1 Peter 2:9 (Part 4) – Purpose: proclaiming excellencies

INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people.

This post is about the new purpose the disciple has received as a result of their new identity. (Also see post #544 on June 16, 2022, about the disciple’s new identity.)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

In the first chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle has already told us that we were redeemed from our futile way of life (1:18) by the precious blood of Christ (1:19) and that, by God’s great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1:3). As we have studied 2:9-10, we have learned about the four-fold identity that the disciples of Jesus received when they trusted Christ as Lord and Savior (see post #536 and #544). Now we are going to discover the purpose for this new identity. There is a purpose for God giving His people their new identity and there is a mission to which He has called us. We are called to proclaim.

CALLED TO PROCLAIM

The chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people for God’s own possession is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is now being gathered from all the nations of the earth to receive the unfathomable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8) for the primary purpose of proclaiming the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

The church is called to proclaim the excellencies of God. The one true and living God whom we proclaim is a God of excellencies. He has displayed His own glory in a creation of astonishing beauty and complexity, where His excellence is manifest in an abundance of life. His excellence has been made known in the wonder of the gospel, such that His perfect holiness is not violated by the forgiveness of sinners. His excellence has been visibly seen when the Lord Jesus Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us. The church is called to proclaim these excellencies.

Ever since Adam sinned, all people have come into the world as lovers of darkness and haters of the light (John 3:19-20). We are born as blind and dead lovers of darkness and we would forever remain in that wretched condition, but the one true and living God, in His grace and mercy, calls His enemies out of darkness and into His marvelous light. And so the church, the gathered assembly of redeemed wretches, is called to proclaim to the nations the transforming power of the gospel, for in the gospel God calls people from darkness into light.

But the church’s most important proclamation is to tell the world about Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have a Savior and a Redeemer and a conquering King who is worthy of all our loudest praise. “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’” (Psalm 96:3, 10). In heaven now the voices of many angels say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). But what myriad angels are saying in heaven the church is now to be proclaiming on earth.

In Acts, the church was facing a growing hostility to their message about the resurrection. So, in light of the threats, the church prayed that the Lord would “grant that Your bondservants may speak Your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). In that instance and in every instance until Jesus returns, the church is to proclaim the glories of Jesus with all boldness regardless of threats. “We are not of those who shrink back to destruction” (Hebrews 10:39). We have been chosen and called to proclaim Jesus’ name to those who are in darkness. For Jesus warns us that “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory” (Luke 9:26). Therefore, His church is to proclaim His excellencies.

APPLICATION

The true church is a chosen race and is a people who have been called to be holy so that we can proclaim His excellencies. Since that is the case; that is, since we have been chosen and called for the purpose of proclamation, each of us should evaluate how we are doing with our own proclamation. I offer several questions to help in our evaluation:

  • How do you intentionally seek opportunities for “proclamation” within your network of relationships? (season your speech with salt (Col. 4:6), let your light shine before men (Matt. 5:16), throw out baited hooks for fishing (Matt. 4:19))
  • What is your strategy for “proclaiming His excellencies” when an opportunity presents itself? In other words, have you considered how to move the conversation toward a gospel-related topic?
  • How can you increase the boldness of your “proclamation?” How can you prevent fear from producing disobedience?

SDG                 rmb                 6/29/2022                   #550

Ecclesiastes: A great man without a God-honoring purpose

INTRODUCTION. A post based on the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, who accomplished impressive things with his life, but approached the end of his life with depression and regret. How does a God-honoring purpose answer the questions that the writer of Ecclesiastes asks?

THE IMPORTANCE OF PURPOSE

Each disciple of Jesus Christ should be able to answer this question: “How will my life bring glory to the Lord?” And in answering this question, the critical component is PURPOSE or MISSION. The person who has a settled, clearly defined God-honoring Purpose for their life and who is living in light of that Purpose is very difficult to discourage and is difficult to stop.

Therefore, one of the disciple’s most urgent goals in his discipleship is to discover and develop the unique Purpose (or Mission) for which God has created him and called him.

Because this idea of Purpose is so foundational to joy and fulfillment in the life of the believer, I hope to write more about it in an upcoming blog, and it will certainly be covered thoroughly in my book on Discipleship (targeted for late 2022). For this blog post, however, I want to show how a lack of purpose results in a miserable life.

VANITY UNDER THE SUN

The writer of Ecclesiastes (probably King Solomon) refers to himself as “the Preacher” (Eccles. 1:1, 2, 12), which in Hebrew translates to “Qohelet,” which is how I will refer to him. In my reading of Ecclesiastes, I see Qohelet as a man in late middle age or even old age, who is looking back over a full and productive life and assessing the value of what he has done with his life and seeking to determine his legacy.

But here’s the problem: it is impossible to assess value without a God-honoring purpose. How can you assess the value of accomplishments that were arbitrarily chosen and were absent of any enduring purpose? The fact is that there can be no meaning to a meaningless goal.

Speaking of which: We are getting ready to recycle some old National Geographic magazines, and there is one in the current stack for recycling that just caught my eye. The cover of this November 2016 issue has a picture of Mars, the red planet, and the article about it is called, “Race to the Red Planet.” Here is surely a classic picture of fallen man pursuing a meaningless, godless goal that can have no purpose. I have not (and will not) read this article, but the goal is evident. Some group of over-funded, egotistical people are prepared to spend billions and billions of dollars and risk people’s lives to be the first to land on the planet Mars. Ecclesiastes has a word for this: Vanity. This is what man does when he has vast resources and lots of ego and ambition and no God-honoring purpose.

Qohelet is a man of wide learning, vast material resources, formidable intelligence, and great energy. He appears to be a man who has all the ingredients for huge success as he pours himself into life. He has made great building projects and enjoyed all manner of sensual pleasures and has contemplated the complex riddles of life, but he lacks a God-honoring purpose. He has lived his life to please himself and to impress others, but now, as the end of his life draws irresistibly nearer, he realizes the vanity of it all. It is striving after wind. All is vanity, all is meaningless and futility under the sun. And death swallows it all.

Our hero lacks a purpose that has enduring value. He lacks purpose not because he is a fool and not because he is overtly wicked, but because he is a fallen human who does not know the LORD. This is the common problem of all fallen man since Adam. All of us come into this world without a God-honoring purpose. We have ambitions and goals and desires and energy, but we have no God-honoring and God-given purpose toward which we can channel all our desires and energy. And so we “strut and fret our hour upon the stage and then are heard no more.” Ours is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing” (from “MacBeth”).

