The Gospel of Mathew: Consider what is Conceived.

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21 ESV)

“But as he considered these things.”  Joseph had a lot to think about. Had Mary been unfaithful? Her pregnancy indicated so. How should he respond? The Law was clear. She should be publicly stoned to death as the Mosaic Law prescribed (Deut. 22:23-24). However, Joseph decided to privately divorce her (Deut. 24:1). This would be the gracious thing to do; for all concerned.

We do not know how long Joseph thought about this. What we do know that as he did an “angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” This would be the first of five dreams Joseph would have from the Lord (Matt. 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). The angel is not identified, but is assumed to be Gabriel (Luke 1:18-19, 26-38).  

“But we must understand that dreams of this sort differ widely from natural dreams; for they have a character of certainty engraved on them and are impressed with a divine seal; so that there is not the slightest doubt of their truth. The dreams from God are accompanied by the testimony of the Spirit, which puts beyond a doubt that it is God who speaks,” explains John Calvin.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife.” The angel acknowledged what Matthew already revealed. Joseph was in the lineage of not only Abraham, but also David (Matt. 1:1-17). The angel told Joseph to not be afraid to become Mary’s husband. Why would Joseph be afraid? Embarrassed? Yes! Doubtful? Certainly!

But why does the angel caution Joseph to not be afraid? Perhaps it was because Joseph did not want to violate God’s law (Deut. 22:23-24). This would certainly be an example of him being a just and righteous man. The angel instructed Joseph to complete the betrothal period and then participate in the official wedding ceremony; officially uniting him to Mary as husband and wife.

The reason for this was because “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” The angel summarized what Luke in his Gospel revealed in detail (Luke 1:26-38). A divine act occurred. Mary was pregnant with Immanuel; solely by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.  

The angel further said, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”There are three facts to observe in this brief statement.

First, Mary would bear a son. In our day and age of prenatal, ultrasound imagery, an unborn child’s gender can be observed and known prior to their birth. This was not the case 2,000 years ago. The angel’s news spoke of the supernatural event that was unfolding.

Second, the angel directed Joseph to call the unborn boy Jesus. The was significant because the name Jesus means Savior (Luke 1:31). The long-prophesied Messiah was to be the Savior of sinners.

Third, the angel stated the obvious. This son, who was to be named Jesus, will save His people from their sins. He was to be the deliverer of sinners from the penalty, power and eventual presence of their sin.

“When the Son of God came to us clothed in flesh, he received from the Father a name which plainly told for what purpose He came, what was His power, and what we had a right to expect from Him. The name Jesus presents to us the Son of God as the Author of salvation,” states John Calvin.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: Joseph’s Resolution.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18-19 ESV)

Today’s text reveals three things about Joseph in the extraordinary circumstances he and Mary faced. First, he was a just man. Second, he was unwilling to shame Mary. Third, he resolved to quietly divorce her. Let’s individually examine each of these statements.

First, Joseph was a just man. To be just (δίκαιος; dikaios) means to be righteous. In other words, Joseph was a man who wanted to do what was right; not only in the sight of God but also in the sight of the Word of God. He was a true believer.

Second, Joseph did not want to shame Mary. To shame (παραδειγματίζω; paradeigmatizō) meant to make Mary a public example. This suggests the act and observance of public stoning to death for adultery (Deut. 22:23-24). He did not want Mary executed; publicly or privately. This was because he loved her.

Third, he resolved to quietly divorce her. Resolved (βούλομαι; boulomai) means to wish or desire. To divorce her (ἀπολύω; apolyō) meant to set Mary free from the betrothal. He made this painful but gracious decision.

“Stoning was the legal prescription for this sort of adultery (Deut. 22:23–24). Joseph’s righteousness meant he was also merciful; thus, he did not intend to “disgrace” Mary. The phrase “a just man” is a Hebraism suggesting that he was a true believer in God who had thereby been declared righteous, and who carefully obeyed the law (see Gen. 6:9). To “divorce her” would be to obtain a legal divorce (Matt. 19:8–9Deut. 24:1), which according to the Jewish custom was necessary in order to dissolve a betrothal (Matt. 1:18),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

“The placement of Joseph’s family at the end of the third set of fourteen generations (Matt. 1:16) tells us that they will be the people God uses to restore the kingdom. Joseph is the adopted father of the Son who fulfills ultimately all of the Lord’s promises. Righteous Joseph is a fine choice to raise the Christ, for he loves and delights in God’s law,” explains Dr. R.C. Sproul.

According to the custom in Joseph’s day (circa 4 b.c.), he and Mary would be engaged for a full year (without living together), and would require a legal divorce to dissolve their bond. Mary became pregnant during this period (v. 18), which implied there had been unlawful sexual relations before the proper time. Joseph knew he was not guilty of this sin. Circumstances indicated that Mary was.

Joseph decided to initiate a divorce to preserve his righteousness and good name. He also did not want to put Mary to shame. He chose to pursue a private divorce; an acceptable provision according to the law of Moses (Num. 5:11–31). This avoided embarrassing Mary publicly (Matt. 1:19). 

However, the LORD would sovereignly inform Joseph of His will. The LORD’s purpose would supersede Joseph’s and also be in harmony with God’s Word. The same holds true for believers in Christ today.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: Extraordinary Circumstances.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18-19 ESV)

In several ways, Matthew’s account of Jesus’ incarnation parallels the birth narrative found in Luke 1:26ff. However, Matthew’s narrative focus in not on Mary but rather on Joseph.

Matthew mentions the one-year betrothal period of engagement known as the Kuddushin. The actual wedding ceremony, referred to as the Huppa, had yet to take place.

Matthew also mentions that this betrothal period occurred “before they came together.” In other words, Mary and Joseph had not consummated their relationship (Luke 1:27-38). However, in a restricted sense theirs was essentially a marriage.

“The fact that Jesus was born “of Mary” only, as indicated in the genealogical record (Matthew 1:16), demanded further explanation. Matthew’s explanation can best be understood in the light of Hebrew marriage customs. Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead, the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his for one year. The waiting period was to demonstrate the faithfulness of the pledge of purity given concerning the bride. If she was found to be with child in this period, she obviously was not pure, but had been involved in an unfaithful sexual relationship. Therefore, the marriage could be annulled. If, however, the one-year waiting period demonstrated the purity of the bride, the husband would then go to the house of the bride’s parents and in a grand processional march lead his bride back to his home. There they would begin to live together as husband and wife and consummate their marriage physically. Matthew’s story should be read with this background in mind,” explains Dr. John Walvoord.

It was at this time that Mary was pregnant. The text says she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Mary became pregnant while remaining a virgin. The pregnancy occurred through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. The immediate cause of her condition was the powerful-life imparting creative work of God the Holy Spirit. Mary knew this pregnancy occurred because the angel told her this would happen (Luke 1:26-35). She knew Joseph was not the biological father because they had not consummated their relationship. Joseph knew this too. What an extraordinary set of circumstances Joseph was also facing.

“Mary and Joseph were in the one-year waiting period when Mary was found to be with child. They had never had sexual intercourse and Mary herself had been faithful (vv. 20, 23). While little is said about Joseph, one can imagine how his heart must have broken. He genuinely loved Mary, and yet the word came that she was pregnant,” concludes Dr. Walvoord.

What would Joseph do in light of these extraordinary circumstances? That is what we will examine next time. Suffice to say that Joseph will do that which is right and biblical. How about us?

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: When God Chooses You to Serve Him.  

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18 (ESV)

26 “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26-27)

God chooses ordinary people to serve Him. People just like you and me. People just like a girl named Mary. How does God go about choosing people to serve Him? First of all, He finds you. What do we know about Mary? In light of our study of the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Luke provides some excellent insight.

To begin with, Mary lived in Nazareth. Nazareth was a town located approximately 22 miles east from the Mediterranean Sea and 15 miles west of the Sea of Galilee. It was located in the lower region of Galilee. It was surrounded by hills. It was known for bad morals and bad religion. It was a small town; not a capital but rather a village.

