The ungodly are ever seeking after joy, but they do not find it: they busy and weary themselves in the pursuit of it, yet all in vain. Their hearts being turned from the Lord, they look downward for joy, where it is not; rejecting the substance, they diligently run after the shadow, only to be mocked by it. It is the sovereign decree of heaven that nothing can make sinners truly happy but God in Christ; but this they will not believe, and therefore they go from creature to creature, from one broken cistern to another, inquiring where the best joy is to be found. Each worldly thing which attracts them says, It is found in me; but soon it disappoints. Nevertheless, they go on seeking it afresh today in the very thing which deceived them yesterday. If after many trials they discover the emptiness of one creature comfort, then they turn to another, only to verify our Lord’s word, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again" (John 4:13).
Going now to the other extreme: there are some Christians who suppose it to be sinful to rejoice. No doubt many of our readers will be surprised to hear this but let them be thankful they have been brought up in sunnier surroundings, and bear with us while we labour with those less favored. Some have been taught—largely by implication and example, rather than by plain inculcation—that it is their duty to be gloomy. They imagine that feelings of joy are produced by the Devil appearing as an angel of light. They conclude that it is well-nigh a species of wickedness to be happy in such a world of sin as we are in. They think it presumptuous to rejoice in the knowledge of sins forgiven, and if they see young Christians so doing they tell them it will not be long before they are floundering in the Slough of Despond. To all such we tenderly urge the prayerful pondering of the remainder of this chapter.
"Rejoice evermore" (1 Thess. 5:16). It surely cannot be unsafe to do what God has commanded us. The Lord has placed no embargo on rejoicing. No, it is Satan who strives to make us hang up our harps. There is no precept in Scripture bidding us "Grieve in the Lord alway: and again I say, Grieve"; but there is an exhortation which bids us, "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright" (Ps. 33:1). Reader, if you are a real Christian (and it is high time you tested yourself by Scripture and made sure of this point), then Christ is yours, all that is in Him is yours. He bids you "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved" (Song of Sol. 5:1): the only sin you may commit against His banquet of love is to stint yourself. "Let your soul delight itself in fatness"(Isa. 55:2) is spoken not to those already in heaven but to saints still on earth.
Grace is a perfection of the Divine character which is exercised only toward the elect. Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New is the grace of God ever mentioned in connection with mankind generally, still less with the lower orders of His creatures. In this it is distinguished from mercy, for the mercy of God is "over all His works" (Ps. 145-9). Grace is the alone source from which flows the goodwill, love, and salvation of God unto His chosen people. This attribute of the Divine character was defined by Abraham Booth in his helpful book, The Reign of Grace thus, "It is the eternal and absolute free favour of God, manifested in the vouchsafement of spiritual and eternal blessings to the guilty and the unworthy."
Divine grace is the sovereign and saving favour of God exercised in the bestowment of blessings upon those who have no merit in them and for which no compensation is demanded from them. Nay, more; it is the favour of God shown to those who not only have no positive deserts of their own, but who are thoroughly ill-deserving and hell-deserving. It is completely unmerited and unsought, and is altogether unattracted by anything in or from or by the objects upon which it is bestowed. Grace can neither be bought, earned, nor won by the creature. If it could be, it would cease to be grace. When a thing is said to be of grace we mean that the recipient has no claim upon it, that it was in nowise due him. It comes to him as pure charity, and, at first, unasked and undesired.
The fullest exposition of the amazing grace of God is to be found in the Epistles of the apostle Paul. In his writings "grace" stands in direct opposition to works and worthiness, all works and worthiness, of whatever kind or degree. This is abundantly clear from Romans 11:6, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. If it be of works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work." Grace and works will no more unite than an acid and an alkali. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9). The absolute favour of God can no more consist with human merit than oil and water will fuse into one: see also Romans 4:4,5
Arthur W. Pink
"I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee" (Job 42:5). What did Job signify by this? Obviously his words are not to be understood literally. No, by employing a common figure of speech, he meant that the mists of unbelief (occasioned by self-righteousness) had now been dispelled, and faith perceived the being of God as a glorious and living reality. ("Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord" Ps. 25:15), by which is meant that his faith was constantly in exercise. Of Moses it is said that "he endured as seeing Him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27), that is, his heart was sustained through faith’s being occupied with the mighty God.
Faith is frequently represented in Scripture under the metaphor of bodily sight. Our Lord said of the great patriarch, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56), meaning that his faith looked forward to the day of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. Paul was commissioned unto the Gentiles to "open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18); or, in other words, to be the Divine instrument of their conversion through preaching to them the Word of Faith. To some of his erring children he wrote, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently (plainly) set forth, crucified among you" (Gal. 3:1).
Now what we wish to point out in this article is, that when scripture speaks of faith under the notion of bodily sight, its writers were doing something more than availing themselves of a pertinent and suitable figure of speech. The Author of Scripture is the One who first formed the eye, that marvelous organ of vision and without a shadow of doubt He so fashioned it as to strikingly adumbrate in the visible that which now plays so prominent a part in the Christian’s dealings with the invisible. Everything in the material world shadows forth some great reality in the spiritual realm, as we should perceive had we but sufficient wisdom to discern the fact. A wide field is here opened for observation and meditation, but we shall now confine ourselves to a single example, namely, the eye of the body as it symbolizes the faith of the heart.
1. The eye is a passive organ. The eye does not send out a light from itself, nor does it give anything unto the objects it beholds-what can the eye communicate to the sun, moon, and stars, when it gazes upon them! No, the eye merely receives the print or image of them into the mind (on the retina, which is then transmitted to the brain) without adding anything to them. Just so is it with faith: it gives nothing unto God, or to what it beholds in the Word of His grace. It simply receives or takes them into the heart as they are presented to the soul’s view in the light of the Divine revelation. What did the bitten Israelites communicate unto the brazen serpent when they looked unto it, and were healed? As little do we add unto Christ, when we "look" unto Him and are saved (Isa. 45:22).
2. The eye is a directing organ. The man that has the light of day and his eyes open can see his way, and is not so likely to stumble into ditches or fall into a precipice as a blind man, or one who walks at nighttime. So it is with faith: "The way of the wicked is as darkness, they know not at what they stumble," but "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:19, 18). Of Christians it is said that "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). By "looking off unto Jesus" (faith’s viewing our Exemplar) we are enabled to run the race which is set before us.
3. The eye is a very quick organ, taking up things at a great distance. Within a fraction of a moment I can turn my gaze from things lying on the ground and focus it upon the mountains which are many miles away; nay, more, I can look away altogether from the things of earth and mount up among the stars, and in a second view the entire expanse of the heavens. What an optical marvel is that! Equally wonderful is the power of faith: it is indeed a quick-sighted grace, taking up things at a great distance, as the faith of the patriarchs did, who saw the things promised "afar off’ (Heb. 11:13). So too, in a moment faith may look back to an eternity past and view the everlasting springs of electing love, active on its behalf before the foundations of the earth were laid, and then, in the same breath, it can turn itself towards an eternity yet to come, and take a view of the hidden glories of an invisible world within the vail.