Most people live and die without ever giving much thought to the purpose of their existence. Their life has no more influence, no greater legacy than that of a passing cloud. “As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer” (Ps. 103:15-16). Then there are a few who seem to have a mission of sorts for their lives. They are ambitious and energetic and they strive to do great things and to make a difference in the world. Of those who thus strive, a small percentage succeed. Qohelet is a standout, a giant in this small percentage, and he serves as a spokesman for those who are unusually successful “under the sun.” And what does Qohelet have to say about being successful “under the sun?” “So I hated life” (Eccl. 2:17). “Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun” (2:18). It seems that the reward for those who successfully strive after the wind is that they eventually hate life.

Although he cannot articulate it, Qohelet acutely senses his need for Purpose. He desperately tries to conjure up a satisfying reason for his existence by chasing purposes “under the sun,” but these earth-bound, death-ended purposes all fail.

There is a classic scene in the movie “Chariots of Fire” as Harold Abrams, a Jewish runner competing for England in the 100 meters in the 1924 Paris Olympics, makes his final preparations for the 100 meters gold medal race. He is talking to his trainer, but more to himself, as he contemplates the significance of this race. In his musing, we can sense how conflicted he is. His entire life has been lived for this moment, for this one event. To win this race has been his life’s single-minded obsession, but only now has he really considered the worth of his obsession. His rival, Eric Liddell, had refused to run on Sunday without the slightest regret, knowing that he (Liddell) served a greater King and lived for a God-honoring purpose. Liddell had thrown away the 100 meters final as if it was of no importance and he continued to be perfectly at peace, but Abrams, now in the race because of Liddell’s default, was distraught and desperate, for he knew he would not have peace even if he won this race. And so, he contemplates these things and finally says of the race, “Ten lonely seconds to justify my entire existence.”

Abrams ran fast to justify his existence, and Qohelet strives to accomplish great things to escape from a life of vanity, but the Preacher knows that all his grandest achievements are rendered meaningless by physical death. His finest accomplishments simply give death more opportunities to taunt him. For Qohelet, all his personal purposes are futile because death trumps man’s purposes. In his worldview, death reigns. No matter which path he takes, death is the master. Death has the final word.

GOD-HONORING PURPOSE TRUMPS VANITY AND DEATH

But the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ declares that Christ has conquered death and Jesus gives to His disciples His purpose for their lives. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” “You shall be My witnesses to the ends of the earth.” “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The disciple of Jesus Christ has a God-given, God-honoring Purpose for this life, and then has a promised eternity in heaven as we enjoy worshiping our conquering King forever.

SDG                 rmb                 6/28/2022                   #549

Worshipers are Christ’s reward (Acts 20:28; Rev. 7:9)

INTRODUCTION. A meditation on Christ’s reward for perfectly accomplishing the work given to Him by the Father. Christ purchased a people, and they were purchased to worship Him.

One of the themes of the Bible is that Jesus came to accomplish the mission given to Him by the Father and having accomplished that mission Christ now has earned His reward.

SCRIPTURAL BACKGROUND

To begin this post, I wanted to present some Scriptures that support my opening statement.

‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’ – Psalm 2:8.

In this psalm, the LORD promises the Son that He will give Him the nations and the ends of the earth. That certainly sounds like this may be a prophecy of a reward.

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations will worship before You. – Psalm 22:27

This verse speaks of worship, but the main context of Psalm 22 is of a man who is suffering agony as he is being put to death in the presence of his enemies. We now know that this psalm contains explicit prophecies of Christ’s sufferings that were fulfilled by Him on the cross. The point is that, in this psalm, the suffering was rewarded by worship.

1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” – Psalm 110:1

We see the LORD (YHWH) is speaking to the Lord (Adonai). We now know that “the Lord” is Jesus and that this conversation took place after Jesus accomplished His work on the cross, was resurrected, and ascended back to heaven to be at the right hand of the Father (YHWH). The Father is telling the Son to wait until the time comes for Him to return to earth to receive His full reward.

Isaiah 53, a passage about the “suffering servant of the LORD,” serves as a remarkably detailed prophecy of Jesus’ life and crucifixion. Then, after telling of the servant’s suffering, we read that the LORD “will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong.” The picture is of one who suffers and then is rewarded because of his suffering.

In John 17:4, Jesus speaks of accomplishing the work He has been given to do by the Father. It is clear that “the work” Jesus was given was the work of redemption by His death on the cross. Then, in John 19:30, with His dying breath Jesus gives His cry of victory when He says, “It is finished.” Jesus accomplished His work of redemption and therefore is entitled to a reward.

In Acts 20:28, Paul charges the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The only possible interpretation of this verse is that Jesus is God and that, by His death on the cross, He has purchased (redeemed) the church, which is all those who will believe in His name. Again, we see that, by His death, Jesus merits a reward. We see almost the same thing in Ephesians 5:25 where Paul teaches that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This expression means that Christ died for the church. He purchased her for Himself and He is entitled to the church’s worship.

Finally, in Revelation we read:

“You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9

Here the heavenly creatures are praising the ascended Jesus (the Lamb) because He has purchased a people with His blood. Then in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 7:9-10) we read:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” – Rev. 7:9-10

Here we see those whom Jesus (the Lamb) redeemed from every nation in heaven worshipping Jesus. Thus, we see that Jesus was rewarded for shedding His blood to purchase a people, and His reward is those people worshipping Him for all of eternity.

THE SCRIPTURE APPLIED

With these passages presented as background, we will now apply this teaching to the Lord Jesus, His work on the cross, and His merited reward.

Jesus was sent from heaven to earth by the Father to accomplish a mission, the mission of redemption. Jesus’ mission consisted in two parts: 1) live a sinless life of perfect holiness and righteousness, fulfilling and obeying the entire Law; and 2) die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice to pay for the sins of His people.

If Jesus accomplished His mission, the Father would raise Him from the dead as a visible sign that Jesus had accomplished His mission perfectly and then would give Jesus the Son His merited reward, which is an inheritance of a myriad of people from every tribe and tongue and nation worshipping Him for all of eternity.

In that sense, then, my personal salvation is not about me at all. Oh, it is true that I eternally benefit from God’s gracious work in rescuing me from judgment and in granting me eternal life through faith in Christ. But while I benefit from God’s saving work in my life, my eternal benefit of salvation is incidental to the purpose of my salvation. For God’s purpose in my salvation is for me to give unending praise to God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has finished His mission and, therefore, has earned His promised reward. Myriads of myriads of people were chosen by the Father before time began (Eph. 1:4) and were promised to the Son to be His worshipers on the condition that the Son perfectly accomplish the work that the Father had given Him to do, and that condition has been met. Therefore, all those worshipers who were promised to the Son must now be gathered into the church. The Father’s promise and the Son’s performance guarantee that every worshiper purchased by the Son (Acts 20:28; Rev. 5:9) will certainly be gathered in by the gospel call and will glorify and praise the Son forever and ever (Rev. 19:1-8).