Nazareth had a reputation during the first century. The overall perspective of Jewish people at the time regarding Nazareth can best be summed up by Jesus’ disciple Nathaniel: “And Nathanial said to him (Phillip), Can anything good come out of Nazareth” (John 1:46)? Yet the Prophet Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. This was a Hebrew reference of the Messiah being from the “branch of David.” 

 Second, she was a virgin. The Greek word for virgin, παρθένον (parthenon), means an unmarried person, in this case a female. In other words, Mary had never engaged in sexual intercourse; voluntary or otherwise. She was a virgin in every sense of the word. Matthew’s Gospel will bear this out later on in our study.

Third, she was engaged or betrothed to a man named Joseph. The Jewish betrothal period, called the Kuddushin, was an arranged engagement. Their legally bound marriage ceremony had yet to take place. This was called the Huppa. It would be like our modern weddings and receptions. However, the celebration would often last seven days. This would be what Jesus and His disciples encountered when they attended a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11).

Mary and Joseph would not have had any physical relationship. They lived in separate homes. The Kuddushin lasted approximately a year. The purpose of this engagement period of time was to prove the fidelity of both individuals. Mary had been solemnly promised to Joseph. As noted, he belonged to the family of David (Matthew 1:1-17). In a real sense, they were “legally married.” If either partner proved unfaithful, or other problems arose, then a formal bill of divorcement was required to nullify the betrothal contract.

Mary could very well have been in her teens. Marriages and betrothals in the culture were arranged at a young age. Betrothals often occurred when girls were as young as twelve or thirteen. Perhaps because of her maturity, Mary could have been in her late teens. We can only speculate.

What about you? Where, when and how did God find you? What were the circumstances which led Him to not only convert you but to begin using you? Take time to reflect on God’s usage of you through the years. Thank Him for the privilege it is to serve the One, True God.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: With Child.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18 (ESV)

I have lived long enough to have witnessed extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary means “unusual or remarkable; unusually great; that which provides astonishment or admiration.” Circumstances mean “a fact; an occurrence or a condition.” I’m certain that you have also experienced extraordinary circumstances in your life. However, none can compare to what a young girl named Mary experienced.

May became involved in the birth of Jesus Christ; the long awaited Messiah. She most likely never expected to be. However, the LORD had other plans. The name Jesus means Savior. The title Christ means the Anointed One. Jesus of Nazareth was the Anointed One of God.

Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph. Both of them may have been young teenagers. Betrothal in ancient Israel was in some ways like an engagement. It was called the Kuddushin. It lasted up to one year.

It was during a time prior to the consummation of their marriage. The wedding ceremony, known as the Huppa, had not yet occurred. In other words, Mary was still a virgin. Matthew writes, “…before they came together.”

“The phrase employed by the Evangelist, before they came together, is either a modest appellation for conjugal intercourse, or simply means before they came to dwell together as husband and wife and  to make one and family. The virgin had not yet been delivered by her parents into the hands of her husband, but still remained under their roof,” states John Calvin.

“Jewish betrothal was as binding as modern marriage. A divorce was necessary to terminate the betrothal (v. 19) and the betrothed couple were regarded legally as husband and wife (v. 19)—although physical union had not yet taken place,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.  

Matthew wrote nothing extraordinary about Mary up to this point. Then he states, “…she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”

Mary became pregnant while remaining a virgin. The baby was conceived, or life generated, by the Holy Spirit. The cause of her condition was the powerful-life imparting creative work of God the Holy Spirit. There was nothing sordid about this miraculous conception. Mary knew this pregnancy occurred because the angel Gabriel told her this would happen (Luke 1:26-35). She also knew Joseph was not the biological father.

“The birth of Jesus was a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 7:1-14). The people had been looking for a son of David, but not for Immanuel. Perhaps no one genuinely heard the prophecy; nevertheless, one was given (the fact that we are deaf does not mean God fails to speak),” explains commentator Daniel M. Doriani.

More to come. Have a blessed day in the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: Five Sinners Related to the Savior.

and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” (Matthew 1:3-6, 16 ESV)

In Matthew’s selective genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17), he lists in today’s text five women. In the cultural context of first century Israel, it was uncommon for women to be named in a genealogy. Therefore, this is a striking occurrence.

Before we answer the question of why Matthew did this, a study of who these five women were is appropriate. While all the names listed represent sinful people, these females particularly stand out.

Tamar. Tamar was the Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah. She married Er, Judah’s first born son (Genesis 38:1-6). Following Er’s death, she posed as a prostitute to seduce Judah due to his unjust treatment of her (Genesis 38:13-30).

Rahab. Rahab was a Gentile and an actual prostitute in Jericho (Joshua 2). She is listed in Hebrews 11 as a person of sincere faith in the LORD. “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:31).

Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite (Ruth 1:1-3). This means the she was a descendant of an incestuous relationship between Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38).

The wife of Uriah. Bathsheba was Uriah the Hittites wife (2 Samuel 11). She had an adulterous affair with King David and became pregnant with his child. Following the murder of Uriah by David, she married David and bore their child who died in infancy. She would later bear David a second child; Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24-25).

Mary. Mary displayed all the makings of a young woman who became pregnant by another man while betrothed to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-19). Therefore, Joseph chose to divorce her quietly.

Why did Matthew include these five women in this genealogy?

“Genealogies in the ancient world did not normally include women, but Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba) are found in Matthew’s ancestry of Jesus (vv. 3, 5–6). All of these women were Gentiles or married to a Gentile: Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites (Gen. 38Josh. 2), Ruth was a Moabitess (Ruth 1:4), and Bathsheba’s first husband was a Hittite (2 Sam. 11). These names could have been omitted, but Matthew includes them to show us that God’s family in Christ is comprised of faithful Jews and Gentiles,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

“Moreover, Rahab’s inclusion in Jesus’ lineage despite her past in harlotry reminds us of God’s grace. Indeed, the Savior has relatives with a more wicked past than Rahab (Manasseh, for instance; 2 Chron. 33:1–20Matt. 1:10), but these sinners, because they turned from their evil, were not cut off from God’s covenant blessings.”

“Jesus, takes even great sinners, at their repentance, into the nearest relation to himself,” Puritan Matthew Henry comments,

Each of these women are object lessons of God’s divine grace; and grace alone (Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:1-10). Are not we all.

Soli deo Gloria,

The Gospel of Mathew: The Arrival of Jesus the King.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1 (ESV)

The arrival of a king is a spectacular event. With possible exceptions, the monarchy of the United Kingdom is probably one of the last remaining still in existence. King Charles III succeeded his mother Queen Elizabeth II upon her death earlier this year. The British subjects, or citizens, not only mourned the death of their queen, but also anticipated the coronation of their new king.  

In the first century, the Jewish people were anticipating the arrival of their king. They anticipated their king, or Messiah, would finally free them from the bondage of Gentile governments they had endured for nearly half a millennium. Rather than anticipating a redeemer of their sins, Israel was expecting a political deliverer.

Not just anyone could be the King of Israel. He must have a kingly lineage. He not only had to be a descendant of Abraham but also belong to the family of David.

“The Messiah was to be a “son [descendant] of David”; “Son of Abraham” was applied to Jewish people in general, so Matthew begins by reminding us that Jesus is Jewish. Genealogies could provide unity to a survey of history between major figures (as with Adam, Noah and Abraham in Gen 5, 11). Greek readers often called the book of Genesis “the book of generations,” and the title is also used for genealogies and other accounts contained in it (Gen 2:4; 5:1 LXX). In Genesis genealogies are named for the first person cited, but Matthew’s genealogy is named for the person in whom it climaxes, Jesus Christ,” states commentator Craig Keener.

In writing to a Jewish audience, Matthew began his Gospel with Jesus Christ’s genealogy. This evidenced without a doubt that Jesus was not only a descendant of Abraham but also King David and Solomon.

“David’s throne passed from father to son starting with Solomon (1 Kings 1:28–31). Under levirate marriage laws, a Davidite whose physical forefathers were not heirs to the throne could be adopted into the royal line if the heir by way of natural descent died childless (Deut. 25:5–10). Matthew 1:12, for example, tells us Zerubbabel was Shealtiel’s son even though he was Shealtiel’s nephew (1 Chron. 3:17–19). Perhaps Shealtiel died without having a son and Zerubbabel was adopted as the royal heir due to a levirate marriage. Maybe the right to David’s throne by way of Solomon finally came to Joseph through such marriages even though Jesus’ actual physical ancestor was Solomon’s brother, Nathan (Luke 3:31),” explains R. C. Sproul.