4. The eye, though it be little, is a very capacious organ. The man that has the light of day and has his eyes open may see all that comes with the range of his vision: he may look around and see things behind, forward and view things ahead, downward upon the waters in a well or a stream at the bottom of a deep ravine, upwards and gaze upon bodies in the distant heavens. So is it with faith: it extends itself unto everything that lies within the vast compass of God’s Word. It takes knowledge of things in the distant past, it also apprehends things that are yet to come; it looks into Hell, and penetrates into Heaven. It is able to discern the vanity of the world all around us.
It is true that there may be a genuine faith that takes in but little of the light of Divine revelation at first. Yet here again the earthly adumbration accurately shadows forth this spiritual truth. The eye of an infant takes in the light and perceives external objects, but with a good deal of weakness and confusion, until as it grows more its vision extends further and further. So it is with the eye of faith. At first, the light of spiritual knowledge is but dim: the babe in Christ is unable to see afar off. But as faith grows deeper and deeper into the Divine mysteries, until it comes at length to be swallowed up on open vision (John 17:24).
5. The eye is a very assuring faculty. Of the five bodily senses, this is the most convincing. What are we more sure of, than what we see with our eyes! Some fools may seek to persuade themselves that matter is a mental delusion, but no one in his right mind will believe them. If a man sees the sun shining in the heavens, he knows that it is day. In like manner, faith is a grace which carries in its very nature a great deal of certainty: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Skeptics may deny the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures, but when the eye of faith has gazed upon its supernatural beauties, the point is settled once for all. Others may regard the Christ of God as a pious myth, but once the saint has really beheld the Lamb of God, it can say "I know that my Redeemer liveth."
6. The eye is an impressing organ: what we see, leaves an impression upon our minds, that is why we need to pray often "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity" (Ps. 119:37); that is why the prophet declared "mine eye affecteth mine heart" (Lam. 3:51). If a man looks steadily at the sun for a few moments an impression of the sun is left in his eye, even though he turn his eyes away from it, or shuts them. In like manner, real faith leaves an impression of the Sun of righteousness upon the heart: "they looked unto Him, and were lightened" (Ps. 34:5). Even more definite is 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." As the mighty power of Christ will, in a coming day, transform the bodies of His people from mortality to life and from dishonor to glory, so also does the Holy Spirit now exert a moral transforming power on the character of those who are His, and that by calling faith into exercise, the activity of which more and more conforms the soul to the image of God’s Son.
7. The eye is a wondrous organ. Those who are competent to express an opinion, affirm that this particular member is the most curious and remarkable of any part of the human body: there is much of the wisdom and power of the Creator to be discovered in the formation of the visive faculty. So too faith is a grace that is curiously and wondrously wrought in the soul. There is more of the wisdom and power of the Divine Workman discovered in the formation of the grace of faith than in any other part of the new creature. Thus we read of the "work of faith with power" (2 Thess. 1:11), yea, that the same exceeding great and mighty power which was put forth by God in the raising of Christ from the dead is exerted upon and within them that believe (Eph. 1:19).
8. The eye of the body is a very tender thing: it is soon hurt and easily damaged. A very tiny cinder will cause pain and make it weep and it is very striking to note that that is the very way to recovery-it weeps out the dust or mote that gets into it. So too faith is a most delicate grace, thriving best in a pure conscience: hence the apostle speaks of "holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience" (1 Tim. 3:9). The lively actings of faith are soon marred by the dust of sin, or by the vanities of the world getting into the heart where it is seated. And where ever true faith is, if it be hurt by sin, it vents itself in a way of godly sorrow.
N.B. For most of the above we are indebted to a sermon preached by Ebon. Erskine in 1740.
This opening clause is a suitable preface to all that follows. It presents to us the great Object to whom we pray, teaches us the covenant office that He sustains to us, and denotes the obligation imposed upon us, namely, that of maintaining toward Him a filial spirit, with all that that entails. All real prayer ought to begin with a devout contemplation and to express an acknowledgment of the name of God and of His blessed perfections. We should draw near unto the Throne of Grace with suitable apprehensions of God’s sovereign majesty and power, yet with a holy confidence in His fatherly goodness. In these opening words we are plainly instructed to preface our petitions by expressing the sense we have of the essential and relative glories of the One whom we address. The Psalms abound in examples of this. See Psalm 8:1 as a case in point.
"Our Father which art in heaven." Let us first endeavor to ascertain the general principle that is embodied in this introductory clause. It informs us in the simplest possible manner that the great God is most graciously ready to grant us an audience. By directing us to address Him as our Father, it definitely assures us of His love and power. This precious title is designed to raise our affections, to excite us to reverent attention, and to confirm our confidence in the efficacy of prayer. Three things are essential to acceptable and effectual prayer: fervency, reverence, and confidence. This opening clause is designed to stir up each of these essential elements within us. Fervency is the effect of our affections being called into exercise; reverence will be promoted by an apprehension of the fact that we are addressing the heavenly throne; confidence will be deepened by viewing the Object of prayer as our Father.
In coming to God in acts of worship, we must "believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). What is more calculated to deepen our confidence and to draw forth the strongest love and earnest hopes of our hearts toward God, than Christ’s presenting Him to us in His most tender aspect and endearing relation? How we are here encouraged to use holy boldness and to pour out our souls before Him! We could not suitably invoke an impersonal First Cause; still less could we adore or supplicate a great abstraction. No, it is to a person, a Divine Person, One who has our best interests at heart, that we are invited to draw near, even to our Father. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1).
God is the Father of all men naturally, being their Creator. "Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us?" (Mal. 2:10). "But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou our Potter; and we all are the work of Thy hand" (Isa. 64:8). The fact that such verses have been grossly perverted by some holding erroneous views on "the universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man," must not cause us to utterly repudiate them. It is our privilege to assure the most ungodly and abandoned that, if they will but throw down the weapons of their warfare and do as the prodigal did, there is a loving Father ready to welcome them. If He hears the cries of the ravens (Ps. 147:9), will He turn a deaf ear to the requests of a rational creature? Simon Magus, while still "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity," was directed by an apostle to repent of his wickedness and to pray to God (Acts 8:22, 23).
But the depth and full import of this invocation can be entered into only by the believing Christian, for there is a higher relation between him and God than that which is merely of nature. First, God is his Father spiritually. Second, God is the Father of His elect because He is the Father of their Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3). Thus Christ expressly announced, "I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God" (John 20:17). Third, God is the Father of His elect by eternal decree: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:5). Fourth, He is the Father of His elect by regeneration, wherein they are born again and become "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). It is written, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6).
These words "Our Father" not only signify the office that God sustains to us by virtue of the everlasting covenant, but they also clearly imply our obligation. They teach us both how we ought to dispose ourselves toward God when we pray to Him, and the conduct that is becoming to us by virtue of this relationship. As His children we must "honor" Him (even more than our human parents; see Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-3), be in subjection to Him, delight in Him, and strive in all things to please Him. Again, the phrase "Our Father" not only teaches us our personal interest in God Himself, who by grace is our Father, but it also instructs us of our interest in our fellow Christians, who in Christ are our brethren. It is not merely to "my Father" to whom I pray, but to "our Father." We must express our love to our brethren by praying for them; we are to be as much concerned about their needs as we are over our own. How much is included in these two words!