Therefore, brothers and sisters, as those who have been chosen by the Father and purchased by the blood of the Son and made alive by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit, let us fulfill our intended purpose of giving glory to Jesus Christ. Now, while we live in this life, let us offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) as we witness to Jesus to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Then, in the new heaven and the new earth, we will praise Him forever with a loud voice saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9).

SDG                 rmb                 6/22/2022                   #546

For the believer, the sources of discouragement are gone

INTRODUCTION. Another post (see #528 on May 11, 2022) on the subject of discouragement and how the believer can and should fight to be free of this condition.

EXPECT TO BE DISCOURAGED

A few days ago I posted an article on “discouragement” (see #528 on May 11). In that article, I made the statement that discouragement is the expected state for many people in this world just based on their discouraging state of mind. For example, if you fear the future, and are discontent in the present, and regret the past, you should be discouraged. If you believe your existence is an accident of impersonal random chance in a vast, indifferent universe, you should expect to be discouraged. If you are afraid of death, then expect to be discouraged. If you have no meaningful purpose for your life, you will be discouraged. Sooner or later, even the most optimistic person will be crushed by these ideas and will become discouraged, then depressed, and then probably will feel hopeless. Bottom line is, if this is you, you should expect to be discouraged.

Now, I want to think some more about this phenomenon of a discouraging state of mind. There are two things to observe about the discouraging thoughts that I listed above. First, these thoughts can occur to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, physical health, monetary status, marital status, national origin, or any other natural distinction. Because these are thoughts and concepts in the mind, they can occur to anyone. That’s first.

BUT NOT THE BELIEVER!

But second and more profound, these thoughts should not be present to any great measure to the follower of Jesus. Here’s why I say that.

  • Fear of the future. In this life, “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), so there is no need to fear the future in this life. When I die, I will go to heaven (Phil. 1:23) and at the resurrection, I will receive a glorified body and will forever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17), so there is no need to fear the future after death. The believer should not fear the future.
  • Discontent in the present. The believer is to give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18) and is to be content in whatever circumstances they are (Phil. 4:11-12; Job 1:21; 1 Timothy 6:6-8), so there is no reason to grumble or be discontent.
  • Regret the past. “Forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize” (Phil. 3:13-14). The Bible says that the believer can forget what lies behind, so no regret. The “body of sin” from my past is gone (Romans 6:6). “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), so there is no past sin remaining to be regretted. I am a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), and as a new creation, I have no past to regret.
  • My existence is an accident of impersonal random chance. One of the great benefits of being an atheist or an evolutionist is that you believe that, in your very essence, you are an accident of impersonal random chance. This points to the fact that your existence (or non-existence, for that matter) cannot be of any significance, because it is impossible for the results of impersonal random events to have any inherent meaning. For the follower of Jesus, however, who knows that he has been formed in His mother’s womb by the living God (Psalm 139:13-14) and has been chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation (Ephesians 1:4) by the maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1), his life has immense significance. He will pour out his life to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
  • Afraid of death. The natural man, regardless of his futile attempts to deny it and disguise it, is afraid of death. Death is God’s judgment on sin, and as such, causes fear in the depths of man’s soul. It is fear of death that has motivated man to create his demonic religions, but these will do him no good on the day of judgment. The natural man has no answer for death, and yet death relentlessly approaches with each passing day. But for the follower of Jesus, death has no sting (1 Cor. 15:54). For the Christian, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). It is after death that the believer receives the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26), the one who believes in Him will never die.
  • No meaningful purpose in life. The vast majority of people spend their lives without a mission or a purpose. Even people whom the world evaluates as “successful” are simply better at doing what the world values than other people but ask them to describe to you their mission and they are at a loss. The best most people have is a worldly idea to gather together more stuff. But the follower of Jesus has been given a mission by the Lord Jesus Himself. Part of the birthright of the born-again is the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20). Also, I am to be Christ’s witness (Acts 1:8). I am to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Confession). Whatever I do in life can be measured against these great mission statements. The Christian should not be discouraged because there are always more opportunities to be a witness for Christ. My purpose and my mission have been given to me by the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus Himself has given me personally my mission and my purpose. And so, the believer should not be discouraged because their life is full of purpose. The mission is clear, and it is exciting.

So, brothers and sisters in the Lord, let’s shed the grave clothes of discouragement and let’s put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and rejoice!

My next post on this subject will describe why it is so difficult for the discouraged believer to be obedient to the Scriptures.

SDG                 rmb                 5/13/2022                   #530

Change your diet. No longer feed on discouragement.

INTRODUCTION. Thoughts on how to vanquish discouragement. My primary strategy is to stop “eating” discouragement, particularly in my mind.

I am very conscious of my diet and carefully watch what I eat. I have found that there is a direct and fairly immediate relationship between the number on my bathroom scales and what I have eaten in the last couple of days. Basically, eating certain things results in a bigger number on the scales. There is no surprise in this. This phenomenon is well known.

But recently I have completely eliminated from my diet a few specific foods and have been pleased to see a couple of stubborn pounds disappear from the bathroom scales. The lesson I took away from this experience is that even small changes can yield measurable results.

While my physical diet and the resulting weight are important to me, they are not nearly as important as my sanctification and my growth and usefulness as a disciple of Jesus. And I have found that, over the long term, one of the biggest obstacles to my growth and my usefulness as a disciple is discouragement.

THE BATTLE AGAINST DISCOURAGEMENT

Discouragement and depression have been my companions since I was young, long before I came to faith in Jesus. My parents divorced when I was eleven years old, and my father moved to California, leaving me with no male role model. Also, by personality, I am introverted and judgmental and hard on myself and others. These patterns set me up for discouragement, but more than these were the habits of thought that I developed. As a non-Christian, I had few filters, especially in my mind and thoughts, and I allowed discouragement to have free access into my head, saturating my mind with negative thoughts. Thus I perceived depression to be my normal state. The point is that my discouragement thrived by allowing my mind to dwell on discouraging thoughts. A steady diet of feeding on discouragement produced discouragement and depression. This was my mental cage as a non-Christian.