The Messiah’s incarnation was not left to chance or fate. It was perfectly predicated and providentially accomplished by God.

I encourage you to read Matthew 1:1-17. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: Themes in the Gospel of Matthew.

The Gospel of Matthew contains many sermons by Jesus. Matthew contains five major discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5–7); the commissioning of the apostles (ch. 10); the parables of the kingdom (ch. 13); the childlikeness of the believer (ch. 18); and the discourse of Jesus’ second coming (chs. 24–25).

“Each discourse ends with a variation of this phrase: “when Jesus had finished these sayings” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). That becomes a motif signaling a new narrative portion. A long opening section (chs. 1–4) and a short conclusion (28:16–20), bracket the rest of the Gospel, which naturally divides into five sections, each with a discourse and a narrative section. Some have seen a parallel between these five sections and the five books of Moses in the OT,” states Dr. John MacArthur.

The conflict between Christ and the Pharisees is another theme in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew shows the error of the Pharisees for the benefit of his Jewish audience; not for personal reasons. Matthew omits the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector; even though that parable would have put him in a favorable light.

Matthew also mentions the Sadducees more than any of the other Gospels. Both the Pharisees and Sadducees are negatively portrayed. Both people groups serve as warning to believers in Christ.  Their doctrine is a leaven that must be avoided (16:11–12). Although these groups were doctrinally at odds with one another, they were united in their hatred of Christ. To Matthew, they epitomized all in Israel who rejected Christ as the true King.

The rejection of Jesus Christ as Israel’s Messiah is another theme in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew portrays the forceful attacks against Jesus. From the flight into Egypt to the scene at the cross, Matthew paints a striking portrayal of Christ’s rejection than any of the other evangelists. Yet Matthew portrays Jesus as a victorious King who will one day return “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30).

“In Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, no thief repents, and no friends or loved ones are seen at the foot of the cross. In his death, he is forsaken even by God (27:46). The shadow of rejection is never lifted from the story,” states Dr. MacArthur.

“Matthew talks about the breakthrough of the kingdom and the arrival of Jesus in His incarnation. He announces the coming of the kingdom at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and at the end of the book Matthew speaks about the final consummation of the coming of that kingdom in the Olivet Discourse. So from the first page of Matthew to the last page, we see the unifying theme of the coming of the kingdom of God in the appearance of the king Himself, who is the Messiah of Israel and the fulfillment of the kingdom given to Judah,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

I encourage you to begin reading the Gospel of Matthew. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: Jesus the King.

The Jewish flavor of Matthew’s Gospel is conspicuous. This is evident even in the opening genealogy (Matt. 1:1-17), which Matthew traces back to Abraham. This differs from Luke, who in his Gospel shows Christ as the Redeemer of humanity; going all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38). Matthew demonstrates that Christ is the King and Messiah of Israel. This Gospel quotes more than 60 times from OT prophetic passages, emphasizing how Christ is the fulfillment of all those promises.

“The probability that Matthew’s audience was predominantly Jewish is further evident from several facts: Matthew usually cites Jewish custom without explaining it, in contrast to the other Gospels (cf. Mark 7:3John 19:40). He constantly refers to Christ as “the Son of David” (Matt. 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 45). Matthew even guards Jewish sensibilities regarding the name of God, referring to “the kingdom of heaven” where the other evangelists speak of “the kingdom of God.” All the book’s major themes are rooted in the OT and set in light of Israel’s messianic expectations,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

Matthew’s use of the Greek language, instead of Hebrew or Aramaic, suggests that he was writing as a Palestinian Jew to other Hellenistic Jews. He wrote as an eyewitness of many events providing firsthand testimony about the words and works of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

Matthew’s purpose was clear. It was to argue that Jesus was the Jewish nation’s long-awaited Messiah. His ample quoting from the OT is specifically designed to show the tie between the Messiah of promise and Jesus the Christ of history. This purpose was always in focus for Matthew. He provides many incidental details from the OT prophecies as proofs of Jesus’ messianic claims (e.g., Matt. 2:17–18; 4:13–15; 13:35; 21:4–5; 27:9–10).

What are the themes contained in the Gospel of Matthew? Since Matthew is concerned with setting forth Jesus as Messiah, the King of the Jews, there is an interest in the OT kingdom promises throughout his Gospel. Matthew’s signature phrase “the kingdom of heaven” occurs 32 times in this book; and nowhere else in all of Scripture.

“The opening genealogy is designed to document Christ’s credentials as Israel’s king, and the rest of the book completes this theme. Matthew shows that Christ is the heir of the kingly line. He demonstrates that he is the fulfillment of dozens of OT prophecies regarding the king who would come. He offers evidence after evidence to establish Christ’s kingly prerogative. All other historical and theological themes in the book revolve around this one,” states Dr. MacArthur.

If we were to look, however, for one single theme that seems to be the most central and most important theme of the entire gospel of Matthew, it would be the theme of the coming of the kingdom. We see in the first instance that the term gospel refers to the gospel of the kingdom—the good news of the announcement of the breakthrough of the kingdom of God. In Matthew’s case, he uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” rather than the terminology “kingdom of God.” He does this not because he has a different view of the meaning or content of the kingdom of God; rather, out of sensitivity to his Jewish readers, he makes common use of what is called periphrasis, a certain type of circumlocution to avoid mentioning the sacred name of God. So for Matthew, the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven is the same kingdom that the other writers speak of as the kingdom of God,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

I encourage you to begin reading the Gospel of Matthew. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: Introduction.

“The New Testament begins with the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No part of the Bible is so important as this, and no part is so full and complete. Four distinct Gospels tell us the story of Christ’s doing and dying. Four times over we read the precious account of His works and words. How thankful we ought to be for this! To know Christ is life eternal. To believe in Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian. To be with Christ will be heaven itself. We can never hear too much about Jesus Christ.” –J.C. Ryle


“Because of the tight relationships among the Synoptic Gospels, the contribution made by any one of them must be evaluated in light of the contribution made by all three. If Matthew suddenly disappeared, much of its material would still be found, more or less intact, in Mark and Luke.”

“But the Synoptic Gospels as a whole make an irreplaceable contribution. Alongside John, they constitute the foundational witness to the person, ministry, teaching, passion, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Nor are the three Synoptic Gospels to be seen as merely redundant testimony. Each provides its own slant, together providing a kind of stereoscopic depth that would otherwise be almost entirely missing. And at a secondary level, each provides a window onto the life of the church at the time each was written. But this window, it must be insisted, is never transparent: it is at best translucent, and the shadows one sees through it have to be interpreted with some care.” – D.A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo

The Gospel of Matthew is the first Gospel, and book, in the New Testament, or the New Covenant Canon. The Gospel of Matthew contains the greatest amount of Jesus’ ethical teaching than anywhere else in the New Testament. From the earliest days of the church, Matthew’s Gospel has been one of the most widely read and perhaps the most influential of the four Gospels. Therefore, a study of this Gospel is imperative.  

Matthew means “gift of the Lord.” It was the alternative name of Levi, the tax collector (Matt. 9:9-13), who left everything to follow Christ (Luke 5:27–32). Matthew was one of the 12 apostles (Matt. 10:3Mark 3:18Luke 6:15Acts 1:13). In his own list of the Twelve, he explicitly called himself a “tax collector” (Matt. 10:1-3). Nowhere else in Scripture is the name Matthew associated with “tax-collector.” The other Gospels always use his former name, Levi, when speaking of his life prior to his conversion.

The canonicity and Matthew’s authorship of this Gospel were unchallenged in the early church. Eusebius (c. A.D. 265–339) said that the early church father Papias spoke of Matthew arranging the oracles of Jesus.

“Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism” explains Origen (c. A.D. 185–254) in his Ecclesiastical History, 6:25.

Most biblical scholars claim this Gospel was written at a relatively early date—prior to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. Some scholars propose a date as early as A.D. 50, but no later than A.D. 100.