"Which art in heaven." What a blessed balance this gives to the previous phrase. If that tells us of God’s goodness and grace, this speaks of His greatness and majesty. If that teaches us of the nearness and dearness of His relationship to us, this announces His infinite elevation above us. If the words "Our Father" inspire confidence and love, then the words "which art in heaven" should fill us with humility and awe. These are the two things that should ever occupy our minds and engage our hearts: the first without the second tends toward unholy familiarity; the second without the first produces coldness and dread. By combining them together, we are preserved from both evils; and a suitable equipoise is wrought and maintained in the soul as we duly contemplate both the mercy and might of God, His unfathomable love and His immeasurable loftiness. Note how the same blessed balance was preserved by the Apostle Paul, when he employed the following words to describe God the Father: "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory" (Eph. 1:17).
The words "which art in heaven" are not used because He is confined there. We are reminded of the words of King Solomon: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (1 Kings 8:27). God is infinite and omnipresent. There is a particular sense, though, in which the Father is "in heaven," for that is the place in which His majesty and glory are most eminently manifested. "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool" (Isa. 66:1). The realization of this should fill us with the deepest reverence and awe. The words "which art in heaven" call attention to His providence, declaring the fact that He is directing all things from on high. These words proclaim His ability to undertake for us, for our Father is the Almighty. "But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Ps. 115:3). Yet though the Almighty, He is "our Father." "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Ps. 103:13). "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13). Finally, these blessed words remind us that we are journeying thither, for heaven is our home.
Living as Those Made Alive in Christ
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Instructions for Christian Households
18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers,[c] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism
This brings before us a side of the truth upon which I fear we rarely meditate. We delight to think of the wondrous love of Christ, whose love was stronger than death, and who deemed no suffering too great for His people. But what must it have meant to the heart of the Father when His Beloved left His Heavenly Home! God is love, and nothing is so sensitive as love. I do not believe that Deity is emotionless, the Stoic as represented by the Schoolmen of the middle ages. I believe the sending forth of the Son was something which the heart of the Father felt, that it was a real sacrifice on His part.
Weigh well then the solemn fact which premises the sure promise that follows: God "spared not His own Son"! Expressive, profound, melting words! Knowing full well, as He only could, all that redemption involved—the Law rigid and unbending, insisting upon perfect obedience and demanding death for its transgressors. Justice, stern and inexorable, requiring full satisfaction, refusing to "clear the guilty." Yet God did not withhold not the only suitable Sacrifice.
God "spared not His own Son," though knowing full well the humiliation and ignominy of Bethlehem’s manger, the ingratitude of men, the not having where to lay His head, the hatred and opposition of the ungodly, the enmity and bruising of Satan—yet He did not hesitate. God did not relax ought of the holy requirements of His throne, nor abate one whit of the awful curse. No, He "spared not His own Son." The utmost farthing was exacted; the last dregs in the cup of wrath must be drained. Even when His Beloved cried from the Garden, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me," God "spared" Him not. Even when vile hands had nailed Him to the tree, God cried "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man that is My Fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts; smite the Shepherd" (Zech. 13:7).
Furthermore, everything God does for and bestows on His people is for Christ’s sake. It is in no wise a question of their deserts, but of Christ’s deserts or what he merited for them. As Christ is the only Way by which we can approach the Father, so He is the sole channel through which God’s grace flows unto us. Hence we read of the "grace of God, and the gift of grace (namely, justifying righteousness) by one man, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:15); and again, "the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:4). The love of God toward us is in "Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39). he forgives us "for Christ’s sake" (Eph. 4:32). He supplies all our need "according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). He brings us to heaven in answer to Christ’s prayer (John 17:24). Yet though Christ merits everything for us, the original cause was the sovereign grace of God. "Although the merits of Christ are the (procuring) cause of our salvation, yet they are not the cause of our being ordained to salvation, They are the cause of purchasing all things decreed unto us, but they are not the cause which first moved God to decree these things unto us."
The way to forget our miseries, is to remember the God of our mercies. David saw troubles coming from God's wrath, and that discouraged him. But if one trouble follow hard after another, if all seem to combine for our ruin, let us remember they are all appointed and overruled by the Lord. David regards the Divine favour as the fountain of all the good he looked for. In the Saviour's name let us hope and pray. One word from him will calm every storm, and turn midnight darkness into the light of noon, the bitterest complaints into joyful praises. Our believing expectation of mercy must quicken our prayers for it. At length, is faith came off conqueror, by encouraging him to trust in the name of the Lord, and to stay himself upon his God. He adds, And my God; this thought enabled him to triumph over all his griefs and fears. Let us never think that the God of our life, and the Rock of our salvation, has forgotten us, if we have made his mercy, truth, and power, our refuge. Thus the psalmist strove against his despondency: at last his faith and hope obtained the victory. Let us learn to check all unbelieving doubts and fears. Apply the promise first to ourselves, and then plead it to God.
Our Love to Abound in Knowledge
Many are wise in the general principles and in the letter of the Word, but err grievously in the applying of those principles in detail. There is a vast variety of circumstances in our lives. These call for much prudence in dealing with them aright. If our hearts are to be properly governed and our ways suitably ordered, much instruction and considerable experience are required. Besides a knowledge of God’s will, the spirit of discretion is needed. There are times when all lawful things are not expedient, and wisdom is indispensable to determine when those times and where those places are, as well as by which persons they may be used or performed. Indiscretion and folly remain in the best of us. The chief work of our judgment is to perceive what is proper for the time, the place, the company where we are, that we may order our behavior aright (Ps. 50:23); that we may know how to conduct ourselves in all relations civil and sacred, in work or in recreation; that we may conduct ourselves wisely as husbands, fathers, wives, or children; as employers or employees. Love needs to be directed by good judgment in all its exercises and expressions.
How different are the prayers of Scripture from those which we are accustomed to hear in religious gatherings! Who ever heard this petition offered in public: "This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment"! How many would understand its purport if they should hear it? True spirituality, vital godliness, personal piety, has almost become an unknown quantity in Christendom today. How very different is this bold and comprehensive request "may abound yet more and more" from the halting and halfhearted "if it can please Thee to favor us with a sip" of those who seem utterly afraid to ask for anything worthy of such a God as ours! How little can such souls be acquainted with "the God of all grace." Seriously ponder the petitions of Paul and observe that he was not straitened, and therefore he asked for no half measures or scanty portions. Above all, realize that these prayers are recorded for our instruction, for our encouragement, for our emulation.
1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
2Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.As we examine together the prayer contained in 1 Peter 1:3-5, let us consider eight things: (1) its connection—that we may perceive who all are included by the words "begotten us again"; (2) its nature—a doxology ("Blessed be"); (3) its Object—"the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"; (4) its ascription—"His abundant mercy"; (5) its incitement—"hath begotten us again unto a lively hope"; (6) its acknowledgment—"by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead"; (7) its substance—"to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you"; and (8) its guaranty—"who are kept by the power of God through faith." There is much here of interest and deep importance. Therefore, it would be wrong for us to hurriedly dismiss such a passage with a few generalizations, especially since it contains such a wealth of spiritual, joyful reflection that cannot but edify the mind and stir up the will and affections of every saint who rightly meditates upon it. May we be duly affected by its contents and truly enter into its elevated spirit.