FOR MANY, DISCOURAGEMENT IS REASONABLE

Now, it should be acknowledged that there are many people who should be discouraged. Regardless of their thought habits, a state of discouragement is reasonable for many people in this world. People who fear the future, are discontent in the present, and regret the past should be discouraged. Those who believe their existence is an accident of impersonal random chance in a vast, indifferent universe should be discouraged. People who have no source of hope or joy should be discouraged. People who are afraid of death should be discouraged. It is entirely reasonable for those who have no purpose for their life to be discouraged. People who have no one to thank for the good things they receive and no one to help them through the hard things should be discouraged. Those whose security is their money and for whom pleasure begins and ends with their body should be discouraged.

In my own example, based on where I was in my life, it was entirely reasonable for me to be discouraged. Not good, but reasonable and expected. Objectively, I had reasons to be discouraged about where my life was headed.

And then, in an amazing act of God’s kindness and grace, when I was not seeking Him, but was instead content to wallow in my discouragement, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved me, even when I was dead in my transgressions, made me alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). “My chains fell off. I’ve been set free. The blood of Jesus ransomed me.” The Lord opened the cage and the Son set me free, and I was free indeed (John 8:36)! And so, after my salvation, I never struggled with discouragement or depression ever again. Right? WRONG!

NEW CREATION, OLD HABITS

After my conversion, I passed from death to life (John 5:24) and became a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and brought into my new life in Christ all the discouragement and depression that had marked my life as an unbeliever. My habits of feeding on discouragement were just as effective at producing depression as a born-again believer as they had been as an unbeliever. But now, everything had changed. Everything was new and the cage was gone. Now, as a follower of Christ, I could change! No longer was I a slave to the harmful habits of the past. Now, when I saw a habit that was harmful or sinful, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit I could change and break that habit. And that included habits of thinking. My “old man” had bequeathed me the bad habit of letting my mind dwell on discouragement, but now my “old man” was dead and my “new man” desired to be useful to the Master and to be filled with joy and to be a bright light for Jesus, so dwelling on discouragement had to go. And so, a little more than thirty years ago I began to break the habit of discouragement, and I have been making progress ever since.

CHANGE MY DIET. ELIMINATE ALL SOURCES OF DISCOURAGEMENT!

But this morning, I had a breakthrough. As I was thinking about the effects of my changes to my physical diet, I saw the analogy with my mental “diet.” I realized that, as a follower of the Lord Jesus, I have no reason to be discouraged. In fact, it is dishonoring to the Lord for this redeemed sinner, who has received “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), to be discouraged and depressed like I was when I wallowed in my sin as a rebel and as a spiritual orphan. And since allowing my mind to dwell on discouragement is the primary source of continued discouragement in my life, I resolved to FORBID MY MIND FROM FEEDING ON DISCOURAGEMENT of any kind. Feeding on discouragement is the trans-fat of my thought life, so I am determined to completely eliminate discouragement from my mind’s diet. Do not even snack on discouragement! As my body is to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11), so my mind is to abstain from discouraging thoughts, which wage war against fruitfulness.

ELIMINATING DISCOURAGEMENT IN PRACTICE

Here are some quick thoughts about how to put this into practice. First, become aware of your thinking and recognize those times when your thoughts are trending toward discouragement. In those times, consciously stop that thinking, ideally out loud. “No! Stop it!” Then second, consciously turn your mind immediately to rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord and giving thanks to the Lord for all of His goodness to you (Psalm 116:12). Replace the first hint of discouragement with songs of rejoicing. You are redeemed! He has rescued you from the pit! What possible reason can there be to be discouraged? And pour out thanksgiving to the Lord. You were thrown out in the open field (Ezekiel 16), but now you are seated at the King’s table as one of His beloved children (read 2 Samuel 9).

Discouragement is spiritual poison and allowing your thoughts to dwell there will drain you of zeal and life. Instead of dwelling there, which is nowhere commended in Scripture, be obedient. Obey 1 Thess. 5:16-18. When you detect discouragement, respond with praise. Become familiar with the psalms and pray them often. Refuse to feed on discouragement. Rejoice and praise the Lord!

SDG                 rmb                 5/11/2022                   #528

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9, 13 – Part 1)

INTRODUCTION. These next few posts explore the vital importance of Mission for sustaining us and helping us maintain our zeal for life. In this Bible story, Elijah runs from Jezebel (1 Kings 19) and runs to Horeb, the mountain of God to meet with the LORD and find out His purpose for the rest of his life.

ELIJAH’S PREVIOUS MISSION

As 1 Kings 19 opens, Elijah has experienced a great victory. The LORD had given him a mission and had appointed him as the prophet to speak to King Ahab about the wickedness of Israel. But now the mission regarding the drought was over. Fire had come down from heaven and had consumed the soaking wet sacrifice. The people had declared, “The LORD, He is God!” and the prophets of Baal had been slain at the Kishon. Then a cloud as small as a man’s hand (1 Kings 18:44) had grown into an entire sky black with clouds and wind, and a heavy shower had ended three and a half years of drought. The LORD has accomplished a great work through His prophet and Elijah stood briefly on a spiritual mountaintop.

Now things have changed dramatically. Jezebel has issued her threats (19:2) and our hero “was afraid and arose and ran for his life” (19:3). He heads south as fast as he can, eventually sitting down alone under a juniper tree. Then the Scripture says:

and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” – 1 Kings 19:4

Elijah is exhausted, so he slept. Twice the angel of the LORD (the pre-incarnate Christ) wakes him and gives him bread and water, so that he can go “in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God” (19:8).

THOUGHTS ON THE PASSAGE SO FAR (1 KINGS 19:1-8)

LOSS OF MISSION. In my opinion, Elijah did not run away because he was afraid of Jezebel, at least not primarily. Oh, yes, she was an evil woman and she intended harm to Elijah, but Jezebel’s threat was not the primary reason Elijah was afraid. If the prophet were merely afraid of Jezebel, he would have stopped running long before he reached “Horeb, the mountain of God.” No, Elijah was not fleeing FROM Jezebel, but he was fleeing TO God.

Why was Elijah afraid and fleeing to God? Elijah was seeking the face of the LORD to know if his life’s work was done. Elijah was afraid because he feared that his purpose in life was finished. And if the LORD was done with him, as he feared was the case, then it was time for him to die.

He was thinking, “LORD, was that it? Was that my only work for You? Have I accomplished all the work You have given me to do? Because if my work is done, then my life is done. I would rather die than languish.” So his fear was related to his loss of mission or loss of purpose. “If I have no more purpose, then I need no more life. LORD, give me a new mission or take my life and take me home.”

