itself begins at vs. 2:1, and thereafter the letter breaks
into two clear parts. Chapter two and three concern the ASSEMBLY and its
conduct; chapters four and five concern the MINISTER and his conduct.
A CHALLENGE TO FORTITUDE & FAITHFULNESS
THE TRUE PASTOR AND PRESENT TESTING
THE TRUE PERSONAL REACTION (1:3-2:13)
Challenge - "Stir up," "be not ashamed," "endure," etc.
Incentive - "Remember," Paul's example
THE TRUE PASTORAL REACTION (2:14-26)
Challenge - "Charge," "study," "shun," "refuse," etc.
Incentive - "Foundation sure," souls rescued.
THE TRUE PASTOR AND AGE-END TROUBLES
THE TRUE PERSONAL REACTION (3)
Challenge - "Perilous times" "continue thou"
Incentive - Paul's example, Scripture
THE TRUE PASTORAL REACTION (4)
Challenge - "Preach the Word," "do work of evangelist"
Incentive - The coming kingdom, the coming crown
This second letter to Timothy, like the first, is occupied with the
exercise of the ministry within the local church. It was written soon
after the first letter. Paul was in prison in Rome; and he did not
expect (as he did in the earlier letter) to be freed again (except by
his "departure" to be with Christ). This second letter to Timothy is the
last writing of Paul preserved to us. Never does the apostle shine in
nobler light. His passion for the great work to which his whole energy
has been devoted is strong as ever upon him.
If as we have seen, the first epistle to Timothy is a "charge," this
second one develops into a "challenge." It is a challenge to fortitude
and faithfulness in face of PRESENT testings and of FURTHER testings
which were yet to come. It is equally orderly as the first. The four
chapters break into two pairs. Chapter 1-2 are about the Christian
pastor and his true reactions to PRESENT testings. Chapters 3-4,
commencing "This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall
come," concern the pastor's reaction to AGE-END troubles. In each
section there is a challenge and incentive.
1st & 2nd Timothy a "Charge"
The time of Paul's own "departure" is at hand. As he looks back over the
years he can say, "I have fought the good fight; I have finished the
course; I have HELD INTACT the faith." But what of the future? He must
give this solemn, written "charge" to his dearest son in the faith. With
a new sense of responsibility Timothy is now to "guard" this priceless,
vital "deposit" of Christian truth: he is to preserve it, protect it,
proclaim it. This then is the order:
(1) The "glorious Gospel of the blessed God" is entrusted to Paul
(2) Paul now "deposits" it in (and as) a special "charge" to Timothy
(3) Paul exhorts Timothy, "O Timothy, GUARD the DEPOSIT" (4:20).
(4) Paul knows Whom he has believed, and is persuaded HE will "guard the
(5) Timothy is further to "deposit" the treasure of truth to other
faithful trustees who
are "able to teach others also (2:2).
Because these two epistles are a charge concerning the guardianship of
this sacred deposit of truth that we find in them certain expressions
occurring in almost every paragraph. This expression "the faith," seems
to have been commonly used to sum up Christian truth and practice viewed
together as a religion.
"Some have made shipwreck as regards THE FAITH" (1Ti.1:19).
"Holding the mystery of THE FAITH in a pure conscience" (3:9).
"A good standing and great boldness in THE FAITH" (3:13).
"In the latter times some shall depart from THE FAITH" (4:1).
"A good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of THE FAITH"
"If any provide not for ... his own house, he hath denied THE FAITH"
"Some reaching after [money] have erred from THE FAITH" (6:10).
"Fight the good fight of THE FAITH, lay hold on eternal life" (6:12).
"Science, falsely so called, which some professing have erred from THE
"Men of corrupt minds, reprobate as regards THE FAITH" (2Ti.3:8).
"Wise unto salvation through THE FAITH which is in Christ Jesus" (3:15).
"I have fought the good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept
We find, also, a lot about "teaching" and "doctrine" (14x) in these two
epistles. It carries with it the solemn implication that the sacred
"deposit" is to be guarded DOCTRINALLY. Again and again we meet here the
expression "the doctrine," which sums up the whole Christian system from
a doctrinal standpoint.
"Law is made...for the lawless...any other thing contrary to sound
"Nourished in the words of the faith and of the good DOCTRINE" (4:6).
"Give heed to reading, to exhortation, to the DOCTRINE" (4:13).
"Take heed to thyself and to the DOCTRINE" (4:16).
"That the name of God and of the DOCTRINE be not blasphemed" (6:1).
"The words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the according-to-piety
"But thou hast closely followed the DOCTRINE of mine (2Ti.3:10).
The leaders whom Timothy is to gather around him must be men who are
"able to teach."
"The overseer, therefore, must be without reproach ... apt to TEACH"
"Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor,
especially those who
labor in the Word and in TEACHING" (5:17).
"And the things which thou hast heard from me ... commit thou to
faithful men, who
shall be able to TEACH others also" (2Ti.2:2).
"Every Scripture is God-inspired and profitable for TEACHING" (3:16).
"Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke,
exhort, with all
longsuffering and TEACHING" (4:2).
But why all this emphasis on "the doctrine" and the urgent necessity of
"That thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a DIFFERENT
"Some having turned aside unto VAIN TALKING, desiring to be teachers of
"In the latter times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to
and TEACHINGS OF DEMONS" (4:1).
"If any man teacheth HETERODOX doctrine, and consenteth not to sound
"For the time will come when they WILL NOT ENDURE the sound teaching"
"But having itching ears will heap to themselves teachers after their
own lusts ... and
TURN ASIDE UNTO FABLES" (4:3-4).
Once again we find the word "godliness" noticeably recurring. Just as
"the faith" and "the doctrine," sum up the Gospel in its religious and
doctrinal aspects, so "the godliness" sums it up on the PRACTICAL side.
This seems certain from comparing "the mystery of the faith" in 3:9 with
"the mystery of the godliness" in 3:16. The three terms were evidently
"current coinage" in the phraseology of original Christianity and should
be duly noted. They sum up the Christian system, respectively, as (1) a
religious WORSHIP, (2) a body of TRUTH, (3) a way of LIFE.
"And without controversy, great is the mystery of THE GODLINESS"
"Bodily exercise is profitable for a little, but THE GODLINESS is
profitable for all
"Men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that THE
GODLINESS is a
way of gain" (6:5).
"But THE GODLINESS with contentment is great gain" (6:6).
But why this emphasis on "The godliness"? The answer is found in the
second epistle, chapter 3:5, "... holding a [mere] FORM of godliness,
but having denied the POWER thereof."
The Crucial Significance
When we perceive clearly what the significance really is we realize at
once what a solemn voice these two letters have for our own time.
Think back for a moment to the opening paragraph of the first letter,
where we find the primary purpose of Paul's charge to Timothy, i.e.
"That thou mightest charge SOME not to teach heterodox doctrine" (1:3).
Remember too, "But the Spirit saith expressly that in the later times
SOME shall fall away from the faith" (4:1). Then with the repeated
"SOME" in mind, recall the five sad, disturbing instances in this first
epistle where it tells of apostasy:
"SOME have turned aside" (1:6).
"SOME have made shipwreck" (1:19).
"SOME are turned after Satan" (5:15).
"SOME have been led astray" (6:10).
"SOME have missed the mark" (6:21).
In the second epistle the "SOME" has become "ALL." At the beginning of
it we find, "This thou knowest, that ALL that are in Asia have turned
away from me" (1:15). Then again at the end we find, "At my first
defense, no one took my part, but ALL forsook me" (4:16). THAT is why
these two letters were written so urgently to Timothy. They strike a
crisis point. They are a critical challenge. The first marks a
break-AWAY, the second marks a break-DOWN.
In this, are these two Timothy epistles latently prophetic? Coming, as
they do, just at the end of the nine Christian Church Epistles, do they
throw on the screen as advance picture of tragic break-away and
break-down which are to characterize organized Christianity at the end
of this present Church-age? We know, of course, that the end times
certainly were in Paul's mind as he wrote, even though he apparently had
no knowledge that a long trail of twenty centuries would unwind before
the Lord's return. In referring to the end-times which he thought were
THEN drawing on, was not Paul so guided that his words, like prophetic
arrows, find their divinely intended distant target in our 20th century,
when at long last the final days really are upon us? In the first letter
he speaks of himself and his ministry as a "pattern" or "delineation" or
"intimation of posterity" (1:16). In chapter 4:1 he tells us what the
Holy Spirit says "expressly" about the latter days; and again, in the
second letter (3:1) he refers to the "last days" speaking of them as
Yes, undoubtedly Paul is directly thinking about these eventualities;
but the further point which we are here making is that perhaps in a way
which he himself did not suspect, his two Timothy letters AS A WHOLE
give a PROPHETIC PHOTOGRAPH of our 20th century Chistendom. If this is
so, how carefully the Lord's Timothies ought to be studying them, and
praying over them again today!
TITUS: A CAUTION - "MAINTAIN GOOD WORKS"
1. AS TO THE ELDERS IN THE ASSEMBLY (1)
As to the office - eldership (v.5)
As to the men - blameless (v.6-9)
As to the need - gainsayers (v.10-16)
2. AS TO CLASSES IN PARTICULAR (2)
The older men and women (v.2-3)
The younger men and women (v.4-8)
Those in service to masters (v.9-14)
3. AS TO THE MEMBERS IN GENERAL (3)
Good works of every kind (v.1-2)
The supreme inspiration (v.3-8)
Avoid the unprofitable (v.9-11)
Judging from the allusions to Titus in Paul's epistles he seems to have
been the ablest and most reliable of all the friends whom the apostle
had about him in his later years. We find him figuring prominently when
the strife and confusion in the Corinthian Church threatened to destroy
Paul's influence. His remarkable success in the difficult mission then
assigned to him, which called for the exercise of combined firmness and
tact, and from which Apollos appears to have shrunk (1 Co.16:12), marked
him out as an able and trustworthy delegate, and explains his selection
ten years later for the important and difficult position which he
temporarily held in Crete when this letter was addressed to him.
The same kind of urgent interest clings around this letter to Titus as
we have found in the two letters to Timothy. The Lord's return is in
view. The little epistle was written about the same time as I Timothy.
It has much in common with the two epistles to Timothy, but it strikes a
different emphasis. In I and II Timothy the emphasis is on DOCTRINE: in
Titus it is on GOOD WORKS. First Timothy is a CHARGE, Second Timothy is
a CHALLENGE, Titus is a CAUTION - a strong and urgent reminder that
sound faith must be accompanied by good works. The doctrine must be
adorned by doing. These three "Pastoral" epistles are really a trinity
in unity, exhorting us to "guard" the precious "deposit" of the Gospel.
In I Timothy we are to PROTECT it, in II Timothy we are to PROCLAIM it,
in Titus we are to PRACTICE it.
Read Titus again, noting the emphasis all through on good works as the
necessary evidence of salvation. It will leave no doubt as to the key
theme. Perhaps the key verse is v.3:8, "Be careful to maintain good
works." The very last word before the parting salutation is again,
"Maintain good works."