First, we consider its connection. Those on whose behalf the apostle offered this doxology are spoken of according to their literal and figurative circumstances in verse 1, and then described by their spiritual characters: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (v. 2). That description pertains equally to all the regenerate in every age. When connected with election, the "foreknowledge of God" refers not to His eternal and universal prescience, for that embraces all beings and events, past, present and future; and, therefore, it has for its objects the non-elect as well as the elect. Consequently, there is no allusion whatever to God’s preview of our believing or any other virtue in the objects of His choice. Rather, the term foreknowledge has respect to the spring or source of election, namely, God’s unmerited good will and approbation. For this sense of the word know see the following: Psalm 1:6; Amos 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:19. For a like sense of the word foreknow see Romans 11:2. Therefore, the phrase "elect according to the foreknowledge of God" signifies that the favored persons thus described were fore-loved by Him, that they were the objects of His eternal favor, unalterably delighted in by Him as He foreviewed them in Christ— "wherein he hath made us accepted [or "objects of grace"] in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6, brackets mine).
<< Ephesians 3 >>
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
3:1-7 For having preached the doctrine of truth, the apostle was a prisoner, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ; the object of special protection and care, while thus suffering for him. All the gracious offers of the gospel, and the joyful tidings it contains, come from the rich grace of God; it is the great means by which the Spirit works grace in the souls of men. The mystery, is that secret, hidden purpose of salvation through Christ. This was not so fully and clearly shown in the ages before Christ, as unto the prophets of the New Testament. This was the great truth made known to the apostle, that God would call the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ. An effectual working of Divine power attends the gifts of Divine grace. As God appointed Paul to the office, so he qualified him for it.
3:8-12 Those whom God advances to honourable employments, he makes low in their own eyes; and where God gives grace to be humble, there he gives all other needful grace. How highly he speaks of Jesus Christ; the unsearchable riches of Christ! Though many are not enriched with these riches; yet how great a favour to have them preached among us, and to have an offer of them! And if we are not enriched with them it is our own fault. The first creation, when God made all things out of nothing, and the new creation, whereby sinners are made new creatures by converting grace, are of God by Jesus Christ. His riches are as unsearchable and as sure as ever, yet while angels adore the wisdom of God in the redemption of his church, the ignorance of self-wise and carnal men deems the whole to be foolishness.
3:13-19 The apostle seems to be more anxious lest the believers should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations, than for what he himself had to bear. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God. Should not this satisfy man? Must he needs fill himself with a thousand trifles, fancying thereby to complete his happiness?
3:20,21 It is proper always to end prayers with praises. Let us expect more, and ask for more, encouraged by what Christ has already done for our souls, being assured that the conversion of sinners, and the comfort of believers, will be to his glory, for ever and ever.
John Newton (1725-1807)
Stanza 6 anon.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
The above verse supplies us with an instance of Divine logic. It contains a conclusion drawn from a premise; the premise is that God delivered up Christ for all His people, therefore everything else that is needed by them is sure to be given. There are many examples in Holy Writ of such Divine logic. "If God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you?" (Matt. 6:3O). "If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). "If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matt. 7:11). So here in our text the reasoning is irresistible and goes straight to the understanding and heart.
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Trials and Temptations
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:2 The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family; also in verses 16 and 19; and in 2:1, 5, 14; 3:10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19.
New International Version, ©2010 (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!
All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling,
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.
Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.
13Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth  not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;  whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought  as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly;  but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
<< 1 Corinthians 12 | 1 Corinthians 13 | 1 Corinthians 14 >>
 13:4 vaunteth...: or, is not rash
 13:6 in the truth: or, with the truth
 13:8 fail: Gr. vanish away
 13:10 done away: Gr. vanish away
 13:11 thought: or, reasoned
 13:12 darkly: Gr. in a riddle
The necessity and advantage of the grace of love. (1-3) Its excellency represented by its properties and effects; (4-7) and by its abiding, and its superiority. (8-13)
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
(Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
The excellent way had in view in the close of the former chapter, is not what is meant by charity in our common use of the word, almsgiving, but love in its fullest meaning; true love to God and man. Without this, the most glorious gifts are of no account to us, of no esteem in the sight of God. A clear head and a deep understanding, are of no value without a benevolent and charitable heart. There may be an open and lavish hand, where there is not a liberal and charitable heart. Doing good to others will do none to us, if it be not done from love to God, and good-will to men. If we give away all we have, while we withhold the heart from God, it will not profit. Nor even the most painful sufferings. How are those deluded who look for acceptance and reward for their good works, which are as scanty and defective as they are corrupt and selfish!
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
(Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Some of the effects of charity are stated, that we may know whether we have this grace; and that if we have not, we may not rest till we have it. This love is a clear proof of regeneration, and is a touchstone of our professed faith in Christ. In this beautiful description of the nature and effects of love, it is meant to show the Corinthians that their conduct had, in many respects, been a contrast to it. Charity is an utter enemy to selfishness; it does not desire or seek its own praise, or honour, or profit, or pleasure. Not that charity destroys all regard to ourselves, or that the charitable man should neglect himself and all his interests. But charity never seeks its own to the hurt of others, or to neglect others. It ever prefers the welfare of others to its private advantage. How good-natured and amiable is Christian charity! How excellent would Christianity appear to the world, if those who profess it were more under this Divine principle, and paid due regard to the command on which its blessed Author laid the chief stress! Let us ask whether this Divine love dwells in our hearts. Has this principle guided us into becoming behaviour to all men? Are we willing to lay aside selfish objects and aims? Here is a call to watchfulness, diligence, and prayer.
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
(Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-13)
Charity is much to be preferred to the gifts on which the Corinthians prided themselves. From its longer continuance. It is a grace, lasting as eternity. The present state is a state of childhood, the future that of manhood. Such is the difference between earth and heaven. What narrow views, what confused notions of things, have children when compared with grown men! Thus shall we think of our most valued gifts of this world, when we come to heaven. All things are dark and confused now, compared with what they will be hereafter. They can only be seen as by the reflection in a mirror, or in the description of a riddle; but hereafter our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. It is the light of heaven only, that will remove all clouds and darkness that hide the face of God from us. To sum up the excellences of charity, it is preferred not only to gifts, but to other graces, to faith and hope. Faith fixes on the Divine revelation, and assents thereto, relying on the Divine Redeemer. Hope fastens on future happiness, and waits for that; but in heaven, faith will be swallowed up in actual sight, and hope in enjoyment. There is no room to believe and hope, when we see and enjoy. But there, love will be made perfect. There we shall perfectly love God. And there we shall perfectly love one another. Blessed state! how much surpassing the best below! God is love, 1 John 4:8,16. Where God is to be seen as he is, and face to face, there charity is in its greatest height; there only will it be perfected.
All of our Hope, is found in Jesus Christ. Bless His Holy Name....