“The writer of this Gospel must have used the Gospel of Mark as a source. Assuming that Mark was composed to preserve the oral testimonies of the Apostle Peter in Rome, an appropriate date for Matthew would be between A.D. 64 and A.D. 70,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

I encourage you to begin reading the Gospel of Matthew. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Progress of the Pilgrim: Doubting Castle Revisited. Part Two.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18 ESV)

First, the believer in Christ must meditate upon the promises of God in His Word to guard from doubt and despair (2 Cor. 4:1-6). Second, there must be complete trust in the character of God (2 Cor. 7-18). This trust in the Lord is actively pursued by the following disciplines.

First, believers in Christ are to look beyond the physical to the spiritual (2 Cor. 4:7-9. When in the circumstances of suffering, there is rejoicing in Jesus Christ.

Second, believers in Christ are to look beyond the temporal to the eternal (2 Cor. 4:10-14). While in the circumstances of dying, there is true living in Jesus Christ.

Third, believers in Christ are to look beyond the visible to the invisible (2 Cor. 4:15-18). While in the midst of the temporal, eternity is in view in Jesus Christ.

Are you going through a time of doubt or despair? Have you become a prisoner of these enemies of God and the Gospel? If you are a Christian, the wonderful truth is that you already have in your possession all that is necessary for your deliverance.

Has the enemy tried to get you to doubt the truth of God’s Word? Have you sometimes been easily persuaded that the Scriptures cannot be trusted? As we seek to live the Christian life in a fallen world and in the midst of an increasingly pagan society, the enemy will do all that he can to breed doubt about the trustworthiness of God and His Word. Do not listen! God’s promises remain true.

Has the enemy tried to get you to doubt the reality of your own salvation? Has he tried to persuade you that you are a failure, that you will never be able truly to live a Christian life and that you are a terrible sinner? Has he even tried to persuade you that you are not a Christian at all? Do not listen! God’s promises remain true.

Has the enemy tried to breed despair in your heart? Has he tried to convince you that your Christian hope is a fantasy and that this world is all that there is? Has he tried to persuade you that Christianity is just one religion among hundreds of others and that it is not true? Has he tried to persuade you that Jesus Christ was just a man, like other men, and that he was not the Son of God? Has he tried to get you to the point where you despair of knowing anything for sure? Do not listen! God’s promises remain true.

There will come a day when the enemies of God, including doubt and despair, are utterly destroyed by God (as we see later in Pilgrim’s Progress when Doubting-Castle is torn down and Giant Despair is killed and then beheaded), but in the meantime we are in the midst of a battle.

Stand firm, then, learning from the experiences of Christian and Hopeful. In the first place, we must not be led off the narrow road that we are called to walk. In the second place, when doubt and despair would seek to imprison us, we must escape from these enemies by using the key that all believers have, the promises of God.

Have a blessed day in Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: Doubting Castle Revisited. Part One.

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV)

Many believers in Christ encounter doubt and despair in living and serving the Lord. What counsel does the Holy Spirit provide in the Scriptures? The Apostle Paul provides some needful direction in his second letter to the Corinthian church.  

First, the believer in Christ must think correctly by reading and meditating upon the Word of God. By doing so, God protects them from doubt and despair. “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1 ESV).

Second, believers in Christ do not distort the Word of God because of their circumstances. They seek to rightly interpret the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). They do not ignore doubt and despair caused by difficult circumstances. They evaluate them in light of God’s Word. “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2 ESV).

Third, believers in Christ realize that the unconverted do not understand the Scriptures. This is because in their unconverted condition, they lack the Holy Spirit. They exist in spiritual darkness (I John 1:1-7). And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 4:3 ESV).

Fourth, believers in Christ understand that enemies of the Gospel are blinded by the believer’s great enemy; the devil. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV)

Fifth, believers in Christ, as His servants, seek to glorify God whatever their circumstances. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:5-6 ESV)

May each of us be encouraged and strengthened by God’s Word when we encounter doubt and despair. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: Doubting Castle.

Have you experienced doubt and despair as a believer in Christ? Many have!

Hymn writer Johnson Oatman Jr (1856-1926) understood this condition and resolved to overcome it as he followed Christ. He wrote:

1 I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining ev’ry day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Refrain:
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

2 My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground. [Refrain]

At one point in their pilgrimage, Christian and his companion Hopeful stepped aside from the true Way into By-Path Meadow because it looked easier and seemed to be going in the same direction as the Way. They realized their mistake and began the journey back towards the Way. As they traveled, they slept one night on the grounds of a castle. However, it turned out that this was Doubting-Castle, owned by Giant Despair. When the giant found them, he threw them into his dark and nasty dungeon, and they suffered terribly.

As pilgrims traveling through this life following Jesus (I Peter 1:1-2) we face spiritual conflicts from the world (I John 2:15-17), our own sinful desires (Romans 7; Col. 3:1-11) and the devil (Ephesians 6:10-20). As we face this threefold battleground, it is easy to become discouraged by doubt and despair.

Doubt is not trusting. It is not committed to live for God, to not acknowledge dependence upon God and to not worship the One, True God of the Bible in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Doubt is uncertainty and having a lack of conviction for what you believe and to what and whom you are committed.

Despair is a lack of confidence in God. It is no longer having confidence in what God has promised in His Word. It is hopelessness, disheartenment, discouragement and desperation because of circumstances and situations. Doubt and despair can occur at any time if we are not watchful. Doubt and despair can occur because of any situation if we are not careful to rest in the truth from God.

As Christians of conviction, we must continue to fight for our biblical liberty in Christ. Yet, in the final analysis, we must always remember that ultimately we fight not against men but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). Ultimately, we fight on our knees, praying for all who are in authority over us (1 Tim. 2:2).

In this world, we are citizens of our nations, but ultimately we are citizens of Christ’s kingdom. As such, we can pray for national leaders even when we must vote against them (I Tim. 2:1-3). We pray for the persecuted and for our persecutors. We love our enemies while praying for their defeat—their coming to the end of themselves in repentance and faith (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 4:12–13).

In the face of persecution, we must not lose hope. We must not fear our enemies but fear the Lord as we stand our ground in the battle. Jesus told us we would be persecuted, but He also told us He has overcome the world (Matt. 5:10–12; John 16:33).

Regardless of whether we ever die as martyrs for our faith, we are all witnesses of Christ. Though our enemies may imprison us, shun us, despise us, or kill us, they can never really hurt us. For we conquer by dying—humbly dying to self that we may, under any persecution our Lord sovereignly allows, boldly proclaim Christ and Him crucified. And when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake, not for being obnoxious, we can count ourselves blessed.

“Christians are not so much in danger when they are persecuted as when they are admired,” explained Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon.

Meditate today upon 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: The Love that God Hates.  

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17 (ESV)

Vanity Fair, is defined as the “vain and frivolous way of life especially in large cities,” and the “place or scene of vulgarity or empty, idle amusement and frivolity.” It is behavior and activities that are trivial; unimportant, silly and foolish). Vanity Fair represents the world in all its gaudiness, allurement and seduction. It offers merchandise of all kinds; some innocent enough in themselves but designed to misdirect the affections away from the believer in Christ’s love for God and love for His kingdom.

Vanity Fair is also defined as futility, conceit and a desire to be admired for one’s attainments and accomplishments. This behavior is displayed, in part, by immature athletes, self-absorbed actors and self-made social media celebrities.

Christian and Faithful were bad-mouthed and heckled. As pilgrims who marched to the beat of a different drummer, Christian and Faithful looked, dressed, and spoke differently; something to which the townsfolk took great exception. It is interesting that it was, in particular, their speech that caused such offense.

Speaking of holy things always offends, but it had been such holy conversation from poor women in Bedford, England that were the means to bring young John Bunyan to repentance. Consequently, in Bunyan’s story, Christian and Faithful are taken, beaten, and incarcerated; something Bunyan, of course, knew only too well.

They are eventually charged with disturbing the peace of the city by their lack of conformity to the standards of Vanity Fair. Bunyan’s choice of names here is deliciously instructive: Mr. Hate-Good is the Judge, and jurors who include such characters as Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Cruelty, and Mr. Hate-light! If such charges were brought against us, would there be sufficient evidence to convict?