Chapter 1: "Put things in order"
It is a significant fact that although the New Testament gives
directions as to the organizing of local Christian assemblies it nowhere
even hints of any central board of administration such as those which
have developed with such wide powers today. The argument of expediency
may be used to vindicate these latter, but they certainly have no
Scriptural warrant. So far as New Testament indications go, each local
church was meant to be autonomous. Such an elaborate hierarchical
pyramid as the Roman Catholic system is utterly foreign to the New
Testament; so also are all central executives which exercise a
governmental control over combines of churches.
We may also learn from this letter to Titus that there is meant to be
adequate, even though simple, organization. Titus was to "set in order"
the things that were lacking in the local assemblies of Crete. Local
autonomy is never meant to be haphazard disorderliness. There is to be
pastoral oversight, such as that of Timothy and Titus. There are to be
elders and deacons to oversee, respectively, the spiritual and economic
aspects of the fellowship. In the very nature of things there must by
leadership as well as membership in such corporate fellowships.
Another thing which must surely catch our eye is that in the appointment
of office-bearers spiritual CHARACTER takes precedence over natural
gifts. The elder must have a three-fold blamelessness: first,
domestically (1:6), second, personally (1:7-8), third, doctrinally
Chapter 2: "Adorn the Doctrine"
Whereas chapter 1 concerns the elders, chapter 2 widens out to different
classes of members. The ideal set before them is to "adorn the doctrine"
in all things. The incentives given are three: the grace of God (v.11),
the Lord's appearing (v.13), His death to redeem (v.14).
Shining like a resplendent alpha-star in this second chapter is the
"blessed hope" of the "glorious appearing." The reference to it occurs
quite incidentally, yet it is set in one of the most notable little
epitomes of saving truth anywhere in the New Testament.
Past: "The grace of God which bringeth salvation appeared" (v.11).
Present: "Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts"
Future: "The blessed hope ... the appearing of our great God and Savior"
The word "appearing" in v.11-13 is the Greek "epiphany" a shining forth.
The first is the epiphany of grace, the other is the epiphany of glory.
Between the two, we are to live "soberly ... looking for the blessed
hope" - so to be looking for the second "appearing" is one of the sober
Chapter 3: "Maintain good works"
After "appoint" in chapter 1, and "adorn" in chapter 2, comes "maintain"
in chapter 3. "Be careful to maintain good works." "Learn to maintain
good works." All through these epistles, Christian doctrine comes to us
linked with highest ideals of conduct. High doctrine with low conduct is
intolerable to New Testament Christianity. Notice the threefold
incentive in this chapter - first a reminder of what we once were (v.3),
second, the wonder of our conversion (v.4-6), third, our now being
"heirs of eternal life" (v.7).
Somehow, as we ponder this short but weighty note to Titus, we have an
uneasy feeling that all too many of us modern Christians live far below
its simply worded but searching standards. Remember again, our Savior
"gave HIMSELF for us" on awful Calvary, "that He might redeem us from
all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession,
ZEALOUS OF GOOD WORKS." How the sinnings of Christians must hurt Him!
Thank God, if its final injunction is "Maintain good works", its final
benediction shows how to do it: "GRACE be with you all."
PHILEMON: THE GOSPEL WAY OF SALVATION
PAUL'S PRAISE OF PHILEMON (V.4-7)
PAUL'S PLEA FOR ONESIMUS (V.8-17)
PAUL'S PLEDGE AND ASSURANCE (V.18-22)
Even in the best art galleries there is always a space for choice
miniatures. This personal note from Paul to Philemon is such a graceful
masterpiece of "fine courtesy, exquisite tact, and even playfulness of
wit," and withal it has such distinct spiritual values.
Paul must have written numerous short letters, besides his "epistles."
This is the only private letter that has survived to us. It attempts no
grandiose phraseology, but it is a perfect model of "tact, delicacy and
good feeling" in connection with a sensitive, master-verses-slave
situation. It is a revealing little window into the private contacts and
disposition of the apostle. It provides a unique practical illustration
of Christian principle applied to social relationship. It says by
EXAMPLE what Galatians and Colossians say in precept, as to the "nullity
of worldly rank" in the Church, i.e. "There is neither slave nor freeman
in Christ." One only needs to know the helpless abjection of slaves
under Roman law to realize the height which Paul scales when he asks the
slave-owner to receive back the runaway thief-slave as a
The Persons Concerned
Paul addresses Philemon as "our dearly beloved and fellow - laborer."
This seems at once to imply not only first-hand contact, but an already
formed friendship; and this is confirmed by v.19-21, which imply that he
was one of Paul's own converts. A comparison of the letter with
Colossians 4:9 shows that Philemon lived at Colosse, to which city
Onesimus was now being returned. Philemon was a freeman, a slave-owner,
presumably of the higher class socially, and a local Christian leader,
for Paul speaks of "the church in thy house." The "beloved Apphia" and "Archippus
our fellow-soldier" are assumed to have been, respectively, his wife and
son. Archippus seems to have been pastor either at Colosse or at
As for Onesimus, he was one of Philemon's slaves. When the epistle to
the Colossians was dispatched from Rome, per the hand of Tichicus,
Onesimus accompanied him. The two of them also carried this private note
The Background Story
Onesimus, who was probably a domestic slave of Philemon, had absconded,
and v.18 would seem to indicate that he had stolen money from his
master, by which to effect his get-away. He made his flight right out of
"Asia," overseas across the Aegean and Adriatic, to Rome, that populous
haven of concealment to which many another such fugitive had fled. He
little thought that he would ever see Colosse again, but there, in Rome,
he came under the influence of Paul, was truly converted, and later
returned to Colosse a changed man. As Paul was then in prison in Rome,
it seems the more remarkable that they met. But at that very time,
Epaphras had come all the way from Colosse, on a visit to Paul; and it
seems a likely coincidence, as well as an overruling providence, that he
saw and recognized Onesimus in Rome.
Onesimus quickly "grew in grace," and endeared himself to Paul, proving
so serviceable that Paul would gratefully have detained him in Rome. But
no, Onesimus belonged to Philemon; so the apostle took opportunity to
send him back.
But what shall Paul say to the master who has been so outraged? Terrible
punishments were sanctioned by Roman law for such offenses, even to the
inflicting of death. Bishop Lightfoot comments, “The slave was
absolutely at his master's disposal; for the smallest offense he might
be scourged, mutilated, crucified, thrown to the wild beasts." But
Philemon was himself a Christian brother, which fact put a kindlier
complexion on the situation and gave Paul his basis of appeal. So the
little letter was composed and sent on its delicate errand.
Smith's Bible Dictionary gives us the following eulogy. "The epistle to
Philemon ... has been admired deservedly as a model of delicacy and
skill in the department of composition to which it belongs. The writer
had peculiar difficulties to overcome. He was the common friend of the
parties at variance. He must conciliate a man who supposed that he had
good reason to be offended. He must commend the offender, and yet
neither deny nor aggravate the imputed fault. He must assert the new
ideas of Christian equality in the face of a system that hardly
recognized the humanity of the enslaved. He could have placed the
question on the ground of his own personal rights, and yet must waive
them in order to secure an act of spontaneous kindness. His success must
be a triumph of love, and nothing be demanded for the sake of the
justice which could have claimed everything. His limits his request to a
forgiveness of the alleged wrong, and a restoration of favor and the
enjoyment of future sympathy and affection, and yet would so guard his
words as to leave scope for all the generosity which benevolence might
prompt towards one whose condition admitted of so much alleviation."
See that v.1-7 are about Philemon, v.8-17 are about Onesimus, v.18-22
are about Paul. In the first group of verses Paul's affectionately
diplomatic approach to his intercession for Onesimus consists of sincere
PRAISE for Philemon. In the next group of verses Paul deftly presents
his lovely PLEA on behalf of thief-runaway but now converted Onesimus.
In the third group Paul gives his solemn PLEDGE to repay whatever
Onesimus has stolen.
here is a lovely touch in v.19, where Paul in giving his "I.O.U." to
Philemon, quickly adds his "U.O.Me." Is there a guileless, sly humor in
the deliberately adopted solemnity, "I, Paul, write it WITH MY OWN HAND,
I will repay it"?
This short letter can preach powerful truths to us. First, SOCIAL EVILS
ARE SOONEST CHANGED BY TRANSFORMED LIVES. How simple was the Philemon-Onesimus
matter compared with the complicated master-vs.-worker problems of
modern industry! Yet here is the open secret which can solve every
social and industrial dispute, to the well-being of men and the honor of
God, i.e. the application of Christian principles by Christian men.
Again, true conversion to Christ will always cause a man to put
PRINCIPLE BEFORE MERE EXPEDIENCY. To some it would have been a question
as to whether Onesimus really needed to go back now. His conversion more
than made up for his having stolen and run away. Philemon would
appreciate this and excuse Onesimus for what he had done in his
"unconverted days." But is that how Paul reasoned? Did he say, "Perhaps
the best thing now is just to say nothing about it"? Is that how
Onesimus himself viewed it? No, Onesimus just as much as Paul knew what
was the right thing, the Christian thing, and resolved to do it, cost
what it might, for the Savior’s sake.
And again, see in this letter THE VALUE OF A THIEVING, RUNAWAY SLAVE!
There was a providential overruling in the life of Onesimus just as
truly as we see in the Book of Esther. God was watching, loving,
guiding. See the dignity which Christianity puts on the brow of a slave,
making him a brother and spiritual equal in Christ! Need we marvel that
such teaching eventually abolished slavery, emancipated woman, and
claimed social justice for all men as human equals?
Just once more, we cannot help seeing a kind of profile analogy between
this Philemon letter and THE GOSPEL WAY OF SALVATION. Under Roman law, a
slave had no right of asylum. If he absconded and was caught, his owner
had full right to disfigure or lame or even kill him. But the slave was
conceded at least one right, that of appeal to his master's friend, to
whom he could flee, not for concealment, but for advocacy. The slave
owner was still absolute master, but he might be pleaded with through
his friend to whom the slave had appealed, and would listen for his
friend-and-equal's sake if not for the poor slave's. This was the more
likely if the friend was a PARTNER of the owner. Moreover, the slave who
thus fled to such an intercessor did not incur the guilt and penalty of
an ordinary escapade. Moreover, a slave could be freed, as faithful
slaves sometimes were, by ADOPTION into the owner's family.
What a parallel we have with the Gospel way of salvation. As human
beings you and I are God's property, but as sinners we have robbed Him
and are fugitives. Our guilt is great and our penalty heavy. The Law
condemns us. Conscience hunts us down. But if the Law condemns us, grace
concedes us the right to appeal. As Onesimus found refuge with Paul, so
we find refuge with Jesus, who, besides being the sinner's Friend, is
the co-equal Friend and Partner of the One whose property we are. In
Jesus we find both a PRECATOR (intercessor) and a GENITOR (begetting
father), just as Onesimus found in Paul the one who not only interceded
for him to Philemon but led him into the secret of a new life (v.10).