Commentary: Verses 1-10
The title of this psalm tells us both who penned it and upon what occasion it was penned. David, being forced to flee from his country, which was made too hot for him by the rage of Saul, sought shelter as near it as he could, in the land of the Philistines. There it was soon discovered who he was, and he was brought before the king, who, in the narrative, is called Achish (his proper name), here Abimelech (his title); and lest he should be treated as a spy, or one that came thither upon design, he feigned himself to be a madman (such there have been in every age, that even by idiots men might be taught to give God thanks for the use of their reason), that Achish might dismiss him as a contemptible man, rather than take cognizance of him as a dangerous man. And it had the effect he desired; by this stratagem he escaped the hand that otherwise would have handled him roughly. Now, 1. We cannot justify David in this dissimulation. It ill became an honest man to feign himself to be what he was not, and a man of honour to feign himself to be a fool and a mad-man. If, in sport, we mimic those who have not so good an understanding as we think we have, we forget that God might have made their case ours. 2. Yet we cannot but wonder at the composure of his spirit, and how far he was from any change of that, when he changed his behaviour. Even when he was in that fright, or rather in that danger only, his heart was so fixed, trusting in God, that even then he penned this excellent psalm, which has as much in it of the marks of a calm sedate spirit as any psalm in all the book; and there is something curious too in the composition, for it is what is called an alphabetical psalm, that is, a psalm in which every verse begins with each letter in its order as it stands in the Hebrew alphabet. Happy are those who can thus keep their temper, and keep their graces in exercise, even when they are tempted to change their behaviour. In this former part of the psalm,
I. David engages and excites himself to praise God. Though it was his fault that he changed his behaviour, yet it was God's mercy that he escaped, and the mercy was so much the greater in that God did not deal with him according to the desert of his dissimulation, and we must in every thing give thanks. He resolves, 1. That he will praise God constantly: I will bless the Lord at all times, upon all occasions. He resolves to keep up stated times for this duty, to lay hold of all opportunities for it, and to renew his praises upon every fresh occurrence that furnished him with matter. If we hope to spend our eternity in praising God, it is fit that we should spend as much as may be of our time in this work. 2. That he will praise him openly: His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Thus he would show how forward he was to own his obligations to the mercy of God and how desirous to make others also sensible of theirs. 3. That he will praise him heartily: "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord, in my relation to him, my interest in him, and expectations from him." It is not vainglory to glory in the Lord.
II. He calls upon others to join with him herein. He expects they will (v. 2): "The humble shall hear thereof, both of my deliverance and of my thankfulness, and be glad that a good man has so much favour shown him and a good God so much honour done him." Those have most comfort in God's mercies, both to others and to themselves, that are humble, and have the least confidence in their own merit and sufficiency. It pleased David to think that God's favours to him would rejoice the heart of every Israelite. Three things he would have us all to concur with him in:-
1. In great and high thoughts of God, which we should express in magnifying him and exalting his name, v. 3. We cannot make God greater or higher than he is; but if we adore him as infinitely great, and higher than the highest, he is pleased to reckon this magnifying and exalting him. This we must do together. God's praises sound best in concert, for so we praise him as the angels do in heaven. Those that share in God's favour, as all the saints do, should concur in his praises; and we should be as desirous of the assistance of our friends in returning thanks for mercies as in praying for them. We have reason to join in thanksgiving to God,
(1.) For his readiness to hear prayer, which all the saints have had the comfort of; for he never said to any of them, Seek you me in vain. [1.] David, for his part, will give it under his hand that he has found him a prayer-hearing God (v. 4): "I sought the Lord, in my distress, entreated his favour, begged his help, and he heard me, answered my request immediately, and delivered me from all my fears, both from the death I feared and from the disquietude and disturbance produced by fear of it." The former he does by his providence working for us, the latter by his grace working in us, to silence our fears and still the tumult of the spirits; this latter is the greater mercy of the two, because the thing we fear is our trouble only, but our unbelieving distrustful fear of it is our sin; nay, it is often more our torment too than the thing itself would be, which perhaps would only touch the bone and the flesh, while the fear would prey upon the spirits and put us out of the possession of our own soul. David's prayers helped to silence his fears; having sought the Lord, and left his case with him, he could wait the event with great composure. "But David was a great and eminent man, we may not expect to be favoured as he was; have any others ever experienced the like benefit by prayer?" Yes, [2.] Many besides him have looked unto God by faith and prayer, and have been lightened by it, v. 5. It has wonderfully revived and comforted them; witness Hannah, who, when she had prayed, went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. When we look to the world we are darkened, we are perplexed, and at a loss; but, when we look to God, from him we have the light both of direction and joy, and our way is made both plain and pleasant. These here spoken of, that looked unto God, had their expectations raised, and the event did not frustrate them: Their faces were not ashamed of their confidence. "But perhaps these also were persons of great eminence, like David himself, and upon that account were highly favoured, or their numbers made them considerable;" nay, [3.] This poor man cried, a single person, mean and inconsiderable, whom no man looked upon with any respect or looked after with any concern; yet he was as welcome to the throne of grace as David or any of his worthies: The Lord heard him, took cognizance of his case and of his prayers, and saved him out of all his troubles, v. 6. God will regard the prayer of the destitute, Ps. 102:17. See Isa. 57:15.
(2.) For the ministration of the good angels about us (v. 7): The angel of the Lord, a guard of angels (so some), but as unanimous in their service as if they were but one, or a guardian angel, encamps round about those that fear God, as the life-guard about the prince, and delivers them. God makes use of the attendance of the good spirits for the protection of his people from the malice and power of evil spirits; and the holy angels do us more good offices every day than we are aware of. Though in dignity and in capacity of nature they are very much superior to us,-though they retain their primitive rectitude, which we have lost;-though they have constant employment in the upper world, the employment of praising God, and are entitled to a constant rest and bliss there,-yet in obedience to their Maker, and in love to those that bear his image, they condescend to minister to the saints, and stand up for them against the powers of darkness; they not only visit them, but encamp round about them, acting for their good as really, though not as sensibly, as for Jacob's (Gen. 32:1), and Elisha's, 2 Ki. 6:17. All the glory be to the God of the angels.
2. He would have us to join with him in kind and good thoughts of God (v. 8): O taste and see that the Lord is good! The goodness of God includes both the beauty and amiableness of his being and the bounty and beneficence of his providence and grace; and accordingly, (1.) We must taste that he is a bountiful benefactor, relish the goodness of God in all his gifts to us, and reckon that the savour and sweetness of them. Let God's goodness be rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel. (2.) We must see that he is a beautiful being, and delight in the contemplation of his infinite perfections. By taste and sight we both make discoveries and take complacency. Taste and see God's goodness, that is, take notice of it and take the comfort of it, 1 Pt. 2:3. he is good, for he makes all those that trust in him truly blessed; let us therefore be so convinced of his goodness as thereby to be encouraged in the worst of times to trust in him.