Vanity Fair, or the hostile world system, is under the dominion of Satan (John 5:19; 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The world is his sphere of influence. In much the same way, the spirit of the antichrist which is coming, is even now, already in the world (I John 4:3) along with many false prophets who have gone out into the world (I John 4:1). Vanity Fair, the world, is an all-inclusive term for all those who belong to the kingdom of darkness and have not been born of God (John 3:1-8; Titus 3:1-5).

The world does not understand the children of God (I John 5:19), just as the world did not, and does not, understand Jesus Christ (I John 3:1-2). Vanity Fair does not understand nor know God the Father (John 17:25).

Therefore, the church and Vanity Fair are in sharp contrast. Biblically, they ought to be. They are two distinct groups. They are two separate groups. The church is under the dominion of God, knows God and is born of God. The other is under the dominion of Satan, who stands condemned (John 12:31; 16:11).

Of which kingdom do we belong? Of which sphere of influence, the church or Vanity Fair, do you belong and are most comfortable?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: Vanity Fair.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17 (ESV)

“When John Bunyan was a young man, he visited the great fair held a Stourbridge. The Moot Hall, still standing in Bunyan’s hometown in Elstow, was also the scene of much buying and selling in Bunyan’s day. Vanity Fair represents the world and all its activities—the vanity or emptiness of the human life—apart from God. The merchandise offered at the fair includes all the things that unconverted people live for. Since Satan is the god and prince of this world, he is the originator and the director of Vanity Fair, explains Dr. Warren Wiersbe.  

Christian, in Bunyan’s allegory, is both a pilgrim on a road-trip to heaven and a warrior in conflict with temptations from within (indwelling sin) and without (the fallen world and the devil). It is a principle that God teaches Christian early in the journey that every believer in Christ can expect to be both fascinated by, and drawn towards, the world. The world refers to the fallen world system which hates God and His followers. (John 15:18-25).

What is meant by the phrase or title Vanity Fair? Vanity Fair, is defined as the “vain and frivolous way of life especially in large cities,” and the “place or scene of vulgarity or empty, idle amusement and frivolity.” It is behavior and activities that are trivial; unimportant, silly and foolish). Vanity Fair represents the world in all its gaudiness, allurement and seduction. It offers merchandise of all kinds; some innocent enough in themselves but designed to misdirect the affections away from the believer in Christ’s love for God and love for His kingdom.

Vanity Fair is also defined as futility, conceit and a desire to be admired for one’s attainments and accomplishments. This behavior is displayed, in part, by immature athletes, self-absorbed actors and self-made social media celebrities.

Believers are the special targets of the Vanity Fair’s hostility. Though “Beelzebub, Apollyon and their Legions” are involved in the allurement of Vanity Fair, they are not center stage here. Rather, the focus is upon the fallen world and its enticements.

Those who refuse to conform to the pattern of this world can expect to be taunted and ridiculed. The believer in Christ can also expect to be disgusted by and attacked when all the world’s offers are spurned. “Hell hath no fury…,” in this case, “like the world scorned.” Jesus said to his disciples “If they (Vanity Fair or the world) persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20).

How does Vanity Fair entice you? What allurements of the fallen, sinful world do you battle? We will continue our examination of Vanity Fair when next we meet.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: The Valley of Humiliation.

“In the Valley of Humiliation poor Christian faced great difficulty, for he had gone only a short distance before he saw a devilish creature named Apollyon coming across the field to meet him.” – John Bunyan

12 “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:12–15 (ESV)

Martin Luther said that Christians face three enemies: —the world, the flesh, and the devil. Obviously, these foes are interrelated.

First, our flesh. This refers to the remaining tendency in our lives to sin (Romans 7:13-25; Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:1-11).

Second, the fallen world. It is the world system that sets itself in opposition to Christ. In itself, the world was originally very good (Genesis 1-2), but in the fall of Adam, it was set against its Creator. It hates Jesus because of His testimony about its fallen system of pride and ungodliness, and thus it gains the capacity to hate all who are united to Christ (John 7:1-9; John 15:18-25; I John 2:15-17).

Thirdly, there is the devil himself. It is to this fallen angel that we give our specific attention today.

These three enemies are interrelated, we can still examine them separately. Our battle to grow in holiness is a supernatural one, and it involves defeating the devil as well as the world and the flesh.

In the modern Western culture, the devil, or Satan, is largely understood as a myth. Many people deny the existence of a personal being known as the devil; even many people who profess the name of Christ. It has not always been this way. Our forefathers in the faith were acutely aware of the power and presence of Satan.

Martin Luther, for example, spoke regularly of his encounters with the Prince of Lies. Luther struggled with bouts of Anfechtungen—extreme depression—and he even spoke of being able to see the devil and throw his inkpot at him. Today, many people think the devil is little more than a historical curiosity. He is viewed as a being invented to explain certain phenomena, but not a supernatural creature in his own right.

Luther was at the forefront of the greatest revival of truth since the apostolic age; The Protestant Reformation. Therefore, it is unsurprising that Satan might focus his attention on the great German Reformer. It is interesting to note that Martin Luther wrote one of the most enduring hymns of the church; A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

For the rest of us, perhaps the devil isn’t all that interested. However, we should not take that to mean that we will not be called upon to defeat demonic forces as they wage war on our own lives. There is a legion of demons who exist to influence the world for ill and lead God’s people astray (Mark 5:1–20). Jesus Himself frequently dealt with evil spirits. To ignore them is to be unprepared for the spiritual battles that we must fight.

There are two extremes believers in Christ must avoid. The first is to look for the devil, or one of his demonic angels, under every rock, nook and cranny. The fallen world and our remaining sinful flesh can entice us to disobedience against God without demonic assistance. The second would be to ignore the devil all together and pretend he does not exist.

Believers in Christ must know how the devil presents himself if we are to combat him. As the following passages indicate, we should not necessarily expect our spiritual enemies to look overtly evil. Satan is the master trickster who often disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV)

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 ESV)

“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11 ESV)

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31 ESV)

In many cases, evil does not look all that disgusting to us. The devil draws us in by offering things to us that look good; not by broadcasting it loud and clear that we are being tempted to do what is wrong. Wise Christians train their powers of discernment by the Word of God. We seek to know God’s thoughts so that we might recognize the devil when he comes in the guise of an angel of light.

Because the Son of God came to destroy the devil, we need not fear him. We also need not wonder too much if the devil is behind specific temptations that confronts us. What we should do is become fully grounded in God’s Word. As we grow in our knowledge of Scripture, our discernment improves, and we find it easier to identify as sinister things that might at first glance appear to be good. Let us train our minds by the Word of God.

I encourage you to read and meditate upon Ephesians 6:10-20. Have a God honoring day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: The Hill of Difficulty.  

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)

In the immediate aftermath of God’s delivering Christian from his great and heavy burden unto salvation, and his encounter with the three shining ones (God the Father; God the Son; God the Holy Spirit), Christian is filled with the joy of his salvation.

Christian then meets three individuals who remind him of what he used to be. He wants to witness to them and try and help them. Their names are Simple, Sloth and Presumption. They represent three types of indifference to the Word of the Cross.

Simple says, “I see no danger.” Sloth says, “Let me sleep a little more.” Presumption says “I can make it myself without any help from anyone.” Because of these responses, Christian continues on his way.

Thereafter, Christian meets Formalist and Hypocrisy. Formalist is a person who practices religious rituals but does not possess true salvation (Matthew 7:21-23). Hypocrisy pretends to be a follower of Jesus but he lies (Matt. 23).

Following Christian’s conversion and God delivering him from his great and heavy burden of guilt and sin, he encounters the Hill of Difficulty. What are examples of the Hill of Difficulty for the believer in Christ.

I have trouble asking for help for myself but please pray for me as I am having difficulty dealing with depression.  Some days I feel I am doing so well but at other times I can barely make myself get out of bed.  Most times I’m ok, but lately it’s been tough. 

I am having difficulty overcoming anxiety. I worry over a lot of things. Just a comment from someone can send me into a fear state of what may happen or could happen.