Moreover, just as Paul contracted Onesimus debt, saying to Philemon,
"Put that to mine account," so has our Lord Jesus graciously contracted
upon Himself all OUR debt and demerit, wiping it out once for all. And
now, just as Onesimus became reconciled in heart to Philemon and
voluntarily returned to his owner, so have we become "reconciled to God"
and of our own free will, have gratefully returned to Him, no longer
rebels, or even servile slaves, but gladly to be "received" by Him
HEBREWS - CHRIST, THE NEW AND LIVING WAY
1:1 - 7:28 = Jesus - The New and Better Deliverer
8:1 - 10:18 = Calvary - The New and Better Covenant
10:19 - 13:25 = Faith - The New and Better Principle
The book begins, `At the END of these days'; plainly Old Testament days.
All earthly 'religion' therefore is superseded - even Levitical.
Although God had given these Hebrews a 'religion' the book of HEBREWS
sees God taking it all away. Aaron disappears, Moses disappears, the Law
is disannulled - the priesthood being changed; the scene is changed from
earth to Heaven. They have become partakers of a Heavenly calling. In
short the object of HEBREWS is to call a people who are heavenly by
calling (state of being), to a heavenly worship. From now on, their
place is to be without the camp and WITHIN THE VEIL. Those once divine
institutions - earthly ordinances, tabernacle and priesthood are now
Many dear saints who delight in the Word of God insist on the study of
O.T. types as setting forth fully and accurately the things of Grace we
are now enjoying, and the good things to come when the Lord returns.
Indeed, we have known some beloved teachers so governed by O.T. typology
as to permit no entrance of N.T. truth except as explained by O.T.
types. Now the Law had `only' SHADOWS. One who tries to turn these
shadows into images finds himself presently under their spell. Reversing
things, he judges facts by shadows. That which was once a pattern, a
type and shadow of the Christ, was not to be enlarged upon and followed.
Moreoften than not, they are a bright contrast of the NEW which has
In order for these Hebrews to be born again and break away from their
religious system they needed to be shown, by vivid comparison and
contrast, the superiority of the Gospel. It is a superlative
fulfillment, of absolute perfection and of Divine finality; that there
could be no going beyond it, no adding to it and no mixing with it. A
key word `better' appears 12x, and `perfect' 12x.
THE SUPERIORITY OF OUR HIGH PRIEST
He is `by so much better' than the angels. This comparative phrase used
4x in Hebrews sets forth infinity. The measure in each case is beyond
measure. In Ch.1 He is seen as Deity - The Son, Heir of all, Firstborn,
God and Lord. From Ch.2 on His humanity is emphasized. As such, He is
better than Moses, Joshua, quickly skipping over them to consider Aaron
and the priesthood. He is `another' Priest, of a different order,
preceding Abraham and never-ending.
In Ch.6 an entirely new idea is expressed. Jesus is called the
`forerunner'. The Levitical high priest did not enter the sanctuary as a
forerunner, but only as the people's representative. He entered a place
into which none might follow; in the people's stead, but not as their
pioneer. In the new economy Christ as High Priest goes nowhere that His
people cannot follow Him.
Like Melchizedek Christ, whose right to the priesthood lay in no earthly
birth, but in His being the Son of God from eternity to eternity. As the
Greater One, He came with a two-fold purpose, 1) to bless, and 2) to
lead our praise to God. Preceding and superseding Aaron and all the
Levitical economy, his place is exceeding high. He is King-Priest; King
before Priest. He has no successor; He comes on the scene as a
`continual' priest, without earthly or human connection. Melchizedek
does not appear in Scripture as one who dies, and whose office passes to
another. So Christ is inexpressibly greater than Aaron.
As a contrast, the Levitical priesthood had many priests, with our Great
High Priest-One. With those priests, continual yearly offerings;
oft-repeated sacrifices; with Christ, that which accomplished eternal
redemption. This High Priest is seated in God's presence, for His work
fulfilled all that the priests before Him could not. "For by one
Offering, He has perfected forever, them that are sanctified" Heb.
10:14. Our wonderful JESUS completely fulfills, and therefore supersedes
the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices. With human priests, sin,
failure, and final death; Christ, sinless, and through suffering
`perfected forevermore'. Those priests had no power in themselves; our
Great High Priest has all authority. Earthly high priests lacked full
sympathy and understanding. He offered up Himself, this no high priest
was asked to do.
Christ entered Heaven `by His own blood'. Not by His perfect character,
not by His keeping the Law, nor by His personal worthiness as the Son,
but by His own blood. Not that He got in by that means, but He went in
'in that way.' Christ is in the Holiest on the basis of having been the
Sin-offering. He entered Heaven not, as He came, as One that had no sin;
but as One that had borne sin, and put sin away by the pouring out of
His blood on the Cross. That was the character in which He entered, and
continually abides, a High Priest forever!
Christ's priesthood is NOT making propitiation for us, but is acting on
the basis of propitiation already made. Our Priest does not stand
between us and God; but He is Head over the house of God - in the midst
of the saints He leads our worship. On that one day, the day of
atonement, our Priest fully dealt with our sins. From then on He is
attending to the things that pertain to God - our first-fruits, gifts
and thank-offerings of worship. Redemption having been accomplished, ‘He
put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself', He is now 1) making continual
intercession for us as we pass through this world on our way to glory.
2) He is ever leading us in worship, on throughout eternity into an ever
deeper knowledge of the infinite blessedness of God.
Not as a prophet, telling us our duty, but as a Priest, representing not
God, but us. To put it reverently, He is not on God's side, but ours! He
is called 'Our' Great High Priest; prophets were called God's prophets.
God had him pass through all temptations and trial in order that, when
exalted to keep sympathizing with us in understanding tenderness that
knows no bounds. It is the MAN, Christ Jesus, that is our High Priest.
It is the Father's yearning that we not only have assurance of our
eternal safety, as we find in Romans; not only a heavenly calling and
members of the body of Christ; but that we come into an unbroken
experience of the hourly tenderness of infinite Divine love; and this is
brought about by the work of Him who `ever lives to make intercession
1) Christ entered Heaven itself.
2) Christ had a personal right to enter.
3) Christ offered Himself.
4) Christ entered through His own blood.
5) Christ entered once for all.
6) Christ abides a Priest forever.
7) Christ was after another order.
THE SUPERIORITY OF THE NEW COVENANT
The Law was put away because it was weak and unprofitable, Christ's
intercession is both powerful and profitable to bring us to perfection.
Thus the temporary things have given way to the eternal - Christ's work,
to be received by simple faith, unmixed with human effort. A humbling
process, indeed! For man must go out of the righteous-producing
business, and rest wholly and forever on the work of Another. The
putting away of the Law is as absolute as the putting away of sin
In the first tabernacle there was no drawing near, but a standing
without the veil. Drawing near is the constant desire of God's infinite
love. Chapter 8 contrasts the O.T. tabernacle with the `true'
tabernacle, that which the Lord pitched, not man, the reality in heaven,
contrasted with the earthly pattern. The way into God's presence was
once closed, but now it's open. The distinction of the work of Christ is
our access into the Holiest in Heaven, even continual access and worship
described in HEBREWS as full growth.
The covenant made with the Levitical priests, was without an oath,
signifying a transitory office of imperfection and decay. An oath is
something final and determinative in its nature. In Jesus, God has won
the end of all His counsel; God now has a man to whom He has committed
Himself forever. In this new covenant God does everything. There is no
"If ye...", but rather "I will..." This new covenant is based upon the
eternal covenant between the Father and the Son (13:20). They are the
contracting parties and we receive all the benefits. We as Christians
now benefit from this covenant, but as it is described in HEBREWS it is
a covenant God is yet to establish with the earthly nation Israel in the
millennium, who are presently out of covenant with God. For the Hebrew
nation had and continues to have an earthly calling. Their future
blessing, even in the millennium, is earthly. However, the Hebrews to
whom this epistle was addressed, were partakers of the heavenly calling
- neither Jew nor Gentile, but a new creation in Christ. Christians are
not covenanters, but objects of grace, the heavenly church. The gospel
is not a covenant, but the proclamation of news of the finished work of
Christ. This covenant is unconditional, and its announced result is the
removal of transgressions and iniquities. It does not appeal to the
will, but announces God's sovereign mercy. It's not conditioned on
obedience, but uncaused mercy. And it's results are eternal. God's
covenant with Abraham was neither the first nor the second, but both
find their basis from it.
The old covenant was the legal covenant of Sinai, made with Israel. This
first covenant is OFF. It could make nothing perfect, it was
'disannulled', because of its weakness and unprofitableness.
The future new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah
is to be made at our Lord's return, and it will be all grace - God's
operation without their response. This covenant is NOT YET ON. Therefore
Israel and Judah are out of all covenant relationship with the Lord at
But there is an 'eternal covenant' detailed in Heb.13:20, of which Paul
was addressing the Hebrew believers of his day. This new covenant is the
eternal agreement between the God of peace and our Lord Jesus in which
all the conditions are already and eternally fulfilled and available to
all, Hebrews or Gentiles. This is ON FOREVER. The terms of the covenant
were 1) The God of peace requested the Son to come to earth to 'give His
life a ransom for many', and 2) The divine promise was made to Him that,
He having done so, God would bring Him again from among the dead. In
this covenant He keeps, perfects and presents us before God. And what is
our part? To hear the good news, hearken and believe.
THE SUPERIORITY OF FAITH
This faith produces love for others and worship for God. We need provoke
one another unto love. How? By loving others, constantly and tenderly.
They will find it out, and will be provoked to return love and good
works. To show love to strangers, and to continue to love the brethren
at any cost.
God now invites us into His presence. Come near, enter boldly, today.
And not as the Levitical priests, for a brief while of prescribed
worship, but to abide forever.
In Ch.11, He shows how many were distinguished by their faith and
rejected because of it. Faith separates us from the world and causes the
world to turn upon us in persecution. Be ready, O man of faith for such
a path of banishment. Yet FAITH is victorious under all circumstances.
In Christ we have been cut off (at the cross) from the world, and belong
in Heaven. We are not come to Mt. Sinai, but we are come to the heavenly
Mt. Zion, no longer an infinite distance between Holy God and sinful
man, but citizens of Heaven. Now God has revealed Himself 'fully' in His
Son, and is now acting wholly according to Himself, which the cross set
Him free to do. In the O.T. He was not fully revealed, but hidden behind
the tabernacle veil. It was one thing for Jehovah to descend to Mt.
Sinai and speak to an earthly nation about morality on earth - the Ten
Commandments. But it was quite another thing when in His infinite love
God sent His Son to be born of a humble human virgin; and to walk the
path of loving care and tenderness for men, and submission to the
Father's will at every step, and to bear our sins in His own body on the
We are 'WITHIN THE VEIL' that is our heavenly position, and as a result
'WITHOUT THE CAMP' that is our earthly condition, outside all religion.