3. He would have us join with him in a resolution to seek God and serve him, and continue in his fear (v. 9): O fear the Lord! you his saints. When we taste and see that he is good we must not forget that he is great and greatly to be feared; nay, even his goodness is the proper object of a filial reverence and awe. They shall fear the Lord and his goodness, Hos. 3:5. Fear the Lord; that is, worship him, and make conscience of your duty to him in every thing, not fear him and shun him, but fear him and seek him (v. 10) as a people seek unto their God; address yourselves to him and portion yourselves in him. To encourage us to fear God and seek him, it is here promised that those that do so, even in this wanting world, shall want no good thing (Heb. They shall not want all good things); they shall so have all good things that they shall have no reason to complain of the want of any. As to the things of the other world, they shall have grace sufficient for the support of the spiritual life (2 Co. 12:9; Ps. 84:11); and, as to this life, they shall have what is necessary to the support of it from the hand of God: as a Father, he will feed them with food convenient. What further comforts they desire they shall have, as far as Infinite Wisdom sees good, and what they want in one thing shall be made up in another. What God denies them he will give them grace to be content without and then they do not want it, Deu. 3:26. Paul had all and abounded, because he was content, Phil. 4:11, 18. Those that live by faith in God's all-sufficiency want nothing; for in him they have enough. The young lions. often lack and suffer hunger-those that live upon common providence, as the lions do, shall want that satisfaction which those have that live by faith in the promise; those that trust to themselves, and think their own hands sufficient for them, shall want (for bread is not always to the wise)-but verily those shall be fed that trust in God and desire to be at his finding. Those that are ravenous, and prey upon all about them, shall want; but the meek shall inherit the earth. Those shall not want who with quietness work and mind their own business; plain-hearted Jacob has pottage enough, when Esau, the cunning hunter, is ready to perish for hunger
Commentary on Psalm 30:1-5.
(Read Psalm 30:1-5.)
The great things the Lord has done for us, both by his providence and by his grace, bind us in gratitude to do all we can to advance his kingdom among men, though the most we can do is but little. God's saints in heaven sing to him; why should not those on earth do the same? Not one of all God's perfections carries in it more terror to the wicked, or more comfort to the godly, than his holiness. It is a good sign that we are in some measure partakers of his holiness, if we can heartily rejoice at the remembrance of it. Our happiness is bound up in the Divine favour; if we have that, we have enough, whatever else we want; but as long as God's anger continues, so long the saints' weeping continues.
Commentary on Psalm 30:6-12
(Read Psalm 30:6-12)
When things are well with us, we are very apt to think that they will always be so. When we see our mistake, it becomes us to think with shame upon our carnal security as our folly. If God hide his face, a good man is troubled, though no other calamity befal him. But if God, in wisdom and justice, turn from us, it will be the greatest folly if we turn from him. No; let us learn to pray in the dark. The sanctified spirit, which returns to God, shall praise him, shall be still praising him; but the services of God's house cannot be performed by the dust; it cannot praise him; there is none of that device or working in the grave, for it is the land of silence. We ask aright for life, when we do so that we may live to praise him. In due time God delivered the psalmist out of his troubles. Our tongue is our glory, and never more so than when employed in praising God. He would persevere to the end in praise, hoping that he should shortly be where this would be the everlasting work. But let all beware of carnal security. Neither outward prosperity, nor inward peace, here, are sure and lasting. The Lord, in his favour, has fixed the believer's safety firm as the deep-rooted mountains, but he must expect to meet with temptations and afflictions. When we grow careless, we fall into sin, the Lord hides his face, our comforts droop, and troubles assail us.
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The ungodly are ever seeking after joy, but they do not find it: they busy and weary themselves in the pursuit of it, yet all in vain. Their hearts being turned from the Lord, they look downward for joy, where it is not; rejecting the substance, they diligently run after the shadow, only to be mocked by it. It is the sovereign decree of heaven that nothing can make sinners truly happy but God in Christ; but this they will not believe, and therefore they go from creature to creature, from one broken cistern to another, inquiring where the best joy is to be found. Each worldly thing which attracts them says, It is found in me; but soon it disappoints. Nevertheless, they go on seeking it afresh today in the very thing which deceived them yesterday. If after many trials they discover the emptiness of one creature comfort, then they turn to another, only to verify our Lord’s word, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again" (John 4:13)
This model for Divine worshipers concludes with a doxology or ascription of praise to the One addressed, evidencing the completeness of the prayer. Christ here taught His disciples not only to ask for the things needful to them, but to ascribe unto God that which is properly His. Thanksgiving and praise are an essential part of prayer. Particularly should this be borne in mind in all public worship, for the adoration of God is His express due. Surely if we ask God to bless us, the least we can do is to bless Him. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ!" exclaims Paul (Eph. 1:3). To pronounce blessing upon Cod is but the echo and reflex of His grace toward us. Devout praise, as the expression of elevated spiritual affections, is the proper language of the soul in communion with God.
The perfections of this prayer as a whole and the wondrous fullness of each clause and word in it are not perceived by a rapid and careless glance, but become apparent only by a reverent pondering. This doxology may be considered in at least a threefold way: (1) as an expression of holy and joyful praise; (2) as a plea and argument to enforce the petitions; and (3) as a confirmation and declaration of confidence that the prayer will be heard. In this prayer our Lord gives us the quintessence of true prayer. In the Spirit-indited prayers of the Old Testament Psalter, prayer and praise are continually joined together. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul gives the following authoritative instruction: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6). All the prayers of eminent saints, recorded in the Bible, are intermingled with the adoration of Him who inhabits the praises of Israel (Ps. 22:3).
In this pattern prayer, God is made both the Alpha and the Omega. It opens by addressing Him as our Father in heaven; it ends by lauding Him as the glorious King of the universe. The more His perfections are before our hearts, the more spiritual will be our worship and the more reverent and fervent our supplications. The more the soul is engaged in contemplation of God Himself, the more spontaneous and sincere will be its praise. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2). Is it not our failure at this point that is so often the cause of blessing being withheld from us? "Let the people praise Thee, O God; let all the people praise Thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us" (Ps. 67:5, 6). If we do not praise God for His mercies, how can we expect Him to bless us with His mercies?
"For Thine is the Kingdom." These words set forth God’s universal right and authority over all things, by which He disposes of them according to His pleasure. God is Supreme Sovereign in creation, providence, and grace. He reigns over heaven and earth, all creatures and things being under His full control. The words "and the power" allude to God’s infinite sufficiency to execute His sovereign right and to perform His will in heaven and earth. Because He is the Almighty, He has the ability to do whatsoever He pleases. He never slumbers nor wearies (Ps. 121:3, 4); nothing is too hard for Him (Matthew 19:26); none can withstand Him (Dan. 4:35). All forces opposed to Him and to the Church’s salvation He can and will overthrow. The phrase "and the glory" sets forth His ineffable excellency: since He has absolute sovereignty over all and commensurate power to dispose of all, He is therefore all-glorious. God’s glory is the grand goal of all His works and ways, and of His glory He is ever jealous (Isa. 48:11, 12). To Him belongs the exclusive glory of being the Answerer of prayer.
Let us next notice that the doxology is introduced by the conjunction for, which here has the force of because or on account of the fact that Thine is the Kingdom, etc. This doxology is not only an acknowledgement of God’s perfections, but a most powerful plea as to why our petitions should be heard. Christ is here teaching us to employ the for of argumentation. Thou art able to grant these requests, for Thine is the Kingdom, etc. While the doxology undoubtedly belongs to the prayer as a whole and is brought in to enforce all seven petitions, yet it seems to us to have a special and more immediate reference to the last one: "but deliver us from evil: for Thine is the Kingdom. . . ." O Father, the number and power of our enemies are indeed great, and they are rendered the more formidable because of the treachery of our own wicked hearts. Yet we are encouraged to implore Thy assistance against them, because all the attempts made by sin and Satan against us are really assaults upon Thy sovereignty and dominion over us and the promotion of Thy glory by us.