I am wrestling with the difficulty of cancer. I know God is in control, but it is hard to be a Christian when your head is in the toilet.

Difficulties are troubles or struggles in the believer’s life. While difficulties and troubles may seem strange at first, they serve a purpose; to test our faith and to prove the reality of our conversion. Sometimes, like Christian, we go from running the Christian life to walking, to climbing, to crawling because the Hill of Difficulty is so steep.

Other roads in life may seem easier, but they are filled with danger and destruction. Only when we have finally ascended to the peak of the Hill of Difficulty may we look back and see how God has led us all the way. The days of our greatest struggle become the days of God’s greatest blessing. Simply put, the truth we must understand is that “life is hard, but God is good.”

I encourage you to meditate upon today’s text. May each of us “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Progress of the Pilgrim: The Place of Deliverance.  

21” But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

“We are saved by grace through faith — indeed, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But the means of God’s grace to bring us to faith and grow us in grace are the Word, prayer, and the sacraments. Nothing else we do in the church’s program should detract from these central means of grace; indeed, everything else we do should promote and coalesce with them. Nothing else is more important if we are to display the constancy of the pilgrim life.” – Dr. J. Ligon Duncan

What is saving faith? Biblically, saving faith is a trust in, a dependence upon, a commitment to and a worship of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. All people have faith, but only faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ justifies the sinner.

“Faith is only as good as the object. Faith in worldly religion cannot save the sinner. In listening to the counsel of Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Christian rejects God’s counsel, as given to him by the faithful Evangelist,” explains Dr. Warren Wiersbe.

How may the sinner find deliverance from their great and heavy burden? God has wisely stated in I Corinthians 1:18 that deliverance is found in the Gospel of the Cross. The great burden the Apostle Paul described in Romans 3:9-20 is relieved solely by grace aloe, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Scripture says sinful and fallen people are unrighteous and do not understand their sinful condition. They do not seek God but rather turn away from God. They do not do anything sufficient in the sight of God to save themselves. Their speech is filled with moral filth and vulgarity, lies, deceit, sarcasm, and bitter hostility. They are quick to commit pre-meditated murder, destroy whatever is in the way of their goals and desires resulting in pain and suffering. They are driven by their sinful nature to bring strife and conflict in the lives of those they meet.

This is the condition of the fallen sinful and the contents forming the weight and affliction of the great burden which they bear. The only hope for deliverance from the penalty, power and presence of this great and heavy burden of sin is the Word of the Cross; The Gospel of Jesus Christ. This good news brings deliverance from the sinner’s great and heavy burden. It is a deliverance apart from our human works.

Has the burden of your heart rolled away at the truth of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the sinner’s behalf? Trust Him today as your Savior and LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: Worldly Wiseman.

“It has been said that one hallmark of the Puritan view of the Christian life was the emphasis placed on being “constant” (or being steady and unchanging),” explains Dr. J. Ligon Duncan.

“The Puritans, and certainly Bunyan, highly valued the Bible’s accent on faithfully, consistently, tirelessly pursuing the Christian life with a view to the long haul. Key to this is the role of the ordinary means of grace (chief among them the reading/preaching of the Word, the right partaking of the sacraments, the engagement of the soul with God in prayer). If we are to manifest the constancy of the Christian pilgrim’s life then we will also place much stock in the ordinary means of grace.”

1 John 2:15–17 (ESV) says, 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Bunyan personified the opposition to the Gospel from the fallen world with the character known as Worldly Wiseman. He lived in the town called Carnal Policy. He and the town were like the current inhabitants of many places and governments.

The Apostle Paul encountered the philosophy of the carnal world. Particularly in Greece. He described it in I Corinthians 1:18-25.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:18–25 (ESV)

Worldly Wiseman despised the counsel of Evangelist. He hated the Gospel as do unconverted people today. He told Christian, “I curse him for that counsel! There is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in all the world! You shall find this out for yourself—if you follow his advice. I see that you have met with trouble already—for I see that the mire from the Swamp of Despond is upon you. That swamp is just the beginning of the sorrows which attend those who continue in that dangerous way.”

Worldly Wiseman directed Christian to the town of Morality and a man named Legality. Early in his life, Bunyan embraced a legalistic morality. However, he discovered that while he appeared to friends and family as a godly man, he remained dead in his sin (Eph. 2:1-3).

Christian initially accepted Worldly Wiseman’s counsel, but soon discovered that the supposed “easier way” to seek relief from his burden was filled with fear. Christian, like many like-minded people today, place their faith in moralistic, therapeutic religion. They have faith, but not faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

To embrace the moralistic counsel of the world is to forsake the One, True God. It is to abhor the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. It results in eternal death.

On which path are you on? Is it the path of morality resulting in death? Or are you on the way that leads to eternal life; the way of the cross? What is your answer?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: The Swamp of Despond.

“Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew near to a very miry swamp, which was in the midst of the plain; and they, not paying attention, fell suddenly into the bog. The name of the swamp was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being greatly smeared with filth. Christian, because of the burden which was on his back—began to sink in the mire.”

Then Pliable cried out, “Ah! Christian, where are we now?” “Truly,” said Christian, “I do not know!” Being offended, Pliable angrily said to his companion, “Is this the happiness you have told me of? If we have such trouble at our first setting out—what may we expect before our journey’s end? If I can get out of here with my life—you can have your noble country without me!” And with that, Pliable, after a desperate struggle—got out of the mire on that side of the swamp which was nearest to his own house. So away he went—and Christian saw him no more. So, Christian was left in the Swamp of Despond alone; but he still struggled toward that side of the swamp which was furthest from his own house, and closest to the narrow-gate. But he could not get out, because of the heavy burden which was upon his back.” – John Bunyan

What is a swamp? It is wetland, bog or mire. It may also be called a moor.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his story The Hound of the Baskervilles, used the Devonshire County moor as a metaphor for man’s untamed, sinful, human nature. “The moor is described as the ‘God-forsaken corner of the world.’ In other words, it lacks the heavenly brightness and instead is hellish and dark. It is mysterious territory that circulates fear,” explains one commentator.

What is Bunyan’s Swamp of Despond? It is the spiritual conviction of personal sin and the accompanying guilt. Like a swamp, moor, or bog, it drags the sinner downward into despair.

“It is where the scum and filth of the conviction of sin collects, and therefore it is called the Swamp of Despond; for as the sinner becomes aware of his lost condition, many fears and doubts and discouraging apprehensions arise in his soul. All of them together settle in the depths of this place,” explains Dr. Warren Wiersbe.

It is God alone who provides Help. Help draws Christian out of the mire, sets him on solid ground and encourages him to continue on his way. The only lasting relief from the Swamp of Despond is the Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8). The Way of Holiness is literally Jesus Christ (John 14:1-6).

Trusting in Christ as Savior and Lord prevents the believer from falling into the Swamp of Despond. In Christ, there are the steps of forgiveness and acceptance (I John 1:8-10).

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God,” (Psalm 42:11 ESV).

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: Travelers Along the Way.

“The neighbors also came out to see him run. As he ran—some mocked, others threatened, and some cried after him to return. Among those who did so, were two who were resolved to fetch him back by force. The name of the one was Obstinate—and the name of the other was Pliable. Now by this time, the man had gone a good distance away from them; but they were resolved to pursue him—and in a little while, they caught up with him.” – John Bunyan

Do you remember when you sensed something was missing in your soul? Your life wasn’t making sense and you were aware that the world’s answers were not helping. The culture was not only not helping but raising more questions than answers.

Two individuals who resolved to take Christian back home, by force if necessary, were named Obstinate and Pliable. Obstinate is a stubborn and unmoved sinner. He resembles some of the Greeks at Mars Hill when they mocked the Apostle Paul’s message of the Gospel (Acts 17:32). Pliable is the opposite. He is flexible and adaptable to any and all teaching and teachers. He receives the Word of God with joy, but he has no room in his heart; like the shallow soil (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23).

“They that fly from the wrath to come are a gazing-stock to the world,” Bunyan wrote.

Jeremiah 20:10 (ESV) says, “For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my close friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him.”