The subject of HEBREWS is not our justification, but our having been
brought near to God and our worship. So we who know the true gospel will
bear His reproach. Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God
continually. The chief disobedience in HEBREWS will be to stay out of
that worship, whether through neglect, unbelief, slothfulness, or
shrinking from bearing Christ's reproach by staying in the camp.
JAMES : THE PROOFS OF FAITH
PROOF 1 - ENDURANCE OF TEMPTATION (1)
PROOF 2 - IMPARTIAL BENEVOLENCE (2)
PROOF 3 - CONTROL OF THE TONGUE (3)
PROOF 4 - GODLINESS IN ALL THINGS (4-5:6)
Final encouragements (5:7-20)
How interesting is the order in which these nine Hebrew Christian
writings occur. Right through the group they strike a careful balance.
Is there not a significant appropriateness that Hebrews, which stresses
FAITH, should be seconded by James, insisting on good works? - that I
Peter, the epistle of future HOPE, should be followed by II Peter, which
is all about present GROWTH in grace? - that the epistles of John, with
their emphasis on LOVE, should be balanced by Jude, with its call to
CONTEND for the faith? And is it not an obvious perfective finale, that
this progressive lesson should be crowned by the characteristic promise
of the Apocalypse - "TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH"?
About James Himself
The name "James" occurs 40 times in our New Testament. Collation
restricts these to (1) James the son of Zebedee, the brother of the
apostle John, (2) James the son of Alphaeus, (3) James the brother of
our Lord. The first of these was martyred by Herod (Acts 12:2) about 42
A.D. The writer of our epistle was that James who figures so largely in
the Acts of the Apostles as a kind of chairman or leader of the
Christian elders and assembly at Jerusalem. In Acts 12, when Peter was
miraculously delivered from Herod's prison his instruction to the
prayer-group was, "Go, show these things to James and the brethren" -
which is a first clue to the latter's prominence among the leaders.
Later in chapter 15 we find him occupying a position of chairmanship and
giving a president's judgment (v13-21). In chapter 21 Paul came to
Jerusalem after his third missionary tour and "went in unto James; and
the elders were present."
There is what might seem to us a strange mixture of true faith in Christ
with ardent veneration of the Mosaic law. Both in the Acts and in his
epistle the Gospel bell rings clearly, the individual salvation is by
faith in Christ; that the Gentiles are under no obligation to "keep the
Law"; but there is no demarcation between Jewish Christian faith and the
observance of the Mosaic economy. This, presumably, arises from the
peculiarity of the transition period covered by the book of Acts. There
is a "being zealous for the Law," and a tender considerateness not to
offend "the many thousands of Jews which believe." There seems to have
been in James a clear thinking astuteness blended with a strong tendency
to religious rigidity. There may not be the dash and originality about
such types, but they often make strong, wise chairmen, guiding with
practical good sense, and often restraining from rashness. It is
characteristic that in the Jerusalem council it is Peter who stands up
and PROPOSES Gentile freedom from the legal yoke and chairman James who
shapes the RESTRICTIVE clauses.
Eusebius preserves an interesting sketch of James by Hegesippus, a
writer of the early second century. "James the brother of our Lord was
surnamed the Just by all from the days of our Lord until now, received
the government of the Church with the apostles. He drank neither wine
nor strong drink, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came
upon his head; he never anointed himself with oil; and never used a
bath. He never wore woolen, but only fine linen garments. He was in the
habit of entering into the temple alone, and was often found upon his
bended knees, asking for the forgiveness of the people; so that his
knees became hard like a camel's knees in consequence of his habitual
supplication and kneeling before God. And indeed on account of his
exceeding righteousness he was called the Just, also Oblias, which in
the Greek is `Bulwark of the people,' as the prophets declare concerning
The late principal E.C.S. Gibson wrote, "We cannot understand the
epistle aright unless we remember that those to whom it is addressed, in
becoming Christians, HAD NOT CEASED TO BE JEWS. We are probably prone to
exaggerate the gulf which existed between Jews and Christians in the
early days of the Church. At first the preaching of the apostles was
`rather purification than a contradiction of the popular doctrine.'
Those who were present on the day of Pentecost must have carried home
little more than the fact of the Messiahship of Jesus and the barest
rudiments of Christianity. The Gospel preached by `those who were
scattered abroad upon the persecution which arose about Stephen' would
be somewhat fuller, though still incomplete. It was preached `to none
but Jews only,' but it spread the new faith over a wide region - `as far
as Phenice and Cyprus and Antioch.' Thus Christian communities would be
founded in the Jewish quarters in most large cities; but it must have
been years before they ceased to be `Jews' and were entirely separated
from the synagogues, with a definite and complete organization of their
"It is to such as these that James is writing; not perhaps to a
definitely organized and MIXED Christian Church, consisting of Jews and
Gentiles, but rather to those synagogues which, like that at Berea, had
embraced Christianity. To these he writes in the style of the old
prophets. Their synagogue was still open to all Jews. These communities
of Jewish Christians, in the mind of James, stood in the position of
Israel of old, and required just the same treatment at the hands of
Christian teachers and prophets as Judea and Samaria had received from
the prophets of the old covenant."
About the Epistle Itself
The epistle is addressed to "THE TWELVE TRIBES SCATTERED ABROAD." These
were Jews of the Dispersion, Jews in places other than Palestine. James
writes to them as president of the Christian assembly at Jerusalem.
The main purpose of the epistle may be gathered from its opening and
closing words. It begins, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall
into manifold trials." The closing paragraph says, "Be ye also patient;
stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand." It was
written to comfort and exhort Christian brethren undergoing trials,
testings and penalties which were already coming because of their
The probable DATE of this epistle is of peculiar importance. The
indications are that it is the earliest-written of all the New Testament
documents. The "very slight line" which appears to exist between Judaism
and Christianity; the absence of definite Christian phraseology; the
sparseness of specifically Christian doctrine; the non-reference to
Gentile Christianity - all these considerations are suggested as
indicating its early date. According with this is the circumstance that
in the oldest manuscripts it stands first of these Hebrew Christian
epistles, which precede the Pauline group. Assuming then, this early
date, how empty then is the suggestion of some, that the epistle of
James is an adverse reply to Paul's writings - which were not yet
Argument and Theme
The argument of the epistle is that true Christian faith must express
itself in practical goodness. Hence, all the way through, the epistle is
on good works. And this is surely a very necessary emphasis. There is no
contradiction between Paul, with his primary emphasis on faith, and
James, with his insistence on good works. James is not arguing for good
works as a MEANS to salvation, but as a PRODUCT of salvation.
Take the first chapter with its wise and weighty words on temptation.
Verses 2-12 show us the right REACTION to it. Verses 13-20 tell us the
true ORIGIN of it. Verses 21-27 give us the best ANTIDOTE to it. For the
right reaction he says, "My brothers, count it all joy." But why would
James have us "count it all joy"? Because temptation may be transfigured
into a ministry of spiritual blessing, "The trying of your faith worketh
patience; and let patience have its perfect work, that you may be
perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." How can temptation be
transformed? By (1) pray v.5-8, (2) accept providential orderings
gratefully v.9-11, (3) be assured that for patient enduring there is a
final crowning v.12.
The REAL ORIGIN of temptation. James would have us settle three things
firmly in our minds. (1) Temptation in the sense of solicitation to evil
is never from God v.13. (2) It comes by us allowing inward desire to
draw us into enticement v.14-15. (3) Only "good and perfect" things come
to us "from above" v.16-17.
The best ANTIDOTE to temptation. James has just said that God "begat"
us, or "brought us forth" by the WORD of truth, and that therefore every
man should be "swift to hear". He now follows with, "Therefore ...
receive with meekness the implanted WORD which is able to save your
souls." "Be ye doers of the WORD, and not hearers only, deluding your
own selves. For if anyone is a hearer of the WORD, and not a doer..."
Ah, this is the safest build-up against temptation - God's WORD within,
enlightening the mind, purifying the heart, checking the inclinations,
and bracing the will! It is this which, when honestly received and
faithfully obeyed, proves to be "the perfect law of LIBERTY v.25!
James and Paul
We know well enough that in Romans 4 Paul says that Abraham was
justified by FAITH, whereas James asks, Was not Abraham our father
justified by WORKS, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?"
But the very reference to Isaac should guard us from any
misunderstanding. Abraham's justification by FAITH was even before the
seal of circumcision. His offering up of Isaac was 20 YEARS LATER; so
that the man who was now justified by WORKS had already been justified
by FAITH for 20 years! If James had been conscious of the slightest
contradiction, would he have quoted just afterwards the very verse
(Gen.15:6) which tells of Abraham's justification by FAITH? Surely the
twofold position is: Faith justifies the man; works justify the faith.
Every part of this epistle is of tireless interest, but the closing
references to the Lord's return, to Job and Elijah, to sickness and soul
winning, are especially so. The reference to supernatural healing of the
body claims comment. There is often a gracious ministry in suffering.
Before ever we think of "claiming" healing we should ascertain whether
it is an ordinary sickness, brought about by natural causes, or an
"affliction," implying some Divinely imposed measure of correction, with
which we are dealing. James makes this distinction. "Is any SICK among
you? let him call for the elders of the assembly; and let them pray over
him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of
faith shall save the sick." "Is any among you AFFLICTED? let him pray"
(v.14,15,13). Healing is not promised for "affliction." The only
prescription is "Pray." To be claiming deliverance from something which
God Himself has purposefully imposed or permitted is to be at
cross-purposes with the will of God.
With the last few strokes of his pen James has a parting encouragement
for soul-winners. It is noteworthy that this was the last thing on his
mind. "Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error
of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of
sins." There is a tender considerateness in the words "Let him know."
Mark it well, the Holy Spirit would have the soul-winner "know." But is
that surprising when we consider the fateful issues - "shall save a soul
from death"? Oh, the ghastly depth of that word "death"! As used here,
it means that deeper death in the Beyond, which the Bible calls "the
second death." The tenses of the verb indicate so; for whereas the word
"converteth" is a present tense, denoting something which happens here
and now, the verb "shall save" is future, indicating a salvation which
extends away forward into eternity. Note that James speaks in the
singular - "a sinner," "a soul." See here the importance of one soul, of
ANY soul! To save one soul from such a "death" is more than a whole life
given to outward "social reform." The soul-winner is both anonymous and
singular - "he which converteth"; no mention of theologians, preachers,
evangelists. Despite the most circumscribed circumstances need any of us
be entirely debarred from witnessing to others with a view to their
salvation in Christ? Oh, to win more living gems for His crown! It
fulfills the highest of all functions to our fellow - creatures; it
obeys our Savior's last command; it receives the highest reward.