"For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory." What encouragement is here! Two things especially inspire confidence towards God in prayer: the realization that He is willing and that He is able. Both are here intimated. That God bids us, through Christ His Son, to address Him as our Father is an indication of His love and an assurance of His care for us. But God is also the King of kings, possessing infinite power. This truth assures us of His sufficiency and guarantees His ability. As the Father, He provides for His children; as the King, He will defend His subjects. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Ps. 103:13). "Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob" (Ps. 44:4). It is for God’s own honor and glory that He manifests His power and shows Himself strong on behalf of His own. "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, world without end. Amen" (Eph. 3:20, 21).
What instruction is here! First, we are taught to enforce our petitions with arguments drawn from the Divine perfections. God’s universal kingship, His power, and His glory are to be turned into prevailing pleas for obtaining the things we need. We are to practice what Job sought to do: "I would order my cause before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments" (Job 23:4). Second, we are clearly directed to join petition and praise together. Third, we are taught to pray with the utmost reverence. Since God is so great and powerful a King, He is to be feared (Isa. 8:13). Hence it follows that we are to prostrate ourselves before Him in complete submission to His sovereign will. Fourth, we are instructed to make a full surrender and subjection of ourselves to Him; otherwise we do but mock God when we acknowledge verbally His dominion over us (Isa. 29:13). Fifth, by praying thus, we are trained to make His glory our chief concern, endeavoring so to walk that our lives show forth His praise.
"For ever." How marked is the contrast between our Father’s Kingdom, power, and glory and the fleeting dominion and evanescent glory of earthly monarchs. The glorious Being whom we address in prayer is "from everlasting to everlasting. . . God" (Ps. 90:2). Christ Jesus, in whom He is revealed and through whom prayer is offered, is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever (Heb. 13:8). When we pray aright, we look beyond time into eternity and measure present things by their connection with the future. How solemn and expressive are these words for ever! Earthly kingdoms decay and disappear. Creaturely power is puny and but for a moment. The glory of human beings and of all mundane things vanishes like a dream. But the Kingdom and power and glory of Jehovah are susceptible to neither change nor diminution, and they shall know no end. Our blessed hope is that, when the first heaven and earth have passed away, the Kingdom and power and glory of God will be known and adored in their wondrous reality through all eternity.
"Amen." This word intimates the two things required in prayer, namely, a fervent desire and the exercise of faith. For the Hebrew word Amen (often translated "verily" or "truly" in the New Testament) means "so be it" or "it shall be so." This twofold meaning of supplication and expectation is plainly hinted at in the double use of Amen in Psalm 72:10: "And blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen, and Amen." God has determined it shall be so, and the whole Church expresses its desire: "So be it." This "Amen" belongs and applies to each part and clause of the prayer: "Hallowed be Thy name. Amen"—and so forth. Uttering the Amen, both in public and private prayers, we express our longings and affirm our confidence in God’s power and faithfulness. It is itself a condensed and emphatic petition: believing in the verity of God’s promises and resting on the stability of His government, we both cherish and acknowledge our confident hope in a gracious answer.
"Twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God" (Ps. 62:11). In When first writing upon this subject, we practically confined our attention to the omnipotence of God as it is seen in and through the old creation. Here we propose to contemplate the exercise of His might in and on the new creation. That God’s people are much slower to perceive the latter than the former is plain from Ephesians 1:19, where the apostle prayed that the saints might know "what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power." Very striking indeed is this. When Paul speaks of the Divine power in creation he mentions "His power and Godhead" (Romans 1:20); but when he treats of the work of grace and salvation, he calls it "the exceeding greatness of His power."
God proportions His power to the nature of His work. The casting out of demons is ascribed to His "finger" (Luke 11:20); His delivering of Israel from Egypt to His "hand" (Ex. 13:9); but when the Lord saves a sinner it is His "holy arm" which gets Him the victory (Ps. 98:1). It is to be duly noted that the language of Ephesians 1:19, is so couched as to take in the whole work of Divine grace in and upon the elect. It is not restrained to the past—"who have believed according to"; nor to the time to come—"the power that shall work in you"; but, instead, it is "the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe." It is the "effectual working" of God’s might from the first moment of illumination and conviction till their sanctification and glorification.
So dense is the darkness which has now fallen upon the people (Isa. 60:2), that the vast majority of those even in the "churches" deem it by no means a hard thing to become a Christian. They seem to think it is almost as easy to purify a man’s heart (James 4:8) as it is to wash his hands; that it is as simple a matter to admit the light of Divine Truth into the soul as it is the morning sun into our chambers by opening the shutters; that it is no more difficult to turn the heart from evil to good, from the world to God, from sin to Christ, than to turn a ship round by the help of the helm. And this in the face of Christ’s emphatic statement, "With men this is impossible" (Matt. 19:26).
To mortify the lusts of the flesh (Col. 3:5), to be crucified daily to sin (Luke 9:23), to be meek and gentle, patient and kind—in a word, to be Christ-like—is a task altogether beyond our powers; it is one on which we would never venture, or, having ventured on, would soon abandon, but that God is pleased to perfect His strength in our weakness, and is "mighty to save" (Isa. 63:1). That this may be the more clearly evident to us, we shall now consider some of the features of God’s powerful operations in the saving of His people.
1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
While he was president of Princeton Seminary, Dr. John Mackay was heard to say, “Commitment without reflection is fanaticism in action. But reflection without commitment is the paralysis of all action.”76
These two extremes have always threatened the ongoing ministry of the church of Jesus Christ. There are those who are content to learn doctrine but sense no urgency to put what they know into practice. On the other hand, there are the pragmatists who want to know only what seems to work. They are too busy to reflect upon the principles which underlie their activity. They are something like the young undergraduate from Melbourne, Australia, who was attending a conference in Sweden. When this student learned that a student protest had begun at his own university, he wrung his hands in dismay. “I wish I were back home,” he cried. “I’d have been in it. What’s it all about?”77
There are many Christians today who are up to their necks in activity and ministry, but who unfortunately have little idea what it’s all about. There are some brethren who would encourage us to get away from cold and sterile doctrine and saturate ourselves with experience. There are those Christians who are sincerely and rightly concerned with the poor, the oppressed and the downtrodden of the world, but they have given little or no thought to some basic issues such as the biblical principles relative to cooperation and affiliation with apostolic denominations and organizations in meeting their needs.
As we approach Romans 12, we see that Paul avoids both these extremes. He avoids the extreme of reflection without commitment by challenging every Christian to a life of service. He avoids the danger of activity without reflection by instructing us that the Christian experience is the outgrowth of a transformed mind, a thought-process molded not by the world, but by the Word of God.
Romans 12 begins the last major section of this great epistle. In chapters 1-3a, Paul began by demonstrating every man’s need of a righteousness greater than he can establish by his own works. In chapters 3b-5, Paul proclaims that a God-kind of righteousness has been provided in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. This is a righteousness acceptable to God and available to all men on the basis of faith, and not works. Chapters 6-8 instruct us concerning the necessity of sanctification. Although sanctification is positionally necessary (chapter 6), it is humanly impossible (chapter 7). The solution is to be found in the provision of the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit (chapter 8).