For at least three and a half years, Elijah had experienced the joy of being on a mission for the LORD and with the LORD. Every day when he arose from sleep, he was engaged, even consumed by the work the LORD had given him. He was God’s chosen prophet to declare to Ahab and Jezebel their wickedness, to call them to repentance, and to warn them of the coming judgment. Every moment was meaningful. The mission was accomplished on Carmel as the LORD glorified Himself, and then came the letdown. “What is my mission now?” When Jezebel threatened Elijah with death, he thought it might be God’s signal that his life’swork was done.

Was God done with Elijah? Were his fears well-founded?

THE ANGEL OF THE LORD. We see the LORD’s compassion on his frightened prophet as he sleeps under the juniper tree. The angel of the LORD Himself comes to Elijah twice, feeding him a bread cake from heaven (John 6:35, 50) and giving him some of the living water (John 4:14). Notice also that the angel of the LORD tells Elijah that there is still a journey for him to complete (“the journey is too great for you” – 19:7),  thus giving him a strong hint that there is yet work for him to do.

FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. This phrase is significant because it indicates that Elijah was going to Horeb, the mountain of God, to seek the LORD with extended fasting.

I have usually read this expression in this passage as meaning how long Elijah traveled, but he did not need forty days and forty nights to travel from Beersheba to Horeb, a distance of less than two hundred miles.

Rather, when the expression “forty days and forty nights” appears in the Scripture, (with the exception of Genesis 7:4, 12), it describes times when Bible heroes spent a long time in fasting and prayer. (Moses in Exodus 24:28; 34:28 when he was on Sinai (Horeb) with the LORD receiving the Law. Jesus in Matthew 4:2 during His temptation in the wilderness.) Thus the expression here in 1 Kings 19:8 is describing Elijah coming to Horeb to seek the LORD with extraordinary fasting.

ELIJAH AND THE LORD AT HOREB

When Elijah arrived at his destination, he found “a cave and lodged there” (19:9). The word of the LORD came to him,

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Why did the LORD ask this question of Elijah? First, although the LORD perfectly knows all things, He wanted Elijah to verbalize the reason he had come to Horeb. It was like the perfect physician asking the patient the reason for his visit. Or like Jesus asking blind Bartimaeus. “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) Or again, like Jesus asking the man at the pool of Bethesda if he wanted to get well (John 5:6). The LORD’s question forced Elijah to think about the answer. “Yeah, why am I here?”

ZEALOUS FOR THE LORD

Elijah answers, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts” (19:10). As I consider this reply, I hear Elijah telling the LORD that he has been zealous and he is still zealous, but he needs to know if the LORD still has work for him to do. “LORD, I am zealous and I am willing, but I need to hear from You if my work is done. O, LORD, do You have another assignment for me?”

NEXT POST. In my next post, I will continue to explore this story of Elijah at Horeb and will see how the LORD faithfully sends the prophet out for another mission. We will also learn how Elijah’s search for a mission has applications for us, especially during times of transition in our lives. Stay tuned.

SDG                 rmb                 5/10/2022                   #527

John 6:31-65 – Part 1: Come to Me, believe in Me (v. 31-40)

INTRODUCTION. A Bible study on John 6:31-65 in several parts giving insight into the metaphors and analogies Jesus uses with the crowd to explain what it means to believe in Him. This is the first part of the study, John 6:31-40.

OVERVIEW. As our passage opens, Jesus has just fed the five thousand from “five barley loaves and two fish (6:9). The Lord created food from heaven to feed the five thousand in order to make clear to the crowd that He was the bread that came down out of heaven, but the people are spiritually blind. They understand Christ’s metaphors literally and thus become confused and even disgusted. We want to be sure, as we go through this story, that we are not likewise confused by Jesus’ analogies and metaphors, but instead are encouraged to draw closer to Him and to enjoy Him more.

JESUS IS THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN. One of the main messages that we should receive from this passage is that Jesus is the bread that the Father has sent from heaven. Jesus says this many times and in many ways to make unambiguously clear that He is the bread of life (6:35, 48) and that, by believing in Him, you will be satisfied. Eat Him, and you will have life. The Father has sent Him from heaven to be the bread of life for the world. Jesus did not just show up one day and start making outrageous claims. Rather, Jesus was sent by the Father to the world to accomplish a specific mission (17:4; 19:30). So, Jesus = bread from heaven. This is the message. Let’s see how Jesus communicates this.

6:32. “My Father gives you the true bread out of heaven.” Jesus is the true bread from heaven and has been given by the Father.

6:33. “The bread of God (from heaven) gives life to the world.” Jesus gives life.

6:35a. “I am the bread of life.” Can’t get much clearer than that!

HE WHO COMES TO ME, HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME. Jesus now shifts slightly from proclaiming to teaching. In 6:35b – 6:47, Jesus teaches about the significance of His being the bread of life. For the value of bread is not merely beholding the bread or acknowledging that bread exists, but the value of bread comes from eating the bread. Bread cannot sustain life unless it is eaten. Just so, Jesus will not give you life unless you come to Him and believe in Him.

6:35b. “He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Jesus now introduces these two critical phrases, “he who comes to Me” and “he who believes in Me.” The two phrases mean essentially the same thing. The one who comes to Jesus comes to Him because they believe in Him, and the one who believes in Him has first come to Him. Thus, they are equivalent expressions and mean “to trust in Christ savingly.”

6:37a. Here Jesus speaks of God’s election of those He will save. “All that the Father gives Me” makes clear that the Father is the One who initiates salvation. The people who come to Jesus for salvation come, not because they personally have made a decision, but because the Father has given them to the Son. And whom does the Father give to the Son? The Father gives to the Son those “the Father chose in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

6:37b. “will come to Me.” Jesus now moves from God’s election, those whom the Father chose for salvation, to God’s certain calling. The math in this verse is clear: If the Father has “given you to the Son” (chosen you for salvation), you will (definitely, irresistibly) come to Jesus for salvation. Or again, if you have been given to Jesus, you will certainly (eventually, before you physically die) believe in Jesus. That is simply what these words mean. Jesus is not here speaking about possibilities but about divine certainties. Those who are chosen will be saved.

6:37c. “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Having declared God’s sovereignty in salvation in His election and in His calling (see above), Jesus now tells us that, once a person has come to Christ (that is, once they have believed in or trusted in Christ), they will never be “cast out.” That is, those whom the Father has given to the Son are given forever. These are saved, and they will never be lost. (See John 10:27-30 for another strong statement of this doctrinal truth.)

6:38a. Jesus now returns to His essential message in the gospel of John, but here He leaves out the bread. “I have come down from heaven.” Jesus again makes a clear declarative statement about His origin. There is no ambiguity. You either believe what He said or you don’t, but there is nothing to be misunderstood. Simply put, Jesus came from heaven.