"Let him know that he which converteth the sinner
from the error of his way shall save a soul from
death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
CHRIST OUR HOPE AND EXAMPLE AMID TRIAL
THE LIVING HOPE - AND WHAT GOES WITH IT 1:3-2:10
The "Living Hope" and our reaction thereto 1:3-21
The "Living Word" and our reaction thereto 1:22-2:3
The "Living Stone" and our relation thereto 2:4-10
THE PILGRIM LIFE - AND HOW TO LIVE IT 2:11-4:11
As citizens, servants, married 2:12-3:7
As regards outsiders, and enduring suffering 3:8-4:6
As regards other believers, and mutual service 4:7-11
THE "FIERY TRIAL" - AND HOW TO BEAR IT 4:12-5:11
"Rejoice" and "commit": the Lord's return is near 4:12-19
Elders are to be examples in view of His return 5:1-4
All are to be humble and vigilant - glory beyond! 5:5-11
This first epistle was written to "the sojourners of the Dispersion".
That expression, "the Dispersion," was the common Jewish term for those
many thousands of Jews who from the time of the Assyrian and Babylonian
captivities recorded in the Old Testament had been scattered throughout
the regions over which the Assyrian and Babylonian powers had once
reigned. Clearly, then, Peter is writing primarily, even though not
exclusively, to HEBREW Christians. Its evident purpose is that of
encouraging and strengthening those Jewish believers during a time of
Chapter 4:11 obviously marks an intended major break, i.e. "That God in
all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and
dominion forever and ever. Amen." Up to that point Peter has been
speaking about trials which were already present; but after that "amen"
he speaks of a "fiery trial" yet to come, i.e. "Beloved, think it not
strange concerning the fiery trial which is [yet] to try you."
Incidentally, notice the form of address, "Beloved." Its only other
occurrence is in chapter 2:11, where similarly, it seems to mark the
beginning of a new section.
Immediately after his opening salutation Peter commences with a grateful
doxology (v.3) for the great mercy of God in having "begotten us again
unto a LIVING HOPE, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance ..." The thought of this wonderful hope is expanded in
the ensuing verses. In fact a further glance will show that all the
verses up to the twelfth DECLARE the hope, and v.13-21 show the right
REACTION to it, "Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind," etc.
How interesting it now is to find that at verse 22 Peter slants off to
talk about the "LIVING WORD"! - "Seeing ye have purified your souls in
obeying the truth through the Spirit ... love one another with a pure
heart fervently; being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of
incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."
The "wherefore" with which chapter 2 opens shows us our true reaction to
that "living word".
Still more interesting it is to find that the next sub-section (2:4-10)
is all about the "LIVING STONE"! To whom coming, a LIVING STONE,
rejected indeed of men, but elect of God, and precious." Verses 5-10
tell us our relation thereto, "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a
spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices."
The Living Hope
That which is pre-eminent throughout this first section is the "LIVING
HOPE" which is ours in Christ. The "living Word" and the "living Stone"
are the pledge and base which make our "living hope" imperishable and
The Pilgrim Life
Peter is telling us about the pilgrim life and how to live it. "Dearly
beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly
lusts which war against the soul." Consequently we are told how to live
the pilgrim life as CITIZENS, as EMPLOYEES, as MARRIED PERSONS; next in
relation to OUTSIDERS and the enduring of SUFFERING, then finally in
relation to other BELIEVERS and the rendering of mutual service.
There is not much of the pilgrim pattern about many professing
Christians. The strong tendency today is to live as settlers rather than
pilgrims, as owners rather than stewards, and according to human
standards of citizenship, employment, and wedlock, rather than according
to the Divine ideals here set forth.
The constant and supreme purpose of the true pilgrim life is to glorify
God in all things - as subjects, employees, wives, husbands, in our
social contacts, in suffering, in our fellowship with other believers.
"That God in all things may be glorified, through Jesus Christ, to whom
be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
The Fiery Trial
Peter is evidently much concerned about a tribulation which was yet
future but which was surely coming for Christian believers. He begins,
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to
try you, as though some strange thing had happened unto you." He was
thinking of what is often called "the great tribulation," which is
predicted to occur at the end of the present age. The passage on the
"fiery trial" is Peter's parallel with the teaching of Paul and John,
that the second coming of Christ is to be preceded by a brief but fiery
period of excessive tribulation for godly souls on earth.
Mark that age-end picture of Satan, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your
adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he
may devour." How surely it parallels with Revelation 12:12, and its
apocalyptic representation of Satan at the same latter-day crisis epoch,
"Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is
come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath
but a short time"! The masquerading "angel of light" will then fling
away all disguise, and appear as the soul-murdering fiend that he really
is, clawing and tearing and savagely ravaging as the "roaring lion" and
the "great red dragon."
It is when the troubles of the "fiery trial," the "great tribulation,"
begin to break loose at the end of this age that godly hearts will most
fully prove the triumphant thrill of this advance - reassurance, "Cast
all your care upon Him, for He careth for you." WHATEVER may be coming
to us in the days ahead, we need have no fear. He has anticipated it
all. "Cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you"! If you had
gone to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego after their burning "fiery
furnace" exploit, and had expressed sympathy that they should ever have
had to endure such an ordeal, what do you think they would have replied?
They would have politely disclaimed all right to your sympathy and have
assured you that the trial by fire was the greatest experience of their
lives, for it was there, in the seven-times-heated furnace, that they
suddenly found Christ Himself walking with them amid the flames and
transforming the "burning fiery furnace" into a dew-kissed garden of
Have no fear about the future, Christian believer. "He careth for you."
He has pledged Himself to you in advance. "Cast all your care upon Him."
This is the message which comes to you from Peter's final section about
the "fiery trial."
And thereafter Peter brings his letter to a close with a final assurance
and doxology, "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His
eternal glory, by Christ Jesus, AFTER THAT YOU HAVE SUFFERED AWHILE,
make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and
dominion unto the ages of the ages. Amen." Let us daily seek grace to
live that pilgrim life. Let us banish all dread of the "fiery trial,"
for even the "fiery trial" leads to the final triumph.
THE TRUE KNOWLEDGE AND THE SURE HOPE
THE TRUE "KNOWLEDGE" - IN WHICH TO GROW (1)
How "these things" are to be "abounded" in 2-11
Why "these things" are to be "remembered" 12-21
THE FALSE "TEACHERS" - WHO WERE TO COME (2)
Their havoc and their own destruction 1-9
Their excesses and peril to believers 10-22
THE SURE "PROMISE" - FOR AGE-END DAYS (3)
The promise upheld against scoffers 1-9
The promise a challenge to believers 10-18
To Whom Written, Why and When
Chapter 3 begins, "This second epistle, beloved I now write unto you, in
both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance." So it
would seem that it was addressed to the same people as the first. A
comparison of the opening salutation of the first epistle with that of
the second, suggests that perhaps Peter may have had a rather wider
range in mind when he wrote the second - and for a very real reason,
namely, the appearance of a new peril to believers, in the form of FALSE
In his first epistle he has written to encourage them to patient hope
amid the trials which were coming to them by way of persecution for
their faith, but these spiritual perils to which they were now exposed
were far more to be dreaded, and called far more for warning than any
merely physical tribulation! There is no mention in the first epistle of
any such doctrinal apostasy and libertinism among believers themselves;
but here, the deep concern is to rescue those early Jewish Christian
assemblies and their members from the wiley errors and corrupting
influence of false teachers who were bringing in "destructive heresies."
There must have been deep sadness in Peter's heart about this disturbing
development, increased no doubt by his having apparently been apprised
that his own martyrdom was near at hand; "I must shortly put off this
tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me."
The Epistle Itself
So then, the purpose of this short epistle is, by REMINDER and
RE-EMPHASIS, to ground its readers more firmly in the "full knowledge"
of saving truth as it is in Christ Jesus; and thereby to reinforce their
faith against the imperiling counterfeits of that time. But the warning
also reaches down through the centuries, to our own times, to the
"scoffers" at the end-days who deride the "promise" of our Lord's
return. The tone is much graver than that of the first epistle; yet
throughout it there is the same note of triumphant certainty and hope in
Christ. The primal facts are well attested. The final outcome is sure.
Whereas the emphasis in the first epistle is on HOPE amid trial, the
emphasis running through this second one is on GROWTH in the true
knowledge; though here again the Lord's return is also prominent. The
dual emphasis of the epistle is , the "true knowledge" and the "sure
hope", that just as true knowledge and sure hope are inseparably linked
together, so are false doctrine and final destruction! What is more,
just as true doctrine and holy living are linked together, so are false
doctrine and unholy living! Second Peter rings the warning, "Danger
inside the Church!" There are always two tests of Christian genuineness.
The doctrinal test is, "What is the attitude to the person and work of
Christ?" The practical test is, "What is the resultant character and
conduct?" Both tests appear in second Peter.
Note the two dangers indicated in that first chapter. There is the
danger of life without GROWTH (v.3-8); and there is the danger of
knowledge without PRACTICE (v.9-14). Life never remains static, it
either goes forward or backward. Life without growth becomes atrophy.
Similarly, knowledge without practice becomes blindness instead of
vision v.9. It is vital to be members of the progressive party!
The word translated as "beguiling" and "allure" ("entice") in the Greek
is literally to TAKE WITH A BAIT - a relic from Peter's fishing days.
"Beware," says Peter in effect, "your most dangerous deceivers are those
who come with a tasty bait and a concealed hook!" Let this second
chapter convince us that wherever there is a Divine truth which saves,
there will be a Satanic counterfeit which damns.
There can be no tolerance of that which, inside the very Church itself,
dishonors Christ and ruins souls! There can be no "dainty handling" of
false teachers! A viper can be a gorgeous creature to look at, but once
let its poison fang get you, or its strangle-coils enwrap you ...! Peter
sees the issue with Spirit anointed clearness. There can be no
compromise. When easy-going kindness lounges in the place of righteous
indignation, and allows Christ-dishonoring false doctrine to play havoc
inside the Church, kindness has ceased to be Christian, it has become
disguised loyalty, camouflaged cowardice, or a moral-wasting disease.
How up to date does the brag and pooh-poohing of these third chapter
"scoffers" sound! Verse 12 runs on, "Looking for and HASTENING the
coming of the day." There is a cooperativeness between God's purposes
and His people's responses. There is a certain contingency about our
Lord's return. Paul mentions one aspect of this in Romans 11:25, when he
uses the expression "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." But
how can WE hasten that day? There are three ways, (1) by daily longing
for His appearing, remembering that He is coming to them who "love His
appearing" (2Ti.4:8); (2) by daily PRAYING for His appearing,
remembering that the last prayer of the Bible is, "Even so, come, Lord
Jesus"; (3) by daily seeking to win souls, until the "election of grace"
and "the fullness of the Gentiles" complete the bride of the coming
Bridegroom. Thus may future hope and present growth go hand in hand!
TRUTH VS. ERROR; HOW TO "KNOW" AND "ABIDE"
1. The Light vs. the Darkness 1:5-2:11
2. The Father vs. the World 2:12-2:17
3. Christ vs. the Antichrist 2:18-2:28
4. Good Works vs. Evil Works 2:29-3:24
5. The Holy Spirit vs. Error 4:1-4:6
6. Love vs. Pious Pretense 4:7-4:21
7. The God-born vs. Others 5:1-5:21
This is probably the last apostolic message to the whole Church. If the
second and third epistles were written later, they were to individuals.