In chapters 9-11, Paul has turned his attention to a haunting question, the explanation of Israel’s failure in the light of God’s Old Testament covenant with Abraham and all of the promises of blessing upon Israel. In chapter 9, Paul reminds us that God never promised blessings for every physical descendant of Abraham and that God’s blessings were not based upon national origin or upon works, but on the sovereign choice of God in election. In chapter 10, Israel’s failure is related to her unbelief. She rejected the salvation offered to her by her Messiah, Jesus Christ. In chapter 11 we are comforted by the fact that Israel’s present rejection is neither total (there is a faithful remnant) nor permanent (her restoration follows the ‘times of the Gentiles’). God has used Israel’s rejection to bring Gentiles to salvation, and He will use Gentile belief to bring Jews to faith. So God’s purposes in history are being accomplished in a way totally unexpected and beyond our highest expectations.
The Christian Response to God’s Grace
Chapter 11 ends with a paean of praise to the wisdom and mercy of our God. But words alone are inadequate for the worship of such a God. Our response to the grace of God must extend to the worship of God by our works as well as our words. In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 12, Paul summarizes the acts of worship which the grace of God should inspire in the life of the Christian, the presentation of our physical bodies to God as instruments of righteousness and the transformation of our minds from a mind-set dictated by the world, to that declared by the Word.
Verses 3-8 focus our attention to the use of this renewed mind with respect to our spiritual gifts. The grace of God bestowed to us is also a grace to be bestowed through us by the use of God’s gifts. Verses 9-21 broaden the focus to the renewed mind as it relates to our response to people and life’s circumstances. Here the grace of God is to be reflected in our human relationships.
To return to the big picture for a moment, chapters 1-3a inform us that a God-kind of righteousness is required for salvation. Chapters 3b-5 instruct us that a God-kind of righteousness has been revealed in Jesus Christ. Chapters 6-8 tell us that a God-kind of righteousness can be realized in the Christian life through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s righteousness is vindicated in chapters 9-11, and in chapters 12-15 the righteousness of God is to be practically reflected in the life of the Christian.
Primary Features of Paul’s Call to Commitment in Romans 12:1-2. Familiarity often breeds contempt and since we have heard the words of Romans 12:1 and 2 so often, we might think we will learn nothing new from them. Because we have time to merely survey the major features of chapter 12 let me draw your attention to several dimensions of Paul’s call to dedication and service.
(1) This call is for dedication and service in response to divine grace. Paul has consistently taught that the distinguishing features of Christianity are grace and faith. The dedication of the Christian is urged ‘because of’ the mercies of God described in previous chapters. It is not ‘in order to’ win God’s favor, but to express our deep gratitude for this grace and submission to His sovereignty. The terms ‘urge,’ ‘therefore’ and ‘mercies’ suggest that here is no demand of the Law, but a beseeching of grace.
(2) Paul’s exhortation encompasses both an initial commitment and subsequent follow-up. Generally speaking, we hear these verses used as an appeal to re-dedicate our lives to Christ. Often, because the appeal is emotional and without a proper doctrinal foundation, the individual is urged to periodically re-dedicate his life to Christ again. The tense of the infinitive ‘to present’ is such that it should be a final and decisive decision, something like the marriage commitment.
While verse one lays stress upon an initial and life-long commitment, verse two emphasizes the continuing obligation of the Christian in the service of worship which we owe God. Just as the marriage commitment needs to be consistently carried out, so our consecration to God must be manifested moment by moment.
(3) The presentation of our minds and bodies to God is preliminary to specific divine guidance. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). All too often we desire God to submit His plan for our life as a proposal to us, and then we determine whether or not to ratify it. Such cannot be the case, for we see in these verses the principle of dedication before direction. Divine guidance comes as a result of dedication. God does not ‘cast His pearls before swine,’ nor does He reveal His directive will to the uncommitted.
(4) Dedication and service to God are an act of worship.78 Our Lord told the Samaritan woman that God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Paul concluded his defense of the righteousness of God in His dealings with both Jews and Gentiles with a paean of praise and worship. But worship extends beyond praise and adoration to service. I heard of a husband who told his wife that he loved her so much he would die for her. “That won’t be necessary,” she replied, “just pick up that dish towel and help me dry these dishes.” So, also, the service of the Christian is viewed as an act of worship: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
(5) The presentation of ourselves to God is a sacrificial act. In the Old Testament dispensation, men expressed worship and devotion to God by means of sacrifice. So the presentation of our bodies is couched in sacrificial terminology.79 The nature of our sacrifice is different from that in the past in that it is a ‘living sacrifice’ (verse 1). Although the commitment of our lives to God can be identified with a point in time, our sacrifice is continual. And service to God is truly sacrificial. That is, saying no to our own desires, preferences, and tendencies is a sacrifice. Serving others in preference to ourselves is a sacrifice. The dedication and service Paul pleads for is that which subordinates our own interests to God’s and to other’s. As someone has put it: God first, others second; and self last.
(6) Our dedication involves both mind and body. In the Greek world as in our own, there was a very real need for emphasis upon the need to present our bodies as living and holy instruments to God.80 There was a prevalent view that the body was evil and that the mind was good. Consequently, there was little concern given to the deeds performed in the flesh. But it is not our physical bodies that are totally depraved; it is all our old nature. The new life of the Christian should be manifested through the body.
Thomas Manton, the Puritan minister, who at one time was Oliver Cromwell’s chaplain, likened a disobedient Christian to a child suffering from rickets: “Rickets cause great heads and weak feet. We are not only to dispute of the word, and talk of it, but to keep it. We must neither be all ear, nor all head, nor all tongue, but the feet must be exercised!81
There was in Paul’s day (and is in ours as well) the opposite extreme of mere externalism and ritual where the body was employed without the mind. Paul calls for the dedication of both mind and body to divine service. Our dedication to God is based upon doctrine,82 rationally comprehended and responded to.83 As the NASV marginal note to verse 1 indicates, our dedication is a rational act of worship.
The late Dr. Rufus M. Jones used to tell the story of the man who protested, “Whenever I go to church, I feel like unscrewing my head and placing it under the seat, because in a religious meeting I never have any use for anything above my collar button!”84
As we can see from this text, Christian dedication is not only based upon a mental apprehension of doctrine (eleven chapters of it!), but it is a life-long process of reshaping our entire outlook on life. We are to stop being squeezed into the mold of the world (to use J. B. Phillip’s terminology), and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Salvation commences the dawn of a new age to come. We have our citizenship changed from an earthly kingdom to a heavenly one. We are now strangers and pilgrims (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11; cf. Hebrews 11:13).
This calls for a change of allegiance, a new system of values. As we shall learn from chapter 13, it is no license to cast off the restrictions and regulations of civil government, but it does subject us to a higher law, the law of love.
The dedicated Christian is not one whose actions are shaped by his personal whims and desires, nor does he conform to the values and goals of the world about him. The Christian is one whose life is conformed to the Word of God and whose whole thought process is being re-shaped. Just as at the fall, man’s intellectual facilities were corrupted, so the Christian experience should be a life-long process of restructuring our thinking in conformity to God’s Word and God's Will.