THE WILL OF THE FATHER

6:38b. Now another central theme in the gospel is voiced, namely that Jesus came to do the will of the Father. “not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Notice again that Jesus was sent from heaven, and the One who sent Him was the Father. Jesus, as God the Son, has submitted His will to the will of God the Father. Jesus has been sent to accomplish the will (or possibly “mission”) of the Father who sent Him.

6:39. And what is the will of Him who sent Jesus? It is explicitly stated in this verse. “Of all that He (the Father) has given Me (see 6:37a) I lose nothing (see 6:37c) but raise it (or “them”) up on the last day.” Much theology is packed into this verse. First, the Lord affirms that He will certainly not let anyone who has come to Him be lost. This is not only a statement that gives the believer security in their salvation, but it is also a statement of Jesus’ deity, for He is claiming the power to guarantee that no one who comes to Him for salvation will ever be lost. How can He make such an outrageous claim? He can do so without arrogance and with complete confidence because He is God.

TEACHING ABOUT THE END OF THE AGE

But second, there is much here about the end of the age. Notice that Jesus says He will be there on the last day. This is another testament to His deity. The Man who is here making statements to this crowd about being the bread of life will also be the One who will raise up in glorious resurrection all those who believed in Him throughout the ages. Jesus is God, and He will be there on the last day of human history to speak to those who are in the tombs, and “all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth” (John 5:29). So, the message is that, on the last day, Jesus will personally raise up all those who have come to Him. He will lose nothing.

Notice also that there is certainly coming a last day. Many people live as if things will just keep going along like this forever and there will not be a day of reckoning when God will judge the living and the dead, but that is foolish. There is coming a last day when the resurrection will occur and the final judgment will take place. God will surely render recompense to the unrighteous for their sins and will finally redeem the righteous. It will be an awesome day. I know where I will be on that last day. How ‘bout you?

6:40. This verse parallels 6:39 and says essentially the same thing in different words. This is a common occurrence in John’s gospel. Jesus will say the same thing several different ways in order to make the message unmistakably clear. This teaching method also allows us to see that there is more than one way to state a theological truth.

Phrase in John 6:39Phrase in John 6:40
the will of Him who sent Methe will of My Father
all that He has given Meeveryone who beholds the Son and believes in Him
I lose nothing **will have eternal life **
I raise it (them) up on the last dayI Myself will raise him up on the last day
** not exactly parallel, but similar

Now we can see how this teaching method helps us understand phrases in this passage and in other passages in John. Below I lay these ideas out explicitly.

  • “Him who sent Me (Jesus)” = “My Father”
  • “all that” = “everyone who”
  • The person given by the Father to the Son (Jesus) = The person “who believes in Him” Every person given by the Father to the Son will believe in the Son.
  • This is not an exact parallel, but “I lose nothing” tells of the believer’s eternal security and “will have eternal life” also gives assurance, because an eternal life that can be lost is obviously not eternal
  • “I raise it (them) up on the last day” = “I Myself will raise him up on the last day”

This study is taking more time than I thought, but it is an edifying experience, so I will cut off this part here at the end of John 6:40 and pick it up with John 6:41 with the next post.

SDG                 rmb                 4/29/2022                   #523

Imprecation and the apostles – Did they curse their enemies?

INTRODUCTION. (This is the 6th post and final on the imprecatory psalms. Last one #509, March 31, 2022.) We began our study of the imprecatory psalms in the hopes that these psalms, which call on the Lord to curse the enemies of the righteous, might offer us an outlet to cry out to the Lord when we see gross injustice taking place. The horrible massacre of the people of Ukraine by the merciless Mr. Putin prompted this search of the Scriptures for such an outlet. As we have journeyed from the Old Testament to the New and have learned more about what Jesus taught regarding our enemies and regarding those who persecute us, it has become increasingly apparent that, since Jesus has come into the world, the imprecation (cursing) of our enemies is no longer an option. This post will examine how the apostles related to their enemies when they were being persecuted. What was their response when the flames of persecution and hatred burned against them?

METHOD OF STUDY. I will use the same approach taken in the other posts on imprecation; namely, we will be examining Scriptures from the book of Acts, the epistles, and Revelation to discern the apostolic church’s response to opposition and hatred from the world.  The study passages have been chosen because they give us information about the church’s attitude toward their enemies. Did the early church imprecate (call down curses on) their enemies? That’s what we hope to discover.

The Scripture reference for each passage will be given and then comments made with a verdict indicating the view of imprecation evidenced.

NOTE: Just as a reminder, “imprecation” in the Bible is when someone calls on God to curse someone else. The way we are using imprecation in this post is when a righteous person calls on the Lord to destroy or curse his enemies.

THE CHURCH IN THE BOOK OF ACTS

The church is born at Pentecost and the opposition comes almost immediately. In Acts 4:21, the Council tells Peter and John not to speak any more about Jesus.

Acts 4:23-31. The church leadership is made aware of the threat from the Council. They cry out to the Lord, but there is no hint of imprecation or of cursing of their enemies. Instead, the disciples affirm God’s sovereignty over all (4:27-28) and then pray that they would speak the word of the gospel with boldness so that Jesus would be exalted (4:29-30). In this whole passage there is no word directed against the Council. No imprecation.

Acts 5:27-32, 40-42. The Council again arrests Peter and the apostles and tells them to be silent about Jesus. Peter, however, will have none of this. Instead of being silent, he retells the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. After Gamaliel gives his advice, the Council has the apostles flogged and then tells them (again) to stop talking about Jesus. Do the apostles respond with anger, seeking revenge? Do they cry out to God asking Him to avenge this injustice? Actually, no. Instead, they left the Council “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (41). And then they continued preaching about Jesus. There was no threat or anger or charges of injustice from the apostles. They received the flogging with joy and went back to their work. No imprecation.

(I am going to have to be more selective on these passages or we will have a twenty page document.)

Acts 9:10-17. Saul the persecutor has come to Damascus, and the Lord calls Ananias to help Saul regain his sight. I want to point out in this passage that Ananias has no anger toward Saul, nor does he hesitate to obey the Lord. There is no hatred toward Saul. The church as a whole accepts persecution as from the Lord and they resolve to persevere, not protest or seek revenge.

Acts 14:19-23. Paul is stoned by those in Lystra, yet he evidences no feelings of hatred or injustice. In fact, after his stoning, he goes back into Lystra to again proclaim the word. Paul accepted persecution as simply part of the price to pay for following Jesus.