This letter is universal in the fullest sense of the word, being
addressed to no particular church or district, and dealing with the
fundamental question of the life which is the true bond of the Church's
A comparison of John 20:31 and I John 5:13 will show the Gospel and
epistle to be complimentary. The Gospel was written that men might have
life, the epistle that believers might know they have life. In the
former we had Divine life as revealed in Christ; in the latter the same
life as realized in the Christian. The Gospel declares the way of life
through the incarnate Son; the epistle unfolds the nature of that life
as possessed by the children of God.
John's three epistles naturally cohere. The first of them opens up some
of the deepest realities of the spiritual life, while the second and
third ILLUSTRATE the truths which it teaches. The first, also, has a
spacious universal outlook, though it rightly belongs here, in this
ninefold group of Hebrew Christian Epistles, for its approach and
implicit background are kindred with the others. Verse 7 in the third
epistle clearly indicates a Hebrew standpoint.
It seems to be the general opinion of scholars that this first epistle
of John was written about 90 A.D. At that time John would be the only
surviving apostle, and would be a great age. In keeping with this the
tone of the epistle is PATERNAL both in the fatherly affection and in
the fatherly authority which characterize it.
How different is John's form of thought and expression from that of
Paul! John is contemplative rather than argumentative. He presents
truths as they come by intuitive perception rather than by reasoned
conclusion. He is mystical rather than logical. He sees the confirmation
of truth in one's EXPERIENCE of it rather than in demonstration by
argument. It is an epistle of recurrent ideas rather than of
hard-and-fast divisions. These divisions are not such as to break
certain CHAINS of thought which run right through the epistle. Of these
chain themes the main ones are:
MUTUAL CHRISTIAN LOVE.
ABIDING IN CHRIST AND GOD.
HOW TO KNOW TRUTH FROM ERROR.
THE TRAITS OF THE BORN-AGAIN.
THE BELIEVER AND THE WORLD.
Seven Successive Contrasts
This first epistle of John runs in a series of SEVEN SUCCESSIVE
CONTRASTS which throw up into sharp relief the central idea of the
epistle, and the dominant concern in the aged apostle's mind. They set
off in vivid antagonism, truth and error in their most vital aspects,
and in relation to the Christian believer. They are accompanied all the
way through, by the significantly recurrent little clause, "Hereby ye
know," or "Hereby ye shall know," or "By this we know." The seven
striking contrasts which make up this epistle, and these significantly
recurring clauses, leave us in no doubt as to the dominant, urgent,
intense and unspeakably vital PURPOSE of the epistle. It is written in
order that we may "KNOW" AND DISTINGUISH, IN THEIR MOST VITAL ASPECTS,
CHRISTIAN TRUTH FROM ERROR, AND CHRISTIAN LOVE FROM ITS COUNTERFEITS,
and that thus being able to "know" the true we may "ABIDE" in it. We
would point out that in these seven contrasts we have seven searching
TESTS. Taking them in their order, we have the acid "test" of: (1)
profession, (2) desire, (3) doctrine, (4) conduct, (5) discernment, (6)
motive, (7) new birth.
There seems to be no good reason why we should reject the common
tradition that all the apostles were martyred except the Apostle John.
God had special purposes in preserving John alive upon the earth. One of
these purposes finds its expression in the apocalyptic visions which
were given to him on the lonely isle of Patmos, and which have been
transmitted to us by pen in the last book of the Bible. But another
purpose we may well suppose was that John should live long enough to see
not only the Satanic inoculation of Christian doctrine with the virus of
"antichrist" heresy but its process and principal characteristics, so
that he might write this first epistle of John for the future guidance
of the Lord's people. Let us be deeply grateful for this epistle of the
seven contrasts. May we learn it thoroughly and heed it constantly!
All the way through this epistle there is a clear-seeing demarcation
between the true and the false, and a clean-cutting incisiveness in
dealing with them. John's pen is a surgeon's knife, not a philosopher's
quill. There is a downright spiritual simplicity which sees things as
they really are. White is white and black is black; and they cannot be
compromised into a middle grey. This moral clear-sightedness is always a
mark of real spiritual maturity. No need for circuitous windings of
arguments; the Spirit-illumined inner eye sees vital moral distinctions
immediately - often causing much annoyance to those who profess more
loudly but see more dimly. What hazy seeing and pious parleyings with
questionable practices there are among Christian believers today! Mark
well the significant fact that this epistle which is distinctively that
of Christian LOVE is at the same time the epistle of NO COMPROMISE!
All the way through this epistle we are meeting with pronouncements on
profound spiritual fundamentals.
The all-inclusive commandments are two: that we believe on the
Lord Jesus and that we love one another (3:23).
A profession of love for others, without active ministry to their
needs is false (3:17-18).
The Father's sacrificing the Son is Love's last word: and that,
if nothing else, should move us to "love one another" (4:10-11).
The true blessedness is a heart at rest before God. The secret
is: "Perfect love casteth out fear" (4:18).
Such are found from beginning to end of the epistle; and they
ceaselessly insist that we face up to the simple ultimates, to the
really decisive choices and issues. In these five short chapters God's
Isaacs may find spacious fields for sanctifying meditation.
Incipient Gnosticism - and Today
There can be little doubt that throughout this epistle John is combating
certain errorists, even though he leaves them unnamed. He so writes that
his expounding of truth is an exposing of its counterfeits. Whether the
errorists were early Gnostics cannot be conclusively deduced. The usual
sect or local group of Gnostics supposedly possessed some special
"revelation" superior to that of normal Christianity, handed down
mystically from Christ or other great ones but known only to the inner
circle of the initiated.
This invariably led to a seriously defective view of Christ. In
Gnosticism the old Greek philosophical dualism had assumed a religious
form. The philosophical distinction between the realm of reality and
that of sense-appearance now took a new form as GOD (the Light) and
MATTER (the evil) in ceaseless antagonism. Therefore Jesus as pure
Spirit could not really have had a material body. He had not really
"come in the FLESH" (4:3). His body was only "docetic" or phantasmal.
Or, if the body was real, then it was only the body of JESUS the man,
but not of the pure Christ-Spirit: the Christ entered Jesus at his water
baptism, but left Him just before His crucifixion, as it was impossible
for the Christ-Spirit to undergo crucifixion in an evil material body.
In other words, He came "by WATER" (the baptism) - but NOT also by
"BLOOD" (the Cross) as John says in v.5:6. On either of these views the
Calvary work of our Lord is utterly nullified.
John strikes back at this, swiftly and powerfully, though without naming
it, in the very first sentence of his epistle. "That which was from the
beginning, which we have HEARD, which we HAVE SEEN WITH OUR EYES, which
we have CLOSELY OBSERVED, and which OUR HANDS HAVE HANDLED, of the Word
of life; for the life was manifested, and we HAVE SEEN ... That which we
have SEEN AND HEARD declare we unto you."
Here is no recondite, clandestine mystery-mongering, with its head in
the clouds and its feet swinging in space, but first-hand witness to
well proven facts! Jesus was no mere phantom. Nor was He merely human.
He was the "Word" and the "Life" - as John had testified to them in his
earlier writing (i.e. his Gospel) and as he now testifies again: "We
have SEEN and do TESTIFY that the Father sent the SON to be the SAVIOR
of the world" (4:14).
But besides this, those early Gnostic subtleties led to LOWERED
STANDARDS OF CONDUCT. There was an idea that the secret super-revelation
possessed by the initiated elite lifted them above obligation to Gospel
standards of conduct into a superior "liberty." John also answers that.
Over against the very idea of inner circles and secret divinings he
proclaims at the outset, "God is LIGHT, and in Him is no darkness at
all" (1:5). Everything about the real Gospel is frank and open. There
are no dark rooms or curtains of mystery. The real truth is a light
which shines out upon all. Over against the idea of some secret
"illumination" he says, "These things have I written unto you concerning
them that would lead you astray. And as for you, the ANOINTING which ye
have received of Him (i.e. the Holy Spirit) ABIDETH in you, and ye NEED
NOT THAT ANYONE TEACH YOU; but His anointing teacheth you concerning all
things, and is true, and is no lie" (2:27). "Ye have an ANOINTING from
the Holy One, and ye know all things" (2:20). Over against the proud
imagining of a superior "liberty" in conduct, he writes, "If we say we
have fellowship with Him [the Light], and walk in the darkness, we lie,
and do not the truth" (1:6). Indeed, all through the epistle this
last-mentioned error is counteracted. Profession without practical
godliness of conduct is either hypocrisy or self-delusion.
Heretical break-aways have always been either: (a) those which have said
that Christ was too Divine to be really human, or (b) those which have
said He was too human to be really Divine. Christian Science today ranks
with the first; Unitarian cults rank with the second. Let us learn well
that any tampering with the PERSON of Christ at once jeopardizes the
true doctrine of His atoning death. Let us also learn that false
doctrine, however superior sounding, always results, sooner or later, in
lowered standards of conduct.
The Seven Tests
Following up our remark that this is an epistle of guiding TESTS, we
would urge again that its several chain themes be carefully traced and
studied - the seven distinguishing traits of the born-again
(2:29,3:9,4:7,5:1,5:1,5:4,5:18); the seven reasons why the epistle was
written (1:3,1:4,2:1,2:13-17,2:21-24,2:26,5:13); the seven tests of
Christian genuineness (1:6,1:8,1:10,2:4,2:6,2:9, 4:20). Perhaps it may
be useful to set out the last mentioned a little more fully. Seven times
there is an "If we say," or "He that saith"; and each time it marks a
test by which falsity is exposed. They are seven of honesty and reality.
They search us. They penetrate like a white flame. They expose
1:6 "If we say
that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie.”
1:8 "If we say
that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
1:10 "If we say
we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
2:4 "He that saith
I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar."
2:6 "He that saith
he abideth in Him ought to walk even as He walked."
2:9 "He that saith
he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the darkness.”
4:20 "If a man say
I love God; and hateth His brother, he is a liar."
False love to God.
In the first the religious professionalist is not honest with OTHERS. In
the second he is not honest with HIMSELF. In the third he is not honest
with GOD. In the fourth he is not honest with CHRIST. In the fifth he is
not honest with the WORLD. In the sixth he is not honest with his
CHRISTIAN BROTHER. In the seventh he is by implication (ponder it and
see) false to ALL. We have already mentioned the seven places in this
epistle where John states his purpose in writing. The first (1:3) casts
its significance, of course, over the whole epistle, "That which we have
seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have FELLOWSHIP
with us, and truly our FELLOWSHIP is with the Father, and with His Son,
Jesus Christ." Who can help but realize that the underlying purpose all
through is that by avoiding the false and abiding in the truth we should
know the pure joy of an unclouded FELLOWSHIP with God? It would not be
inappropriate to write over this epistle as a whole,
"THE GATEWAY TO FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD."