When Obstinate cannot convince Christian to return home, he storms off in disgust. However, Christian convinces Pliable to join him, which he does with an initial excitement and enthusiasm. However, once the two of them fall into a bog called the Swamp of Despond, Pliable becomes disheartened and leaves for home.

“When the sinner begins to seek salvation, well-meaning friends often try to stop him,” explains Pastor Warren Wiersbe. “Obstinate has great strength of will, but he lacks the insight and values to put it to work in the right way. Pliable seems to have some insight, but he lacks the willpower to act and continue to the end. Pliable is in a hurry to get to heaven. Unlike, Christian, he has no burden for sin to hold him back. He is a picture of the person who has never felt conviction of sin.”

Prior to your conversion to Christ, which of these three characters defined you? Were you aware of your need for Christ like Christian, or were you either like Obstinate or Pliable?  

What about today? Are you a dedicated follower of Christ or rather obstinate or pliable languishing in the Swamp of Despond? Something to consider.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: Flee to the Narrow Gate.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14 (ESV)

“Then Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, said, “Do you see yonder narrow-gate?” The man answered, “No.” Evangelist replied, “Do you see yonder shining light?” He said, “I think I do.” Then Evangelist said, “Keep that light in your eye, and go directly to it— and then you shall see the gate; at which—when you knock—you shall be told what you must do.” – John Bunyan

The Bible is literature; much like The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Scriptures contain many genres of writing. These include historical narrative, poetry, wisdom, biography, parables, prophecy and doctrinal.

In these genres, the Bible also contains various figures of speech including similes, metaphors, idioms, ironies, antithesis, alliterations, personifications, and paradoxes. Today’s text, much like Bunyan’s work, is an allegory that compares entry into salvation as entering by a gate. In His Sermon on the Mount’s (Matt. 5-7), concluding section (Matt. 7:13-29) Jesus provides allegorical comparisons to salvation and condemnation.

“This closing section of the Sermon on the Mount is a gospel application. Here are two gates, two ways, two destinations, and two groups of people (vv. 13–14); two kinds of trees and two kinds of fruit (vv. 17–20); two groups at the judgment (vv. 21–23); and two kinds of builders, building on two kinds of foundations (vv. 24–28). Christ is drawing the line as clearly as possible between the way that leads to destruction and the way that leads to life,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

Paralleling the opening scenes of The Pilgrim’s Progress, Jesus spoke of a narrow gate and a wide gate. Jesus commanded His hearers to enter (εἰσέρχομαι; eiserchomai) or to experience entrance into justification from God through the narrow gate. Narrow (στενός; stenos) in the context means entrance solely through one, restricted way.

Jesus elaborated this image by teaching that the gate of eternal destruction or waste was wide and the pathway was easy. This resulted in many people entering by this gate and living life on this path.   

Jesus then contrasted the wide and easy gate with the narrow gate and the hard way of life. However, this gate, and the pathway that follows, leads to life; though there be few who find it.

Jesus did not leave us wondering what, or who, the gate is. John 10:1–7 (ESV) says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” See also John 14:1-6.

Many people have told me that as there are many roads and streets into a city, there are many ways into heaven. You just have to choose the one that is right for you. In other words, the way you prefer.  

The Word of God teaches the opposite. It instructs people that there is only one way into heaven and that is by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

Both the narrow gate and the wide gate are assumed to provide the entrance to God’s kingdom. Two ways are offered to people. The narrow gate is by faith, only through Christ, constricted and precise. It represents true salvation in God’s way that leads to life eternal. The wide gate includes all religions of works and self-righteousness, with no single way (cf. Acts 4:12), but it leads to hell, not heaven,” concludes Dr. MacArthur.

So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now, he had not run far from his own door—before his wife and children, seeing him depart, began to shout after him to return. But the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying, “Life! Life! Eternal life!” So he did not look behind him—but fled towards the middle of the plain.” – John Bunyan

When did God call you unto salvation and to enter into a covenant relationship with Him through the narrow gate of His Son, Jesus Christ? Or is God calling you to enter through that gate at this moment and receive forgiveness of sin? Respond by God given faith to His call.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: The Painful Plight of Personal Sin.  

“O my dear wife and children,” he said. “I am greatly troubled by a burden that lies heavy upon me. Moreover, I have been informed that our city will be burned with fire from heaven; and in this fearful destruction both myself and you, my wife and my sweet children, shall perish, unless we can find some way of escape or deliverance, which presently I cannot see.” (Isa. 64:6; Luke 14:33; Psa. 38:4; Hab. 2:2; Acts 16:31 Acts 2:37).

King David, much like you and me and the Pilgrim, knew the reality of the burden of sin. David, in Psalm 38, expressed deep sorrow, grief and pain due to his own sin.  While this lament psalm is by a believer needing God’s forgiveness from the power of sin, it can also apply to the unbeliever needing God’s forgiveness from the penalty of sin. The outline of Psalm 38 is a follows; The Personal Burden of Sin (38:1).““O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!” David understood that whatever his sin was, it resulted in God’s righteous anger and wrath.

“O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger. “The word LORD (יהוה; Yahweh) is the most personal name for God. Yahweh means self-existent One. In the English, it also means “I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14).

To rebuke (תוֹכִיחֵ֑נִי; tokiheni) means to continually accuse and punish. Anger (קֶצֶף; quesep) in the context refers to God’s wrath. Wrath can mean rage and fury. While David understood that his behavior was deserving of God’s judgment, he prayed and begged for God’s grace and mercy.

A parallel statement follows. David prayed, “…nor discipline me in your wrath!” To discipline (יסר; ysr) also means to punish and chasten. Wrath (חֵמָה; hemah) literally refers to God’s heat and rage.

David does not blame others for his sin. He accepts the responsibility in all its ugliness. Whatever his sin was, David comprehended it deeply in his mind, emotions, will; and even in his physical body (Ps. 38:2-3).

“(David’s) prayers surround a core of intense lament (vv. 2–20). In many ways David’s laments parallel those of Job. David’s perspective is that his painful plight is due, at least in part, to his personal sin,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

Have you ever sensed in your soul the painful plight of your personal sin? The fascination and delight of rebellion against God and His Word results in a conviction and remorse before God by His Word. The only hope of forgiveness is not penance but confession and repentance.

Repentantly pray to God at this moment to receive His gracious forgiveness.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Progress of the Pilgrim: What Shall I Do?   

“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, ‘What shall I do?’” – John Bunyan

The cry of the sinner who God makes aware of their burden of sin is “What shall I do? What can I do? What am I able to do? Is there any hope for me?

A burden is a weight. It is a heavy load. A burden may be the source of great worry or stress. In the life of the Pilgrim, the traveler in this life, it is the great weight or burden because of one’s sin. It is the knowledge of one’s sin, and the guilt experienced because of sin.

King David, much like you and me and the Pilgrim, knew the reality of the burden of sin. David, in Psalm 38, expressed deep sorrow, grief and pain due to his own sin.  While this lament psalm is a song by a believer needing God’s forgiveness from the power of sin, it can also apply to the unbeliever needing God’s forgiveness from the penalty of sin. The outline of Psalm 38 is a follows.

I. The Personal Burden of Sin (38:1).

II. The Sickening Burden of Sin (38:2-3).

III. The Overwhelming Burden of Sin (38:4-16).

IV. The Removable Burden of Sin (38:17–22).

Why would God even consider forgiving us of our sin and relieving us of the weight we bear because of our sin? It is because He is gracious and merciful (Eph. 2:1-5; 8-9).Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone is the pilgrim’s only hope from the burden of sin’s penalty, power and God’s eternal judgment.  

What is the burden of sin and guilt that you carry? Is it the burden of not knowing your sins are forgiven in Jesus Christ? Is it the burden and guilt of sin you have committed as a follower of Jesus? Is it a burden you give to the Lord, only to immediately, or eventually, take back?

Receive the forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ. Confess and repent of your sin. God promised to forgive (Luke 18:9-14; Acts 16:25-34; I John 1:8-10). Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Progress of the Pilgrim: Allegory.

“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, ‘What shall I do?’” – John Bunyan

Pilgrim’s Progress is the story of one man’s dream of the Christian life. As such, the story is filled with images and symbols. Pilgrim’s Progress is identified in literature as an allegory. What is an allegory?