Acts 16:22-26. Paul and Silas are beaten with rods in Philippi and thrown into the jail, but in the jail they “were praying and singing hymns of praise to God” (16:25). Instead of seeking revenge against the citizens of Philippi for their unjust beating and imprisonment, these men are praising the Lord. Why would they do that? They do that because singing to God after being unjustly beaten commends the gospel much better than seeking revenge, just like everyone else.

HERE IS A CLUE

And perhaps singing when unjustly beaten gives us a clue to the new paradigm. Now that Christ has come and died and risen from the dead, and now that He has sent out His church into the world, all that the apostles and the church say and do is for the furtherance of the gospel and the glory of Jesus (Ephesians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31). So, for the disciple of Jesus, there is no longer any personal sense of injustice or any seeking God to avenge us on our enemies, because our persecution gives us a solid platform for proclaiming the excellencies of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). The church has been commissioned to preach the gospel and make disciples of all the nations, so our behavior has become constrained by our desire to accomplish the Great Commission that Jesus has given us. Thus, we see each situation as an opportunity to bring glory to Christ.

NEW TESTAMENT LENS

Because of this, imprecation and the imprecatory psalms must be evaluated under a New Testament lens. We have seen that Jesus explicitly teaches that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27-29). Simply obeying our Lord rules out imprecating those who oppose us. But more than that, since we are “sheep in the midst of wolves,” we are to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Applying this teaching to opposition, affliction, or persecution means that, in any situation, we are to respond with the wisdom that “makes the most of the opportunity” (Colossians 4:5). When persecution comes, we respond strategically, asking ourselves what response the Bible commends and what response will advance the cause of the gospel. Through a gospel lens, imprecating our enemies fails on two points, for it is disobedient to the Lord’s explicit teaching on loving our enemies and is also a poor strategy for sowing the seeds of the gospel.

The same man who, with Silas, was praying and singing hymns of praise to God in a Philippian jail, also wrote 2 Corinthians. In chapter 6 of that epistle, the apostle Paul gives us instructions about how to have a flourishing gospel ministry. Consider his words below.

1we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. – 2 Corinthians 6

As those charged with Christ’s commission, our priority is to “give no cause for offense, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God” (6:3-4). “No cause for offense” means that, in all situations, we present ourselves as harmless. We are meek servants of God, vessels to be poured out for the glory of Christ. Personally, we may be sorrowful, but publicly we are always rejoicing because Christ makes us joyful. We may be materially poor, but our desire is to make many rich with the salvation that Christ gives (see also 2 Corinthians 8:9).

CONCLUSION

And so we conclude our study of the imprecatory psalms. We have seen that these psalms which called down curses on the enemies of the righteous are no longer useful to the disciple of Jesus. Jesus Himself commands His people to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, which renders an imprecatory psalm obsolete. But also, since we are to be wise ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), we realize that imprecating others is a poor strategy for sowing the gospel.

SDG                 rmb                 4/7/2022                     #514

Satan’s ever-changing agenda (Revelation 12)

INTRODUCTION. In my last post on Satan’s activities during the end times (#508 on March 29), we had determined that, when the Scripture says that Satan is bound for the “thousand years” (Revelation 20:2, 3), it means only that, during the “thousand years,” his specific ability to deceive the nations is “bound” so that the gospel is free to spread among the nations without Satan’s hindrance. This explains how Satan can be “bound” (Rev. 20:2, 3) and can also “prowl about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

During this post we will be considering a related topic, namely, how Satan has been forced to change his mission several times throughout history in response to what God has done through Jesus Christ. The devil is always trying to react to what God is doing, changing his gameplan to try to thwart God’s irresistible plan of redemption. In this post, I will look at how these dynamics work.

REVELATION 12 IS KEY

Understanding Revelation 12 is key to understanding the entire book of Revelation. There are several themes at work in this chapter, which span redemptive history from the Old Testament people of God through the Incarnation and even into the 42 months. One of the things that we see here is that, as redemptive history unfolds, the devil, who is presented figuratively as a red dragon, must change his strategy and even his mission to try to oppose the Lord.

Observe, for example, how radically the dragon’s (Satan’s) activity changes in the chapter. Before the Messiah was born, “the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth” (Rev. 12:4). The woman represents the faithful saints of the Old Testament who have followed the Lord until this moment when the Messiah is about to come into the world. The prophecies of a coming King who would deliver His people are now to be fulfilled, and the dragon’s mission is very simple: kill the Child and prevent His arrival. The dragon is poised to “devour her child” (12:4). But the dragon fails in that mission and Messiah is born. “She (the woman) gave birth to a son, a male child” (12:5a). The Messiah accomplishes His mission of atonement, is raised from the dead, and then is “caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5c). Now the dragon has failed twice. He failed to prevent Messiah from being born into the world and he failed to prevent Messiah from accomplishing His mission, “the work (the Father) had given Him to do” (John 17:4). What will the dragon do now?

Once Christ has accomplished His mission and has charged His church to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19-20), the dragon’s mission becomes a desperate attempt to prevent the church from accomplishing her Christ-given mission.

THE DRAGON’S MISSION HAS TWO STRATEGIES

So, the dragon’s mission, for the time between Christ’s ascension to heaven and His return from heaven, is to thwart the gospel and to make sure that the church fails to reach all the nations (see Matt. 24:14). The dragon has two main strategies for succeeding in his mission. The first strategy is to deceive the nations so that they will not heed (believe) the gospel and the second is to attack the church so that they will not preach the gospel. The combination of these two strategies would create a formidable threat to the building of the church and could endanger the church’s accomplishment of their mission. But notice that, in Revelation 20:1-3, “the angel (the risen Lord Jesus) bound him (the dragon, Satan) for a thousand years” (20:2), “SO THAT he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed” (20:3). By binding Satan at the beginning of the “thousand years,” the Lord Jesus has neutralized one of Satan’s two main strategies and has made the spread of the gospel among the nations dependent only upon the church’s faithful preaching of the gospel. During the “thousand years,” the nations will be receptive to the gospel, and many will believe the gospel, because Satan is bound and is not able to deceive them. If the church is bold and faithful to proclaim the gospel, then, during the “thousand years,” the nations will receive the gospel.

PERSECUTING THE CHURCH IS ALLOWED

It is significant that Jesus does not prevent the devil from attacking His church during the “thousand years.” Instead, Jesus allows His chosen and commissioned church in the world to be opposed, maligned, and persecuted as they proclaim the gospel. Doesn’t this seem a little strange? Why would Jesus allow His bride, the church, to be subject to suffering and persecution in the world when the church is faithfully proclaiming the gospel and is being a bold witness to the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8)? That is a great question, and that is what we will explore in the next post in this series, “The Lord’s purposes in persecution.”