Oh, gift of gifts! oh, grace of grace!
That God should condescend
To make my heart His dwelling place,
And be my closest Friend!
II JOHN: CONTINUANCE IN THE TRUTH
PRACTICAL ASPECT: WALK IN LOVE (1-6)
(Love to the brethren is the center-test of Christian practice.)
The Divine insistence on love v.5
The human expression of love v.6
DOCTRINAL ASPECT: WATCH AGAINST ERROR (7-13)
(The person of Christ is the center-test of Christian doctrine.)
Warning against false teaching v.7-9
Warning against false charity v.10-11
An Apostle's Letter to a Mother
This second epistle of John is addressed to an "elect lady and her
children." Some would have us believe that this lady and her children
were really a CHURCH AND ITS MEMBERS; but v.5, 10 and 12 convince us
that such an idea is far-fetched and artificially imported. We are glad
that at least one little epistle in our New Testament is addressed to a
What is the little letter about? Well, look at the opening lines and
note that the word "TRUTH" comes no less than five times. Next, read
again the exhortation which begins at v.4 and note that John is not
writing any new commandment but is emphasizing the need of CONTINUING in
what has been commanded "FROM THE BEGINNING." Twice we have that
expression, "from the beginning" (v.5, 6). Quite clearly John is here
exhorting continuance in "truth" which had been "received" right "from
the beginning." Here then is the purpose of this little personal letter
to the elect mother and her children. It is an exhortation to
CONTINUANCE IN THE TRUTH.
The exhortation occupies v.4-11 and is in two parts. In verses 4-6 we
have the PRACTICAL aspect of continuing in the truth: we are to "walk in
love." Then in verses 7-11 we have the DOCTRINAL aspect of continuing in
the truth: we are to "watch against error."
That which directly EVOKED this brief but concentrated note of
affectionate greeting and warning was the unhappy circumstance referred
to in v.7, "Many deceivers are gone forth into the world." All that
precedes in the letter is quite plainly a lead-up to this.
The particular seducers before John's mind are certain who "confess not
that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh." Just as the expression "love
not" in I John 3:10, 14 is the practical equivalent of hate in 3:15,
4:20, so here the expression "confess not" equals "deny." Of such denial
John does not hesitate to say, "This is the deceiver and the antichrist"
- very plain speaking which should not be overlooked. These misleaders
are here said to have denied "Jesus Christ AS COMING in the flesh"; or
(as the Greek could mean) "Jesus AS CHRIST COMING in the flesh." The Jew
denied that the Christ HAD come in the flesh. The Gnostic denied that
Christ COULD come in the flesh. Some in the present-day church deny that
He ever can or will come AGAIN in the flesh.
It is the incipient Gnostic position which John thinks of in this letter
to the elect lady, with its denial that the Divine Spirit COULD come in
material form. Our remarks in connection with John's first epistle will
have indicated how specious this superior - sounding religious
philosophy could be, especially when plausible lips and clever reverence
were allied with it.
"LOOK TO YOURSELVES!" That is the concentration point of the letter
(v.8). The deceivers are beckoning you on; but the red light is against
you! Pull up! "Whosoever abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, HATH NOT
GOD" (v.9). It is this which brings John to write, "If there come any
unto you and bring not this [the true, apostolic] doctrine, receive him
not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (.10). There is a
superficial sentimentalism today which recoils from John's words as
uncharitable. But do we castigate the doctor for being intolerant with
DISEASE? Ask any of his patients! Would any of us knowingly welcome
deadly virus into our bodies? We all have to mix with people of
different views and beliefs, and as Christian believers we are truly to
love their souls; but to FELLOWSHIP CO-OPERATIVELY with them in
Christ-dishonoring propaganda of any kind is a betrayal of our love to
the Lord who bought us.
III JOHN: TRUTH AND LOVE VS. PRIDE AND STRIFE
GAIUS - SERVICE IN TRUTH AND LOVE 2-8
"Brethren ... witness to the truth" v.3
"Brethren ... witness to thy love" v.6
DIOTREPHES - EVIL BY PRIDE AND STRIFE 9-11
"Who loveth to have the pre-eminence" v.9
"And casteth them out of the church" v.10
Commendation of one, Demetrius v.12
This third epistle of John is addressed to Gaius. As this name was just
about as common in the Roman world as the name John Smith is in the
British Isles today, it would be rather rash without any further data to
infer that the Gaius whom John here addresses is the same as others of
that name who are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.
Let all who open their homes and give hospitality to our Lord's
ministering servants see from this letter to the hospitable Gaius how
the Lord Himself regards their kindliness. They are "FELLOW - HELPERS OF
THE TRUTH." The providing of such hospitality can sometimes be very
tiring. Had Gaius been generously overdoing it? Had he overtaxed
himself, giving cause for John's solicitous concern as to his health?
Alas, over against the unselfish Gaius was the selfish Diotrephes, who
cuts a sorry contrast. His tongue and temper are deplored in v.10. Dr.
Campbell Morgan well says, "The whole truth about this man is seen in
one of those illuminative sentences in which the character of a man is
so often revealed in the Scriptures. `Diotrephes, who loveth to have the
preeminence.' That is the essential violation of love, for `love ...
seeketh not her own.' This is an instance of heterodoxy of spirit or
temper, rather than of intellect. There is no evidence that this man was
teaching false doctrine, but he was not submissive to authority. As is
always the case, the unsubmissive one becomes the greatest tyrant, and
thus by disobedience he manifests his lack of love."
Glance again at v.7, "They went forth for the sake of THE NAME." It is
arresting. To Christian hearts it is thrilling. Just as "the Name" to a
Jew always meant Jehovah, so now to the Christian - whether Jew or
Gentile - "the Name" means the One which is dear and glorious above all
others. Ignatius, later writing to the Ephesians, says, "I am in bonds
for THE NAME'S SAKE"; and , "Some are wont of malicious guile to hawk
about THE NAME." In Acts 5:41 the whipped apostles left the council
chambers, not chafed and humiliated, but "rejoicing that they were
counted worthy to suffer dishonor for THE NAME"! Oh, for a like
humility, loyalty and love!
Oh, let my love be such to Thee,
That I may ever grateful be
To suffer stigma, brand or shame,
And count it honor for Thy Name
Who didst so much for me!
JUDE: CONTEND FOR THE FAITH
WHY TO CONTEND - APOSTATE PREACHERS (3-16)
Their subtle perversions: two basic denials 3-4
Their certain doom: three historic examples 5-7
Their impious ways: three historic examples 8-11
Their utter falsity: six awful metaphors 12-13
Enoch's prophecy: coming destruction 14-16
HOW TO CONTEND - OUR TRUE RESOURCES (17-23)
Realize that the apostasy has been foretold 17-19
"Build," "pray in the Spirit," "keep," "look" 20-21
Show compassion towards certain who contend 22
Others seek urgently to rescue: but keep pure 23
Jude's doxology: coming consummation
The writer of this short but intense letter calls himself a "bondservant
of Jesus Christ, and brother of James," By common consent the James here
referred to is the James who wrote the epistle of James. If our inquiry
into the identity of that James be sound, then both he and Jude were
sons of Alphaeus and Mary, and were the cousins of our dear Lord. Jude's
being so closely related to our Savior after the flesh adds luster to
his designation of himself as the "BONDSERVANT of Jesus Christ." Our
Lord's human kinsmen recognized his Divine nature and glory, though some
of them disbelieved at first, and were now his adoring servants.
Contents and Analysis
This little epistle of Jude was written under special constraint, as the
writer himself tells us (v.3). The constraint arose from a disturbing
consideration of the apostasy which was blighting Christian assemblies
through the subversive teachings of false brethren. It speaks with
special force to our own times.
There is a clear orderliness of thought running through it. Its central
idea is that of CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH, in accord with verse 3, which
gives the key. The first 16 verses tell WHY to contend, because of
apostate teachers. The remaining verses tell HOW to contend, showing our
First then, in v.3-4 we find that the subtle perverters were guilty of
TWO BASIC DENIALS: (1) denying grace by "turning it" into
lasciviousness, (2) "denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."
Next in v.5-7 we find their certain doom foretold and illustrated by
three historic examples of a like Divine vengeance on such, i.e. Egypt,
Next, in v.8-11 Jude describes in scathing terms the character and
conduct of these false teachers whom he combats, comparing them with
three historic figures infamous for their impiety, i.e. Cain, Balaam,
Next, in v.12-16 he exposes their utter falsity, dragging away all their
deceiving draperies, in six awful metaphors: (1) hidden rocks, (2)
exploiting shepherds, (3) clouds without water, (4) trees without fruit,
(5) wild waves of the sea, (6) wandering stars. Then this section ends
with the Enoch prophecy of coming destruction upon all such.
The remaining verses of the letter, which show us HOW to contend for the
faith, break up equally clearly. First, we are to realize that such
apostasy has been foretold. Second, there is to be a "building up of
yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit" so as to
"keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord
Jesus Christ." Third, we are to "show compassion" to certain who "doubt"
or, more literally, "contend." Fourth, we are urgently to seek the
rescue of others, but to keep our separation and purity in doing so,
"hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." This little epistle then
ends with a prophetic doxology envisaging an ultimate heavenly
Perhaps the language of this short but sharply severe epistle may seem
too scalding to some readers. But when one honestly, realistically
reflects on the life and death issues involved, on the awful majesty and
marvelous grace of God, on the costliness and preciousness of the
salvation purchased on Calvary, on the measureless sin of knowingly
distorting grace, dishonoring Christ, deceiving souls, and thus "doing
despite" to the Holy Spirit - NO, it is not Jude who is too severe but
our own perception which is blurred.
Of course, in all contending for the faith we must "keep ourselves in
the love of God," the counterpart of which is that the love of God must
be IN US. We must love, even while we contend against the errors of
apostatizers. We must love their SOULS even while we oppose their WORDS
and deplore their WAYS. Sometimes it is delicately difficult to keep
these separate, but the love of Christ in our hearts will put wisdom in
our lips. Also, we must make a distinction between different KINDS of
errorists, as v.22-23 tells us. The word in many translations "doubt"
should be "contend." There are some who "contend" against us. Endless
counter-contention with them is useless. But there are others who need
"snatching out of the fire"; they have been deceived, and in one sense
or another, by bewilderment, remorse, doubt or danger, are in the fire.
And there are still others on whom we are to "have mercy with fear,"
being cautious lest in seeking to bring them back we should defile our
Yes, we must make distinction. Let this letter of Jude's show us that
there is urgent need for contending to preserve the purity of the true
Gospel; but let it show us at the same time that in such contending,
more than in anything else, we need the love of Christ in our hearts,
and the wisdom of the Spirit in our minds.