An allegory is a narrative or visual representation in which a character, place, or event represents a hidden meaning; with moral or political significance. Authors have used allegory throughout history in all forms of art to illustrate or convey complex ideas and concepts in ways that are understood or impacting to viewers, readers, or listeners.

Writers and speakers typically use allegories to convey semi-hidden or complex meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, or events. Together, these create the moral, spiritual, or political meaning the author has in mind. Many allegories use personification of abstract concepts, persons, places or things.

The allegory, as a distinct genre of literature, was first used in English in 1382. The word allegory comes from Latin allegoria, the Latinization of the Greek ἀλληγορία (allegoría), meaning “veiled language, figurative”, which in turn comes from both ἄλλος (allos), “another, different” and ἀγορεύω (agoreuo), “to harangue, to speak in the assembly” which originates from ἀγορά (agora), “assembly.”  

“Since meaningful stories are nearly always applicable to larger issues, allegories may be read into many stories which the author may not have recognized. This is allegoresis, or the act of reading a story as an allegory. Examples of allegory in popular culture that may or may not have been intended include the works of Bertolt Brecht, and even some works of science fiction and fantasy, such as The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis,” explains one historian.

While the allegory genre may be found in visual art and music, the following examples are from literature.

I encourage you to obtain a copy of The New Pilgrim’s Progress (in today’s English). It contains an updated text by Judith E. Marlham with instructional notes by Pastor Warren W. Wiersbe. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

Titus: Devotion!

14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.” (Titus 3:14–15 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul brings his letter to Titus to a conclusion focusing on the believer’s good works accompanying salvation. It is how he began this epistle when he wrote, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,” (Titus 1:1 (ESV).

Knowledge of the truth, which another way of saying justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, results in good works or sanctification (Eph. 2:8-10). Without accompanying sanctification which evidence the believer’s justification, an individual’s so-called faith is dead (James 2:14-26). In other words, sanctification follows justification.

“Justification is based entirely upon the work of Christ wrought for us; sanctification is principally a work wrought in us. Justification is a deliverance from punishment; sanctification is a capacity to worship Him acceptably. Justification is by a righteousness without us; sanctification is by a holiness wrought in us. Justification is by Christ as Priest; sanctification is by Christ as King,” explains A.W. Pink in The Doctrine of Sanctification.

Paul described sanctification with the words good works, fruit and help in today’s text. Without sanctification, which is a dedication for holiness and godliness, the individual is unfruitful. Jesus said that by their fruits you will know who is a true believer (Matt. 7:15-20; Gal. 5:16-24).

“Since we are created “in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10), every Christian (who is justified by faith alone) will begin to obey the commandments of God, however hesitantly and flawed that obedience might be. This is true not because we have a divine spark within us that responds to God’s grace but because “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13),” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

“Since our sanctification is every bit as much an act of God’s grace as our justification, all those who have been justified by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, will live according to all of God’s commandments. Since our obedience (like our sin) is covered by the blood and righteousness of Christ (making our imperfect works truly good), our heavenly Father delights in our feeble efforts to do good. And knowing this to be the case creates within us the desire to obey all the more,” concludes Dr. Sproul.

May the Lord be glorified in all who claim Him to be their Savior, God and King. Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

Titus: Final Instructions and Greetings.

12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing.” (Titus 3:12–13 (ESV)

As was the Apostle’s Paul literary custom, he concluded his letter to Titus by mentioning fellow servants and disciples of Jesus. These followers specifically included Artemas, Tychicus, Zenas and Apollos. What do we know of these individuals?

“Artemas was a Christian coworker with Paul, whom the apostle considered as a replacement for Titus on the island of Crete (Titus 3:12). Later tradition describes Artemas as bishop of Lystra,” explains Walter A Elwell in the Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Aside from Paul’s mention of Artemas in today’s text, nothing else is known.

There is more information concerning Tychicus. He was one of the believers who accompanied Paul to collect and deliver an offering for the Jerusalem Church (Acts 20:1-4). He is also mentioned with Trophimus of Ephesus, and was likely also a native of that city. He served as the courier for Paul’s letter to Ephesus (Eph. 6:21), Philemon and the Colossians (Col. 4:7). Tychicus was involved with the delivery of these so-called Prison Epistles.

“Most believe that he was also one of the two Christians (with Trophimus) who accompanied Titus in the delivery of 2 Corinthians (2 Cor. 8:16–24). Paul mentioned Tychicus twice in his later letters, first sending him to Crete to be with Titus (Titus 3:12), and later mentioning to Timothy that he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12). Evidently, Tychicus and Paul were close friends as well as coworkers, since Paul frequently referred to Tychicus as a “beloved brother,” states Elwell.

Zenas was a lawyer and Paul requested Titus help with his travels to Crete (Titus 3:13). Aside from this, nothing else is known of him.

Much more is known about Apollos. He was an Alexandrian Jew (Acts 18:24). The name is abbreviated from Apollonius. He came to Ephesus in ad 52 during Paul’s visit to Palestine (Acts 18:22). He had accurate knowledge of the story of Jesus. He combined natural gifts of eloquence, or learning, with an understanding of the Old Testament. He was also enthusiastic in proclaiming biblical truth as he knew it (Acts 18:24–25).

There was a conspicuous gap in his knowledge concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the ordinance of believers’ baptism. Aquila and Priscilla patiently instructed him (Acts 18:26). From Ephesus, Apollos went on to Corinth. He was an expert at Christian apologetics when dealing with the Jews (Acts 18:27–28). He ultimately had a fruitful ministry at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:1-6, 21-23; 4:6; 16:12). ).

“He is last mentioned in Titus 3:13 as making some sort of journey,” concludes R.E. Nixon in The New Bible Dictionary.

Why was it important for Paul to mention these four men? Aside from the historical reasons given in the text, it shows that even the most inconspicuous disciples of Jesus are profitable in the Kingdom of God. There is no such thing as an unimportant servant of Christ.

Wherever, and however, you currently serve the Lord, rest assured that it has merit and value in bringing glory to God (I Peter 4:10-11). Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!   

Titus: Storm Warnings.

10As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10–11 (ESV)

 “In doctrine, therefore, we should always have regard to usefulness, so that everything that does not contribute to godliness shall be held in no estimation,” says 16th century Protestant Reformer John Calvin. In other words, believers in Christ, especially pastors, must discern when it is useful to debate a fool and when it is not (Prov. 26:4–5).

When it becomes apparent that someone in the church delights in stirring up trouble and division, the Apostle Paul instructs Titus as to the appropriate response. Pastors are to warn the individual once, and then if necessary twice. Thereafter, the individual in question is to be rejected.

The word warning (νουθεσία; nouthesia) means to admonish and correct ungodly behavior; especially divisive speech. The phrase have nothing more to do with him (παραιτέομαι; paraiteomai) means to shun and avoid.

“Anyone in the church who is unsubmissive, self-willed, and divisive should be expelled. Two warnings are to be given, following the basic pattern for church discipline set forth by Christ (Matt. 18:15–17; cf. Rom. 16:17–182 Thess. 3:14–15),” states Dr. John MacArthur.

This type of response by church leadership should be done cautiously, seriously and prayerfully. The reason is that the divisive person is warped (ἐκστρέφω; ekstepho) meaning perverted, sinful (ἁμαρτάνω; harmartano) meaning disobedient to the Word of God, and self-condemned (αὐτοκατάκριτος; autokatakritos) or judged by one’s own actions.

Great care must be shown by church leaders in such a situation. There have been elders who reject a church member because the individual questioned the behavior of the church’s leadership. Elders are not perfect, nor should they believe themselves to be.

“The apostle frequently condemns quarreling and strife (Rom. 13:131 Cor. 3:3), so it is no surprise that people who foster such things are likewise to be avoided (Titus 3:10). We must stand for the truth but never be the kind of people who are always itching for a fight. Otherwise, we will sacrifice good works for the sake of finding new and “exciting” battles to wage,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

Pray for the elders in your local church. Pray that they will have the courage to stand for truth and obey God’s Word; even when it is difficult.

Soli deo Gloria!