REVIEW AND MAIN POINT

To review what we have covered, then, we have seen that the dragon (Satan, the devil) has two potential strategies for stopping the spread of the gospel to the nations: “deceiving the nations” so they will not believe the gospel and the attacking of the church so the church will not preach the gospel. The main idea of this post is that the binding of Satan in Rev. 20:1-3 eliminates his use of the “deceiving the nations” strategy during the “thousand years.” Thus, during the “thousand years,” the dragon’s main strategy (only strategy?) is to attack the church so that she will not preach the gospel.

SDG                 rmb                 03/31/2022                 # 510

Imprecation and Jesus – How did Jesus suffer?

(The previous post in this series was #505 on March 19, 2022.)

INTRODUCTION. We began our study of the imprecatory psalms from the perspective that the psalms which cursed the enemies of the righteous might offer us an outlet to cry out to the Lord when we helplessly watch the powerless being afflicted and oppressed and even murdered by the powerful. The horrible massacre of the innocent in Ukraine by the merciless Mr. Putin prompted this search of the Scriptures for such an outlet. But as our study has moved from the Old Testament to the New, and as we have learned more about what Jesus taught regarding our enemies, it has become increasingly apparent that, since Jesus has come, the imprecation (cursing) of our enemies is no longer an option. The post will examine how Jesus related to His enemies when He was undergoing the humiliation and agony of the cross. What was Jesus’ attitude toward those who plotted to kill Him? Can we find justification for imprecation here?

JESUS’ VIEW OF IMPRECATION

Having studied the Lord’s teaching in the gospels, we now turn to a study of His actions in the time of His most intense agony. Jesus was betrayed by one of His chosen apostles, abandoned by His closest friends, beaten and spat upon by evil religious leaders, scourged and mocked by Roman soldiers, and crucified even though repeatedly declared innocent. In all this injustice, does the Lord model for us an attitude of judgment of evil men? Does He call down curses from His Father on these wicked people who murdered Him? If Jesus retaliated or cursed or sought revenge, then the disciple would have a basis for imprecation. But it is also possible that the King of kings models the very opposite. Thus, the need for this study.

METHOD OF STUDY. The material will be largely from the gospels. This part of our study will focus on Jesus’ actions during His passion and crucifixion. The study passages are chosen because they give us information about Jesus and imprecation, whether pro or con. The Scripture reference for each passage will be given and then comments made with a verdict indicating the Lord’s view of Imprecation.

JESUS’ ACTIONS DURING HIS PASSION

Matt. 26:1-2. Jesus is completely aware of the plot to crucify Him, yet He does nothing to prevent it nor does He speak evil of the men who are plotting to kill Him. No curses of imprecation are uttered.

Matt. 26:21-25. Jesus again demonstrates His knowledge of the plot against Him by announcing His upcoming betrayal by one of His apostles. It is almost as if Jesus is the director of the play and is announcing the next scene. When He speaks to Judas Iscariot, it is not with hatred or ill will, but is matter of fact. Jesus displays no anger and indicates no imprecation.

Matt. 26:36-46. Now in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is preparing Himself for the agony of bearing God’s wrath against all the sins of God’s people of all time. He knows that His time has come and He knows who will be involved in His crucifixion, yet there is no hint of hatred against those who will crucify Him. He does not flee and He does not curse and He does not seek revenge. He simply bows to the Father’s will (26:39). No imprecation.

Matt. 26:47-50. Jesus allows Judas to kiss Him and thus to identify Him to the large crowd. Instead of angrily accusing Judas of betrayal, Jesus calls him “friend.” No cursing here.

Matt. 26:51-52. One of Jesus’ disciples attempts to defend Him from the crowd, but instead of applauding the disciple’s courage, Jesus sharply rebukes him and tells him to put his sword away. Instead of cursing His enemies, Jesus rebukes His disciple! No hint of imprecation.

Matt. 26:53-54. Jesus, as the Son of God, always has “at His disposal more than twelve legions of angels,” but He explicitly refuses to be rescued. Not only does He not utter a single word of cursing or anger against His enemies, but He also refuses to resist His enemies’ evil. He yields to His enemies, knowing that this is the Father’s will. No imprecation.

Matt. 26:57-68. Amidst all the pompous religious leaders and the false witnesses and the lying accusations, Jesus is completely silent. He does not defend Himself nor contradict the lies. There is no indication of anger or hatred or of seeking justice or revenge. Jesus does not curse or utter any threats but allows the drama to unfold. No imprecation.

Matt. 27:11-26. Now Jesus has been brought to Pilate, the Roman governor, who has the authority to have Him crucified. Now surely Jesus will tell Pilate of the injustice and of the wickedness of these religious leaders! But, no, Jesus does nothing of the kind. While false accusations and lies are flying, “Jesus did not answer him with regard to a single charge” (v. 14). He does not even resist the injustice, let alone imprecate His enemies.

Matt. 27:27-31. The Roman soldiers crowned Him with thorns, beat Him with a reed, mocked Him and spat on Him, yet Jesus endured this without a word. Despite this cruel injustice, Jesus does not curse or threaten or resist. No imprecation here.

Matt. 27:33-50. This passage describes the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. Here is the Lord of glory in extreme physical agony, but also under the full wrath of God as He bears the crushing weight of His people’s sins. And as He accomplishes the awesome work He was sent to do (John 17:4; 19:30), His murderers and the bystanders are hurling abuse at Him, mocking Him, and insulting Him. If ever there was an occasion to respond with curses and threats, this must be it. And yet Jesus speaks only once, not a curse to His enemies, but a cry of despair to His heavenly Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Through His entire ordeal, Jesus does not utter a single curse or threat against any of His enemies. Instead, He perfectly yielded to the Father’s will and endured the price of the atonement. No imprecation.

CONCLUSION

Our study of the imprecatory psalms and of imprecation in the Bible is nearing its end and we have reached a preliminary conclusion. Although the Old Testament psalms contain imprecatory passages which call on the Lord to bring divine judgment on the wicked, the life of our Lord Jesus Christ reveals no corresponding verses. Our study has revealed that, in His teaching, Jesus forbade His disciples from cursing their enemies and instead commanded them to pray for their enemies. In His life and death, Jesus modeled a refusal to curse or hate or threaten His enemies. The gospel record reveals that, with the coming of Jesus, imprecation of our enemies is no longer allowed. The disciple of Jesus is to love his enemies and to pray for those who persecute him (Matt. 5:44).

Our study of imprecation will conclude with the next post, which will examine how the disciples in the book of Acts and the epistles viewed imprecation of our enemies.

SDG                 rmb                 3/30/2022                   #509