The closing doxology - one of the sublimest in the New Testament begins,
"Now unto Him ..."; but in the Greek the "Now" is really "But", making a
contrast with what has just preceded. i.e. "the garment spotted by the
flesh." Over against that metaphor of defilement comes this:
"But unto Him who is able to guard you from stumbling, and
to set you WITHOUT BLEMISH before the presence of His
glory, in exceeding great joy; to the only God our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion
and power, before all time, and now, and unto all the ages.
THE REVELATION: THE RISEN CHRIST ENTHRONED
1. The Son of Man & the Seven Churches (1-5)
The Lamb Enthroned in Heaven
2. The Great Tribulation & the Wrath of God (6-20)
The Lamb Enthroned on Earth
3. The New Jerusalem (21-22)
The Lamb Enthroned in the New Heavens and New Earth
In God's estimate, this book is of supreme value. In it we behold the
end and consummation of all God's work and plan, the climax and outcome
of all His dispensations and dealings with men; and in it every prophecy
and promise, every purpose and covenant finds its ultimate goal and
fulfillment. In Genesis we have the beginning of all, in Revelation we
have the end and goal of all.
This book which seems the most mystifying is the one book of the Bible
which is named a "Revelation." We dare say that the book is one of the
easiest to understand. That is to say in its TOTAL significance and in
its FOCAL message it is surely such as the plain man can understand.
MAIN MOVEMENTS AND ANALYSIS
No book of Scripture is built upon a clearer plan. It runs in three
movements, each issuing in a transcendent climax.
In the first movement, covering the first five chapters, the goal is THE
ENTHRONEMENT OF CHRIST IN HEAVEN. In the central movement, covering
chapters 6-20, the goal is the ENTHRONEMENT OF CHRIST ON EARTH. In the
final movement the lovely climax is the ENTHRONEMENT OF CHRIST IN THE
NEW CREATION. Let us get a hold of this, the Book of Revelation is the
unveiling of our Lord's THREE ENTHRONEMENTS.
Next, let it be realized that the main body of the book (chapters 6-19)
runs in two parallel series of chapters. Both chapter-groups depict the
same series of happenings but from two different aspects. Both run
through two awful epochs (1) The Great Tribulation and (2) The Wrath of
God. The 7 seals of the first member of the parallel are matched with
the 7 personages of the second member. In both there is a sealing of an
Israelite remnant on earth and the blessedness of the saints in heaven.
The 7 trumpets of the one part exactly parallel with the 7 vials of the
other part. In the first member (6-11) we have THE EARTHLY VIEW of these
things; in the second member (12-19) we have THE HEAVENLY VIEW of them.
THE FIRST CHAPTER GROUP
THE SON OF MAN AMID THE LAMPSTANDS 1
(Christ in heaven, operating through the assemblies on earth)
THE LETTERS TO THE SEVEN ASSEMBLIES 2-3
(The assemblies on earth functioning for Christ in heaven)
THE HEAVENLY THRONE AND WORSHIP 4
(The place of supreme authority and control)
THE LAMB AND THE SEVEN-SEALED BOOK 5
(Christ put in the place of supreme control)
In chapter 1 we have the vision of the Son of Man amid the lampstands.
What is the central truth here symbolized? Surely we are meant to get a
vivid, moving impression of THE CHRIST IN HEAVEN OPERATING THROUGH THE
CHURCH ON EARTH.
Then come chapters 2-3 with their 7 letters of commendation,
instruction, exhortation and correction to those 7 churches of Christ on
earth. What is the prevailing thought in these? Equally clear it is THE
CHURCH ON EARTH FUNCTIONING FOR THE CHRIST IN HEAVEN.
Thus the vision of the Son of Man amid the lampstands, and the letters
to the seven churches are the converse sides of the one truth; one the
heavenly, the other the earthly.
Christ then is risen, living, ascended; robed in awful holiness and
overwhelming heavenly splendor. Although at present invisible to the
earth, He is more active on earth than ever. He is moving amid the
lampstands; He is operating through the Church on earth; and the Church
on earth is functioning for Him through the churches plural.
What is His last word to the Church? It is this: "To him that overcometh
will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and
am set down with My Father in His throne." This reference to our Lord's
joint-occupancy of the Father's throne opens the door to the vision of
that throne which now follows in chapters 4-5. Chapter 4 spends itself
in describing the throne of the Deity and the worship of heaven. In it
we are shown the place of supreme authority - the throne. Then in
chapter 5, that of the Lamb and the 7-sealed book, in which we see the
Lamb Himself "set down" amid the throne. Grasp it firmly: the ruling
purpose in this first movement of the Apocalypse is to put the Lamb on
the throne. The book cannot go forward until He is there. Thus this
first movement reaches its climax: CHRIST, THE LAMB, IN THE PLACE OF
One thing we would insist on is that these chapters describe something
which has ALREADY HAPPENED. Their enthronement of the Lamb in heaven is
not something yet to happen. He is there NOW.
THE SECOND MOVEMENT
As soon as the Lamb is put in the throne, the Apocalypse moves on
through the two shock-epochs of the "Great Tribulation" and the "Wrath
of God." In this middle and longest part many readers find themselves in
a chaotic mix-up simply because they fail to see that chapters 12-19 are
a parallel "repeat" of chapters 6-11.
THE "GREAT TRIBULATION"
The seven seals (6) The seven personages (12-13)
Parenthetical (7) Parenthetical (14)
1. Israel remnant sealed 1. Israel remnant sealed on
on earth before "wrath." earth before "wrath" comes.
2. Blessedness of saints 2. Blessedness of saints.
in heaven. 3. Warning: "Wrath" coming.
4. Vision: reason for Armageddon.
THE "WRATH OF GOD"
SEVEN TRUMPETS (8) SEVEN BOWLS (15-16)
1. On the earth. 1. On the earth.
2. On the sea. 2. On the sea.
3. On the rivers. 3. On the rivers.
4. Sun, moon, stars. 4. Sun.
5. Darkness, scourge. 5. Darkness, scourge.
6. Euphrates: army. 6. Euphrates: kings.
7. "Nations angry”, “Wrath," 7. "Nations fell", "Wrath,"
"Great voices”, “Time no more" "Voices, thunderings”, “It is done."
Parenthesis: Jerusalem in Parenthesis: Babylon in "Wrath
"Great Tribulation" 10-11 of God" 17-18
End of 7th Trumpet 11 End of 7th Bowl 19-20
1. Kingdom of Lord & Christ 1. Lord God reigneth.
2. The 24 elders worship. 2. The 24 elders worship.
3. Time of dead to be judged 3. He hath judged.
4. "WRATH" come. 4. Armageddon.
THE MILLENNIAL REIGN OF CHRIST 20:1-6
THE FINAL OUTRAGE AND DOOM OF SATAN 20:7-10
THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF MANKIND 20:11-15
THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH 21-22
The Great Tribulation vs. the Wrath of God: In this parallel there is
one feature which is peculiarly arresting when once it is perceived,
namely, the solemn pause between the 7 seals and the 7 trumpets in the
first set, and the correspondingly solemn break between the 7 personages
and the 7 vials in the second set. WHY then, this break? It is to mark a
distinction between the two stages and the age-end crisis, i.e.. the
Great Tribulation and the Wrath of God (Mat.24:29-31). This has an
illuminating bearing upon the question as to whether the Church will or
will not go through the Great Tribulation. For there are passages in the
New Testament which seem to show that believers of the last days (there
is only one small part of the total Church on earth at any given moment)
will be on earth during the so-called "Great Tribulation." II
Thessalonians 2 is one such.
The "Great Tribulation" and the "Wrath of God" are not identical. The
"Wrath of God" is the last awful end-bit which immediately follows the
"Great Tribulation" (Mat.24:29). Now certainly no blood-bought,
Spirit-sealed member of our Lord's body can be thought of as left on
earth and undergo THAT. Yet it is quite possible so it seems to us, that
believers will still be here during the "Great Tribulation" when the
"man of sin" is here.
We do not here dogmatically affirm one way or the other; but we think
that the distinction which the Scriptures make between the "Great
Tribulation" and the "Wrath of God" is important. Remember, the "Great
Tribulation" is largely a Satanic instigation through the man of sin,
whereas the "Wrath of God" is entirely an affliction from God Himself.
THE FINAL MOVEMENT (21-22)
The Apocalypse reaches its sublime climax in the "all things new" of
chapters 21-22. The first movement of the book (1-5) finds its climax in
the enthronement of the Lamb in HEAVEN. Both of the parallel
chapter-series which comprise the middle area issue in the enthronement
of our Lord on EARTH (11:15-17 & Ch.20). The climax point of the final
unveiling in chapters 21-22 is the enthronement of the Lamb in "the new
heaven and earth" for evermore. Seven times the Lamb is mentioned; and
this is what the seventh mention says:
"And there shall be no more curse, but THE THRONE OF
GOD AND OF THE LAMB shall be in it [i.e. new Jerusalem]."
These last two chapters of the Bible must not be thought of as a
description of heaven; they describe something which is to be on EARTH
(though of course in that new order of things there will be open traffic
between earth and heaven). In 21:2 John says, "And I, John, saw the holy
city, new Jerusalem, coming DOWN from God out of heaven," i.e. to EARTH.
"And the NATIONS shall walk in the light of it (v.24)." This is the
ultimate golden prospect for this old earth of ours! It will be a "new
earth"; and the "new heaven" will mean that the invisible environs of
the earth have been forever freed from "the prince of the power of the
Not the Millennium
The Millennium is the subject of the 20th chapter, where we find the
saints reigning with Christ a thousand years (v.4-6). During that
thousand years Satan is interned in the abyss (v.1-3); but at the end he
is released: whereupon he immediately goes forth to deceive the nations,
and there is a swift, last, violent insurrection (v.7-10). The purpose
of this is to finally demonstrate the utter incorrigibility of Satan,
and the irremediable failure of Adamic human nature - even after a
thousand years of perfect government; thus immediately preparing for the
final, general judgment at the "Great White Throne" and the winding up
of the present order. During the Millennium the OLD Jerusalem is built
up; but in these last two chapters the "NEW Jerusalem" comes "down" from
Can we do better than finish this series of studies where the Bible
itself finishes? Look again at its final picture of our Lord and His
redeemed ones in glory of the coming "new heaven and the new earth."
"And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and
of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him;
and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their
foreheads. And there shall be no night there, and they need no
candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them
light; and they shall reign unto the ages of the ages." Revelation
Ineffable consummation! Described, yet in its full meaning utterly
indescribable! Pick out the seven elements which together constitute its
"There shall be no curse" - i.e. perfect sinlessness
"The throne of God and of the Lamb" - i.e. perfect government
"His servants shall serve Him" - i.e. perfect service
"They shall see His face" - i.e. perfect vision
"His name in their foreheads" - i.e. perfect likeness
"The Lord God giveth them light" - i.e. perfect illumination
"They reign forever and ever" - i.e. perfect blessedness
And now, with this Divinely unveiled, soul-thrilling consummation in
view, let us close, praying the last, yearning prayer of the Bible:
"EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."